19 teenagers you won't be able to ignore over the next year

Close, but no cigar. Michael Yokhin introduces the next wave of dazzling under-21s raising eyebrows around the globe

1. Ezequiel Barco (Independiente, 17)

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  • Age: 17
  • Position: Midfielder
  • Club: Independente

It speaks volumes about Barco's potential that some were audacious enough to compare him to Ricardo Bochini, the greatest legend in Independente's history.

The 17-year-old midfielder was given his debut by coach Gabriel Milito in August and hasn't looked back, finding the net in only his second game. In fact, he is always looking forward on the pitch, trying to develop attacks with brilliant through-balls. He is a great dribbler too – a true entertainer.

2. Felix Passlack (18, Borussia Dortmund)

Felix Passlack

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  • Age: 18
  • Position: Defender
  • Club: Borussia Dortmund

He might be best known for getting elbowed by Franck Ribery in the German Supercup for now, but Passlack is about to make much more relevant headlines very soon.

Extremely versatile, he has already played at right-back, left-back and in midfield for Borussia Dortmund, and Thomas Tuchel is counting on the technically gifted and fast youngster in his rotation. He is a true leader too, having captained both Dortmund and Germany at youth levels. 

3. Salih Ozcan (18, Cologne)

Salih Ozcan

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  • Age: 18
  • Position: Midfielder
  • Club: FC Koln

Ozcan considers Robert Lewandowski his role model, which is a bit weird because the 18-year-old is a midfielder. Blessed with brilliant technical skills and a powerful shot, he is seen as a potential playmaker in Cologne thanks to his ball distribution.

Coach Peter Stoger invited the youngster to train with the senior squad in the beginning of 2016 and was very pleased with his progress, especially in the summer pre-season sessions. He made his Bundesliga debut in September, and fans are expecting a lot.

4. Nikola Vlasic (18, Hajduk Split)

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  • Age: 19
  • Position: Midfielder
  • Club: Hajduk Split

Vice-captain at Hajduk Split at the tender age of 18, Vlasic is a true phenomenon. This is his third season already in the first team, and he has proved himself as an astute midfielder with a keen eye for goal.

Son of a decathlete, and brother of a world champion high jumper, Blanka, Nikola comes from a family of great sporting heritage and his stamina is exceptional. 

5. Matthijs de Ligt (17, Ajax)

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  • Age: 17
  • Position: Defender
  • Club: Ajax

By scoring against Willem II on his debut in the Dutch Cup in September, the 17-year-old became the second-youngest scorer in Ajax's history after Clarence Seedorf.

De Ligt is yet to make his league debut, but the Amsterdamers hope that he will develop into a quality defender thanks to his leadership qualities, physical strength, aerial prowess and calmness under pressure. Being naturally two-footed is another great quality, which is rather rare among stoppers.

6. Oleksandr Zinchenko (19, PSV on loan from Man City)

Ukraine's Oleksandr Zinchenko and Poland's Bartosz Kapustka in action

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  • Age: 19
  • Position: Midfielder
  • Club: PSV (on loan from Man City)

Zinchenko made a lot of headlines after running away from Shakhtar Donetsk at the age of 17, and the Ukrainian giants are still outraged at his behaviour. The young midfielder is now famous for much more positive aspects. His performances for lowly Ufa in Russia persuaded Manchester City to sign him after Euro 2016, and he is now expected to prove his worth on loan at PSV Eindhoven.

Slighly built but a very quick thinker, he might find Dutch football to his liking.

7. Martin Odegaard (17, Real Madrid)

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  • Age: 17
  • Position: Midfielder
  • Club: Real Madrid

Odegaard's very high-profile transfer from Stromsgodset to Real Madrid at the age of 16 might have come too soon for the Norwegian prodigy.

Outrageously talented, he is still very raw, but it's been extremely difficult for him to stay grounded after being hailed as the next big thing in world football. Odegaard has struggled at times in Real Madrid's Castilla team, and a loan move might be beneficial for Norwegian international to get his career back on track. He's still just 17. 

Next: MLS's 15-year-old, an Englishman in New York and the Norwegian who tore Dortmund apart

Click the image to view our list of the 59 Best U21 Wonderkids in the World

8. Theo Hernandez (19, Alaves on loan from Atletico Madrid)

Theo Hernandez

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  • Age: 19
  • Position: Defender
  • Club: Alaves (on loan from Atletico Madrid)

Younger brother of Lucas Hernandez, Theo hopes to play alongside him at Atletico Madrid in the future. This season he was loaned out to newly promoted Alaves to gain experience, and the move is proving a huge success so far.

The 19-year-old defender has cemented his place in the starting line-up at left-back, and was especially impressive in the 2-1 win over Barcelona at Camp Nou. The Catalans knew everything about him in the summer and tried to sign him, but Theo decided to extend his Atletico contract instread.

9. Abdelhak Nouri (19, Ajax)

ose Machin Dicombo of AS Roma, Abdelhak Nouri of Ajax

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  • Age: 19
  • Position: Midfielder
  • Club: Ajax

Compared to Ronaldinho since his very young days, the tricky Dutch midfielder of Moroccan origins has been outstanding for the national youth teams.

However, despite his obvious talents, he is yet to break into Ajax's first team and at the age of 19 that can be a worrying sign. Nouri is a joy to watch when taking on defenders at speed, but he might not be strong enough physically yet. Ajax fans hope that he could make this his breakthrough this season.

10. Alphonso Davies (15, Vancouver Whitecaps)

Vancouver Whitecaps' Alphonso Davies stretches

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  • Age: 15
  • Position: Forward
  • Club: Vancouver Whitecaps FC

Born in Liberia in November 2000, the 15-year-old has proved a huge sensation after making his debut for Vancouver Whitecaps. Davies is the second-youngest MLS player after Freddy Adu, and there is hope that his career will be much brighter.

