Skip to main content

Ranked! The 50 most exciting teenagers in world football

Most exciting teenagers in the world
(Image credit: Future)

Is it FourFourTwo, or are footballers are getting younger and younger?

It's not just because we're old, either (though we are). Academies are brimming with talent, national sides are coerced into handing competitive caps to young cherubs in bids to prevent them from turning Irish later in life - internationally-speaking, of course. The Gary Nevilles and David Beckhams of today are not made to clean the boots of their respective Eric Cantonas.

And that's a good thing. We're all for tradition at FFT but there's never been better teenagers in world football - here's the half-century we reckon are worth keeping an eye out for. 

50-41

50. Jobe Bellingham

Jobe Bellingham

(Image credit: PA)

Age: 16
Club: Birmingham City
Nationality: England

Being the younger brother of Jude Bellingham can't be easy. The older sibling stormed through the ranks at Birmingham before sealing a record move to German giants Borussia Dortmund… and that's before we mention the retired shirt number. Yet, like big bro, nothing appears to ruffle Jobe. The more attack-minded sibling has made a couple of appeances for the Blues' first team already and handled himself well. The future looks very bright for the Bellingham clan.

49. Kacper Kozlowski

Kacper Kozlowski

(Image credit: Getty)

Age: 18
Club: Union SG (on loan from Brighton & Hove Albion)
Nationality: Poland

Brighton apparently beat both Manchester City and Liverpool to the capture of Kacper Kozlowski before loaning him back out to Union SG. The Polish star is potentially the perfect attacking midfielder, too: excellent close control, two-footed and capable of driving into the box for a late run to finish off a chance. We can't wait to see him in the Premier League.

48. Ben Chrisene

Ben Chrisene

(Image credit: Getty)

Age: 18
Club: Aston Villa
Nationality: England

Aged 17, Ben Chrisene was one of a handful of youngsters dropped off at Villa Park by their parents for the FA Cup third-round tie against Liverpool in January 2020 - and no, that’s not a joke. They really were that young. 

Chrisene, like first-teamer Ollie Watkins, arrived in the Midlands via Exeter City; he’s 6ft tall, left-footed and with great vision and though he’s yet to crystallise into a specific kind of player, he likes operating in the left-hand channel in the opponent’s half. His ceiling is very high. 

47. Caden Clark

Caden Clark

(Image credit: Getty)

Age: 18
Club: RB Leipzig
Nationality: USA

Caden Clark's first two goals in the MLS were spectacular: one a low thump from the outside of the box with his right foot, the other a finesse into the top corner with his left. The young playmaker buzzes with energy, is confident enough to take on defenders and loves to let rip when the space opens up.

46. Ilias Akhomach

Ilias Akhomach

(Image credit: Getty)

Age: 17
Club: Barcelona
Nationality: Spain

A classic inverted winger, Ilias Akhomach is extremely creative, either in tight or wide spaces. The La Masia graduate is quick, shields the ball well and often makes the right decision when he picks out players for passes. Ferran Torres and Adama Traore might both have stunted his development by joining in his position but the future is still bright for this youngster. 

45. Naci Unuvar

Naci Unuvar

(Image credit: Getty)

Age: 18
Club: Ajax
Nationality: Netherlands

A right-footed creator who can cut in from the left, Naci Unuvar’s future isn’t set in stone: he could still end up excelling in any number of positions. The signs are great so far though. Unuvar has unbelievable balance, vision and flair, while his passing is everything you’d expect from someone in the Ajax set-up.

Look out for the outside-of-the-right-boot balls he plays with more ease and deftness than most players could manage with the inside of their foot.

44. Shola Shoretire

Shola Shoretire

(Image credit: Getty)

Age: 18
Club: Manchester United
Nationality: England

It's not pronounced "Shaw-tyre", by the way. Shoretire has been used out wide but is devastating in between the lines on the left, using his right foot to pick out passes and his diminutive frame to jink past defenders. The youngster is improving all the time and could well get more minutes in the first team next season, should Paul Pogba leave this summer.

43. Isak Bergmann Johannesson

Isak Bergmann Johannesson

(Image credit: Getty)

Age: 18
Club: Copenhagen
Nationality: Iceland

Remember Joey Gudjonsson of Aston Villa, Wolves, Leicester and Burnley? Isak Johannesson is his son, born in Sutton Coldfield but having represented Iceland already internationally. God, that makes us feel old.

