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Best young players in the world 2022: 22 players under 22 who will dominate this year

best young players in the world
(Image credit: Future)

This feature on the best young players in the world 2022 first appeared in the December 2021 issue of FourFourTwo magazine. Subscribe now and get three issues for £3!

Messi and Ronaldo dominated the transfer agenda in 2021, but now it’s time for the big boys to scrap over the next generation. None will be more in demand than Erling Haaland, the first in our list of 22 stars under the age of 22, who could rule during the year ahead.

Disclaimer: we've not ranked them – they're just numbered so you can keep track (we're nice like that). So, in no particular order, here are the best young players in the world who will dominate 2022...

This list was compiled and written by Chris Flanagan, Mark White, Ed McCambridge, Thore Haugstad and Andy Mitten.

Best young players in the world 2022: 1. Erling Haaland

Erling Haaland, best young players in the world

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Age 21

Club Borussia Dortmund

Nationality Norway

Position Forward

THE LOWDOWN It's Erling blooming Haaland: at 21, his output bears comparison to the very best, past or present. Only Mbappe is able to match him. If you exclude penalties at the time of writing, the duo are averaging 0.79 goals per 90 minutes in league and European competition – a rate that beats every major talent aged below 22 over the past two decades.

Raul had registered more goals than both, but not at the same speed. The closest is Lionel Messi, at 0.68. Decent effort, Leo... but no cigar.

READ MORE Erling Haaland: Who the man of 2022 will sign for next

2. Jude Bellingham

Jude Bellingham, best young players in the world

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Age 18 

Club Borussia Dortmund 

Nationality English

Position Midfielder

THE LOWDOWN The youngster anchored BVB’s midfield 45 times in his debut campaign, including 10 Champions League outings. He dazzled in April’s quarter-final defeat to Manchester City, scoring in the second leg as part of a terrific all-round display.

THEY SAID...  “I can’t believe he’s 17 – maybe he’s a liar,” cheered Pep Guardiola. “He’s a fantastic player.” 

3. Jamal Musiala

Jamal Musiala, best young players in the world

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Age 18 

Club Bayern Munich 

Nationality German

Position Attacking midfielder

THE LOWDOWN In June 2020, months after his 17th birthday, Musiala became Bayern’s youngest ever Bundesliga player – and soon after, their youngest goalscorer. Tall, graceful and an effortless dribbler, the teenager has drawn comparisons with a young Dele Alli, and can play as either a No.9 or a No.10. The prodigious playmaker is seen as a long-term successor to Thomas Muller in Die Roten’s attack – and he’s already off the mark with Germany for good measure. 

DID YOU KNOW? Despite being the youngest player ever to represent Germany in a major international tournament at Euro 2020, Stuttgart-born Musiala grew up in England and attended Whitgift School in Croydon – also attended by Callum Hudson-Odoi and Bertrand Traore. He played for both nations at youth level, admitting of his decision to declare for Die Mannschaft: “I have a heart for Germany and a heart for England. Both hearts will keep on beating.”

THEY SAID… “He has unbelievable potential,” beamed Bayern coach Julian Nagelsmann. “He has great finishing qualities as well as unbelievable attacking and dribbling skills.”

4. Dominik Szoboszlai

Dominik Szoboszlai, best young players in the world

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Age 21 

Club RB Leipzig 

Nationality Hungarian

Position Attacking midfielder

THE LOWDOWN After 61 goal contributions in just 83 appearances for Red Bull Salzburg, Szoboszlai became the most expensive Hungarian in history (€20m) when joining sister club RB Leipzig in January 2021. Fans had to wait eight months to get a glimpse of their new man after he was sidelined with injury, but it was worth the wait. Likened to Ferenc Puskas by Lothar Matthaus, the gifted playmaker is shining once again this season.

DID YOU KNOW? Szoboszlai and Borussia Dortmund striker Erling Haaland are best mates from their time in Salzburg. Having joined the Austrian giants a year before the Norwegian, Szoboszlai welcomed his new pal in January 2019. “We went out together, even though he doesn’t do that much,” said the Hungarian, who presumably needs little stimulation. “We became great friends.” 

BEST MOMENT A stunning last-gasp goal at home to Iceland in last November’s Euro 2020 play-off, which booked Hungary’s place in the competition. Szoboszlai’s curling effort in the 92nd minute was his final contribution to the adventure, though, as he missed the tournament through injury.