Blessed with speed, dribbling skills and a good shot, the wonderkid has already made his debut for Canada's U20 team too. Could he possibly become even half as good as his compatriot George Weah? 

11. Steven Bergwijn (18, PSV)

Steven Bergwijn warms up

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  • Age: 18
  • Position: Winger
  • Club: PSV

Bergwijn's Champions League debut in December 2015 was absolutely sensational – the winger came on with five minutes to go against CSKA Moscow and set up the winner for Davy Propper with his very first touch of the ball.

Born in Amsterdam, he moved from Ajax's academy to Eindhoven at the age of 13, and is fast developing into one of the most exciting young prospects in Eredivisie. Comparisons with Arjen Robben are flattering, and it's up to him to prove the pundits are right.  

12. Jack Harrison (19, NYCFC)

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  • Age: 19
  • Position: Winger
  • Club: New York City

It wasn't pleasant for the young winger to make his New York City debut in the 7-0 thrashing to derby rivals New York Red Bulls, but Harrison actually performed rather well and proved that he is worthy of a place in the starting line-up.

Just over a month later, the Englishman – No.1 pick in the last draft – was voted man of the match, scoring and providing an assist as City took sweet revenge by beating their city neighbours 2-0. Harrison spent time in Manchester United's academy before moving to the U.S., but now looks more likely to star for Manchester City in the future.

13. Rafik Zekhnini (18, Odd)

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  • Age: 18
  • Position: Forward
  • Club: Odd

When Zekhnini tore Borussia Dortmund's defence apart in Europa League a year ago, the Germans could barely believe he was just 17. The tricky winger burst onto the scene in emphatic fashion, and has since become a key player for Odd, one of the top teams in Norway at the moment.

His attitude is not always perfect to put it mildly, but the potential is quite remarkable and a move to the Bundesliga expected in the near future.  

Next: Red Star's youngest-ever player, the son of a legend and Zlatan's long-term Sweden replacement

Click the image to see our list of the 59 Best U21 Wonderkids in the World

14. Reece Oxford (17, West Ham)

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  • Age: 17
  • Position: Defender/Midfielder
  • Club: West Ham United

On the opening day of the 2015/16 season, Slaven Bilic astonishingly gave a then-16-year-old Oxford his debut at the Emirates Stadium, and the midfielder massively impressed in the Hammers' 2-0 win at Arsenal – his favourite team.

He has rarely featured in the first team since, but the potential shown on that day is enough to consider Oxford one of the brightest young hopes of England. He is quite versatile, and can play in central defence as well. RB Leipzig and Manchester United were both circling in the summer, but for now he remains in east London. 

15. Luka Jovic (18, Benfica)

Luka Jovic

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  • Age: 18
  • Position: Striker
  • Club: Red Star Belgrade

Red Star Belgrade have been a very young team in recent years, but Jovic still became the youngest player in the club's history when making his debut at the age of 16. He might not be the most natural scorer yet, but his smart movement and vision made him an exciting prospect. 

A move to Benfica in February probably came a bit too soon, however, and the Serbian striker has mostly playing for their second-tier reserves so far. 

16. Bartosz Kapustka (19, Leicester)

Bartosz Kapustka and Gareth McAuley

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  • Age: 19
  • Position: Winger
  • Club: Leicester City

His name means "little cabbage" in Polish, but the Foxes were hungry to sign him anyway. Kapustka was one of the brightest stars for Cracovia last season, showing great ball control, vision and versatility – he can play left, right and centrally.

It was natural that he was taken to during Euro 2016, but even his biggest fans were pleasantly surprised with a brilliant performance against Northern Ireland. It remains to be seen whether his move to the Premier League has been premature, though, and the midfielder is yet to feature for Leicester.

17. Ianis Hagi (17, Fiorentina)

Romania Under 17 Ianis Hagi and England's Daniel Wright in action

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  • Age: 17
  • Position: Winger
  • Club: Fiorentina

Son of the greatest Romanian player ever, Ianis grew up at the Gheorghe Hagi academy and made his top-flight debut at the age of 16 for his father's Viitorul Constanta.

It might be tempting to think of nepotism, especially because the young Hagi was named captain, but that is not necessarily fair. The midfielder is very talented and versatile, blessed with vision and a keen eye for goal. He might not reach the heights of his parent, but Fiorentina were quick enough to sign him the summer of 2016.

18. Ramadan Sobhi (19, Stoke)

Ramadan Sobhi

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  • Age: 19
  • Position: Winger
  • Club: Stoke City

Mohamed Aboutrika is a legend in Egypt, and the fact that the 19-year-old Sobhi has been compared to him is a huge compliment. He is a versatile dribbler who can play anywhere in attacking midfield, and his talents were recognised early – he made his debut for Al Ahly at the age of 16.

Stoke, who have enjoyed signing flair players in recent years, signed him for £5m but his big dream is to play for Real Madrid. 

19. Alexander Isak (17, AIK)

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  • Age: 17
  • Position: Forward
  • Club: AIK

With 11 goals in all competitions for AIK, including a brace at Djurgarden on his 17th birthday and another double in the 6-0 demolition of champions Norrkoping, Isak is one of Sweden's brightest prospects. Elegant, technically superb, cool in front of goal and mature well beyond his age, he has become one of the team's leaders in his debut season, and the fans fell in love with him.

It would be natural for him to lead Sweden's frontline sooner rather than later, now that Zlatan Ibrahimovic has retired.

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FourFourTwo's 59 Best Under-21 Wonderkids in the World