Johannesson is a talented no.8 who excels with the ball at his feet. His icy composure is a staple of his game, while his ability to pick out teammates is impressive. 

42. Luca Netz

Luca Netz

(Image credit: Getty)

Age: 18
Club: Borussia Monchengladbach
Nationality: Germany

Left-back Netz completed a move to Gladbach last summer after breaking through and dazzling for Hertha Berlin the previous campaign. An intelligent reader of the game and composed in possession, Netz is considered one of the brightest talents in Germany right now. 

The 19-year-old only made his Bundesliga debut last January, coming on as a substitute for the last four minutes of a 3-0 victory at home to Schalke. He made another ten appearances over the course of last season, scoring his first Bundesliga goal away to Stuttgart in February 2021. Expect to see Netz has been in and out of the team at his new club, but will back himself to succeed with the Foals. 

41. Hannibal Mejbri

Hannibal Mejbri

(Image credit: Getty)

Age: 19
Club: Manchester United
Nationality: Tunisia

Already the subject of an international battle between France and Tunisia – the northern African nation won – Hannibal has drawn comparisons to Paul Pogba for a reason. Capable of line-breaking balls and with a love for picking up the ball just outside the area, the midfielder is one of the most exciting talents in a phenomenal youth side. Given how United are often keen to grant chances to kids, it might not be much longer until we see him star for the Red Devils.

40-31

40. Benjamin Sesko

Benjamin Sesko

(Image credit: Getty)

Age: 18
Club: Red Bull Salzburg
Nationality: Slovenia

The Red Bull conveyor belt is unrivalled. Erling Haaland left, Patson Daka stepped in. Daka moved to Leicester, Karim Adeyemi is next. The next next next next big thing, however, could well be Benjamin Sesko.

Sesko is everything you'd expect from the club: athletic, a good presser and high football intelligence when leading the line. If big clubs are smart, he won't be playing in Austria for too long. 

39. Olivier Aertssen

Olivier Aertssen

(Image credit: Getty)

Ajax have produced countless players able to bypass a press by dribbling past opposing attackers - Frenkie De Jong, being the most recent example. Olivier Aertssen could be even better. He’s still in the youth set-up in Amsterdam but early signs are promising and footage of him weaving past strikers and into midfield is staggering, to say the least. 

Age: 17
Club: Ajax
Nationality: Netherlands

38. Luka Sucic

Luka Sucic

(Image credit: Getty)

Age: 19
Club: Red Bull Salzburg
Nationality: Croatia

Parallels with Ivan Rakitic are obvious – and not just because of his nationality. The ball just sticks to Luka Sucic's feet and his cross-field sprays are divine; he's become a gem in the Salzburg midfield and his incredible maturity, close control and assurance in and out of possession means he could well become a top midfielder in time. 

37. James McAtee

James McAtee

(Image credit: Getty)

Age: 19
Club: Manchester City
Nationality: England

The kid dubbed "the Salford Silva" – we assume after David, though it could Bernardo – has recently ended speculation over his future with a three-year deal and is already making the bench for Pep Guardiola's side. 

McAtee not only displays the care in possession that Guardiola demands, he has vision and intelligence that makes him a future shoo-in for City's side. With the Etihad youngsters getting more of a chance these days, it seems likely that McAtee will be given plenty of opportunities in the next year or two. 

36. Omari Hutchinson

Omari Hutchinson

(Image credit: Getty)

Age: 18
Club: Arsenal
Nationality: England

Omari Hutchinson is more exciting than Bukayo Saka was in the under-23s at Arsenal. The teenager has a similarly wicked left foot and an ability to cut in from the left – but he's flashier, enjoys a mazy run and plays like he's on his lunchtime at school. 

With Nicolas Pepe's future uncertain, Hutchinson might be ready to make the step up to become a squad player next season. Mikel Arteta is keen on giving opportunities to kids and with Hutchinson bullying youth defenders, perhaps he'll get his chance very soon. 

35. Calvin Ramsay

Calvin Ramsay

(Image credit: Getty)

Age: 18
Club: Aberdeen
Nationality: Scotland

Scotland already have two top options at left-back – now the right-back slot could well be in safe hands for the next decade or so, too.