5. Karim Adeyemi

Karim Adeyemi, best young players in the world

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Age 19 

Club Red Bull Salzburg 

Nationality German

Position Striker

THE LOWDOWN The first post-war player from Austria’s top flight to receive a call-up for Germany, Adeyemi could provide the solution to Die Mannschaft’s recent striker shortage. After ditching Bayern’s academy aged nine, the Munich local rose through the youth sides of third-tier Unterhaching before signing pro terms with Salzburg in 2019. The lightning-quick starlet has since developed into an ice-cold finisher, helping Salzburg to another league and cup double last term. Thrust into the spotlight after Patson Daka’s summer exit to Leicester, he averages nearly a goal a game, and boasts a first Germany strike, too. Eyed by Liverpool, PSG and Bayern.

DID YOU KNOW? Adeyemi became the first player in Champions League history to win three penalties in the first half of a match, against Sevilla in September. Only one was converted, though – Adeyemi missed the first – then Sevilla levelled… from the spot.  

THEY SAID… “I know him from Unterhaching – we weren’t ready to pay €3m at the time because it was a lot for a 16-year-old,” said Bayern’s former CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge recently. “It may cost a zero more now.”

6. Florian Wirtz

Florian Wirtz, best young players in the world

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Age 18 

Club Bayer Leverkusen 

Nationality German

Position Attacking midfielder

THE LOWDOWN Likened to ex-Leverkusen starlet Julian Brandt, Wirtz is a classic No.10 who glides by opponents and splits defences with laser-like precision. The 18-year-old was already discussed in hushed tones at Köln before Leverkusen pounced in January 2020, since when he’s become the club’s youngest ever player and the Bundesliga’s youngest scorer (subsequently surpassed by Youssoufa Moukoko) with a divine curling effort against Bayern. He’s the future, all right.

DID YOU KNOW? Football is a family business in the Wirtz household. Florian’s older sister Juliane plays as a defender for Leverkusen’s women, and their parents serve as agents for both siblings. His father, Hans-Joachim, is also the chairman of sixth-tier Grun-Weiß Brauweiler. We wonder what they talk about at the dinner table...

THEY SAID… Germany manager Hansi Flick is a huge fan. “Florian is just a huge asset for this team thanks to his carefreeness,” said Flick. “He’s simply an outstanding technician; he loves to play, he’s very creative, has a good shot, runs hard and is really quick – he’s the complete package.” Anything else?

7. Alphonso Davies

Alphonso Davies, best young players in the world

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Age 21 

Club Bayern Munich 

Nationality Canadian

Position Left-back

THE LOWDOWN The most heart-warming story in football. Born in a Ghanaian refugee camp to Liberian parents, Davies has had to overcome poverty, adversity and language barriers to become one of the world’s most exciting young footballers. Bayern picked
up the Canadian attacker from Vancouver Whitecaps (where he’d debuted at 15) in January 2019, and have re-wired him into the most devastating left-back in Europe right now. His fearlessness has been crucial to three Meisterschalen, two DFB-Pokals and 2020’s Champions League triumph. 

DID YOU KNOW? ‘Phonzie’ holds the record for the highest sprint speed in Bundesliga history, clocking a mind-boggling 36.51km/h (22.7mph) in a June 2020 match against Werder Bremen. It’s only 7.5km/h slower than Usain Bolt’s peak pace. 

BEST MOMENT Davies’ scorching assist as Bayern devoured Barcelona 8-2 in 2020’s Champions League quarter-finals. After pirouetting beyond Leo Messi and Arturo Vidal, the Canadian made a mockery of Nelson Semedo before putting goal No.5
on a plate for Joshua Kimmich. Meep meep!  

8. Phil Foden

Phil Foden, best young players in the world

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Age 21

Club Manchester City

Nationality English

Position Midfielder

THE LOWDOWN Foden’s Euro 2020 may not have gone exactly how he planned – the dyed blond hair didn’t lead to the Gazza-style impact on the tournament he might have hoped for, as he was denied by a post early on against Croatia, then lost his place to Bukayo Saka after the draw with Scotland. He’d get on the pitch for only 25 more minutes, in extra time against Denmark, before a foot problem ruled him out of the final.

But the playmaker returned to prominence with the national team this October, putting in arguably his most dominant performance yet for England – albeit against Andorra. Few would be surprised if he’s a crucial part of Southgate’s side at the 2022 World Cup. 

