NxGn 2018: The 50 best teenagers in the world

ShareClose Comments
Gianluigi Donnarumma triumphed in 2017 but who will take top spot this year? Below, Goal lists the game's top talents born or after January 1, 1999

  1. Yacine Adli

    One of the stars of last year’s Under-17s World Cup, Yacine Adli is considered the most precious jewel in Paris Saint-Germain’s youth academy. Although he might resemble Adrien Rabiot on account of his physique and flowing locks, the 17-year-old is a far more offensively-minded midfielder. Adli is attracting just as much interest from overseas, though.

  2. Alan

    What the diminutive Alan lacks in size, he makes up for in ability. The pint-sized Brazilian is blessed with a low centre of gravity, quick feet and a keen eye for a pass. Having starred for his country in the Under-17 World Cup, he is now hoping to become a Palmeiras regular. However, Real Madrid are already monitoring his development closely.

  3. Ethan Ampadu

    Still only 17, Ethan Ampadu plays with a maturity and calmness that belies his tender age, which is why the versatile defender was given his debut by both Chelsea and Wales before injury ended his season. Signed from hometown club Exeter City in the summer, Ampadu wasted little time in making a big impression at Stamford Bridge, starting several times in the cup competitions, and, given his ability to play in midfield and comfort on the ball, he is now regarded as the new David Luiz.

  4. Mirko Antonucci

    Thanks to the hard work of Bruno Conti, Roma beat Serie A rivals Inter to the signing of Mirko Antonucci and the capital club are now reaping the dividends. An old-school winger who is almost unstoppable when he isolates his marker one-on-one, Antonucci is already adored by the Giallorossi fans, having blessed his first-team debut, against Sampdoria, with an assist.

  5. Jann-Fiete Arp

    After several lean years, Germany is once again producing classic No.9s – the atypical Timo Werner aside – and now, fresh off the conveyor belt, comes Jann-Fiete Arp, another natural-born goalscorer. The Hamburg starlet is not just a pure six-yard box predator, though, as he also possesses the technical skills required of a mobile modern forward, making the 18-year-old a nightmare for defenders.

    Gareth Southgate Kyle Walker England

  6. Ezequiel Barco

    Ezequiel Barco is a small player but has immense potential, as underlined by the fact that Atlanta United paid a whopping €13m to sign him from Independiente. That may sound like an awful lot of money for an 18-year-old but he was a key man in the Argentine side’s Copa Sudamericana triumph in 2017. A trequartista by trade but just as effective on the flank, Barco is a wonderful dribbler with terrific pace, meaning he is a very real contender to be one of the stars of this year’s MLS. 

  7. Brenner

    It feels like only a matter of time before a top European club activates the €50m buy-out clause in Brenner’s contract with Sao Paulo. Despite only turning 18 in January, the skilful, pacy and elegant support-striker has already netted in the Brasileirao, the Paulistao and the Copa do Brasil, as well as having struck three times for Brazil at last year’s Under-17 World Cup. 

  8. Rhian Brewster

    Rhian Brewster is facing a lengthy period on the sidelines after suffering an ankle sprain and knee ligament damage in January but the 17-year- old has time on his side as he looks to live up to his reputation as one of the most exciting youngsters in the English game. Having followed former Chelsea coach Michael Beale to Liverpool at just 14, Brewster has already represented the Reds in friendly games, as well as firing his country’s Under-17s to glory at last year’s World Cup in India with a tournament-high eight goals.

  9. Tahith Chong

    Tahith Chong is not your regular winger. Granted, the Feyenoord academy product is like his fellow Dutchman Arjen Robben in that he is fast, nimble and specialises in cutting in from the right to shoot with his left foot. But Chong is 1.85 metres tall and also industrious. It is, therefore, easy to understand why the 18-year-old of Caracao extraction has impressed Jose Mourinho with his performances for Manchester United’s Under-23s this season and is edging ever close to a first-team debut.

  10. Facundo Colidio

    Inter had to pay €7m to beat off stiff competition from Juventus and Manchester City for Facundo Colidio but the Nerazzurri are supremely confident that it will prove a shrewd investment, with the Argentine striker having made a good start to repaying his transfer fee with a double in the Supercoppa Primavera win over Roma in January. Given his nationality and club, comparisons are being made to Nerazzurri captain Mauro Icardi but, in truth, Colidio’s style is more akin to that of Gonzalo Higuain, given his movement and greater involvement in build-up play.

