FourFourTwo's 59 Best Under-21 Wonderkids in the World: 50-41
45. Jorge, 20 (Flamengo)
Flamengo’s fans call him Jorge ‘Alba’ in reference to Barcelona left-back Jordi. To them, though, the 20-year-old promising youngster is much better – and one of the main reasons why the Rio de Janeiro side are fighting for the Brazilian Serie A title against Gabriel Jesus’s Palmeiras.
He was included in a pre-list for the Rio 2016 Olympics and a call-up for the 2018 World Cup qualifiers is surely only a matter of time. Jorge’s phone hasn’t rung for a European move just yet, but Pep Guardiola is reportedly keeping tabs and there has already been talk of an offer from Manchester City in the next transfer window.
Jorge has had a breakthrough season in 2016 and shown a great maturity playing for Brazil’s most popular side. He’s definitely not a typical Seleção left-back, though – excellent in attack but also boasting fine defensive skills. Marcelo’s successor awaits his turn. MA
44. Kylian Mbappe, 17 (Monaco)
Monaco don’t exactly struggle to find new players. In summer 2015, for example, they brought in 12 new faces after the likes of Anthony Martial, Yannick Ferreira Carrasco and Dimitar Berbatov had moved on.
In exceptional circumstances, though, they also like to give youth a chance – and that’s how forward Kylian Mbappe came into the picture. His debut in October 2015 involved setting up a consolation goal for Monaco at Spurs in the Europa League, before he broke Thierry Henry’s record by becoming their youngest-ever goalscorer in a 3-1 win over Troyes. This summer the 17-year-old scored five times for France as they won the U19 European Championship. His performance against Portugal in the semi-final was particularly exceptional, featuring two goals and assist.
Mbappe can play out wide, but he boasts the physique to move inside too. With dazzling skills, power and directness, he’s difficult to pin down – and his potential is frightening. AG
43. Oliver Burke, 19 (RB Leipzig)
Jumping at the chance to play regular top-class football rather than become another Brit loaned out for experience, Burke is already showing signs that he’s worth the £13m Leipzig will pay Nottingham Forest for his services. The 19-year-old’s physical strength has taken Bundesliga defenders by surprise, and his sheer determination and awareness has helped him score and assist in his first three games.
Despite Burke’s excellent attacking potential, his new manager Ralph Hasenhuttl has acknowledged that the teenager’s defensive hard drive is somewhat empty. The Scot’s inefficient running is evidence of that, but it’s something he’s hoping to improve.
In Leipzig, Burke has the perfect club to become a more effective winger who will soon be capable of basketball-like steals and purposeful runs. Inevitable comparisons are being made with another winger from a certain home nation, but they’re premature and Burke knows it. In five years, though, that may not be the case. JH
42. Franck Kessie, 19 (Atalanta)
Atalanta might not stir senses like other Serie A clubs, but the Bergamo-based northerners boast one of Italy’s finest youth academies that has earned them a fearsome reputation for producing quality players. The likes of Gaetano Scirea, Antonio Cabrini, Roberto Donadoni and Giacomo Bonaventura all developed with the Orobici, and Franck Kessie seems to be the next big hit to emerge from the Stadio Atleti Azzurri d’Italia.
The 19-year-old grabbed headlines with two goals against Lazio on the first day of the 2016/17 campaign; since then the Ivorian midfielder has netted twice more and added an assist. The central midfielder’s excellent distribution and ability to skilfully trick his way past opponents have caught eyes – not least those at Arsenal, who have sent scouts to watch him.
Kessie has much to improve – indeed, he looks quite immature at times – but it seems Atalanta have yet another gem on their hands. Their track record shows he is likely to reach his full potential quickly. AD
41. Bart Ramselaar, 20 (PSV)
One of last season’s Eredivisie revelations was then-Utrecht midfielder Ramselaar, who was duly snapped up by defending champions PSV. He provided the perfect quotient of creativity and energy for Utrecht, demonstrating an ability to make a notable impact in the final third.
The 20-year-old compares himself to Isco, who is a similar type of midfielder; fast, excellent in possession and capable of picking out a good shot from the edge of the box.
One of the criticisms long levied at the Dutch national team is its dearth of creative midfielders, despite the fact that PSV boast two excellent ones in Davy Propper and Ramselaar. The latter’s capability of functioning out wide might mean that if the Netherlands were to go for a non-traditional winger role in future, he would offer a good option. PR