Philadelphia Union rising star Brenden Aaronson showed just why he's reportedly attracting interest from a number of top-level European clubs, with a starring performance in the Union's MLS is Back Tournament Quarterfinal win over Sporting Kansas City on Thursday.
Despite the speculation swirling around him, Aaronson stressed he was fully focused on the job at hand.
"I’ve seen some of the stuff going around but that’s just not – I don't really like to pay attention to that stuff because I'm in a tournament and I want to play the best that I can, and that kind of stuff can get into young kids, but didn't for me," he said in the post-match press conference. "And I just went out and tried to play my game and I didn't worry about that kind of stuff. All I want to do is win for the team and help my team win."
His coach Jim Curtin, meanwhile, heaped praise on his young midfielder for being able to focus with so much focus on him.
"Brenden, when some players tend to shrink in big occasions, he tends to raise his level and then raise his game," Curtin said. "So I don't know how long I'll get to coach him for, how much longer, but I'm going to enjoy every day. He's going to continue to push and try to get better."
Ahead of the game, Aaronson had joined Taylor Twellman on ESPN's Banter and did not hide his ambition to one day make the move to Europe.
"I think it's every kid's dream to go play in Europe and it's been mine for a long time," he told Twellman. "I would love to go play there but really right now my main thought is just playing with the team. And I really want to win this tournament. I’m a winner and for me winning this tournament would be huge getting the first trophy for the club and I'm super excited if we can do that and make the final."
Aaronson is said to be on the radar of Bundesliga clubs Hoffenheim, SC Freiburg, Eintracht Frankfurt and Borussia Monchengladbach, per Bild, ESPN's Taylor Twellman, SportsBuzzer and others. MLSsoccer.com's Tom Bogert also reported that Scottish champions Celtic as well as an unnamed Belgian club are also keen on the attacking midfielder.
Asked by Twellman about which players he most admires, Aaronson, who made his debut for the US senior team earlier this year, cited one of Europe's best midfielders over recent years.
"I think from a young age probably [Luka] Modric is one of my favorite players in the position I play. I just love how smooth he is on the ball, he knows what he’s gonna do next. In the final third he’s the same kinda guy, in the final third he took a little bit to get where he was back at Tottenham. I liked Steven Gerard when I was little — I'm a big Liverpool fan. I kind of go with every player and I like looking at what they bring to their game so I can bring it to mine."