THEY SAY... “This time next year, I don’t see why he wouldn’t be one of England’s star players and one of the first names on the teamsheet. If he carries on the way he’s going, there’s only one place he’s going to be – and if he does get his chance, I think everyone would put their money on him taking it," reckons Curtis Anderson, who was a team-mate of Foden's in England U17's successful 2017 World Cup campaign.

“If England went on to win the senior World Cup and he played a big part in it, five years after we won the U17 World Cup, that would be a nice story, wouldn’t it?”

9. Billy Gilmour

Billy Gilmour, best young players in the world

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Age 20 

Club Chelsea (loan at Norwich) 

Nationality Scottish

Position Central midfielder

THE LOWDOWN At the centre of Scotland’s resurgence stands their great new hope – all 5ft 7in of him. Gilmour may never be likely to physically dominate a game, but he’s shown signs that he might be able to dominate in another way for Steve Clarke’s side. Brilliant in central midfield during Scotland’s draw with England at Euro 2020, he was superb again when they defeated Israel in a crucial World Cup qualifier in October, thanks to his exquisite ball control and perennial eye for
a pass. Gilmour had been on Rangers’ books until his 16th birthday, before being lured south to Stamford Bridge. His first-team bow came just after he’d turned 18, under Frank Lampard’s tutelage. Though he lost his place at Norwich not long after joining the Canaries on a season-long loan this term, the esteem with which he’s held in Scotland shows no signs of diminishing.

THEY SAID… “He might be small in stature, but he’s huge in personality and talent,” declared Lampard last year.

BEST MOMENT That man of the match performance against England, on his first international start. Hello, world. 

10. Pedri

Pedri, best young players in the world

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Age 18 

Club Barcelona

Nationality Spanish

Position Central midfielder

THE LOWDOWN Barcelona had very high hopes for Pedri when they signed him for
€5m just a few weeks into the 2019-20 campaign, following a string of sensational displays for Segunda Division Las Palmas. But nobody would have foreseen his astonishing progress since rocking up at the Camp Nou that September. Pedri was slated to play in the reserves but became key inside a fortnight amid Barça’s struggles, leading the Blaugrana midfield and earning immediate comparisons to Andres Iniesta. Incredibly, the teen took part in 50 matches across all competitions in his first season, then proved vital for Spain on two counts: first at Euro 2020, before jetting to Japan to help La Roja’s under-23s reach the Olympics final. It’s easy to see why coaches want to build teams around him – the Canary Islander is blessed with remarkable vision, passing precision and technical skills. He could define an era.

DID YOU KNOW? Pedri had a trial at Real Madrid when he was 16, but it bizarrely took place in a heavy blizzard – and he failed to impress. Snow joke.

BEST MOMENT Featuring in the team of the tournament at a European Championship aged 18? Not bad.

11. Vinicius Jr

Vinicius Jr, best young players in the world

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Age 21 

Club Real Madrid

Nationality Brazilian

Position Forward

THE LOWDOWN When Real Madrid agreed to a whopping €46m deal for a 16-year-old Vinicius in May 2017, he’d played only one game for Flamengo. The Brazilian live wire formally joined the following summer, mere weeks after Juventus-bound Cristiano Ronaldo had vacated his left-wing position. It took Vinicius a little while to settle, and at first he was inconsistent under the burden of unrealistic expectations from a baying Bernabeu crowd. Things are totally different in 2021. A boy forced to grow up fast has become key, forging a healthy understanding with Karim Benzema – once caught on camera telling team-mate Ferland Mendy not to pass to Vinicius – and deciding several matches on his own. Speedy and tricky, Vinicius’ form will make him hard to ignore for Brazil coach Tite’s World Cup starting XI. 

THEY SAID… “Vinicius will be a Real Madrid legend,” said iconic left-back Roberto Carlos.

BEST MOMENT Destroying Liverpool with two goals and a sensational display in Los Blanco’s 3-1 Champions League last-eight win in April. Marca’s headline: ‘Vini, Vidi, Vici.

12. Eduardo Camavinga

Eduardo Camavinga, best young players in the world

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Age 19 

Club Real Madrid

Nationality French

Position Central midfielder

THE LOWDOWN French fans began falling in love with Camavinga two years ago. Rennes’ baby-faced midfielder could do everything effortlessly and was named Ligue 1 Player of the Month before even celebrating his 17th birthday, thanks to a superb performance against PSG as Rennes won 2-1. Camavinga combines a combative style with sublime skill, and is equally good with and without the ball. His first full season was so good that Didier Deschamps called him up for France, when the starlet became Les Bleus’ youngest player (and scorer) since 1914. Guaranteed starts for new club Real Madrid and country are a little way off yet, but time is just one of the many things in his favour.