Barely old enough to drive and already one of the most impressive full-backs in the Scottish top tier, Calvin Ramsay is the standout star at Aberdeen. With superb ability from dead-ball situations and a natural understanding of when to invert or stretch the pitch, the young Scot seems tailor-made for a top team. All that's lacking is experience. 

34. Cole Palmer

Cole Palmer

(Image credit: Getty)

Age: 19
Club: Manchester City
Nationality: England

Already starting the odd game under Guardiola, Cole Palmer is cut from a similar cloth to Phil Foden. Direct, intelligent and with a wand of a left peg, Palmer is leggier and strides about with quiet authority rather than buzzing about like the Stockport Iniesta. 

That means that he'll most likely end up in midfield rather than further up the pitch. Palmer has so far played on the right but his pass selection and dribbling ability makes him perfect for continuing the Bernardo Silva legacy in the centre. 

33. Mohamed-Ali Cho

Mohamed-Ali Cho

(Image credit: Getty)

Age: 18
Club: Angers
Nationality: France

Mohamed-Ali Cho was born in France and moved to England at one week old. He's represented both teams at youth level – and trust us: if he was playing for an English side, you'd have heard a lot more about him.

Cho is already physical enough to bully defenders and he's still just a kid. In a few years time, he could genuinely become a striker capable of playing at the top level in the Premier League. He's fast, gravitates to exactly where he needs to be in the box and loves to beat a defender one-on-one – England may rue him choosing to pledge allegiance for France.

32. Facundo Farias

Facundo Farias

(Image credit: Getty)

Age: 19
Club: Atletico Colon
Nationality: Argentina

Facundo Farias might just be the best dribbler in Argentina right now. The 19-year-old's gait is jittery as he touches the ball with both feet and flies past defenders with ease – he still has work to do with the rest of his game but as an outlet, he's already astounding. A move to Europe seems more like when rather than if.

31. Joe Gelhardt

Joe Gelhardt

(Image credit: Getty)

Age: 19
Club: Leeds United
Nationality: England

Leeds United's injury crisis has had a silver lining in that Joe "Joffy" Gelhardt has gotten the chance to step up from under-23 level. Leeds' youth games are often free to stream online and so the hype for this talent has been huge.

Gelhardt has more than lived up to the excitement. A natural predator in the penalty area, the youngster totally buys into the high-octane football that Marcelo Bielsa plays and looks at home in the Premier League. He can almost single-handedly crank the tempo of a match up – and he's already a fan favourite. 

30-21

30. Rayan Cherki

Rayan Cherki

(Image credit: Getty)

Age: 18
Club: Olympique Lyonnais
Nationality: France

Karim Benzema, Houssem Aouar and Hatem Ben Arfa have all come through the Lyon academy, heavily invested in since the club’s glory days of the mid-2000s in an effort to compete with the better bankrolled PSG. Rayan Cherki may turn out to be the academy’s biggest star yet.

Cherki grew up playing street football on the concrete of Lyon and it shows in the playful bounce to his game. The attacker has a velvet first touch, a knack for evading pressure and adapts his game accordingly to where he’s deployed in the midfield, seemingly knowing innately which angles work for him to swivel and play in teammates. Every time he receives a pass, it feels like he might do something special.

29. Aster Vranckx

Aster Vranckx

(Image credit: Getty)

Age: 19
Club: Wolfsburg
Nationality: Belgium

The future of Belgian football looks assured and in midfield, there are some incredible youngsters coming through. Aster Vranckx made the move to the Bundesliga to continue his development and has improved spatially and physically in since being at Wolfsburg. A strong midfielder who's good in the tackle, he could well be looked at by top sides in no time. 

28. Kaide Gordon

Kaide Gordon

(Image credit: Getty)

Age: 17
Club: Liverpool
Nationality: England

Liverpool's future looks incredible, with a slew of young stars who look destined for the first team. Kaide Gordon might replace the talisman in the current Reds line-up long-term.

Stylistically, Gordon is the obvious back-up to Mohammed Salah at Anfield – and given how the Egyptian King had his own setbacks, it's exciting to think about where this 17-year-old could go just from learning from one of the best players in the world ahead of him in the pecking order. Gordon has already impressed in the first team and looks set for more minutes this season. His trajectory could be fascinating for the club post-Jurgen Klopp.

