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Since NxGn's introduction in 2016, Goal has profiled the 50 best footballing wonderkids on the planet, with the winner taking home the annual NxGn award.
Some of world football's most prominent household names were among those rewarded for their performances as teenagers, though others have not lived up the potential they showed as youngsters.
Check out where the stars of 2018 are now while all the other previous NxGn lists can be found below:
- Fati, Pedri, Reyna and now Saka: Arsenal ace adds his name to the list of football's budding superstars
- Defensive rocks Dias and Stones dig Man City out of hole to make it 20 wins in a row after beating West Ham
- Oparanozie misses penalty as Montpellier hold Dijon
- Chelsea's Haaland pursuit casts shadow over Abraham & Giroud's battle for No.9 shirt
|Full NxGn Lists|
|Tielemans, Dembele and 2016's wonderkids|
|Donnarumma, Mbappe & 2017's wonderkids|
|Sancho, Haaland and 2019's wonderkids|
|Rodrygo, Greenwood and 2020's wonderkids|
|Oberdorf, James & 2020's female wonderkids|
N.B.: The NxGn 2018 list did not include rankings for all 50 players. The top five players were ranked, with all others listed in alphabetical order.
Yacine Adli | Paris Saint-Germain
THEN: One of the stars of the 2017 Under-17s World Cup, the attacking midfielder was considered the most precious jewel in Paris Saint-Germain’s youth academy.NOW: After just one appearance for PSG, Adli was allowed to join Bordeaux in January 2019 for a reported €5.5m (£4.6m/$6m) and the 19-year-old is now seeing regular game time at the Matmut Atlantique.
- Getty Images
Alan | Palmeiras
THEN: Having helped Brazil finish third at the 2017 Under-17 World Cup, Alan was being linked with a move to Real Madrid even though he had yet to break into the Palmeiras first team.
NOW: The 20-year-old midfielder, who is also known by his nickname Alanzinho, never secured a dream move to Santiago Bernabeu and is still waiting to make his debut at senior level.
Ethan Ampadu | Chelsea
THEN: Even though he was still only 17, the versatile defender had already made his debut at club and international level, for Chelsea and Wales respectively, and was being touted as the 'new David Luiz'.
NOW: The 19-year-old is still on Chelsea's books but is presently enduring a difficult season-long loan at RB Leipzig, for whom he has barely featured this season. Consequently, he is expected to return to Stamford Bridge this summer.
Mirko Antonucci | Roma
THEN: An old-school winger who had come through the Roma youth academy, Antonucci became an instant fan favourite after setting up a goal for Edin Dzeko on his Giallorossi debut in January 2018.
NOW: Although Antonucci featured in Roma's epic Champions League semi-final against Liverpool, he subsequently found game time hard to come by at the Stadio Olimpico and was loaned to Vitoria de Setubal in January.
Jann-Fiete Arp | Hamburg
THEN: The first player born in the 2000s to both play and score in the Bundesliga, Hamburg sensation Arp was being lauded for his predatory instincts in the area as well as his mobility and technical ability.
NOW: Last summer Arp earned a move to Bayern Munich, though the 20-year-old has yet to feature in the first team.
Ezequiel Barco | Atlanta United
THEN: The diminutive attacking midfielder, who can also play out wide, had just been signed by Atlanta United from Independiente for $15m (£12m), after helping the Argentine outfit win the 2017 Copa Sudamericana.
NOW: Barco is still playing his trade in the United States and also has an MLS Cup medal in his locker, having played his part in Atlanta's 2018 triumph, although the Argentina Under-20 international saw little game time during the play-offs.
Brenner | Sao Paulo
THEN: It was considered only a matter of time before a top European club activated the €50m (£42m/$54m) buy-out clause in the Sao Paulo starlet's contract, with the teenager having already netted in the Brasileiro, the Paulistao and the Copa do Brasil.
NOW: Brenner instead spent the majority of last season on loan at Fluminense but failed to score once. Consequently, the 20-year-old striker has returned to Sao Paulo to continue his development.
Rhian Brewster | Liverpool
THEN: The Liverpool striker had fired England to victory at the 2017 Under-17 World Cup with eight goals but then suffered an ankle sprain and ligament damage during an Under-23 game against Manchester City in January 2018.