THEY SAID… “Technically and physically, he is a monster, everything he does is perfect – he’s the modern midfielder by definition,” tooted ex-Rennes pal Hatem Ben Arfa.

DID YOU KNOW? In 2020, Rennes’ owners fired president Olivier Letang for opening talks with Madrid without their knowledge. New owners reinstated him – this time as CEO – a few months later. 

13. Ansu Fati

Ansu Fati, best young players in the world

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Age 19 

Club Barcelona

Nationality Spanish

Position Forward

THE LOWDOWN From this season, Fati is officially Lionel Messi’s heir at Barcelona, having taken the departed Flea’s No.10 shirt. Now, the 19-year-old – touted for Camp Nou greatness since joining La Masia aged 10 – has even more expectations on his slender shoulders. The Guinea Bissau-born striker made his La Liga debut aged 16 in August 2019, becoming Barça’s youngest player since 1941, and impressed with his level of maturity and decision-making. “He got my attention from the very first time I saw him training,” admitted Messi. Two goals in his first three games didn’t hurt either. Eight strikes in his first season was remarkable, and Fati’s 2020-21 campaign started even better – until a knee injury forced him out for almost a year. With Messi gone, he’s now an ailing club’s biggest hope. Gulp. 

DID YOU KNOW? As a kid with Sevilla, Fati idolised Jesus Navas – and made his senior Spain debut in September 2020 by replacing the former Manchester City man.

THEY SAID… “His self-confidence just isn’t normal,” shrugged Spain coach Luis Enrique.

14. Mason Greenwood

Mason Greenwood, best young players in the world

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Age 20

Club Manchester United

Nationality English

Position Forward

THE LOWDOWN Greenwood’s body language always used to suggest that he wasn’t interested or taking in information – yet in actual fact, the complete opposite was true. He absorbed every detail, especially when he sat with his coaches one-on-one. They realised he was alert, and like the best players, taking it all in.

It wasn’t always easy. Clubs such as United need to develop complete footballers, so they field players in different positions to gain an understanding of other perspectives. They push the importance of education; of the whole development process. At every stage, United told Mason and his family to trust them, even though he was gaining attention and serious financial offers from rivals. 

To their credit, they did. Greenwood doesn’t have an agent – his dad Andrew had several approaches, including from Juventus, who offered his son life-changing amounts of money. United told the family to stay patient, stressing they had a manager who’d give youngsters a chance in the first team. They were right, too: how many lads fresh out of their teens are regulars for major clubs?

As a youngster, Greenwood played all over Europe. He travelled to a big tournament
in Marveld, the Netherlands, with boys two years older. He went to a five-a-side event in Friedrichshafen, Germany – a tournament considered the best in Europe. He also took part in the Mercedes-Benz six-a-side – all before he’d started as a full-time footballer aged 16. 

THEY SAID... “He can do anything,” says Nicky Butt, who coached Greenwood in United's youth side. “He can score and win games, which is what a United striker has to do, but he needs to get the other side of the game, which is important in professional football. 

“He’s the kind of player who’ll do nothing for the whole game and then score you two goals. He could be a superstar if he works with the coaches around him to make himself better – or a miss if he doesn’t.”

15. Jadon Sancho

Jadon Sancho, best young players in the world

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Age 21 

Club Manchester United 

Nationality English

Position Winger

THE LOWDOWN Sancho gambled when swapping Manchester City for Borussia Dortmund in 2017 – but his move paid off handsomely as he rocketed to superstardom wearing yellow and black. In four seasons he illuminated the Ruhr valley with 54 goals and 67 assists, establishing himself as one of the Bundesliga’s most enjoyable talents. Erling Haaland’s arrival in January 2020 immediately created a new partnership feared across Germany, and for a while the pair made merry; Dortmund cashed in this summer to the tune of €85m from United. Sadly, things haven’t gone too well for the elegant winger: Sancho was barely used by Gareth Southgate at Euro 2020, then missed from the spot in the final shootout against Italy. His first months at Old Trafford were disappointing – but only because he set the bar so high in Dortmund. Class is permanent. 

