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The 11 best European teenagers in the world

Best European teenagers

Please note: Player cards taken from our overall list of 100. Cut-off date to be a teenager was w/b October 23. 

11. Timothy Fosu-Mensah (Holland)

Fosu-Mensah might not have expected to be flung into the fire of a desperate relegation battle when he joined Crystal Palace on loan this season, but he has done his personal cause little harm so far.

The Dutchman was one of very few impressive performers in the season’s early weeks, but has found it slightly harder to nail down a place under Roy Hodgson. Right-back appears to be his best position, although he can play across the defence and in midfield. That versatility will come in useful, but a run in one particular role would serve him well.

Fosu-Mensah won his first full cap for Holland in August and will be an integral part of their regeneration now that they have missed out on the 2018 World Cup. 

10. Felix Passlack (Germany) 

Borussia Dortmund think the world of Passlack, who grew up supporting their arch-rivals Schalke but looks certain to be among the next generation of stars to make it through BVB’s famed academy.  

The 19-year-old is a diminutive, canny right-back who is strong in the tackle and sharp going forward. This season he is learning his trade on loan at Hoffenheim – but upon his return to Dortmund he will be expected to mount a serious challenge to their first-choice player in his position, Lukasz Piszczek, who turns 33 next year.  

Few doubt that he will be able to make the step up. 

9. Tom Davies (England) 

Perhaps, if Ronald Koeman had shown the same faith in Davies this season that he did last, he would still be in the Everton job.

The 19-year-old only made three league starts under Koeman before the manager was sacked and, even though Everton are stacked with expensive midfield purchases, it’s hard to see why: Davies is a purposeful, dynamic creative force with the talent to build a team around. Whoever next takes the hot seat could do just that.

His rolled-down socks and wavy hair give him an old-fashioned air, but Everton fans hope this locally grown star is the man to propel them into a exciting new era.

8. Manuel Locatelli (Italy) 

If it weren’t for Locatelli and his team-mate Donnarumma, the dark clouds over San Siro would be developing into something even stormier. The midfielder is an exceptional talent and a leader too – he captained Italy’s U21s against Russia this week.

Like his club side, Locatelli has found it hard to gain much rhythm in Serie A this term; Lucas Biglia has been preferred to him in midfield, although the Argentine’s knee injury should mean the teenager gets more chances to make the kind of impact he managed last term.  

At his best, he has the kind of composure and authority that Milan have sorely lacked.

7. Trent Alexander-Arnold (England)

Alexander-Arnold’s career has taken off in the last 12 months and, although he will still be used sparingly by Jurgen Klopp for now, he has already proved amply that he has a top-level career in store.

The brilliant free-kick that gave Liverpool the lead in their Champions League play-off against Hoffenheim will go down as one of their most important goals of this season, and it said everything that an 18-year-old full-back had the confidence – in himself and of his team-mates – to take it.

A lifelong Liverpool fan who came through the academy, Alexander-Arnold has composure and awareness beyond his years – and stands an excellent chance of making it at his boyhood club. 

6. Matthijs de Ligt (Holland)

It takes a special centre-back talent to be entrusted with a Europa League final at the age of 17 – even at a club as famed for its youth development as Ajax. They lost to Manchester United but De Ligt stood out, his strength and composure on the ball both akin to those of a veteran.

He had made his debut for Holland two months previously, making errors for both goals in a disastrous 2-0 defeat to Bulgaria – but the way he bounced back from that speaks volumes about his resilience, and it’s no surprise that he’s pushed on to become a player who, according to reports, Barcelona are hell bent on signing this winter. 

5. Kai Havertz (Germany)

Back in March, when Bayer Leverkusen might have liked to use their then-17-year-old playmaker for a Champions League last-16 second leg clash at Atletico Madrid, they were denied his services on account of some important school exams.  

Havertz had made his first European start in the home fixture, and there will surely be plenty more: he has been compared to Michael Ballack, Mesut Ozil, Lionel Messi and seemingly everyone in between. The 19-year-old is a clear-headed, buzzy creative force who should eventually end up as a No.10.

A move to an elite club appears inevitable; Liverpool are among those strongly linked, and rumours suggest he may have already visited their Melwood training ground. 

4. Federico Chiesa (Italy)

Remember the name? You probably do, because Chiesa comes from wonderful footballing stock in the form of his father, the former Italy international Enrico, and is firmly on the way to following in his footsteps.

Chiesa, who turned 20 last month, has been with Fiorentina – one of his dad’s old clubs – for over a decade, and emerged as the jewel in their crown.

More of a winger or attacking midfielder than Enrico, he is unlikely to remain at the mid-table Florence club for too much longer, and Inter Milan are among the many clubs keen on his services. When he was younger there were concerns that he didn’t have the size to make it as a professional, but he is constantly growing in stature now.

3. Marcus Rashford (England)

It’s quite incredible to think just how unknown Rashford was when he netted twice on debut for Manchester United against Midtjylland in February 2016. He only got his start that day because of injury to Anthony Martial in the warm-up, but followed it up with a memorable Premier League brace against Arsenal and hasn’t left the first-team picture at Old Trafford since.

Rashford’s future is surely as a striker, but he has retained a prominent role out wide under Jose Mourinho despite worries to the contrary about playing time under the Portuguese. The now-20-year-old is a shoo-in for England at the World Cup next summer barring injury – a fair reflection of just how good the Wythenshawe attacker has been over the last 18 months.  

“I've worked with Marcus and seen him at close hand and how much of a talent he is,” Manchester United legend Ryan Giggs said recently. “You wouldn't swap him for any other young player right now.”    

2. Kylian Mbappe (France)

While Mbappe’s speed and sharpness mark him out from most others of his age – and plenty a good deal older – it’s his intelligence that really completes the package.

“He thinks when he plays, and that for me is the most important thing in a player… he uses his brain,” said Thierry Henry, a man with whom Mbappe has drawn plenty of comparisons.

Mbappe’s rise over the last 15 months has been stunning and it’s easy to forget that, before his sensational 2016/17 season with Monaco, he had played just 13 games and scored once. There will be ups and downs to come, as there already have been since he arrived at PSG, but few teenagers in the world have potential this exciting.

1. Gianluigi Donnarumma (Italy)

If all goes to plan, Donnarumma will make his 100th senior appearance for Milan at the end of January. That would be a laudable achievement for anyone, but the scale of his achievement is amplified when you consider that he doesn’t turn 19 until February 25.  

CONFEDERATIONS

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Donnarumma has been the most consistent player in a deeply disappointing team ever since making his debut two years ago, and his potential seems limitless.  

There seems little question that he will replace Gianluigi Buffon as Italy’s No.1; far more doubtful is his future at Milan, despite his recent signing of a contract extension. Real Madrid are among those lurking and may be more befitting of his talent.

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