NOW: Brewster made a full recovery from his horrific double-injury and went on to make his full Reds debut in September 2019, four months after being on the bench for the Champions League final against Spurs. The England Under-21 international is now impressing on loan at Swansea and remains regarded as one of Liverpool's most promising young players.
Tahith Chong | Manchester United
THEN: One of the most exciting young players at Carrington, Chong had yet to make his senior debut, though the tall, hard-working right-winger with the fantastic left foot was impressing Jose Mourinho with his performances for Manchester United's Under-23s.
NOW: The 20-year-old has since broken into the senior squad under new manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, even coming off the bench in last season's epic Champions League win at PSG. Despite reports strongly linking him to Inter, Chong signed a new contract to stay at Old Trafford in March 2020.
Facundo Colidio | Inter
THEN: A €7m (£5.8m/$7.6m) signing from Boca Juniors, the striker had made a positive start to his Inter career by impressing for the Primavera and was drawing comparisons with fellow Argentine Gonzalo Higuain.
NOW: Colido is on a season-long loan at Sint-Truiden and is now playing regularly – and well – for the Belgian side, after making made his senior bow in October.
Diogo Dalot | Porto
THEN: One of the stars of Portugal’s Under-17 European Championship triumph in 2016, Dalot was being tipped to become "the best full-back in the world" by Miguel Layun after breaking into Porto's senior squad at the age of 19.
NOW: Dalot was snapped up by Manchester United in the summer of 2018 for £19m ($25m) but the 20-year-old rarely starts in the Premier League, even if he did get his first goal for the club in an FA Cup tie in January.
Brahim Diaz | Manchester City
THEN: A two-footed, Lionel Messi-like dribbler with a keen eye for goal, Brahim was considered by Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola as possible replacement for the ageing David Silva. However, the Spanish playmaker was being constantly linked with a move to Real Madrid because of his concerns over a lack of game time at the Etihad.
NOW: Much to City's disappointment, Brahim eventually departed for the Bernabeu in January 2019, though the English champions did pocket £15.5m ($20m) for a player whose contract only had six months left to run. The Spain Under-21 international is finding minutes as difficult to come by at Real, though, and could leave in the summer.
Umaro Embalo | Benfica
THEN: A 16-year-old sensation drawing comparisons with Angel di Maria on account of his pace, nimbleness and fantastic left foot. Indeed, RB Leipzig even offered €20m (£16.8m/$21.7m) for the Benfica ace during the 2018 January transfer window.
NOW: Embalo is still with the Super Eagles and now lining out not only for their UEFA Youth League team but also Benfica B in LigaPro.
Willem Geubbels | Lyon
THEN: One of the hottest properties in European football having turned down a new contract with Lyon. Club president Jean-Michel Aulas even put a rather fanciful €70m (£59m/$76m) price tag on the first player born in the 21st century to debut in Ligue 1, at just 16 years of age.
NOW: Lyon ultimately got €20m (£16.8m/$21.7m) for Geubbels, which is now looking like a decent bit of business, given the left winger has been decimated by injuries since joining Monaco in the summer of 2018.
Angel Gomes | Manchester United
THEN: One of the heroes of England's triumph at the 2017 Under-17 World Cup, the attacking midfielder was being tipped up by former Manchester United winger Nani as the club's "next star".
NOW: United's youngest debutant since Duncan Edwards is still at Old Trafford and for the 19-year-old, first-team action is steadily increasing under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. However, he has yet to sign a new contract and is now being linked with Barcelona.
Sergio Gomez | Borussia Dortmund
THEN: Barcelona were still coming to terms with the loss of a player tipped to fill the void left by Andres Iniesta, with the Silver Ball winner at the 2017 Under-17 World Cup having joined Borussia Dortmund in January 2010 after the German side met his €3m (£2.5m/$3.3m) release clause.
NOW: Still thriving at under-age level, having helped Spain win the Under-19 European Championship last year. However, despite making his senior debut for Dortmund in 2018, Gomez is now out on loan at Segunda Division outfit Huesca, where he is seeing far more game time.