27. Yeremy Pino

Yeremy Pino

(Image credit: Getty)

Age: 19
Club: Villarreal
Nationality: Spain

Yeremy Pino is too young to remember the wingers he evokes. Often used as a touchline wideman in Unai Emery's old-school set-up, the Spaniard is comfortable beating an opponent for pace, whipping in a cross or cutting inside. With experience in a Europa League-winning side and international appearances, he's only going to ascend from here. 

26. Anthony Elanga

Anthony Elanga

(Image credit: Getty)

Age: 19
Club: Manchester United
Nationality: Sweden

It says a lot that with the wealth of attacking options on offer to Ralf Rangnick, Anthony Elanga is still getting game time. The Swede is inexperienced but has a cool intensity about him; he's capable of slowing play down to a standstill and equally, is thrilling to watch when he accelerates off with the ball under his spell.

Elanga absolutely tore apart the opposition in youth football. Watching him make the step up will be fascinating – and if he learns to play the same way, he'll be one of the most fun footballers in the Premier League. 

25. Kamaldeen Sulemana

Kamaldeen Sulemana

(Image credit: Getty)

Age: 19
Club: Stade Rennais
Nationality: Ghana

Kamaldeen Sulemana plays football like he's on a mission. The young Ghanian coming running towards you at full pelt feels like a bullet train approaching a station: with a Sterling-like running style and natural flair, this 19-year-old is spellbinding. Rennes might lose Jeremy Doku to a big team sooner rather than later but they already have a ready-made replacement. 

24. Nuno Mendes

Nuno Mendes

(Image credit: Getty)

Age: 19
Club: Paris Saint-Germain (on loan from Sporting Lisbon)
Nationality: Portugal 

Not all of PSG's summer business involved signing superstar big names on free transfers. Nuno Mendes was already a standout talent in Portuguese football and has taken to Ligue 1 nicely under Mauricio Pochettino, a full-back whisperer who elevated the likes of Danny Rose and Kyle Walker. A fruitful career is already beckoning.

23. Yunus Musah

Yunus Musah

(Image credit: Getty)

Age: 19
Club: Valencia
Nationality: USA

“We're monitoring him,” said England boss Gareth Southgate at one point about Yunus Musah. “He's been with us in the last couple of months and we'd very much like his future to be with us.” 

It looks like he's the one who got away for England – and Arsenal, too, who had Musah in his academy. The Valencia attacker is incredibly quick, two-footed and always looking to whip in a cross; in a game against Real Valladolid last season, he evoked the spirit of peak Gareth Bale, outrunning a full-back by taking the outside lane, sprinting around the pitch in a stunning 40-yard burst of pace. He's going places – and sharpish. 

22. Adam Hlozek

Adam Hlozek

(Image credit: Getty)

Age: 19
Club: Sparta Prague
Nationality: Czech Republic

Adam Hlozek is one of those players – the ones you can't believe aren't 20 yet.

The Czech is a natural poacher in front of goal and a crisp striker of the ball. He's excellent at drilling through a defence with or without the ball and his passing is strong, too. At 6'2, he's extremely also physical – when he starts delivering consistently, he could well have an explosive season like Dusan Vlahovic. 

21. Ilaix Moriba

Ilaix Moriba

(Image credit: Getty)

Age: 19
Club: Valencia (on loan from RB Leipzig)
Nationality: Guinea

RB Leipzig saw fit to snatch the La Masia graduate last summer, for the hefty sum of €18m. After playing a bit-part role in the first half of the campaign, the 19-year-old was loaned back to Spain for the second half of the season, and the tireless midfielder has impressed so far despite limited game time. He possesses the physicality and calm intelligence to be a star in years to come. 

20-19

20. Charlie Patino

Charlie Patino

(Image credit: Getty)

Age: 18
Club: Arsenal
Nationality: England

According to some at Arsenal, Charlie Patino is the most exciting youngster that they've ever seen at Hale End. An instant impact of a goal on his senior debut against Sunderland certainly strengthens that case.

Patino is skilled as a passer, a dribbler and at shielding the ball, leading to Jack Wilshere parallels but he's taller and could well become a more physical kind of player. Whether he'll end up a no.10 or no.8 is unknown yet – but after chances in the cups under Mikel Arteta, it seems next year will be the one that we see him appear more in the league, as the Gunners ease through their latest superstar. 

