Ranked! The 50 most exciting teenagers in world football
It's time for FFT's yearly ranking of the most exciting teenagers in the world right now – the kids are alright, all right…
40. Kobbie Mainoo
Club: Manchester United
Eligible for Ghana and England, Kobbie Mainoo is has made the bench for Manchester United already in the Premier League. The is confident, two-footed and able to create separation from his markers – with such fierce competition for places at Old Trafford, it'll be interesting to see how he matures from hereon in.
39. Vitor Roque
Club: Athletico Paranaense
Endrick is already off the market, destined for Real Madrid after impressing at an obscenely young age. Vitor Roque is the hipster's choice, instead.
Roque has a similar small stature and an ability to make the square foot of space around defenders' ankles his playground. Explosive, tenacious and a good ball striker, he's the typical South American forward… not that he'll be there for long if he continues like this.
38. Wilfried Gnonto
Club: Leeds United
One half of Yorkshire's greatest double act of 2022. Wilfried Gnonto set up Crysencio Summerville in consecutive heart-stopping Peacocks comebacks but the Leeds United forward has been coming for a while now. Italy's youngest-ever scorer, in the long-term at least he might just be an excellent silver lining to missing out on landing a big-name striker in the summer.
The youngest Santos player in the Copa Libertadores, surpassing Rodrygo, Angelo might be on the same path. A menace on the right-wing, able to cavort his way through opponents like cones, he's more of a creator than a finisher but could even become a midfielder in Europe. He's one to watch – if only to try and guess when on Earth he's going to release the ball.
36. Malo Gusto
Club: Olympique Lyonnais
Lyon's academy is well-celebrated by now. The mid-noughties tilt to produce stars rather than recruit following their insane title haul has brought dividends but now, players coming from l'OL seem to be underrated, simply because so many emerge year after year.
Malo Gusto is mightily impressive, though. More than just a converted winger hacking it at full-back, he's excellent defensively, a good marker and assured when bombing down the right. He doesn't look 19, either in stature or playing style: he seems a natural fit for the French national side, too.
35. Marcos Leonardo
Direct, pacy and with a poacher's instinct, Marcos Leonardo looks a born striker, rather than just a tricky talent crowbarred into a forward's role to try and squeeze goals. Santos stars are burdened by the considerable 'next Pele' tag but this might be the best fit stylistically: he's a killer in front of goal – but still with that samba swagger.
34. Liam Delap
Club: Stoke City, on loan from Manchester City
Young centre-forwards are a mixed bag. Some are pacy, some are wiry; some look better paired, some better off the wing. It's natural that composure, strength, hold-up and hey, responsibility, will all come in your 20s. Liam Delap looks ready now.
The son of long-throw merchant and Holding Out For A Hero YouTube compilation (opens in new tab) star Rory, Delap is now at his dad's old stomping ground – after tearing up youth football. But don't be confused by a Championship loan: he's good enough to start in the Premier League and arguably got the biggest ceiling of any forward in English football.
The most complete English forward since Harry Kane? Stylistically, at least…
33. Fabio Miretti
Fabio Miretti has been a rare shining light in the demise of Juventus: in a way, he's lucky that this side is so poor that he can simply step in. Italy have a plethora of young, Verratti-esque midfielders all with the composure of thought and control that Andrea Pirlo himself would be proud of, with Miretti maybe the most effortless in possession. He already looks like a complete midfielder in Serie A.
32. Rayan Cherki
Club: Olympique Lyonnais
Like Cristiano Ronaldo on the halfway line when United were camped in their own third… Rayan Cherki is waiting for the break. He burst through at 16 but hasn't made the leap to superstardom just yet.
That he's been written off by some is crazy – especially considering he's still only 19. But Cherki's early years have been underrated. He's been one of Lyon's best players for two years now yet the club haven't yet built around his unbelievable technicality. He's due his breakout season.
31. David Kalokoh
David Kalokoh is mesmerising. He's taller than most of his opponents yet dances with a ball at his feet like he's starring in a Nike ad of the noughties. In reality, he's too young to remember what he's aping.
The Dutchman is two pages ahead of everyone in the book. He loves to wait for defenders and goalkeepers to make their move before feigning and taking the ball past them, his touch is unbelievably cool and his turn of pace is frightening – though most of the time he looks like he's jogging anyway, like Usain Bolt in that 100 metres final (opens in new tab).
At just 17, it'll be fascinating to see how he takes to senior football. Because right now, he looks like he's toying with the year group below.
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Mark White has been a staff writer on FourFourTwo since joining in January 2020, writing pieces for both online and the magazine. An encyclopedia of football shirts and boots knowledge – both past and present – Mark has also been to the FA Cup and League Cup finals for FFT and has written pieces for the mag ranging on subjects from Bobby Robson's season at Barcelona to Robinho's career. He once saw Tyrone Mings at a petrol station in Bournemouth but felt far too short to ask for a photo.
By Ryan Dabbs