FourFourTwo’s 100 Best Teenagers in the World 2017: 30-21
Words: Greg Lea, Mark White
30. Martin Odegaard (Heerenveen, on loan from Real Madrid)
Need to know: Odegaard is better known for his 2015 transfer to Real Madrid than any on-field contributions, but there’s no denying the Norwegian is a prodigious talent.
Currently on loan at Heerenveen in the Eredivisie, the 18-year-old is a creative presence in midfield, combining sharp passing with clever movement.
Many have expressed disappointment at his relative lack of progress since moving to the Spanish capital – it never helps when you make your senior international debut at 15 – but Odegaard still has plenty of time to fulfil his enormous potential.
Highlight so far: Odegaard enjoyed a first start for Real Madrid in November 2016, playing the full 90 minutes as los Blancos thrashed Cultural Leonesa 6-1. GL
29. Maxime Lopez (Marseille)
Need to know: He may be small in stature, but Marseille’s teenage playmaker has already made a big impression in the south of France. Lopez scored three goals and provided seven assists in Ligue 1 last term, with his tricky footwork and accurate distribution making him a key source of creativity for Rudi Garcia’s side.
Lopez has reportedly attracted admiring glances from Chelsea, Arsenal, Barcelona and Real Madrid, but his medium-term future seems to lie at Marseille after he signed a contract extension in February.
Highlight so far: Lopez became the youngster Marseille player to score a Ligue 1 brace in 30 years when he struck twice in April’s victory over Caen. GL
28. Dennis Geiger (Hoffenheim)
Need to know: Hoffenheim manager Julian Nagelsmann was gushing when asked about Geiger in September: “He's an extraordinarily good footballer and I'm delighted for him… what I like so much about Dennis is that he has no fear and always wants the ball.”
Aggressive without possession and comfortable with it, Geiger is a midfield all-rounder who functions best in a box-to-box role. The 19-year-old has done a good job of replacing summer departure Sebastian Rudy, now of Bayern Munich, so far this season as Hoffenheim mount another charge towards the Champions League.
Highlight so far: Geiger scored the opening goal as Hoffenheim beat Schalke 2-0 in September, driving the ball into the bottom corner from 20 yards. GL
27. Dennis Bonaventure (Club Brugge)
Need to know: Bonaventure was, even in his native Nigeria, unknown when Zorya Luhansk discovered him at the Abuja Academy in March 2016.
Fast-forward 18 months and the unpredictable forward has been dubbed ‘The Nigerian Neymar’, forced the Super Eagles selectors to answer repeated questions about overlooking him, and been scouted by Manchester City, Manchester United, Borussia Dortmund and Monaco.
Bonaventure, a master at entrapping fouls, propelled Zorya to third place in the 2016/17 Ukrainian Premier League, and has made a sterling start in the black-and-blue striped No.42 shirt of Club Brugge.
Highlight so far: Five minutes into his Brugge bow, Bonaventure cut inside his man and rifled the ball into the bottom corner to give the Belgians a flying start to their Champions League qualifier against Istanbul Basaksehir. MW
26. Luka Jovic (Eintracht Frankfurt, on loan from Benfica)
Need to know: Jovic was just six when his father was being offered cash for him to cross the border from Bosnia-Herzegovina to Serbia each weekend, just to play football.
Red Star and Partizan then traded uppercuts for the signature of a kid being compared to Darko Pancev and Radamel Falcao. The former won and, though the forward outranked Dejan Stankovic to become their youngest ever goalscorer, he was sold to Benfica and is now on loan at Eintracht Frankfurt.
Jovic has scored prolifically for Serbia’s youth sides.
Highlight so far: Aged 16, on the last day of the 2013/14 Serbian Superliga, Jovic squeezed home the goal that snatched Red Star a point at Vojvodina just 150 seconds after coming on. It was his pro debut – and enough to earn his team the Superliga title at Partizan’s expense. MW