19. Noni Madueke

Noni Madueke

(Image credit: Getty)

Age: 19
Club: PSV
Nationality: England

It was bold for Noni Madueke to swap Tottenham for the Eredivisie. In becoming the fulcrum of PSV, however, the Barnet-born attacker has learned how to take on responsibility at senior level and turn it into match-winning moments. 

Madueke has otherworldly trickery: it's like not even he knows what he's going to do next. Capable of carving open defences at will, he's hugely unpredictable to defend against and whether he picks someone out or takes a keeper on himself, he usually makes the correct decision, too. Rather like Sancho, a return to England seems likely at some point.

18. Liam Delap

Liam Delap

(Image credit: Getty)

Age: 19
Club: Manchester City
Nationality: England

Yes, he's Rory Delap's son. Yes, he's got more to his game than just a long thrown.

Another player it's hard to believe is a teenager simply from his build, Delap has the Haalands about him: he looks like a Premier League star basically trained him from birth to become the next Alan Shearer or whoever. He's powerful, lethal in the penalty area and his all-round game is astounding for his age. You know, he might be the next traditional City centre-forward…

17. Gabriel Veron

Gabriel Veron

(Image credit: Getty)

Age: 19
Club: Palmeiras
Nationality: Brazil

You know you’re old when you remember the former Inter Milan, Lazio, Manchester United and Chelsea midfielder that Gabriel Veron is named after. 

The 19-year-old is a fixture for Copa Libertadores winners Palmeiras, showing strength, pace and finishing that single him out in his age bracket - he won the Golden Ball at the 2019 U-17 World Cup, with similar verve and power that Phil Foden displayed to win it two years’ prior. Veron, dare we say it, could take to English football better than his namesake. 

16. Jeremy Doku

Jeremy Doku

(Image credit: Getty)

Age: 19
Club: Stade Rennais
Nationality: Belgium

Belgian winger Doku impressed in Ligue 1 in his first season after Rennes paid upwards of £20m for his services – and after an unexpected showing at Euro 2020, he's now pretty much the heir to the aching Eden Hazard. 

What really raises the pulse about the youngster is his ability to stop to a standstill before accelerating past his man, though his strength, low centre of gravity and rocket of a right foot will put you in mind of Sadio Mane. He’s still so very young and will only grow from here. 

15. Amad Diallo

Amad Diallo

(Image credit: Getty)

Age: 19
Club: Rangers (on loan from Manchester United)
Nationality: Ivory Coast

Manchester United shelled out nearly £20m on Amad Diallo in response to missing out on Jadon Sancho, despite the fact the Ivorian couldn’t join the club until the following transfer window. It could have been a masterstroke of a deal.

Diallo has superb technical ability and a work-rate to match – and now he's at Rangers, where he scored on his debut. The winger is diminutive with a low centre of gravity; he loves nothing more than taking on left-backs before cutting in to set up teammates. Much is expected of him over the next few years.

14. Giovanni Reyna

Giovanni Reyna

(Image credit: Getty)

Age: 19
Club: Borussia Dortmund
Nationality: USA

The son of former Leverkusen, Wolfsburg, Manchester City and USA midfielder Claudio Reyna, Giovanni clearly has football in the blood. 

The creative midfielder came through the youth ranks at Dortmund, before making his first-team debut in a Bundesliga match away to Augsburg in January 2020. Reyna would have hoped to have become a regular starter by now but has more often impressed with his dribbling ability and range of passing from the bench so far. This could be a breakthrough year for a player capped nine times by the US national team.

13. Eduardo Camavinga

Eduardo Camavinga

(Image credit: Getty)

Age: 19
Club: Real Madrid
Nationality: France

It’s only that Eduardo Camavinga has such a youthful smile that you’d believe he’s 18 years old. He plays football like a veteran midfielder: like the lovechild of Pogba and Kante with a long-legged stride, incredible intensity and a hunger to cover every blade of grass.

The young Frenchman was a big reason that Rennes reached the Champions League – and a Real Madrid move felt soon but inevitable. After man of the match performances against PSG, an overhead kick going in on his international debut and dominant solo performances in big games for Rennes, he became one of the best midfielders in Ligue 1: it’s scary that he’ll only grow. 