  11. Diogo Dalot

    Miguel Layun, the Porto defender currently on loan to Sevilla, is in no doubt as to how far Diogo Dalot can go in the game. “He can become the best full-back in the world,” the Mexican enthuses. That remains to be seen, of course, but the 19-year-old’s incredible potential is there for all to see, with the star of Portugal’s Under-17 European Championship triumph in 2016 having already broken into the Porto first team this season, even registering two assists in his first start, against Portimonense last month.

  12. Brahim Diaz

    The appointment of Pep Guardiola as Manchester City boss was always going to mean good things for Brahim Diaz, given the Catalan had tried to sign the former Malaga attacker when he was in charge at Barcelona. Guardiola’s only concern now is protecting the Spain Under-21 international from the Premier League’s most brutal defenders, not to mention keeping him out of the clutches of Real Madrid, who are keen on signing Diaz.

  13. Umaro Embalo

    Still only 16 years of age yet Umaro Embalo is one of the most coveted players in Europe. Indeed, RB Leipzig were willing to pay Benfica €20m for the winger during the January transfer window. It’s easy to understand why Embalo is attracting such attention, given he is a lightning-quick attacker with a wonderful left foot who looks more than capable of vindicating the current comparisons with Angel di Maria.

    Gareth Southgate Kyle Walker England

  14. Willem Geubbels

    Willem Geubbels’ decision to turn down a new contract at Lyon is set to spark one of the biggest bidding wars of the summer. Club president Jean-Michel Aulas is demanding €70m for the elegant left winger with the blistering pace.  He’s unlikely to get it, though, as Geubbels’ current deal expires in 2019 but Lyon will be buoyed by the fact that while Monaco are the only club to have confirmed their interest, several others are poised to pounce.

  15. Angel Gomes

    Although he may be biased, Nani has long touted Angel Gomes as Manchester United’s “next star” and it is worth noting that when the gifted No.10 made his first-team debut aged 16 last May, he became the club’s youngest player since the legendary Duncan Edwards. Gomes signed his first professional contract with the Red Devils in December, just a month after netting twice in England’s triumph at the Under-17 World Cup.

  16. Sergio Gomez

    Barcelona were devastated by Sergio Gomez’s decision to depart for Borussia Dortmund in January, given his Silver Ball-winning performances for Spain at the Under-17 World Cup just two months before. A versatile No.10 who can also play on the wing, the 17-year-old almost seems as quick with the ball as he is without it, while his sublime technique saw him touted as the ideal replacement for Andres Iniesta at Camp Nou until BVB met his €3m buy-out clause.

  17. Amine Gouiri

    After earning big pay-days on both Karim Benzema and Alexandre Lacazette, Lyon believe that it won’t be too long before they are fielding massive offers for their latest striking sensation, Amine Gouiri. The top-scorer at last year’s Under-17 European Championship in Croatia, the 18-year-old has already made his first appearances in both Ligue 1 and the Europa League, impressing scouts across the continent with his mobility, movement and technique.

  18. Kai Havertz

    Kai Havertz is just 18 years of age yet he is a Bayer Leverkusen regular with over 50 senior appearances to his name. Given his technique, vision, versatility and height (1.88m), the Germany Under-19 attacking midfielder has been described as a cross between Mesut Ozil and Michael Ballack, and Liverpool have scouted him repeatedly in recent months.

  19. Juan Camilo Hernandez

    Juan Camilo Hernandez has yet to make a single appearance for parent club Watford but he has already made a big impact at Spanish Segunda Division club Huesca, for whom he is already in double figures for the 2017-18 campaign. An atypical No.9 who is also at home on the wing, ‘Cucho’ has been compared to Alexis Sanchez because of his speed, elusiveness, power and dynamism.

  20. Alexander Isak

    Alexander Isak hasn’t yet lived up the hype which surrounded his €9m move to Borussia Dortmund in January of last year but he is still only 18 and his enormous potential is beyond dispute. Indeed, the Swedish striker, who has already been capped at senior level, spent his first year at Signal Iduna Park studying the movement of former BVB star Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. It should only be a matter of time before the hard work pays off.

  21. Moise Kean

    Despite taking some time to settle at struggling Verona, Moise Kean is now emerging as arguably the club’s best hopes of beating the drop, as underlined by his recent double in a 4-1 win at Fiorentina. Juventus certainly couldn’t be happier with how the striker - who only turned 18 in February - has dealt with playing for a side battling relegation and are more confident than ever before that Kean can become a Bianconeri regular.

