FourFourTwo’s 100 Best teenagers in the World 2017: 70-61
70. Ovie Ejaria (Liverpool)
Need to know: Born in the same London borough as Rio Ferdinand, Duncan Goodhew and David Haye, Ejaria was thrilled to join his beloved Arsenal as a seven-year-old.
His sadness at being released by the Gunners nine years later didn’t last long, though, as esteemed clubs hoyed apprenticeship forms at him. The attacking midfielder reportedly rejected PSG to join Liverpool, and has since made a splash for their reserves after putting in extra hours to improve his goals return.
Though part of a Nigeria U17 training camp in 2013, Ejaria played a bit-part role in England’s FIFA U20 World Cup triumph.
Highlight so far: Ejaria’s distribution caught the eye on his first Liverpool start, when he held his own against Eric Dier & Co. in a 2-1 win over Tottenham in the League Cup in October 2016.
69. Maximilian Wober (Ajax)
Need to know: Ajax parted with €7.5m in August to make the elegant center-back the Austrian Bundesliga’s biggest-ever sale – merely five months after he was representing Rapid Vienna’s reserves in the country’s third tier.
Wober inherited the No.5 shirt vacated by Davinson Sanchez and swiftly began to enjoy playing time under Marcel Keizer.
The 19-year-old, a fixture in Austria’s youth sides, made his senior debut in October’s 3-2 win over Serbia in Russia 2018 qualifying.
Highlight so far: Wober, on his maiden Eredivisie start, ended a spot of pinball in the Heerenveen box to open his Ajax account - and helped them keep a clean sheet.
68. Orel Mangala (Stuttgart)
Need to know: “I like to try to play like Luka Modric,” once said Mangala. “My main strength is my technique.”
Hannes Wolf absolutely agrees. When he swapped coaching Borussia Dortmund’s youth sides for Stuttgart, he made it a priority to take Mangala – who’d helped Belgium finish third at the U17 World Cup in 2015 – with him.
The 19-year-old has since bloomed in the Bundesliga with his crafty footwork, passing and tenaciousness.
Highlight so far: Mangala delighted the Stuttgart supporters on his first home game for the club: a 1-0 win over Mainz, which drew praise from Wolf and Holger Badstuber.
67. Vinicius Junior (Flamengo, joining Real Madrid in 2018)
Need to know: A wonderkid manning the hype podium on which Ronaldo, Ronaldinho and Neymar stood as 17-year-olds.
Exhilarating attacker Vinicius has already been signed by Real Madrid for a staggering €45m – when he was just 16. He’ll move to the Bernabeu when he turns 18 next July, and in the meantime has been wowing Flamengo fans.
A strong, supersonic dribbler, Vinicius hit 24 goals in 29 outings for Brazil’s U15 and U17 sides. Spanish sports daily AS called him “a more modern and stronger version of Neymar”. No pressure, lad.
Highlight so far: Brazil’s No.11 was unplayable against Paraguay at the South American U17 Championship in March, putting a goal on a plate for Lincoln and, in a moment that will decorate his highlight reel for decades to come, executing three consecutive chapéus on three different opponents. He finished the tournament as its best player and top scorer.
66. Kevin Danso (Augsburg)
Need to know: MK Dons had two precocious talents on their books a few years back. One went on to dazzle for Tottenham and England; the other made the curious switch to Augsburg and, on early evidence, is destined to follow a similar path.
A hulking center-back or holding midfielder, Danso has taken to Bundesliga life brilliantly – and broken into the senior Austrian national team.
Highlight so far: His league debut came against free-scoring Leipzig in March, but Danso emerged from it with the man-of-the-match award – and the respect of Timo Werner, who called his marker “a colossus”.