12. Youssoufa Moukoko

Youssoufa Moukoko

(Image credit: Getty)

Age: 17
Club: Borussia Dortmund
Nationality: Germany

Wunderkind Moukoko was tipped for greatness long before he made his first-team debut for Borussia Dortmund in November 2020. An early-developer, the striker was already starring for BVB’s U17 team at the age of 13, and scored 141 goals in 88 appearances across the club’s various youth levels. 

Now an established first team member after breaking Wirtz’s record as the Bundesliga’s youngest goalscorer in December 2020 - aged just 16 and 28 days - Moukoko is a regular from the bench this season. He’ll be hoping too, to rekindle his incredible youth scoring record for the Black & Yellows' senior side in the years to come. 

11. Valentino Livramento

Valentino Livramento

(Image credit: Getty)

Age: 19
Club: Southampton
Nationality: England

It's really quite scary that Chelsea's academy managed to produce Reece James, Tariq Lamptey and Valentino Livramento almost all at once. The latter might grow up to be the best.

The Southampton star ticks every single box: resilient defensively and a danger in the final third, capable of inverting or staying wide. He has good decision-making and has elbowed Kyle Walker-Peters out of the right-back slot at just 19. He might be the next great full-back in world football – Chelsea were right to insert a buy-back clause. 

10-1

10. Ryan Gravenberch

Ryan Gravenberch

(Image credit: Getty)

Age: 19
Club: Ajax
Nationality: Netherlands

6’3, capable of playing as a No.6, No.8 and No.10 to a high level and secure in possession for Ajax, it’s no wonder that the world is fawning over Ryan Gravenberch. The race is on for big clubs to bring him to their side: he’s already outgrowing everyone. 

While some midfielders can boast his passing ability or defensive effortlessness, it’s the combination of factors that make Gravenberch quite this exciting. He plays the game like he’s done so for decades: he’s reliable for Ajax and he feels capable of slotting into a huge midfield already at such a young age. An elite side will come knocking for him: you heard it here first. 

9. Florian Wirtz

Florian Wirtz

(Image credit: Getty)

Age: 18
Club: Bayer Leverkusen
Nationality: Germany

Likened to former Leverkusen starlet Julian Brandt, Wirtz is a classic no.10, capable of gliding past opponents and splitting defences with laser beam passing precision.

The 18-year-old was already considered one of the brightest talents in Germany in Cologne’s youth ranks, before being snapped up by Leverkusen in January 2020. With Die Werkself, Wirtz has become the club’s youngest ever Bundesliga player and the youngest scorer in Germany’s top-flight (since surpassed by Yousouffa Moukoko) with a delicious curling effort against Bayern in only his fourth appearance. 

Many see Wirtz as the future of German football.

8. Endrick

Transfer news: Endrick

(Image credit: PA)

Age: 15
Club: Palmeiras
Nationality: Brazil

Every now and then, Brazil produces a superstar who comes to define a generation: Pele, Romario, Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, Neymar. Endrick could end up being the next. 

In five years, the youngster scored 165 goals in 169 games for Palmeiras youth teams: yes, really. The world covets him and he has his choice of basically every club on Earth. Of course, he's still young but the early reports of his maturity, his decisiveness on the pitch and his ambition certainly suggest good things. 

This is arguably the most excited that Brazil have been for a footballer in a good decade – and that's a lot to carry on such young shoulders, of course. Here's hoping we've learned the lessons of previously hyped samba starlets.

7. Fabio Carvalho

Liverpool target Fabio Carvalho

(Image credit: Getty)

Age: 19
Club: Fulham
Nationality: England

Born and raised in Lisbon, twinkle-toed playmaker Carvalho arrived in London with his family aged 10 and soon whipped up a "circus of interest” with his continental swagger across the cages of south London. 

At 12, he joined Fulham’s academy, before making his debut in 2020/21, along with four Premier League outings for the relegated side. This has been his breakout campaign, however, with a trio of goals and assists in January alone. 

Liverpool plotted an £8m raid on deadline day, only for the deal to collapse at the final minute. 

6. Gavi

Gavi

(Image credit: Getty)

Age: 17
Club: Barcelona
Nationality: Spain

The youngest-ever Spanish footballer to represent his country did so bossing midfield with a no.9 on his back. He's different, alright. 

