NXGN 2021: The 50 best wonderkids in football

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  1. NXGN 2021 Ilaix Moriba

    50. IlaixMoriba

    Excitement has been building at Barcelona around Ilaix Moriba for years, with ‘the new Pogba’ having excelled ever since arriving at La Masia from Espanyol at the age of 10.

    A defensive midfielder who cites Sergio Busquets as his idol, the 18-year-old has taken his first strides into the Barca senior squad this season, making his debut for Ronald Koeman’s side in January.

    Already earning an annual salary of €2 million (£1.7m/$2.2m), Moriba’s release clause of €100m (£87m/$109m) only serves to illustrate the esteem in which he is held at Camp Nou.

    Full NXGN profile: Ilaix Moriba (April 2020)

  2. NXGN 2021 Takuhiro Nakai

    49. TakuhiroNakai

    An attack-minded midfielder, Takuhiro Nakai has been on Real Madrid’s books since the age of nine, after impressing the Blancos during a training camp in his homeland.

    Now 17, the Japan youth international has already been called up to train with Zinedine Zidane’s first-team squad on more than one occasion this season, with the playmaker regarded as one of the most talented players within the Fabrica system right now.

    Full NXGN profile: Takuhiro Nakai (March 2021)

  3. NXGN 2021 Maarten Vandevoordt

    48. MaartenVandevoordt

    The youngest goalkeeper in Champions League history, Maarten Vandevoordt is the latest product of a Genk academy that has produced the likes of Kevin De Bruyne and Thibaut Courtois in recent years.

    The 19-year-old, who grew up on the same street as ex-Liverpool shot-stopper Simon Mignolet, is regarded as the ideal modern goalkeeper, with his ability with the ball at his feet almost equalling what he is capable of producing with his hands.

  4. NXGN 2021 Jayden Braaf

    47. JaydenBraaf

    Dubbed ‘the new Sancho’ since his early days at Manchester City, 18-year-old winger Jayden Braaf is regarded as one of the most naturally talented attacking players of his generation.

    A former youth star at Ajax and PSV in his native Netherlands, a combination of injuries and concerns over his application have seen him fall out of favour at City, with it hoped his current loan spell with Udinese in Serie A will kickstart his young career.

    Previously a target of both Borussia Dortmund and RB Leipzig, there are certainly plenty of potential suitors for Braaf if he is unable to make the grade at the Etihad Stadium.

    Full NXGN profile: Jayden Braaf (February 2020)

    NXGN exclusive: Braaf's 'incredible talent' hailed by Udinese scout

  5. NXGN 2021 Kenneth Taylor

    46. KennethTaylor

    Having long been compared to Toni Kroos, it is perhaps no surprise that Kenneth Taylor has begun to show his potential as the ideal all-round central midfielder.

    The captain of the Netherlands Under-17 team that won the 2019 European Championship, Taylor is regarded as a natural leader and a potential future Ajax captain.

    Having made his first-team debut in December, the 18-year-old has already caught the eye of manager Erik ten Hag in Amsterdam.

    Full NXGN profile: Kenneth Taylor (February 2021)

  6. NXGN 2021 Radu Dragusin

    45. RaduDragusin

    Juventus beat off stiff competition from Chelsea and Paris Saint-Germain to sign Radu Dragusin for €250,000 (£220,000/$300,000) back in 2018, and now they are beginning to see a return on their investment.

    The 19-year-old centre-back, who is already a Romania Under-21 international, models his game on Virgil van Dijk and, having made his first-team debut in December, is now a regular in Andrea Pirlo’s matchday squads in Turin.

    Full NXGN profile: Radu Dragusin (March 2021)

  7. NXGN 2021 Joelson Fernandes

    44. JoelsonFernandes

    Following in the footsteps of Cristiano Ronaldo, Nani and Ricardo Quaresma, the latest winger to step out of the Sporting C.P. academy is 18-year-old Joelson Fernandes.

    Arsenal, Barcelona, Liverpool and Manchester City have all been credited with interest in the wide player after a number of eye-catching displays for both club and country at youth level earned him a first-team debut in July.

    Though right-footed, Joelson tends to prefer playing down the left, which in turn allows him to use his speed and skill to leave opposition defenders in something of a daze by full-time.

