FourFourTwo’s 100 Best Teenagers in the World 2017: 80-71
Words: Michael Yokhin, Mark White
80. Malang Sarr (Nice)
Need to know: Nice boss Lucien Favre is known for nurturing young players, but few expected him to make a 17-year-old the lynchpin of his central defense during 2016/17.
Sarr scored the winner on the opening weekend and never looked back, showing maturity beyond his age. He made 27 appearances as Nice took Ligue 1 by storm to finish third, his tactical awareness and bravery truly astonishing for a stopper with such little experience.
Highlight so far: Sarr was outstanding as Nice thrashed Monaco 4-0 in September 2016, keeping a clean sheet against a potent attacking line-up that would go on to secure the Ligue 1 title. MY
79. Calvin Stengs (AZ Alkmaar)
Need to know: The exciting left-footed right-winger broke into AZ Alkmaar’s side towards the end of 2016/17 in emphatic fashion, catching the eye with his superb speed, imagination and trickery.
Stengs was set to be one of the rising stars of the new season, but a broken leg on the opening weekend at PSV ended his campaign before it had barely begun. He’ll hope to return stronger next term.
Highlight so far: Stengs bagged a brilliant brace against Groningen in May’s European play-off competition, the icing on the cake after a string of supreme performances for the Cheeseheads. MY
78. Gedson Fernandes (Benfica)
Need to know: The 18-year-old Portuguese is yet to make his senior debut for Benfica, but his performances for the youth national teams have been sensational and he has already represented their U20 side.
A central midfielder with excellent vision and magical passing skills, Fernandes is a joy to watch and was deservedly in the team of the tournament as Portugal won the 2016 European U17 Championship.
Fittingly, Gedson scored the winning spot-kick in the final to overcome Spain on penalties.
Highlight so far: An astonishing UEFA Youth League goal against Besiktas in 2016, from inside his own half. MY
77. Johannes Eggestein (Werder Bremen)
Need to know: Older brother Maximilian Eggestein has already become an important player in Werder Bremen’s midfield – and now 19-year-old Johannes is making his first steps in the Bundesliga.
They made history as the first pair of brothers to be on the pitch at the same time for Die Werderaner, and have represented Germany U21s together too. Unlike his sibling, Johannes – nicknamed ‘Jojo’ – is a striker. Blessed with good ball control and decent positional sense, he is expected to enjoy a breakthrough season in 2017/18.
Highlight so far: Eggestein scored 34 goals in just 28 matches for Bremen’s U19 team in 2015/16, including three hat-tricks. MY
76. Reece Oxford (Borussia Monchengladbach, on loan from West Ham)
Need to know: Everyone was stunned when Slaven Bilic gave a 16-year-old Oxford his Premier League debut for West Ham on the opening weekend of 2015/16. But his impact was sensational – the youngster bossed the midfield at the Emirates against Mesut Ozil and Aaron Ramsey as the Hammers beat Arsenal 2-0.
The future looked extremely bright, but the hype proved to be short-lived: for some reason, the teen wasn't handed more decent opportunities and eventually returned to the under-23 team.
A short loan spell with Reading at the beginning of 2017 proved to be unsuccessful, and now Oxford – a ball-playing central defender by trade – is warming the bench at Borussia Monchengladbach. His time will surely come somewhere.
Highlight so far: The extraordinary performance against Arsenal two years ago remains his pinnacle – which currently stands as the sixth-youngest Premier League debut. MY