    Gareth Southgate Kyle Walker England

  22. Takefusa Kubo

    Takefusa Kubo has the face and physique of a kid, which is hardly surprising, given he’s only 16, but he plays and reads the game like a veteran. His ridiculous talent has been obvious for years, with Barcelona having signed him in 2011 only to be forced by FIFA to give him up in 2015 after they were found to have breached transfer regulations regarding the movement of Under-18s. It is only a matter of time before the attacking midfielder returns to Europe, though, having already become the youngest player ever to appear and score in the J.League.

  23. Alban Lafont

    The most remarkable thing about Alban Lafont, ‘France’s Donnarumma’, is that the Toulouse No.1 is actually managing to live up to all of the hype that has surrounded him since he became the youngest goalkeeper ever to appear in Ligue 1, in 2015, at 16 years and 310 days old. It is now only a matter of time before the Burkina Faso-born France Under-20 international is snapped up by one of Europe’s top clubs, with Arsenal hoping the fact that Lafont was a childhood Gunners fan will decide the race for his signature in their favour.

  24. Diego Lainez

    As a diminutive No.10 with a wand for a left foot, it was inevitable that Diego Lainez would be dubbed ‘The Mexican Messi’ the moment he made his Club America debut at just 16 years of age. Happily, coach Miguel Herrera has used the attacking midfielder sparingly in order to alleviate the pressure on his young shoulders but Lainez has already attracted the attention of European scouts with the nimble footwork that allows him to beat markers with jarring ease.

  25. Rafael Leao

    The latest gem unearthed by Sporting’s renowned youth academy, Rafael Leao is a powerful, intelligent and skilful attacker with an awesome turn of pace. With the 18-year-old having just scored his first goal for the club, in only his third Primeira Liga appearance, Sporting are now scrambling to increase his buy-out clause from €45 million to €100m in order to fend off interest from elsewhere. 

  26. Lincoln

    Lincoln and Vinicius Junior have been inseparable since they were first paired together in the Flamengo youth ranks and the Serra native will follow in his striker partner’s footsteps by moving to Europe sooner rather than later. A lethal finisher with excellent movement, Lincoln scored in all three of Brazil’s group games at the Under-17 World Cup, but he is also an unselfish player who boasts great awareness of those around him.

  27. Myziane Maolida

    Alexandre Lacazette has said of Myziane Maolida, “He’s a little like me but he has more quality than I had at the same age!” The 19-year-old is certainly a prodigious talent. He is fast, technically strong and can play either as a forward or out wide, and has featured regularly this season for Lyon, both domestically and in Europe, underlining just how highly he is rated by coach Bruno Genesio.

  28. Gonzalo Maroni

    Gonzalo Maroni has every chance of following in the footsteps of his idol and fellow Instituto de Cordoba product Paulo Dybala by earning a move to Europe. Signed by Boca Juniors in 2016, the classy attacking midfielder has yet to nail down a regular starting berth at the Bombonera – his cause hasn’t been helped by Barros Schelotto’s use of a 4-3-3 formation – but he has already provoked comparisons with Pablo Aimar on account of his elegant style and remarkable vision.

  29. Jordi Mboula

    Barcelona’s youth sector took another major blow when Jordi Mboula departed last summer for Monte Carlo, after Monaco met the €3m release clause in the forward’s contract. Mboula has yet to break into Leonardo Jardim’s first team but he should prove a very valuable addition, given he is excellent out wide, on account of his pace and trickery, and equally effective up front, as underlined by the fact that he was the top scorer in the 2016-17 UEFA Youth Champions League.

    Gareth Southgate Kyle Walker England

  30. Mason Mount

    One of the biggest success stories of Chelsea’s youth system, Mason Mount is flourishing on loan at feeder club Vitesse, creating nearly as many goals as he is scoring. Although being primarily used as a wide midfielder in Netherlands, Mount is a No.10 by trade and it was in his preferred position that he inspired England’s Under-19s to victory at last summer’s European Championship, with his scintillating showings earning him the player of the tournament award.

  31. Reiss Nelson

    Arsenal are desperate to persuade Reiss Nelson to sign a contract extension, with his current deal set to expire in 2019. A turbo-charged winger with mesmerising dribbling skills, the 19-year-old has already broken into Arsene Wenger’s first-team squad, impressing in the Community Shield win over Chelsea at the start of the season before making his first appearances in the Europa League, League Cup, FA Cup and then, in January, the Premier League.