Amine Gouiri | Lyon
THEN: Considered the next great striker to come out of Lyon after Karim Benzema and Alexandre Lacazette, Gouri had already debuted the first team, and top-scored for France's Under-17s at the 2017 European Championship in Croatia.
NOW: Under-21 international Gouiri is still at Lyon and earning the odd minute of game time, primarily in cup competitions, under Rudi Garcia.
Kai Havertz | Bayer Leverkusen
THEN: Described as a cross between Mesut Ozil and Michael Ballack, the attacking midfielder was already a regular at Bayer Leverkusen and reportedly of interest to Liverpool.
NOW: A Germany international and the youngest player ever to rack up 100 Bundesliga appearances, Havertz is still at Leverkusen but probably not for much longer, with the likes of Barcelona, Manchester United and Bayern Munich now said to have joined Liverpool in the race for the 20-year-old's signature.
Juan Camilo Hernandez | Watford
THEN: The dynamic and versatile Watford forward was drawing comparisons with Alexis Sanchez after making a prolific start to his loan spell at Segunda Division side Huesca.
NOW: 'Cucho', as he nicknamed', helped Huesca secure promotion to La Liga, which resulted in his loan spell being extended while he was also capped by Colombia in 2018. Hernandez netted against both Barcelona and Real Madrid during his first season in Spain's top flight but he is now on loan at Mallorca, where he has got back among the goals after an injury-hit start to the season.
Alexander Isak | Borussia Dortmund
THEN: After turning down Real Madrid to join Borussia Dortmund from AIK in 2017, the 'new Ibrahimovic' had seen some first-team game time but was mainly lining out for BVB's reserves
NOW: Dortmund surprisingly let Isak go after a prolific loan spell in Netherlands with Willem II, allowing the striker to join Real Sociedad last summer. His brilliant double in a Copa del Rey win over Real Madrid at the Bernabeu has been the highlight of a fine debut season so far.
Moise Kean | Juventus
THEN: The Juventus-owned striker was starting to find his feet at relegation-threatened Verona, whom he had been loaned to for the duration of the 2017-18 campaign.
NOW: After a purple patch in the spring of 2019, in which Kean scored in six consecutive games for Juve and Italy, he was surprisingly sold to Everton last summer for £23m ($30m). It is now looking like a shrewd bit of business by the Bianconeri, as the 19-year-old has struggled terribly to adapt to English football and is now being linked with a swift return to his homeland.
Takefusa Kubo | FC Tokyo
THEN: Having been forced to leave Barcelona after the Catalan club were found to have breached transfer regulations regarding the movement of Under-18s, the 'Japanese Messi' was making waves back in his homeland, becoming the youngest player to both appear and score in the J.League.
NOW: Much to Barca's disappointment, their former youth team player joined Real Madrid last summer and is now enjoying a productive spell on loan at Mallorca.
Alban Lafont | Toulouse
THEN: Actually managing to live up to the hype after becoming the youngest goalkeeper ever to appear in Ligue 1 in 2015, at 16 years and 310 days old. Lafont was Toulouse's No.1 and being tracked by the likes of Arsenal.
NOW: Lafont eventually ended up at Fiorentina but was loaned to Nantes last summer after a mixed debut season in Serie A that featured several sensational saves but numerous unforced errors.
Diego Lainez | Club America
THEN: As a diminutive No.10 with a wand for a left foot, Lainez had already been dubbed ‘The Mexican Messi’ and was being courted by a number of European clubs.
NOW: After being capped by his country in September 2018, Lainez moved to Real Betis the following January for approximately €14m (£12m/$15.3m). The 19-year-old has established himself in the Andalusian's senior squad but is primarily used as a substitute.
Rafael Leao | Sporting C.P.
THEN: Sporting were scrambling to increase the striker's buy-out clause from €45m (£38m/$49m) to €100m (£85m/$110m) in order to fend off interest from Europe's top clubs in the latest gem to be unearthed by their academy. Indeed, Leao was being described as better than Cristiano Ronaldo at the same age.
NOW: In June 2018, Leao unilaterally terminated his contract with Sporting after a nasty incident in which players and staff were attacked by irate fans, and promptly joined Lille on a free transfer. However, the 20-year-old is now lining out regularly for AC Milan, who paid €23m (£19.6/$25.2m) for Leao last August after an impressive first year in France.