DID YOU KNOW? Despite representing both Manchester clubs, Sancho is a Chelsea fan.

BEST MOMENT Two goals and an assist in BVB’s 4-1 DFB-Pokal final demolition of RB Leipzig last May.

16. Bukayo Saka

Bukayo Saka, best young players in the world

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Age 20 

Club Arsenal

Nationality English

Position Winger

THE LOWDOWN Cesc Fabregas won Arsenal’s player of the season award just before his 20th birthday. So did Saka – and the excitement level is similar. The academy graduate is a darling of north London who managed to flourish even when the club lurched from one disaster to another at the beginning of the campaign. His versatility is striking. Is he a winger? A playmaker? A right-sided midfielder? A left-back? Maybe a striker? Put him in anywhere and excellent output is almost guaranteed. Mikel Arteta trusts Saka completely, and it was hardly
surprising that Gareth Southgate used him frequently at Euro 2020. Forget the shootout miss – Saka is key for club and country.

DID YOU KNOW? ‘Bukayo’ means “someone who adds happiness” in the Yoruba language of Nigeria. The name suits him perfectly – his face is always adorned with a grin.

BEST MOMENT No one fancies a derby when you’re in ropey form – unless your academy hero steps up with a goal and assist before half-time to send your rivals packing. Spurs couldn’t handle Saka in September.

17. Julian Alvarez

Julian Alvarez, best young players in the world

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Age 21 

Club River Plate

Nationality Argentine

Position Forward

THE LOWDOWN Alvarez’s fifth appearance for River came in the 2018 Copa Libertadores Final. It wasn’t just any final, either: when he trotted onto the pitch in extra time of the second leg, it was against fierce rivals Boca Juniors at the Bernabeu, after fan violence forced the decider to be rescheduled abroad. Alvarez’s boundless energy changed the game, and Los Millonarios lifted the trophy following a 3-1 victory. A slow burner since, Alvarez’s 2021 has been worth the wait, his fine Primera Division form earning a spot in Argentina’s triumphant Copa America squad. His output has been devastating – nine goals and six assists in only seven matches from mid-September through October. River put a €25m release clause in his deal but such a fee seems low given his gigantic potential. Trigger fingers at the ready. 

DID YOU KNOW? Messi reportedly advised Barcelona to sign Alvarez last summer, to no avail. He’s subsequently been linked with Milan, Inter, Tottenham and, er, Aston Villa. 

BEST MOMENT Taking part in Argentina’s first major triumph since 1993 seemed to ignite a fire within, as Boca discovered with horror when Alvarez bagged both goals in River’s 2-1 Superclasico success in October. 

18. Sandro Tonali

Sandro Tonali, best young players in the world

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Age 21 

Club Milan

Nationality Italian

Position Central midfielder

THE LOWDOWN Comparisons to Italy’s favourite midfielder were made before Tonali had even made his debut for Brescia – in the summer of 2017, Giornale di Brescia reported on “a guy born in 2000 who moves and looks like Pirlo”. “With hair like that, it’s impossible not to notice him,” they noted. The mop-top certainly helped, but Tonali played in the same central midfield position and showed maturity well beyond his age. Tonali doesn’t like being called ‘the new Pirlo’, however.
A dead ringer for Hollywood actor Adam Driver, he grew up idolising Gennaro Gattuso, and sought the famed terrier’s permission to don the No.8 shirt upon joining his beloved Milan in 2020. Tonali’s first season at San Siro was tough, but his qualities eventually shone. This term he’s looking magnificent as Milan seek their first Scudetto triumph since 2010-11, displaying fine ball-winning skills and a cool head.

THEY SAID… “He’s a more complete player than myself, defensively and offensively,” said Pirlo himself. “He isn’t my heir because he plays differently, but he’ll surely become a great footballer.”

BEST MOMENT Scoring his first goal for the Rossoneri with a beautiful free-kick against Cagliari. Just like… no, we won’t. 

19. Ryan Gravenberch

Ryan Gravenberch, best young players in the world

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Age 19 

Club Ajax

Nationality Dutch

Position Central midfielder

THE LOWDOWN Clarence Seedorf held one of the most famous records in Ajax history as their youngest player. Then Gravenberch came along and beat it by more than three months, at 16 years and 130 days. It may only have been seven minutes against PSV during the 2018-19 campaign, but his club showed how highly they rated their midfield prodigy. Gravenberch, after all, had played for their under-15s when he was 12. By last season he’d become a key member of Erik ten Hag’s red-and-white winning machine that dominated the Eredivisie. A versatile and very intelligent teen who’s often compared to Paul Pogba, he combines physical strength with exquisite ball control, a delightful range of passing and attack-minded thinking. Liverpool were heavily linked last summer, but Gravenberch wisely decided to stay in Amsterdam for now to gain more first-team experience. The big step forward can wait – inevitable as it is.   