  32. Eddie Nketiah

    Eddie Nketiah was released by Chelsea in 2015 and the Blues’ loss has proven Arsenal’s gain. Indeed, the striker has already proven himself a hit with Gunners fans, after netting a game-deciding double in a League Cup clash with Norwich in November, with his first goal for the club having come just 15 seconds after he had been introduced as a late substitute.  The 18-year-old has been tipped to go on to achieve even bigger things by his idol, Arsenal legend Thierry Henry.

  33. Paulinho

    The most exciting player to come out of Vasco da Gama’s youth academy since Philippe Coutinho, Paulinho is already a first-team regular, as well as the club’s youngest ever debutant, having made his professional debut just two days before his 17th birthday. Paulinho plays primarily on the right flank but he is just as effective as a trequartista or a second striker. He also has a nice knack of netting important goals, having scored winners for Brazil against both Spain and Germany at last year’s Under-17 World Cup.

  34. Pietro Pellegri

    Monaco raised plenty of eyebrows in January when they paid €25m for Pietro Pellegri, who only turned 17 earlier this month. However, having already made a name for himself as the joint-youngest debutant in Serie A history, the striker then usurped Silvio Piola as the youngest player ever to score two goals in the same top-flight game with a double against Lazio in September. Big things are now expected of the Italian striker, who has been compared to his role model, Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

  35. Maximiliano Romero

    A serious knee injury in 2015 may have scuppered a potential move to Arsenal but Maximiliano Romero has come back better than before, with his fine form for Velez Sarsfield persuading PSV to pay €8m for his services in January. A strong and powerful centre-forward who is excellent in the air, the Argentine has everything required to make a big impact on the Eredivisie when he eventually arrives in Eindhoven this summer.

  36. Abel Ruiz

    Abel Ruiz is being touted as Spain’s next great No.9 and it’s easy to understand why, with the Barcelona B attacker having already become his country’s all-time record goalscorer at Under-17 level. The striker hasn’t yet proven quite so prolific in the Segunda Division but the Blaugrana are already working on renewing the Valencia academy product’s contract.

  37. Jadon Sancho

    Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola was understandably upset at losing Jadon Sancho – “a huge talent” - to Borussia Dortmund last summer, even if the Bundesliga outfit did pay €8m for the winger. The winger should prove a bargain for BVB, given the 18-year-old is one of the most exciting attacking talents England has produced in years. He was voted player of the tournament at last year’s Under-17 European Championship and has already impressed in Dortmund’s first team.

    Gareth Southgate Kyle Walker England

  38. Malang Sarr

    Malang Sarr has had his ups and downs since breaking into the Nice first team two years ago but such fluctuating form is only to be expected from a player who only turned 19 in January. Compared to Samuel Umtiti because of his strength, aerial prowess and ability on the ball, the France Under-21 centre-half is also versatile and fast enough to play at left-back. As a result, all of Europe’s top clubs are monitoring his development with interest.

  39. Ryan Sessegnon

    It is now a question of when rather than if Ryan Sessegnon will leave Fulham for one of England’s biggest clubs. It’s going to take a colossal offer to take him away from Craven Cottage, though, as the 17-year-old has been tearing up the Championship this season, whether deployed at full-back or on the wing. Given his pace, technique, versatility and cultured left foot, he’s unsurprisingly being touted as ‘The new Gareth Bale’.

  40. Mile Svilar

    Mile Svilar’s Champions League debut, against Manchester United, ended with a costly error but the 18-year-old had already done enough by that point to show why Benfica had made him the youngest goalkeeper to have ever appeared in the tournament. Furthermore, he saved a penalty in the return clash, at Old Trafford, prompting Jose Mourinho to claim that the Belgium Under-19 international is destined to become “one of the best goalkeepers in Europe”. 

  41. Timothy Tillman

    Timothy Tillman is one of the most coveted young players in world football. Barcelona tried to sign him last year but Bayern Munich had no intention of cashing in on the gifted attacking midfielder they had acquired from Greuther Furth in 2015 for €500,000. However, while the 19-year-old, who can also play on the wing, has represented Germany at under-age level, he is now set to switch his allegiances to the United States on account of his American father.