    Full NXGN profile: Joelson Fernandes (May 2020)

  8. NXGN 2021 Exequiel Zeballos

    43. ExequielZeballos

    After his short stint at Boca Juniors came to an end in 2020, Daniele De Rossi described Exequiel Zeballos as being on “a different level”, so impressed was the Italian World Cup-winning midfielder with the teenage winger.

    At just 18, Zeballos is already a fixture in the Boca first-team squad having made his debut in October, with his quick feet and lightning pace having caught the eye of Barcelona, Real Madrid and Manchester City.

    Full NXGN profile: Exequiel Zeballos (February 2021)

  9. NXGN 2021 Sontje Hansen

    42. SontjeHansen

    When Antoine Griezmann slides into your DMs during a youth tournament to let you know just how impressed he is by your performances, then you know you are doing something right.

    That is exactly what happened to Sontje Hansen at the 2019 Under-17 World Cup, as he claimed the Golden Boot after finishing the tournament with six goals for Netherlands.

    The 18-year-old forward went onto make his Ajax debut last season and was linked with a move to Manchester City before signing a new contract with the Dutch giants in September.

    Full NXGN profile: Sontje Hansen (May 2020)

  10. NXGN 2021 Talles Magno

    41. TallesMagno

    Labelled an “artist” by former Real Madrid manager Vanderlei Luxemburgo during his debut season in the Vasco da Gama first team, winger Talles Magno is never shy when it comes to producing an extraordinary moment of skill.

    The 18-year-old’s rainbow flick over the head of Fortaleza's Gabriel Dias was one of the moments of the 2019 Serie A season in Brazil, with some unsurprisingly likening the youngster to compatriot Neymar.

    A target of both Real Madrid and Liverpool, the Under-17 World Cup winner looks destined for a move to Europe in the next 12 months as he continues to impress on home soil.

    Full NXGN profile: Talles Magno (July 2020)

    NXGN exclusive: Talles on wanting to be 'part-Ronaldo, part-Neymar'

  11. NXGN 2021 Lorenzo Colombo

    40. LorenzoColombo

    After averaging a goal every 33 minutes for AC Milan’s Under-19s last season, there is hope at San Siro that Lorenzo Colombo will be able to step into Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s shoes once the iconic Swede finally calls time on his career in the not-too-distant future.

    Nineteen-year-old Colombo, who possesses a rocket of a left foot, grew up idolising Gabriel Batistuta and has already both played and scored for the Rossoneri’s first team.

    He is spending the second half of the current campaign with Serie B outfit Cremonese as he looks to earn valuable experience before returning to his boyhood club in the summer.

    Full NXGN profile: Lorenzo Colombo (August 2020)

    NXGN exclusive: Colombo reveals Ibrahimovic's dark side in training

  12. NXGN 2021 Luka Romero

    39. LukaRomero

    Nicknamed ‘the Mexican Messi’, Luka Romero has been singled out as a potential superstar of the world game for a number of years despite having only turned 16 in November.

    After rejecting the chance to join Barcelona at the age of seven, Romero went onto become the youngest player in La Liga history when making his Mallorca debut against Real Madrid in June.

    Despite his moniker, Romero has chosen to represent Argentina at international level, meaning there is once more a left-footed, floppy-haired playmaker for the Albiceleste to get excited about.

    Full NXGN profile: Luka Romero (June 2020)

    NXGN exclusive: 'Ramos couldn't believe I was 15!' - Romero on record-breaking debut

  13. NXGN 2021 Timothee Pembele

    38. TimotheePembele

    Described by his former Under-15s coach at PSG, Said Aigoun, as “one of the best of his generation”, Timothee Pembele has begun to make his first strides into the first team at Parc des Princes.

    A defender who is comfortable at either centre-back or right-back, the 18-year-old – who hails from the same village as team-mate Presnel Kimpembe – has also already opened his goalscoring account for the Ligue 1 champions.

    Having captained France at youth level, Pembele is regarded as a potential future leader for both club and country.

    Full NXGN profile: Timothee Pembele (January 2021)

  14. NXGN 2021 Devyne Rensch

    37. DevyneRensch

    Having been awarded the Abdelhak Nouri Trophy as Ajax’s academy Player of the Year last season, Devyne Rensch has gone from strength to strength over the course of the current campaign.

    Able to play either at centre-back or right-back, the 18-year-old has been able to make up for a lack of physicality with superb ball control.

    His impressive performances since earning his first-team debut in October have seen him make regular appearances for the Eredivisie outfit as they aim to secure yet another league title.