Lincoln | Flamengo
THEN: A former team-mate of Vinicius Junior at under-age level for Flamengo, Lincoln was expected to follow his fellow Brazilian to Europe sooner rather than later.
NOW: The 19-year-old is still in Rio but has long since opened his Serie A goal account and even featured off the bench in December's Club World Cup final clash with Liverpool.
Myziane Maolida | Lyon
THEN: Maolida had already scored for Lyon's senior squad and club legend Alexandre Lacazette was among those singing the striker's praises: "He's a little like me but has more quality at the same age (19)."
NOW: The flexible forward moved to Nice in the summer of 2018 for €10m (£8.5m/$11m), with Lyon cleverly inserting a clause into the contract entitling them to a 30 per cent cut of any future transfer. The 21-year-old is now enjoying plenty of game time in Ligue 1 under France legend Patrick Vieira.
Gonzalo Maroni | Boca Juniors
THEN: The Pablo Aimar-like attacking midfielder was on the fringes of the Boca Juniors first team, having made his first appearance in 2016 at just 17 years of age.
NOW: Maroni is presently approaching the end of a season-long loan at Sampdoria. His campaign began brightly, with a Coppa Italia goal in August, but he only made his first Serie A appearance at the start of February.
Jordi Mboula | Monaco
THEN: Monaco were still celebrating after prising Mboula away from Barcelona in July 2017 after meeting the winger's €3m (£2.5m/$3.3m) release clause.
NOW: The 20-year-old is still at Monaco but presently out on loan for the second time this season, with his move to Cercle Brugge having been cut short, resulting in a January switch to Segunda Division side Huesca.
Mason Mount | Chelsea
THEN: The Chelsea-owned No.10 was flourishing during a season-long stay at the Londoner's feeder club Vitesse, showcasing the vision and creativity that had earned him the player of the tournament award at the 2017 Under-19 European Championships.
NOW: After enjoying another fantastic season on loan, this time at Frank Lampard's Derby County, Mount went straight into the Chelsea first team when the Blues legend was appointed as the club's new manager last summer. Mount is now a regular at Stamford Bridge and a fully fledged England international.
Reiss Nelson | Arsenal
THEN: Arsenal's sole concern was tying Nelson down to a new contract, as numerous clubs across Europe were tracking a 19-year-old sensation that had already broken into Arsene Wenger's first-team squad.
NOW: Nelson only enhanced his burgeoning reputation as one of England's most exciting youngsters during a wonderful loan spell at Hoffenheim in 2018-19, hitting seven goals in just 23 Bundesliga appearances. Now back at the Emirates, the 20-year-old has featured only intermittently this term but remains one of the Gunners' great hopes for the future.
Eddie Nketiah | Arsenal
THEN: The former Chelsea youth team player was being tipped to go on and achieve great things at Arsenal by none other than Thierry Henry after Nketiah had come off the bench to strike twice in a League Cup win over Norwich.
NOW: The 20-year-old Londoner is still on track to become a hometown hero at the Emirates. Having been recalled early from a loan spell at Leeds, Nketiah has begun to establish himself in Mikel Arteta's first team in north London.
Paulinho | Vasco da Gama
THEN: The versatile right winger was regarded as the most promising player to come out of Vasco da Gama's academy since Philippe Coutinho and, after making his senior debut at just 16, was already a first-team regular.
NOW: Paulinho is plying his trade in Germany, having been snapped up by Bayer Leverkusen in the summer of 2018 for a reported €18.5m (£15.8m/$20.3m). The Brazil Under-23 international has yet to lock down a starting berth at the BayArena but is still considered a top prospect.
Pietro Pellegri | Monaco
THEN: Monaco had just paid €25m (£21.3m/$27.5m) to sign a Zlatan Ibrahimovic-like striker who had become the joint-youngest debutant in Serie A history at just 15 years and 280 days old when he lined out against Torino in December 2016.
NOW: Pellegri has since usurped Kylian Mbappe as Monaco's youngest ever player and was the first player born in the 21st century to score in Ligue 1. However, the Italian has barely played over the past 18 months due to a succession of injuries.
