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 savor 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.