  42. Ferran Torres

    A member of the Valencia youth sector since the age of six, Ferran Torres is now a regular starter for the senior squad, with coach Marcelino describing the elegant right winger’s emergence as “a blessing”. Los Che are well aware that they have a potential star on their hands, though, having already increased the 18-year-old’s buy-out clause to €25m after mounting speculation that Real Madrid and Barcelona were ready to pounce.

  43. Timothy Weah

    Timothy Weah must carry the burden of a famous surname but the good news is that from everything that we’ve seen so far from the 18-year-old attacker, he has both the talent and the temperament to cope with being constantly compared to his father George.  Although not as physically powerful, Timothy has the same keen eye for goal and terrific turn of pace. Having elected to represent the United States, where he was born and raised, Weah netted a hat-trick at the Under-17 World Cup in December before making his first starts for both the USMNT and PSG this very month.

  44. Ben Woodburn

    Ben Woodburn has found first-team appearances tougher to come by this season, after becoming Liverpool’s youngest ever goalscorer in 2016, but that is a sign of the strength of Jurgen Klopp’s senior squad. Indeed, Woodburn could not be more highly rated at Melwood, having been installed as the captain of the club’s Under-19s by club legend Steven Gerrard. Furthermore, the versatile attacker, who can play as a winger, a No.10 or an orthodox striker, is already a regular in the Wales set-up, after marking his debut with a crucial strike against Austria, in September.

  45. Dan-Axel Zagadou

    Borussia Dortmund could not believe their luck when they managed to beat a host of elite European clubs to the signing of Dan-Axel Zagadou on a free transfer from Paris Saint-Germain last summer. A strong, imposing, physical centre-half with great leadership skills – he is presently captaining France’s Under-19s – the 18-year-old has also shown himself to be a very versatile player, having filled in at left-back for BVB’s senior squad on several occasions this season.

    Gareth Southgate Kyle Walker England

  46. 5. Phil Foden

    There are few better judges of talent than Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola and the former Barcelona playmaker has described Phil Foden as “a gift” from the club’s academy to his senior squad. After wowing the Catalan with his performance in a pre-season friendly against Manchester United last summer, the versatile Foden, who can play in midfield, as a trequartista or out wide, has since showcased his wonderful skills in both the Premier League and the Champions League, as well as inspiring the England Under-17s to World Cup glory in India in November.

  47. 4. Matthijs De Ligt

    Matthijs De Ligt’s Netherlands debut, against Bulgaria, may not have gone according to plan but the Ajax ace will be an Oranje regular for the next decade. A born leader with a wonderful range of passing, De Ligt is considered one of the most exciting centre-halves to emerge in Europe in years. It hardly surprising, then, that an 18-year-old defender of such impressive physique and technique is already being tracked by Barcelona, who are considering making a move for De Ligt this summer.

  48. 3. Vinicius Junior

    After starring for Brazil at the Under-17 South American Championship, Vinicius Junior became the most expensive 16-year-old in football history when Real Madrid agreed to pay Flamengo €45 million for the striker’s services last May. He had only made his professional debut 10 days previously but Vinicius is already looking like a bargain. Indeed, having been loaned back to Flamengo until 2019, the attacker already boasts better numbers than Neymar at the same age. As a result, Madrid are now set to bring forward his arrival at the Santiago Bernabeu to this summer.

  49. 2. Gianluigi Donnarumma

    The winner of the 2017 NxGn, Gianluigi Donnarumma has endured a difficult year off the field but, on it, he has remained as unruffled as ever before, becoming an AC Milan centurion, as well as breaking into the Italy squad. The goalkeeper had wowed seasoned campaigners with his composure and maturity from the moment he made his senior debut as a 16-year-old. But the way in which he dealt with the backlash over the Mino Raiola-related wrangling over a new contract last summer has only strengthened the belief that we are watching ‘the new Gigi Buffon’.

  50. 1. Justin Kluivert

    “Justin Kluivert is like Neymar!” Ronald de Boer is not the only famous figure getting excited by the potential of Patrick Kluivert’s son Justin, the Ajax winger on a seemingly pre-ordained path to superstardom. Indeed, agent Mino Raiola is rubbing his hands with glee having signed up a prodigious talent who has already forced his way into the Netherlands squad. Kluivert remains under contract to Ajax until 2019 but a player of such super-sonic speed and wonderful skills looks destined to follow in his father’s footsteps by joining at least one of Europe’s elite.