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…
10. Carney Chukwuemeka
The indisputable star of England's European Under-19 Championship win this summer, Carney Chukwuemeka isn't the typical Chelsea buy – but the times, they are a-changing. And this is precisely the midfield profile England produces, now.
Secure in possession, able to explode through central areas and with a muscular stride like Paul Pogba, Chukwuemeka is too good to warm the Blues bench for long. He's an all-round midfielder who could become one of the best No.8s in world football – and with Graham Potter now in charge at Stamford Bridge, it could be mouthwatering to see his development.
Few batted an eyelid when he moved from Villa in the west Londoners' mad trolly dash of the summer. Could he become the best signing of the lot, long-term?
9. Harvey Elliott
Even the three years since Harvey Elliott became the Premier League's youngest-ever player have been a mad whirlwind. He took the move to Liverpool, excelled for Blackburn on loan and reshaped himself into a midfielder for Jurgen Klopp. He was dealt a serious injury, came back sooner than expected and is now integral for the Reds.
His balance, creativity and positional awareness for such a young age is superb – and his attitude and mentality seem to match. He has the ferocity and fire – it's clear in his ball-carrying as much as his flare-holding – and his football IQ is superb. He's virtually press-resistant, too and can work at any angle he receives the ball.
Considering how Klopp built one of Liverpool's greatest sides from 20-somethings ready to stride into their peak, his acquisition of a teenager to build his next midfield around was always going to be an intriguing watch. It's going well, too – we can't wait to see how it evolves.
8. Alejandro Garnacho
Club: Manchester United
Manchester United are a cat of English football: it's all because of that frankly insane stat that they've been fielding academy products in matchday squads since God was a boy. They will always land on their feet – no matter what drama the senior players cause.
Alejandro Garnacho is living proof. He has an interesting array of talents: the 'clutch' gene to arrive late and strike a ball with venom when desperately needed, the intensity with his movement to find space and vision with a pass or a dash that can open doors ahead of him. He's comfortable dribbling in-field or wide of his marker and knows when to recycle the ball or when to go for the jugular.
CR7 is the past and AG49 is almost ready to step in. He has an incredible base to build from – and if he continues like he's started, he's going to be unstoppable.
7. Romeo Lavia
If Manchester City let this kid go without a re-sign clause, it might just be the most nonsensical business they've ever done. Because it's no exaggeration to say that Romeo Lavia isn't a million miles away from Rodri's overall ability – let alone Kalvin Phillips'.
For 18 years old, he's just unbelievable. The passing range is otherworldly and he avoids pressure with ease: his dribbling is excellent, too, with a close control so rarely seen in defensive midfielders his age and size, and he can strike through the ball, too – as Chelsea found out this season at St. Mary's. On deadline day, they launched a cheeky bid for Lavia.
The world thought they had gone mad. Those who knew, knew it would've been superb business. Lavia is a superstar already.
6. Youssoufa Moukoko
Club: Borussia Dortmund
Only records for being the youngest-ever player to step over competition touchlines have tumbled quicker than defences attempting to catch up with him. Youssoufa Moukoko is an early bloomer – but judging by a toothless World Cup with Kai Havertz and Niclas Fullkrug leading the line, boy do they need his blossoming.
Moukoko's consistency is perhaps the most astonishing thing for such a young player. Already pinned upon for Dortmund, the forward can twist, turn and offer unpredictability – but team-mates know what they're getting from him. He knows no such thing as an impossible shooting angle, working the ball wherever he receives it and even at the age of 16, he was being thrown on by an ever-desperate Marco Rose to try and salvage points.
There are aspects of a sturdy yet short South American baller in the Dortmund man's stature. It's good news for a nation that seem unable to produce a proper striker: they might just have one of the best in the world.
165 goals in 169 games for Palmeiras youth teams. Rightfully, far-off superclubs were lining up to lay gifts of gravity and light: you cannot teach what Endrick is apparently born with.