    Full NXGN profile: Devyne Rensch (April 2021)

  15. NXGN 2021 Eduardo Quaresma

    36. EduardoQuaresma

    A distant relative of legendary Brazilian forward Zico, it should come as no surprise that the 19-year-old Eduardo Quaresma is beginning to make a name for himself at the highest level after an impressive start to life in the Sporting C.P. first team.

    The centre-back has been linked with Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool and Juventus over the course of the past year, after making his debut in June, as manager Ruben Amorim turned to youth following his own arrival from Braga.

    Quaresma signed a new deal in May that includes a €45m (£41m/$51m) release clause, with Sporting keen to ensure that they get good money for the defender when he eventually departs.

    Full NXGN profile: Eduardo Quaresma (July 2020)

  16. NXGN 2021 Yan Couto

    35. YanCouto

    Dubbed ‘the new Dani Alves’, full-back Yan Couto thought he would be joining Barcelona back in the winter of 2020, only for Pep Guardiola to swoop in and convince him to join Manchester City instead.

    City paid Coritiba an initial €6m (£5m/$7m) to secure the 18-year-old’s signature after he impressed at the 2019 Under-17 World Cup, with his assist for Brazil’s winning goal in the final the crowning moment of his campaign.

    Nicknamed ‘The Flash’ due to his blistering speed, he is spending the 2020-21 season on loan with Girona in the Spanish second tier as he builds up his experience before returning to the Etihad Stadium.

    Full NXGN profile: Yan Couto (February 2020)

    NXGN exclusive: Couto reveals why he chose City over Barca & Bayern Munich

  17. NXGN 2021 Arnaud Kalimuendo

    34. ArnaudKalimuendo

    Given the presence of Neymar and Kylian Mbappe in the PSG line-up, it is difficult for young attacking players to break through at the Parc des Princes, but Arnaud Kalimuendo is doing all he can to prove his worth to the Parisiens.

    Having scored nine goals in 10 UEFA Youth League matches over the past two years, Kalimuendo made his senior debut on the opening day of the Ligue 1 season before joining Lens on loan for the remainder of the 2020-21 campaign.

    The 19-year-old striker has thrived with the newly promoted outfit, becoming the first player in 70 years to score in each of their first three top-flight starts for the club.

    Full NXGN profile: Arnaud Kalimuendo (February 2021)

  18. NXGN 2021 Ki-Jana Hoever

    33. Ki-JanaHoever

    Ki-Jana Hoever shot to prominence in January 2019 when, as a 16-year-old, he became the third-youngest Liverpool debutant in history after coming off the bench to face Wolves in the FA Cup.

    Over two years on and the former Ajax academy star finds himself back at Molineux, after completing a £10m ($13m) switch to Nuno Espirito Santo’s side at the start of the 2020-21 campaign.

    The 19-year-old has slowly worked his way into first-team contention at his new home having seemingly settled on becoming a full-back, rather than a central defender.

    NXGN exclusive: Hoever on Anfield exit, training with Traore & life at Wolves

  19. NXGN 2021 Filip Stevanovic

    32. FilipStevanovic

    As the third-youngest player in Partizan’s history, Filip Stevanovic has been tipped to do great things in the game ever since he made his senior bow in December 2018.

    The 18-year-old’s performances saw at least 15 top European clubs show an interest in signing him, but it was Manchester City who won the race for his signature in October by agreeing to pay £6m ($8m) the new young star of Serbian football.

    Stevanovic has remained on loan at Partizan until the end of the season but, at the Etihad, they have high hopes for a player who has been likened to Cristiano Ronaldo for his dribbling ability.

    Full NXGN profile: Filip Stevanovic (July 2020)

    NXGN exclusive: Stevanovic on joining 'crazy good' Man City

  20. NXGN 2021 Riccardo Calafiori

    31. RiccardoCalafiori

    Back in October 2018, Riccardo Calafiori would have been forgiven for thinking his football career was over after he suffered a horror knee injury that doctors claimed only occurred “once every 10 years".

    The left-back has worked his way back to full fitness, however, and is now making waves at Roma, particularly after scoring a stunning goal against Young Boys in the Europa League in December.

    The 18-year-old has been linked with Manchester United, Juventus and PSG, but recently signed a new deal that will keep him at Stadio Olimpico until 2025.

