70. Ovie Ejaria (Liverpool)
Need to know: Born in the same London borough as Rio Ferdinand, Duncan Goodhew and David Haye, Ejaria was thrilled to join his beloved Arsenal as a seven-year-old.
His sadness at being released by the Gunners nine years later didn’t last long, though, as esteemed clubs hoyed apprenticeship forms at him. The attacking midfielder reportedly rejected PSG to join Liverpool, and has since made a splash for their reserves after putting in extra hours to improve his goals return.
Though part of a Nigeria U17 training camp in 2013, Ejaria played a bit-part role in England’s FIFA U20 World Cup triumph.
Highlight so far: Ejaria’s distribution caught the eye on his first Liverpool start, when he held his own against Eric Dier & Co. in a 2-1 win over Tottenham in the League Cup in October 2016.
69. Maximilian Wober (Ajax)
Need to know: Ajax parted with €7.5m in August to make the elegant centre-back the Austrian Bundesliga’s biggest-ever sale – merely five months after he was representing Rapid Vienna’s reserves in the country’s third tier.
Wober inherited the No.5 shirt vacated by Davinson Sanchez and swiftly began to enjoy playing time under Marcel Keizer.
The 19-year-old, a fixture in Austria’s youth sides, made his senior debut in October’s 3-2 win over Serbia in Russia 2018 qualifying.
Highlight so far: Wober, on his maiden Eredivisie start, ended a spot of pinball in the Heerenveen box to open his Ajax account - and helped them keep a clean sheet.
68. Orel Mangala (Stuttgart)
Need to know: “I like to try to play like Luka Modric,” once said Mangala. “My main strength is my technique.”
Hannes Wolf absolutely agrees. When he swapped coaching Borussia Dortmund’s youth sides for Stuttgart, he made it a priority to take Mangala – who’d helped Belgium finish third at the U17 World Cup in 2015 – with him.
The 19-year-old has since bloomed in the Bundesliga with his crafty footwork, passing and tenaciousness.
Highlight so far: Mangala delighted the Stuttgart supporters on his first home game for the club: a 1-0 win over Mainz, which drew praise from Wolf and Holger Badstuber.
67. Vinicius Junior (Flamengo, joining Real Madrid in 2018)
Need to know: A wonderkid manning the hype podium on which Ronaldo, Ronaldinho and Neymar stood as 17-year-olds.
Exhilarating attacker Vinicius has already been signed by Real Madrid for a staggering €45m – when he was just 16. He’ll move to the Bernabeu when he turns 18 next July, and in the meantime has been wowing Flamengo fans.
A strong, supersonic dribbler, Vinicius hit 24 goals in 29 outings for Brazil’s U15 and U17 sides. Spanish sports daily AS called him “a more modern and stronger version of Neymar”. No pressure, lad.
Highlight so far: Brazil’s No.11 was unplayable against Paraguay at the South American U17 Championship in March, putting a goal on a plate for Lincoln and, in a moment that will decorate his highlight reel for decades to come, executing three consecutive chapéus on three different opponents. He finished the tournament as its best player and top scorer.
66. Kevin Danso (Augsburg)
Need to know: MK Dons had two precocious talents on their books a few years back. One went on to dazzle for Tottenham and England; the other made the curious switch to Augsburg and, on early evidence, is destined to follow a similar path.
A hulking centre-back or holding midfielder, Danso has taken to Bundesliga life brilliantly – and broken into the senior Austrian national team.
Highlight so far: His league debut came against free-scoring Leipzig in March, but Danso emerged from it with the man-of-the-match award – and the respect of Timo Werner, who called his marker “a colossus”.
65. Matias Zaracho (Racing Club)
Need to know: “He’s a footballer who knows how to do everything,” said Fabio Radaelli, under whose tutelage the midfielder was in the Racing Club youth ranks. “He’s a great decision-maker, creative, has two feet and, above all, is superb with his head.”
Indeed, it was with his noggin that the attacking midfielder scored – and made a goal-line clearance – in Argentina’s thrashing of Guinea at this year’s U20 World Cup. He also headed a maiden goal for Racing – not bad for a player who’s usually the smallest on the pitch.
Highlight so far: A player’s first professional goal is always special. Zaracho’s came with the extra gloss of being the winner against Colon – in front of Argentina coach Jorge Sampaoli, no less. It earned him high praise from Racing legend Lisandro Lopez.
64. Faitout Maouassa (Rennes)
Need to know: Faitout, or ‘fait tout’ (means ‘does everything’ in French), is embracing his name. The 5ft 7in all-rounder started out as a forward, but has been stationed at left-back for the France youth sides, and operated as a central or left midfielder in Ligue 1.
Faitout is blessed with exceptional acceleration, instinctive movement, skill and a firm shot, but is also adept defensively. He contributed three goals and three assists in 19 2016/17 appearances for Nancy before joining Rennes.
Highlight so far: Helping France become European U17 champions in 2015 and, alongside Kylian Mbappe, U19 kings the following year.
63. Lovro Majer (NK Lokomotiva)
Need to know: Although nationality begs comparisons with Luka Modric, assist prince Majer is more like former Yugoslavia No.10 Dragan Stojkovic.
With mercurial footwork, an ability to side-step opponents with ease, play breathtaking through-balls and fire in goals from distance, the 19-year-old has been linked with Atletico Madrid, Everton and Sampdoria but, somehow, remains with Lokomotiva.
Given how regally Majer has been performing in the 2017/18 Croatian top tier, they’ll face an uphill task to keep him in January.
Highlight so far: Despite starting on the bench, Majer was handed the coveted No.10 shirt when he went on for his Croatia debut against Mexico in May.
62. Claud Adjapong (Sassuolo)
Need to know: He may be ‘Claudio’ to his Italian team-mates, but everybody in Serie A knows Adjapong’s name by now.
The attack-minded full-back, who’s able to play on both flanks or in midfield, has made a place in Sassuolo’s starting XI his own in 2017/18. The Modena-born player had a Ghanaian passport until 2016, but has since impressed for Italy’s U19 and U21 teams.
Highlight so far: The Sassuolo No.98’s tactical awareness, pace and craft in a 1-0 victory over Cagliari in September earned him praise from team-mate Paolo Cannavaro: “[Adjapong’s] good at all aspects of the game. He’s got a big future.”
61. Sergio Diaz (Lugo, on loan from Real Madrid)
Need to know: ‘The Paraguayan Aguero’, apparently. Diaz, a slight and bustling forward, played in the Paraguayan top flight when he was 15, scored in the South American U20 Championship when he was 16, and then the Paraguayan Superclasico at 17 – all records.
After impressing for Cerro Porteno and Paraguay at the Toulon Tournament, Diaz joined Real Madrid as an 18-year-old in 2016, and is gaining experience on loan at Segunda Division side Lugo. The bountifully-inked attacker made his senior international debut against France earlier this year.
Highlight so far: On his Libertadores debut, against tournament favourites Corinthians, the 17-year-old scored an Aguero-esque goal and provided an assist in a thrilling 3-2 win.
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