Endrick shoots like a ten-pin bowler down an alley. The power is frightening. He's overpowered in youth football and after years of the rest of South America producing these explosive No.9s like Luis Suarez and Sergio Aguero, Brazil now look to have an equal. It's not just his speed of feet but his lightning reactions: he scores all kinds of goals already.
After Vinicius, Rodrygo, Eder Militao and Reinier, Real Madrid have agreed a deal of over £50m to make him the next Samba Galactico. If you're not captivated by what happens next, you simply don't have a pulse.
The youngest-ever Spanish footballer to represent his country did so bossing midfield with a no.9 on his back. He's different, alright.
Pedri looked like a once-in-a-generation midfield breakthrough only for Gavi to emerge from La Masia mere months later, fully-rounded as the perfect Barça interior at such a tender age. It's proof of the osmosis of footballing philosophy at the famed academy – but take nothing away from the player himself. Gavi is composed, technically blessed, able to shift gears of a game at will and his ability to change the direction of play is particularly fun to watch.
In a FFT World Cup in Motion episode (opens in new tab), Spanish football expert Andy Murray (opens in new tab) suggested that Gavi's tenacity in midfield could see him used deeper at some point in his career. we still might not have seen his final form – could he help reinvent Barcelona's midfield?
3. Benjamin Sesko
Club: Red Bull Salzburg
The comparisons with Erling Haaland are obvious. Benjamin Sesko is 6'4 yet able to motor through defences with breakneck speed and he's two-footed and powerful. But this new breed of forward is a throwback of sorts.
It's fascinating that as both Liverpool and Man City have moved to more traditional No.9s, Sesko has emerged as an old-school focal point: a player not inclined to drift laterally but to run channels, combine and offer robotic efficiency in front of goal. Manchester United were interested over the summer, while just about every Football Manager user has signed him in the past two years.
A move to RB Leipzig is following in July and in a Lewandowski-less landscape, Sesko looks as good a bet to dominate German football with his finishing. He's as sure a thing to succeed at Leipzig as you're likely to get.
2. Jamal Musiala
Club: Bayern Munich
"His skill in the tackles, the one on ones, he's outstanding, and the next couple of years, we do have talents in our team, we are heading in the right direction," Hansi Flick said of Jamal Musiala after Germany's premature exit from the World Cup before almost admitting through gritted teeth… if only Germany had produced him.
The best of both worlds? Musiala has the positional awareness and movement of a boy born in Stuttgart but an expression honed from playing on the streets of Croydon. He can impose himself on games already, even as a teenager and whether he's exploiting space in midfield for team-mates or striking through the ball, he's dangerous in any direction.
What's quite so exciting is that he doesn't yet feel fully formed. He's run games in midfield, played as a No.10 and operated from both flanks. You wouldn't put it past him to reinvent himself as a false nine, either. He's simply capable of the unexpected.
1. Jude Bellingham
Club: Borussia Dortmund
We've all seen him by now. We all know what he does – and he does everything. It's the mentality that seems to set Jude Bellingham apart.
The first one over to Harry Kane after he missed the penalty against France; the batting away of questions about his future. The consistency with which he's able to sparkle in games at the highest possible level. The edge that he bristles with when he's ruffled and how he channels that for something better.
“The only thing I was bothered about while making my decision [to leave Birmingham City] was playing football, and [Dortmund] was the best place to do that,” Bellingham exclusively told FourFourTwo in our Awards issue in December 2020. “It’s as clear as day that if you come here and do the right things, you’re going to get your opportunity.”
We’ll be honest with you: at times during that chat with young Jude, we forgot we were speaking to someone more than ten years our junior. And it's so easy to forget that watching him play, too. One of the best midfielders in the world right now? Here's what's scary: he could be reaching his peak in 2030.
Thank you for reading 5 articles this month* Join now for unlimited access
Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1
*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription
Join now for unlimited access
Try first month for just £1 / $1 / €1
Current page: The 50 most exciting teenagers in world football right now: 10-1Prev Page The 50 most exciting teenagers in world football right now: 20-11
Get FourFourTwo Newsletter
The best features, fun and footballing quizzes, straight to your inbox every week.
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.