LaLigaTV pundit Graham Hunter compared Gavi to near-namesake Xavi – and now he gets to work under him. It could be thrilling to see how the young manager takes Barcelona's new-look La Masia midfield of Gavi, Pedri and Nico Gonzalez since they have all the components to play the kind of football he wants. The youngest of the three is pretty special, too. 

Gavi has the dribbling, the passing range and the movement that you'd expect from a young Barca star, while his ability to change the direction of play is particularly fun to watch, too. At 17, he's only just begun, too – there's no ceiling for how he could develop. 

5. Jamal Musiala

Jamal Musiala, best young players in the world

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Age: 18
Club: Bayern Munich
Nationality: Germany

In June 2020, just a few months after his 17th birthday, Musiala became Bayern’s youngest ever Bundesliga player, before becoming and their youngest goalscorer soon after. 

Tall, graceful and an effortless dribbler, Musiala has drawn comparisons with a young Dele Alli, and can play as a no.9 or a no.10. The prodigiously gifted playmaker is seen as the long-term successor to Thomas Muller in Bayern’s attack, and already has two Bundesliga winners medals to his name. Represented England at youth level, before switching to Germany and being picked for Euro 2020.

4. Harvey Elliott

Harvey Elliott, liverpool

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Age: 18
Club: Liverpool
Nationality: England

After breaking through at Fulham, and becoming the youngest player in Premier League history, at the age of 16 years and one day, Elliot was quickly snaffled by Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool. 

A loan move to Blackburn last season proved transformative, as the Englishman went from promising waif to swaggering playmaker. He was involved in 18 goals in the Championship last term and was so impressive that he started the season in Klopp's first team. A cruel injury in October halted his rise, but he's fit again now and giving his manager a selection headache in midfield. 

3. Ansu Fati

Ansu Fati

(Image credit: Getty)

Age: 19
Club: Barcelona
Nationality: Spain

For a club whose “crisis” has been front and centre of European football’s narrative over the last year, Barcelona don’t half have some riches in reserve. And though La Masia really struggled to produce consistent first-team bodies post-Busquets for Barca, Ansu Fati is a cut above most of his agemates. 

The teenager is a full-throttle footballer. He’s cheetah-like when he slips his man, he often drifts in from the left and the way he opens his body up to do something unexpected with his right foot is exhilarating: depending on how old you are, it’s Henry- or Mbappe-esque. 

Barcelona are still a canvas waiting for the second coat. But in the last year, it's been clear that Fati is someone to build around. He’s not just the future. He’s already plugged this establishment into the mains and lit up an aching team - he’s a phenomenon.

2. Pedri

Pedri

(Image credit: Getty)

Age: 19
Club: Barcelona
Nationality: Spain

It was during a match between Spain and Italy at Euro 2020 that Pedri really showed why at such a young age, he was already undroppable for club and country. On a field with some of the greatest midfielders on Earth, he recorded a 100% pass success rate. That would be astounding in a friendly – let alone an international semi-final. 

Pedri is bound to draw comparisons to Messi with his slight figure and dribbling skills but he looks more like Andres Iniesta for a new generation: he has the output and the press intensity, for a start – and that unbelievable technical security.

Football is perhaps less aesthetic than it used to be but Pedri is still lovely to watch. He looks effortless, he has a great shift of gear and he’s so calm under pressure that when stops on the ball, it feels like he’s the only player on the field. At £5m, he could be one of the greatest bargain signings of all time if he plays his cards right.

1. Jude Bellingham

Jude Bellingham

(Image credit: Getty)

Age: 18
Club: Borussia Dortmund
Nationality: England

“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,” Jude 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. Not just because he’s 6’1, either. Jude Bellingham is scarily mature. He’s calm, steely and well-rounded as an athlete. The ball sticks to his feet: he seems stronger than most players older than him, quicker too, braver, faster and as if the entire pitch is just a picture in his mind and he can play out exactly what he wants to happen at will. 

The most exciting thing, though? We still have no idea what this guy will become. He could be an all-action box-to-box midfielder, a false nine, a tricky winger, complete No.10 or all the above in the same game. He is perhaps the most exciting young talent that England has produced since Wayne Rooney. Oh we know you’ll remember this name. 

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