FourFourTwo's 59 Best Under-21 Wonderkids in the World: 59-51
54. Andre Horta, 19 (Benfica)
Horta was distraught when he was let go by Benfica’s youth system as a 15-year-old. Determined not to give up on his dream, he moved to Vitoria Setubal where he made steady progress, culminating in an impressive 2015/16 campaign in which he clocked up over 36 games for the top-flight club despite still being a teenager.
It was so impressive that Benfica came back for him in the summer, offering a five-year contract. Even so, it was a surprise to many that the younger of two footballing siblings (big bro plays for Braga) has been a regular starter at the centre of Benfica’s midfield.
Determined to make the most of his second chance at the Lisbon giants, Horta has not looked out of place, his dynamism and clever passing standing out. From a physical point of view he could do with filling out and he needs to work on his consistency, but the early signs are that Benfica did well to bring him back. TK
53. Demarai Gray, 20 (Leicester)
A Premier League winner's medal at 19 was fine reward for Gray last season, after his unselfish and bright substitute appearances helped Leicester wrap up their miracle title.
The Foxes picked him up for an absolute bargain £3.7m in January after activating his release clause at Birmingham, and so far the England U21 international has done nothing to suggest he won’t fulfil his exciting promise. Gray was restricted to only one Premier League start last term, but his role in helping his team see out matches was vital and valued by Claudio Ranieri.
Regular first-team starts still aren’t forthcoming – not easy when you’re trying to break into this established line-up – but they’ll come in good time. Appearances in the Champions League and a corking goal against Manchester United at Old Trafford are yet more signs that Gray needn’t worry about his long-term progression. JB
52. Malcom, 19 (Bordeaux)
The Brazilian winger arrived at Bordeaux from Corinthians without much fanfare last January. Now, however, after time to settle and the influence of Jocelyn Gourvennec behind him, Ligue 1 fans are starting to see why he was so highly rated in Brazil.
Although Malcom has played mostly on the right for the French side, his excellent left foot is his greatest weapon. He’s quick to burst down the flank, and is good at keeping his head up to find a team-mate or popping up at the back post to get on the end of a chance. He showed Bordeaux fans on the opening day of the current season that he’s pretty capable from set-pieces too, curling a beautiful effort past Saint-Etienne's Stephane Ruffier – one of his three Ligue 1 goals so far this season.
Under new leadership this could be a vintage year for les Girondins, and you have to believe that Malcom is at the forefront of their resurgence. AG
51. Leon Bailey, 20 (Genk)
The 19-year-old Jamaican took the Belgian league by storm at Genk in 2015/16, and was voted Young Player of the Season after scoring six goals and providing nine assists. Explosive on the wing, Bailey is lightning quick, full of tricks and imagination, and a real joy to watch on top form.
His first days in Europe were controversial to say the least, when he was apparently brought to Belgium illegally in 2013, but now – after a short spell in Slovakia with Trencin – everything is done by the book.
In fact, Bailey would now prefer to represent Belgium at senior level, having declined offers from Jamaica to call him up. "My ambitions are bigger than love for my country. Jamaica won't make me better, and scouts don't come to see their games. With Belgium I will develop. I want to play against the best," he declared, matter-of-factly. With that attitude, Genk might not be able to keep him for much longer. MY