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FourFourTwo’s 100 Best Teenagers in the World 2017: 50-41

50. Rafik Zekhnini (Fiorentina)

Need to know: "Really? He’s really 17 years old? What the f***?!”

Mats Hummels was incredulous in 2015 after discovering the age of Odd attacker Zekhnini, Dortmund’s tormentor in a UEFA Europa League play-off.

After two-and-a-half years in Odd’s first team, during which time Manchester United fluttered eyelashes in his direction, winger Zekhnini joined Fiorentina in July 2017. Norway have long lacked speed and skill – attributes Zekhnini, who has dazzled for them from U15 to U21 levels, has in abundance.

Highlight so far: In the aforementioned game against Dortmund, Zekhnini skinned Gonzalo Castro to set up the opener, and conned Marcel Schmelzer with a gorgeous dragback in Odds’ dramatic 4-3 loss. 

49. Rick van Drongelen (Hamburg)

Need to know: “It’s hard to believe he’s only 18,” said coach Markus Gisdol after his new Dutch pupil performed superbly in 10-man Hamburg’s 1-0 loss to Bayern Munich in October.

Van Drongelen is, nonetheless, already out of his footballing infancy. He debuted for Sparta Rotterdam at 16 and made 50 appearances for them before Chelsea showed interest, and Hamburg acted upon theirs.

The Holland U21 international is composed on the ball and reads the game effortlessly.

Highlight so far: Van Drongelen celebrated becoming the youngest Dutchman to play in the Bundesliga by doing a stellar job in Hamburg’s 1-0 win over Augsburg. 

48. Christopher Nkunku (PSG)

Need to know: Just 24 days past his 18th birthday, in late 2016, Nkunku became the sixth-youngest player to represent PSG in the Champions League.

The only midfielder above him on that list, Adrien Rabiot, has been one of the many high-profile stars limiting Nkunku’s first-team opportunities at the Parc des Princes, but Blaise Matuidi’s departure should afford him more chances.

The multifunctional youngster has excelled for France’s U20s.

Highlight so far: Nkunku bagged a brace in PSG’s 4-1 win over Real Madrid in the UEFA Youth League group stage, and was infallible as they beat the same side in the semi-finals.

47. Vasilije Janjicic (Hamburg)

Need to know: Broad-shouldered, tough-tackling, skilful and packing a powerful right foot, 18-year-old Janjicic has been described by his Hamburg coach Markus Gisdol as a player with “huge promise”.

The Swiss midfielder joined FC Zurich as a five-year-old, represented their U21 side at 15, but played all of four minutes for their first team before departing for HSV.

Janjicic, of Serbian descent, has already drawn admiring glances from Switzerland coach Vladimir Petkovic.

Highlight so far: Janjicic turned in a man-of-the-match display on his first start for Hamburg last season – a 0-0 draw at home to Mainz.

46. Yann Karamoh (Inter Milan, on loan from Caen)

Need to know: It’s easy to see why Inter Milan’s No.17 is compared to Ousmane Dembele. Karamoh has startling speed and electrifying skills, while strikers savour the pace that the France U21 international puts on his crosses.

Born in the Ivory Coast but brought up in France, Karamoh – a keen Chicago Bulls fan – scored five goals in 35 outings for Caen in their 2016/17 Ligue 1 campaign. He duly joined Inter in the summer, initially on a two-year loan, and has made one Serie A appearance so far. 

Highlight so far: With a bleached-blond hairstyle once rocked by Mario Balotelli, Karamoh bamboozled the Nice No.9’s defensive colleagues in March 2017’s 2-2 draw, giving Dante an afternoon to forget. 

45. Ludovic Blas (Guingamp)

Need to know: There’s little doubt that Blas is destined for great heights – it’s just a question of how quickly he’s going to reach them.

The Colombes native operates on the right wing for France’s youth sides but plays in central midfield for Guingamp, who have also used him as a holding midfielder and in behind a lone striker.

Tenacious, quick, skilful and direct, the 19-year-old Blas is in his third season as part of Guingamp’s first team and has aroused interest from Inter Milan, Liverpool and Lyon.

Highlight so far: Blas formed a deadly attacking triumvirate with Kylian Mbappe and Jean-Kevin Augustin at the 2016 European U19 Championship, propelling Les Bleuettes to glory. 

44. Sam Field (West Brom)

Need to know: The baby-faced Field looks south of his 19 years, but plays north of them. “Sam’s very mature – a good decision-maker for his age, a brilliant passer, very clever,” said his West Brom manager Tony Pulis, who described his pupil as being “as gifted as any footballer I've seen at that age”.

The midfielder, who has represented England at various youth levels, has said he used to watch former team-mate Darren Fletcher in training – no bad role model, of 323 Premier League appearances.

Highlight so far: Field thrived on his first Premier League start against Middlesbrough in August 2016, impressing with his immaculate control and passing. 

43. Hannes Wolf (Red Bull Salzburg)

Need to know: A 15-year-old Wolf hid his teary eyes by wearing sunglasses on his first few days after leaving Graz to live at the Red Bull academy.

The attacking midfielder found a tonic for his homesickness, however, by putting in extra hours on the training pitch – something he was inspired to do by Cristiano Ronaldo.

Wolf, 18, scored four goals in as many appearances for Salzburg in August and was rewarded the following month with a call-up to Marcel Koller’s senior Austria squad.

Highlight so far: Wolf scored seven goals and provided four assists as Salzburg upset the likes of Manchester City, PSG, Atletico Madrid and Barcelona to win the 2016/17 UEFA Europa League. 

42. Exequiel Palacios (River Plate)

Need to know: “I would have loved to have played alongside a player like Exequiel,” said River Plate Marcelo Gallardo of his multifaceted midfielder.

Palacios has the sharp-sightedness of a veteran, a silky touch, is an excellent tackler, can retain possession when he has no right to, and is a fine passer.

Amid growing interest from Europe, Palacios – who represented Argentina at the 2015 U17 World Cup and the 2017 U20 edition – recently committed his future to River until 2021.

Highlight so far: “I was overcome with emotion,” said a tearful Palacios after scoring his first River Plate goal in a Copa Argentina defeat of Defensa y Justicia in October. 

41. Nicolas Gonzalez (Argentinos Juniors)

Need to know: “He reminds me of [Mario] Kempes,” said Argentinos Juniors coach Alfredo Berti of his 19-year-old forward.

Gonzalez, after scoring the goal that sealed his club’s promotion, has taken the top tier by storm. Four goals in his first five starts have already led to talk of him being a future Argentina international.

He is an elusive mover with a knack for being in the right place at the right time. As an excellent finisher, he gets a lot of late goals.

Highlight so far: Gonzalez raised the roof as a sub at the Estadio Diego Armando Maradona in July, blasting home a last-gasp winner against Gimnasia Jujuy to secure Argentinos Juniors a return among Argentina’s elite. 

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FourFourTwo’s 100 Best Teenagers in the World 2017

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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. Over his time on the brand, he has interviewed the likes of Aaron Ramsdale and Jack Wilshere, written pieces ranging on subjects from Bobby Robson's season at Barcelona to Robinho's career, and has been to the FA Cup and League Cup finals, working for FFT