Maximiliano Romero | PSV
THEN: The powerful centre-forward had seen a 2015 move to Arsenal scuppered by a knee injury but he recovered well, breaking into the Velez Sarsfield first team and impressing sufficiently to earn himself a transfer to PSV in January 2018.
NOW: Romero made his Champions League bow against Barcelona last season but he struggled for form and fitness in 2018-19 and is now back at Velez Sarsfield, on loan to the Argentine outfit until the end of the season.
Abel Ruiz | Barcelona
THEN: The Valencia academy product was being touted as Spain's next great No.9, with the Barcelona B striker having already become his country's all-time record goalscorer at Under-17 level.
NOW: Ruiz made his Barca debut in a Liga clash against Getafe last May but he was allowed to join Braga in January on a six-month loan with an obligation to buy at the end of the season. The forward made a positive start to life in Portugal, scoring on his debut in a Europa League clash with Rangers.
Jadon Sancho | Borussia Dortmund
THEN: The prodigiously gifted winger was already impressing in Borussia Dortmund's first team, having devastated Manchester City by deciding his chances of senior football would be better served by swapping the Etihad for Signal Iduna Park.
NOW: Sancho's move has been a spectacular success, with the 2019 NxGn winner having now established himself as one of the most exciting – and valuable – young players in world football. The 19-year-old England international is breaking Bundesliga records on a regular basis and is expected to be one of the stars of Euro 2020.
Malang Sarr | Nice
THEN: Considered a raw but ridiculously talented centre-half, Sarr had been a fixture in the Nice squad since making his debut at the age of 17 and was being compared to fellow Frenchman Samuel Umtiti.
NOW: Sarr only turned 21 in January but has already racked up well over 100 appearances for Nice, with many top clubs are still monitoring his development with great interest.
Ryan Sessegnon | Fulham
THEN: Whether deployed at full-back or on the wing, the 'new Gareth Bale' was proving far too much to handle for Championship defences and it was considered only a matter of time before Sessegnon was plying his trade in the Premier League, either with Fulham or one of England's elite.
NOW: After helping Fulham get promoted, Sessegnon endured a difficult debut season in the Premier League. However, he still did enough to earn himself a £25m ($32m) move to Tottenham last August and although he has yet to lock down a regular starting berth, he did become Spurs' youngest Champions League goalscorer by netting against Bayern Munich in December.
Mile Svilar | Benfica
THEN: Having taken away Iker Casillas' record as the youngest goalkeeper in Champions League history when he faced Manchester United in October 2017, Svilar was tipped to become one of the best shot-stoppers in Europe by Jose Mourinho after saving a penalty in the return fixture at Old Trafford.
NOW: The Belgian-born 20-year-old is still at the Estadio da Luz but is now lining out for Benfica B in LigaPro as the Eagles look to give him time to develop and mature away from the full glare of the media spotlight.
Timothy Tillman | Bayern Munich
THEN: The German-American attacking midfielder was considered such a hot prospect that Barcelona tried to prise him away from Bayern Munich in 2017 but the Bavarians had no intention of giving up a player they had signed from Greuther Fürth at the age of 15.
NOW: Tillman's time at Bayern did not go according to plan at all. His loan move to Nurnberg for the 2018-19 season proved a disaster and, after missing the first half of the current campaign through injury, Tillman's request to return to Greuther on a permanent basis was granted in January.
Ferran Torres | Valencia
THEN: A part of the Valencia youth sector since the age of six, the elegant right winger had already become a regular in the club's first team, alerting Liga giants Real Madrid and Barcelona to the 18-year-old's many talents.
NOW: Torres has gone from strength to strength over the past two years, becoming Valencia's youngest ever Champions League goalscorer and the youngest player ever to make 50 Liga appearances for the club. The 19-year-old is also pushing for a Spain call-up, after starring for his country in last summer's Under-19 European Championship triumph in Armenia.
Timothy Weah | Paris Saint-Germain
THEN: The pacy striker had only just turned 18 but had already made his first appearances for both PSG and the United States, suggesting that Weah had every chance of following in the footsteps of his father George, who had become a superstar during his time at the Parc des Princes.