THEY SAID… “He’s the example of a modern, complete midfielder at the top level,” gushed former Netherlands star Wim Kieft.

BEST MOMENT He doesn’t score too often (yet), and thus his brilliant winner against Feyenoord in January was especially sweet.

20. Harvey Elliott

Harvey Elliott, best young players in the world

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Age 18 

Club Liverpool

Nationality English

Position Attacking midfielder

THE LOWDOWN A season that promised so much for Elliott was ruined in September when a tackle against Leeds resulted in a fractured ankle. It was extremely bad luck for the 18-year-old midfielder, who’d been trusted by boss Jurgen Klopp to start three Premier League matches for Liverpool, and put in a quality performance against Chelsea. Elliott is used to standing out. At Fulham, he became the Premier League’s youngest ever player just 30 days after his 16th birthday, but always impressed with his maturity. The Reds signed him in 2019 and were extremely satisfied with his loan spell at Blackburn, when the youngster scored seven goals and assisted 11 more during a bravura 2020-21. Liverpool fans can’t wait to see him return at some stage this season – at which point, England boss Gareth Southgate will surely begin watching with interest.

THEY SAID… “He’s brilliant on the ball, aware of other players on the pitch and sees the big picture,” said Blackburn boss Tony Mowbray.

DID YOU KNOW? Real Madrid and Barcelona wanted to sign Elliott, but there was only one choice for the Reds fan. “I said no to Madrid – I don’t like [Sergio] Ramos after what he did to [Mo] Salah,” he admitted.

21. Yuri Alberto

Yuri Alberto, best young players in the world

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Age 20 

Club Internacional 

Nationality Brazilian

Position Forward

THE LOWDOWN Santos have nurtured some of Brazil’s most famous superstars, including Pele and Neymar, but this is one prodigy they failed to treat correctly. Alberto scored at a sensational rate at youth level, and made his league debut when he was 16, yet gradually became frustrated with limited opportunities and eventually decided that he needed to leave. He rejected a new contract, signed for Internacional in August 2020 and immediately became one of the most feared forwards in Brazil. Magnificently two-footed, Alberto is an effective penalty-box predator but also capable of playing on both wings thanks to his forceful running and wondrous dribbling skills. He hit 10 goals in his debut season in all competitions and has already improved on that number this time around, alerting a plethora of Europe’s top clubs. Arsenal, Manchester City, Milan – they’re all linked, among many. 

DID YOU KNOW? Alberto netted 32 goals in a single season for Santos Under-17s, beating the previous record of 31 by Diego in 2000. Prolific doesn’t quite cover it.

BEST MOMENT Scoring a hat-trick at the Maracana in International’s 4-0 demolition of Flamengo in August 2021 was definitely rather special. One to watch.

22. Aurelien Tchouameni

Aurelien Tchouameni, best young players in the world

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Age 21 

Club Monaco

Nationality French

Position Central midfielder

THE LOWDOWN The Ligue 1 Young Player of the Year award is a decent barometer for checking out future superstars – a Bordeaux midfielder called Zinedine Zidane was the inaugural winner back in 1994. Tchouameni deservedly took the prize in 2020-21, after a magnificent season in Monaco’s engine room. Bordeaux might have thought that €21m was a decent price for the youngster in selling him to Les Monegasques in January 2020, but the latter have already made giant gains on their outlay. Seemingly every elite European club is eyeing Tchouameni, who’s developing into a complete player – effective in winning the ball and distributing it neatly. Ignore his lack of goals: coach Niko Kovac’s decision to deploy him as an anchorman was a masterstroke. He’s a regular in Didier Deschamps’ France squad, too.

THEY SAID… “In his position you have to be disciplined and organise the game,” stated Kovac. “He’s a whole different player now –
I trust him. Since he’s been an international, he’s been watched even more.”

BEST MOMENT Playing the full 90 minutes alongside Paul Pogba in Les Bleus’ dramatic Nations League final victory against Spain, to secure his first career trophy.

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