Yadir looking up to James and Riquelme

  • Yadir Meneses is a U-17 Colombia midfielder

  • Colombia pitted with hosts India, USA and Ghana at U-17 World Cup

  • Meneses eyeing global glory for Colombia at India 2017

Any gifted, left-footed playmaker with an eye for goal who comes up through the youth ranks at Colombian club Envigado FC is inevitably going to be compared to James Rodriguez.

While such youngsters are relatively few in number, one of them did get a mention in a recent book on the Colombian No10, James, Su Vida (“James, His Life”), written by Nelson Padilla: “There are more than 3,000 registered football teams in Antioquia . Every single player wants to be James. A few will go on to become stars. They point out Yadir Meneses, a midfielder, to me.”

So what did the young playmaker himself make of the name check? “The fact is I didn’t know about it. It’s a surprise for me,” said Meneses, speaking to FIFA.com in Bogota, just before travelling with Colombia for a warm-up tournament ahead of the FIFA U-17 World Cup India 2017.

“People have always said to me that we’re similar, that I’m like him,” said the teenager, who was born on 1 April 2000. “And I admire him, though I’ve never met him.”

Such comparisons can be a burden, but not for Meneses: “I see it as praise rather than pressure. We all know what James means to Colombia. It’s a source of motivation.”

Aside from James and Giovanni Moreno, another left-footed attacking midfielder to emerge from Envigado and who now plays in China PR, Meneses has another idol in Juan Roman Riquelme.

“I saw him when I was ten or 11 and I loved the way he played,” he explained. “I like how intelligent he was on the ball but especially how he set the tempo for the team. I still watch videos of him today.”

Winning with style Describing the kind of player he wants to be, Meneses said: “A well-known professional who stands out from the crowd, who’s different. I like No10s who set up goals, because that’s one of the things an attacking midfielder has to do. They can score goals but they also have to play through-balls. They have to play for the team.”

It was only after the South American Championships in the age group that Meneses joined the squad in its preparations for the U-17 World Cup. “It means I’m a bit behind but it’s a great challenge for me to be in the frame for such a big tournament,” he said. “It’s great to be part of the national team.”

His late call-up means the No10 shirt – his favourite – is in the possession of someone else. “It belongs to a kid who came up from the U-15 side, and you have to respect that.”

As it turned out, he was given the No8 jersey for his first training session, the other jersey that Riquelme wore while on Argentina duty. “It was pure coincidence,” said Meneses.

The objective Colombia have set for India 2017 owes nothing to luck, however, as he went on to explain: “We want to win the World Cup, but by playing good football, not by playing badly or any old way. We’re preparing for that.”

Yadir on football

  • Any other footballers in the family? “An older brother, but he just plays for fun. He’s very critical with me, but I appreciate that.”

  • Favourite league? “The English Premier. It’s not as predictable as the other major European leagues.”

  • Favourite team? “Liverpool. Because of the stadium and the fans.”

  • Favourite hobby? ”Playing football on Playstation. I choose Liverpool and Bayern Munich, even more so now that James is there.”

Did you know? Colombia has just taken part in a four-team tournament in Mexico, playing three other sides who will be running out at the upcoming U-17 World Cup. They finished second behind the hosts after drawing 4-4 with them, 3-3 with Chile and beating India 3-0.

Speaking of hosts, India will be among Colombia’s rivals in Group B at India 2017. The two sides will meet on 9 October. The Colombians will play their opening match against USA three days earlier, with Ghana providing the opposition in their final group game on 12 October.