NOW: Weah bagged his first competitive goal in the Trophee des Champions in August 2018 and scored for the first time in Ligue 1 the following weekend. Unfortunately, that was to be as good as it got for the forward in Paris, as he was sold to Lille in the summer of 2019 for €10m (£8.5m/$11m) after an underwhelming loan spell at Celtic earlier in the year.
Ben Woodburn | Liverpool
THEN: Liverpool's youngest ever goalscorer was finding first-team opportunities with Jurgen Klopp's stellar squad tough to come by, but he could not have been more highly rated at Anfield, where he was made captain of Steven Gerrard's Under-19s. Woodburn had also marked his Wales debut with a winning goal against Austria.
NOW: Woodburn's season-long loan at Sheffield United in 2018-19 was ended prematurely, primarily because of injury, and his spell at Oxford United has been similarly affected by fitness problems. It, thus, remains unclear what the future holds for the 20-year-old.
Dan-Axel Zagadou | Borussia Dortmund
THEN: Dortmund were still patting themselves on the back after beating a host of top European clubs to the signing of the PSG youth team star, who had become available on a free transfer. Although a centre-half by trade, Zagadou had even filled in at left-back for BVB's senior squad during the 2017-18 campaign.
NOW: Zagadou has been in and out of the Dortmund starting line-up over the past few years but is now playing regularly at the heart of the defence, and the flawed but formidable France Under-21 international is starting to show why BVB fought so hard to secure his services.
5. Phil Foden | Manchester City
THEN: Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola was enamoured with a player that he described as "a gift" from the club's academy to the senior squad. The skilful attacking midfielder had already had his first taste of Premier League and Champions League football, and also lifted the Golden Ball at the end of England's victorious 2017 Under-17 World Cup campaign.
NOW: Foden's involvement in the first team has increased incrementally, and he netted seven goals in all competitions in last season's domestic treble-winning campaign. There have been some arguments that he would be better served by a move away from City but he is still only 19 and is seen as a possible replacement for David Silva, who will leave City in the summer.
4. Matthijs de Ligt | Ajax
THEN: Regarded as the most promising centre-back to emerge in Europe in years, the Ajax ace had already been capped at senior level by Netherlands and was being persistently linked with Barcelona.
NOW: De Ligt was expected to sign for Barca last summer but instead ended up joining Juventus. Thus far, the 20-year-old has not quite recaptured the form that saw him lead Ajax to the semi-finals of the 2018-19 Champions League but he is looking more and more comfortable in Turin with each passing week and is still on course to become the world's best defender.
3. Vinicius Junior | Real Madrid
THEN: The Brazilian sensation had already been signed by Real Madrid for a whopping €45m (£38m/$49m), but that world-record fee for a 16-year-old was beginning to look like a bargain, with Vinicius developing at a rapid rate after being loaned back to Flamengo until the summer of 2018.
NOW: After being initially handled with care by Madrid boss Julen Lopetegui, Vinicius was let loose by successor Santiago Solari and turned in a string of sensational displays, most notably in a Copa del Rey Clasico at Camp Nou. The winger's spectacular progress was checked by an injury last season but he is now back on track under Zinedine Zidane.
2. Gianluigi Donnarumma | AC Milan
THEN: The 2017 NxGn winner had endured a difficult 12 months off the field because of contractual controversy caused by his agent, Mino Raiola. However, the 'new Gigi Buffon' showed remarkable composure for one so young to retain his status as AC Milan's No.1 despite still being only 19 years of age.
NOW: Donnarumma has had his ups and downs, as one would expect of such a young goalkeeper growing up in the San Siro spotlight, however he is no longer just Milan's first-choice shot-stopper, but also Italy's going into Euro 2020.
1. Justin Kluivert | Ajax
THEN: Ronald de Boer was among those comparing the Ajax winger with the silky skills and super-sonic speed to Neymar. Hardly surprising, then, that the son of the legendary Patrick Kluivert was being linked with the likes of Manchester United and Barcelona even though he was still only 18.
NOW: Kluivert ultimately ended up moving to Roma in 2018, as it was believed to be the ideal stepping stone for the Netherlands international towards superstardom. The attacker endured a difficult first season in Serie A and has not featured for Netherlands since 2018. However, he could soon be in line for a recall as the 20-year-old is now beginning to settle at Stadio Olimpico and has been in good form in recent months.