    Full NXGN profile: Riccardo Calafiori (January 2021)

  21. NXGN 2021 Brian Brobbey

    30. BrianBrobbey

    Brian Brobbey has long been earmarked as a potential star at Ajax, with the striker’s physical stature seeing him bully opposition defenders on countless occasions during his youth career.

    Likened to Romelu Lukaku for his pace, power and goalscoring ability, the 19-year-old told Goal in December he wants to be “the new Brian Brobbey” as he takes his first strides into the senior game.

    The early signs are good, with Brobbey having backed up a goal on his debut with a match-winning display off the bench against Willem II in January, though it has since been announced he will leave the Johan Cruyff ArenA for RB Leipzig at the end of the season after failing to agree to a new contract.

    Full NXGN profile: Brian Brobbey (December 2020)

  22. NXGN 2021 Isaac Lihadji

    29. IsaacLihadji

    Were it not for a broken shin suffered at the age of 11, then Isaac Lihadji may well be at Barcelona right now.

    The forward had to give up on his dream of moving to La Masia following the injury, but has rebuilt his career in his native France, where he swapped Marseille for Lille over the summer after allowing his contract to run down at Stade Velodrome.

    Manchester United, Arsenal and Tottenham have all previously been credited with interest in the 18-year-old, whose quick feet and finishing ability have helped him develop as both a winger and a central striker.

    Full NXGN profile: Isaac Lihadji (February 2020)

  23. NXGN 2021 Noni Madueke

    28. NoniMadueke

    When Noni Madueke took the decision to leave Tottenham and reject an offer from Manchester United in order to join PSV in 2018, he was taking a risk, but it seems to be paying off.

    The 19-year-old forward has been in superb form for the Eredivisie outfit since working his way into the first-team picture, with his driving runs through opposition defences a key component of his game.

    Arsenal have shown an interest in bringing the England youth international back to the Premier League, though a new four-year contract signed in March 2020 means that he will likely not come cheap.

    Full NXGN profile: Noni Madueke (September 2020)

  24. NXGN 2021 Karim Adeyemi

    27. KarimAdeyemi

    Released by Bayern Munich at a young age amid a cloud of disagreements and disciplinary issues, Karim Adeyemi has had to work hard to get back to the top of the European game.

    The Germany youth international revived his career in his homeland before Salzburg saw fit to spend €3m (£2.6m/$3.6m) on the forward once he had turned 16, having seen him torment defenders during his time with Unterhaching.

    Now 19, he is beginning to offer a return on their investment this season, with Adeyemi having become the youngest Champions League goalscorer in the club’s history back in December as the likes of Barcelona and Liverpool continue to monitor his progress.

    Full NXGN profile: Karim Adeyemi (November 2019)

    NXGN exclusive: Salzburg director backs Adeyemi for great Germany career

  25. NXGN 2021 Harvey Elliott

    26. HarveyElliott

    Still the youngest player in Premier League history, Liverpool’s decision to swoop for Harvey Elliott in the summer of 2019 looks better and better almost every time he takes to the field.

    After earning sporadic first-team appearances during his first season at Anfield, the former Fulham trainee has spent the 2020-21 campaign playing regular Championship football while on loan to Blackburn Rovers.

    The 17-year-old winger has been a sensation at Ewood Park, laying on assist after assist, with team-mate and former Liverpool wide man Stewart Downing labelling him a “frightening talent”.

    Full NXGN profile: Harvey Elliott (July 2019)

    NXGN exclusive: 'F*cking hell, he's brilliant!' - Blackburn veteran Downing on Elliott

  26. NXGN 2021 Sebastiano Esposito

    25. SebastianoEsposito

    Regarded by many as one of the key figures in the potential rebuilding of the Italy national team, 18-year-old striker Sebastiano Esposito has a lot to live up to.

    His start to life in the senior ranks at Inter suggested he was up to the task, as he became the club’s youngest-ever European debutant and second-youngest goalscorer in league football over the course of 2019.

    PSG and Liverpool have both previously been linked with signing Esposito, who is currently playing in Serie B for Venezia having spent the first half of the campaign on loan at SPAL.

    Full NXGN profile: Sebastiano Esposito (May 2019)

    NXGN exclusive: Esposito on learning from 'champion' Lukaku at Inter

  27. NXGN 2021 Dario Sarmiento

    24. DarioSarmiento

    Former Argentina boss Alejandro Sabella bowed to no one at Estudiantes following his legendary playing and managerial career with the club, but when he first laid eyes on teenage winger Dario Sarmiento, the veteran coach could not help but sink to his knees for he believed he was in the presence of potential greatness.

