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Friday, 10 March, 2000, 13:22 GMT
Heskey's 11m burden

Emile Heskey's 11m price tag makes him the third most expensive domestic transfer in English football.

Heskey factfile
Age: 22
Leicester debut: 1995, aged 17
England U21 debut, 1997: aged 19
League and cup appearances: 179
League and cup goals: 46
Senior England caps: 5
Though the burly striker is undeniably gifted, there are those who believe the fee is an astonishing gamble for a 22-year-old who is not even among the 15 leading Premiership goal-scorers.

Indeed in the 179 league and cup appearances he has made for Leicester since joining as a 16-year-old he has scored only 46 goals.

Hardly a prolific strike rate.

Sunderland striker Kevin Phillips has scored more than half that this season.

11m is a big burden to carry
The fact Heskey has been serving his apprenticeship to the big time on the books of a club more familiar to the middle of the table than the title race cannot have helped his tally, but even his admirers admit he does not score enough goals.

In breaking the club record at Liverpool by some 3.5m in order to sign Heskey, Gerard Houllier clearly holds great store in the opinion of his pet wonderboy, Michael Owen.

Owen and Heskey were Under 21 team-mates, striking up a formidable partnership.

Owen, still only 20 himself, is a fan of the big man, as is former Under 21 coach Peter Taylor, who likens him to a young George Weah, the former world footballer of the year .

Ian Rush still holds the all-time scoring record at Anfield and he believes Heskey will give Liverpool - who have the tighest defence in the Premiership this season - the added bite they have been missing up front.

"He's big and strong and the important thing is that he will give Liverpool a different dimension.

Heskey made his England Under 21 debut at 19
"Robbie Fowler and Michael are two of the best strikers in the Premiership and they are both fast, but I think signing Heskey gives them a different option.

"He can change the game for them."

Despite Heskey's obvious potential, his age - he was 22 in January - and his lone England cap still make him something of an unknown quantity.

The two men who rank above him in the domestic transfer record table are Alan Shearer and Dwight Yorke

Both were 26, four years older than Heskey, when they made their record moves to Newcastle and Man Utd repsectively.

Chris Sutton, fourth in the table below Heskey, was also 26 when he moved from Blackburn but he has been a dismal flop since his 10m move to Stamford Bridge.

Sutton scored goals for years before his transfer but they dried up under the weight of expectation created by such a high price tag.

At 6ft 1ins, Heskey admits he does not score enough with his head
Another reason Heskey may have chosen - or been encouraged by those around him - to opt for Liverpool, is the strict Anfield discipline that has been revived by Houllier.

Martin O'Neill knows he is entrusting the local boy to nurturing hands.

A lesser boss than O'Neill may have lost Heskey a year ago, and he has done well to protect his striker from the spotlight blazed on other young talents.

The truth is Heskey has long been on a fast track to success.

He was just 17 when he made his debut in the Premiership as YTS trainee, scoring twice in his first game.

Heskey helped take Leicester to third in the Premiership at one point in his debut season
He was just 19 when he made his England Under 21 debut in 1997.

Few remember that in that year he came runner up to David Beckham in the Player's Young Player of the Year award, ahead of Robbie Fowler who scored 26 goals that season.

He may not have hit the net as many times but it is undoubtedly largely the result of his efforts that unfashionable Leicester have registered two Wembley wins in the last three years - including a place in Europe.

Heskey is rated as much for his ability to foster parterships as the latent goal-scoring potential still growing between his broad shoulders.

He made a promising full England debut alongside Alan Shearer - the man whose mantle it is hoped he will one day inherit - if only because he managed to once again bring out the best in the captain.

His all-around game is as valuable as his goal-touch
He scored only one goal in Leicester's astonishing 5-2 demolition of Sunderland recently but he set up two of Stan Collymore's trio.

Heskey looks ungainly but while his size presents defenders with huge problems, he has pace to match.

When he played against Argentina last month he tormented his marker, Parma's vastly experienced international Roberto Sensini, to such a degree that the skipper was replaced in the 35th minute by the more abrasive and speedy Jose Chamot.

Few outside Leicester know that Heskey went to same school as the city's other great footballing export, Gary Lineker.

Like Lineker, though some at Filbert Street may begrudge the departure from his roots, most recognise he has bigger fish to fry.

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See also:

10 Mar 00 | FA Carling Premiership
Heskey shrugs off record fee
23 Feb 00 | Football
Heskey shines in Wembley draw
28 Feb 00 | Football
Who can fill Shearer's boots?
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Leicester triumph at Wembley
05 Mar 00 | FA Carling Premiership
Collymore hat-trick sinks Sunderland
22 Feb 00 | Football
Heskey and Wise named for England
24 Feb 00 | Football
Keegan's Euro squad takes shape
18 Nov 99 | Battle of Britain
England book Euro 2000 place
09 Mar 00 | FA Carling Premiership
Liverpool agree fee for Heskey
28 Feb 00 | FA Carling Premiership
We won't let Heskey go - O'Neill
Links to other Football stories are at the foot of the page.