Thanks to the explosion of social media, the omnipresence of Football Manager scouting reports, FIFA FUT mode, and the general ease with which fans can consume football content 24/7/365, football players become celebrities, if not outright commodities, at increasingly younger ages. Due to these developments, players like Stephan El Shaarawy—who only just turned 28-years-old—feel like they've been on the scene for decades.
But more than just altering our perception of elapsed time, this premature exposure tends to warp the entire developmental process, skewing our perception of what normal progress looks like for young footballers. If they achieve anything remotely noteworthy before their 21st birthday, that developmental clock accelerates—rapidly.
And the failure to convert those early achievements into a Messi-like career can lead to undue criticism. After all, if an 18-year-old kid can score a golazo on their debut, keep Robert Lewandowski in check for an evening, or just get on a hot streak for a few weeks, then they're destined to be a world-beater, right?