19 teenagers you won't be able to ignore over the next year

Close, but no cigar. Michael Yokhin introduces the next wave of dazzling under-21s raising eyebrows around the globe

1. Ezequiel Barco (Independiente, 17)

FACTFILE

  • Age: 17
  • Position: Midfielder
  • Club: Independente

It speaks volumes about Barco's potential that some were audacious enough to compare him to Ricardo Bochini, the greatest legend in Independente's history.

The 17-year-old midfielder was given his debut by coach Gabriel Milito in August and hasn't looked back, finding the net in only his second game. In fact, he is always looking forward on the pitch, trying to develop attacks with brilliant through-balls. He is a great dribbler too – a true entertainer.

2. Felix Passlack (18, Borussia Dortmund)

Felix Passlack

FACTFILE

  • Age: 18
  • Position: Defender
  • Club: Borussia Dortmund

He might be best known for getting elbowed by Franck Ribery in the German Supercup for now, but Passlack is about to make much more relevant headlines very soon.

Extremely versatile, he has already played at right-back, left-back and in midfield for Borussia Dortmund, and Thomas Tuchel is counting on the technically gifted and fast youngster in his rotation. He is a true leader too, having captained both Dortmund and Germany at youth levels. 

3. Salih Ozcan (18, Cologne)

Salih Ozcan

FACTFILE

  • Age: 18
  • Position: Midfielder
  • Club: FC Koln

Ozcan considers Robert Lewandowski his role model, which is a bit weird because the 18-year-old is a midfielder. Blessed with brilliant technical skills and a powerful shot, he is seen as a potential playmaker in Cologne thanks to his ball distribution.

Coach Peter Stoger invited the youngster to train with the senior squad in the beginning of 2016 and was very pleased with his progress, especially in the summer pre-season sessions. He made his Bundesliga debut in September, and fans are expecting a lot.

4. Nikola Vlasic (18, Hajduk Split)

FACTFILE

  • Age: 19
  • Position: Midfielder
  • Club: Hajduk Split

Vice-captain at Hajduk Split at the tender age of 18, Vlasic is a true phenomenon. This is his third season already in the first team, and he has proved himself as an astute midfielder with a keen eye for goal.

Son of a decathlete, and brother of a world champion high jumper, Blanka, Nikola comes from a family of great sporting heritage and his stamina is exceptional. 

5. Matthijs de Ligt (17, Ajax)

FACTFILE

  • Age: 17
  • Position: Defender
  • Club: Ajax

By scoring against Willem II on his debut in the Dutch Cup in September, the 17-year-old became the second-youngest scorer in Ajax's history after Clarence Seedorf.

De Ligt is yet to make his league debut, but the Amsterdamers hope that he will develop into a quality defender thanks to his leadership qualities, physical strength, aerial prowess and calmness under pressure. Being naturally two-footed is another great quality, which is rather rare among stoppers.

6. Oleksandr Zinchenko (19, PSV on loan from Man City)

Ukraine's Oleksandr Zinchenko and Poland's Bartosz Kapustka in action

FACTFILE

  • Age: 19
  • Position: Midfielder
  • Club: PSV (on loan from Man City)

Zinchenko made a lot of headlines after running away from Shakhtar Donetsk at the age of 17, and the Ukrainian giants are still outraged at his behaviour. The young midfielder is now famous for much more positive aspects. His performances for lowly Ufa in Russia persuaded Manchester City to sign him after Euro 2016, and he is now expected to prove his worth on loan at PSV Eindhoven.

Slighly built but a very quick thinker, he might find Dutch football to his liking.

7. Martin Odegaard (17, Real Madrid)

FACTFILE

  • Age: 17
  • Position: Midfielder
  • Club: Real Madrid

Odegaard's very high-profile transfer from Stromsgodset to Real Madrid at the age of 16 might have come too soon for the Norwegian prodigy.

Outrageously talented, he is still very raw, but it's been extremely difficult for him to stay grounded after being hailed as the next big thing in world football. Odegaard has struggled at times in Real Madrid's Castilla team, and a loan move might be beneficial for Norwegian international to get his career back on track. He's still just 17. 

Next: MLS's 15-year-old, an Englishman in New York and the Norwegian who tore Dortmund apart

Click the image to view our list of the 59 Best U21 Wonderkids in the World