    A left-footed playmaker who looks to dribble past opponents and cut in from the right-hand side, Sarmiento has unsurprisingly been likened to Lionel Messi in his homeland despite having only made a handful of senior appearances.

    Manchester City are reportedly set to spend up to £10m ($13.5m) on the 17-year-old winger this summer, proving that the late Sabella was not the only one to be won over by Sarmiento’s ability.

    Full NXGN profile: Dario Sarmiento (August 2020)

  28. NXGN 2021 Nuno Mendes

    23. NunoMendes

    Though Nuno Mendes did not begin playing organised football until the age of nine, the 18-year-old has enjoyed a rapid rise through the ranks at Sporting C.P. to become one of the most coveted young full-backs on the planet.

    A left-back who is not afraid to get forward and show off the tricks he possesses, Mendes became the youngest player to start a game for Sporting since Cristiano Ronaldo in June.

    He has since become the third-youngest goalscorer in the club’s history, and the likes of Liverpool, Manchester United and Real Madrid are making no secret of their interest in signing him.

    Full NXGN profile: Nuno Mendes (October 2020)

    NXGN exclusive: Ex-Portugal star backs Mendes for summer transfer

  29. NXGN 2021 Adil Aouchiche

    22. AdilAouchiche

    With first-team opportunities at Paris Saint-Germain limited, Adil Aouchiche took the decision during the summer of 2020 to leave Parc des Princes for the chance to play more football at Saint-Etienne.

    The move has certainly started to pay off for the 18-year-old midfielder, who back in 2019 broke the record for the most goals at a single Under-17 European Championship when he netted nine times across just four matches.

    Aouchiche also possesses plenty of creativity, with his willingness to dribble past opponents when finding himself in tight spaces a key component of his game.

    Full NXGN profile: Adil Aouchiche (September 2019)

  30. NXGN 2021 Adam Hlozek

    21. AdamHlozek

    “I dare say that a world-class player is growing here,” were the words of veteran Czech football agent Pavel Paska when discussing his young client Adam Hlozek in 2018, and the early signs are he may well be proven right.

    Hlozek rejected moves to Arsenal and Bayern Munich at the age of 16 to remain with his boyhood club Sparta Prague, and that has allowed him to flourish at senior level, with his return of nine goals and nine assists in all competitions last season a sure sign of the talent the versatile forward possesses.

    Already a full Czech Republic international at 18, a serious foot injury has stalled Hlozek's progress this season, though a move to one of Europe’s biggest leagues is still predicted for the summer.

    Full NXGN profile: Adam Hlozek (May 2020)

  31. NXGN 2021 Josko Gvardiol

    20. JoskoGvardiol

    RB Leipzig very rarely get their transfers wrong, and therefore their €19m (£17.5m/$22m) outlay on Josko Gvardiol suggests that the Croatian defender is one to keep a close eye on over the coming years.

    An imposing central defender, the 19-year-old also possesses the versatility to play at left-back, with recovery speed and tackling ability two of his many strengths.

    “I don't think there's a better centre-back at his age in the world,” admitted Dinamo manager Zoran Mamic ahead of the current campaign, and Gvardiol’s performances ahead of his move to Germany this summer suggest he is certainly in that conversation.

    Full NXGN profile: Josko Gvardiol (September 2020)

    NXGN exclusive: Gvardiol eyeing Europa League triumph before Dinamo exit

  32. NXGN 2021 Amad Diallo

    19. AmadDiallo

    Eyebrows were raised when Manchester United agreed to pay up to £37m ($48m) for a teenager who had played just 24 minutes of first-team football back in October, but Amad Diallo certainly has all the tools required to ensure it was a smart investment.

    “To stop him in training, we have to kick him,” admitted former Atalanta captain Papu Gomez during Diallo’s time in Italy, with the 18-year-old having also earned comparisons to Lionel Messi due to his quick feet and dribbling ability.

    The youngest player ever to score on their Serie A debut, the Ivorian has already been integrated into Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s first-team squad at Old Trafford as he aims to become the next teenage talent to thrive at the Theatre of Dreams.

    Full NXGN profile: Amad Diallo (May 2020)

    NXGN exclusive: 'Amad can challenge for the Ballon d'Or in five years'

  33. NXGN 2021 Kaio Jorge

    18. KaioJorge

    Santos have a rich history of producing world-class talents, and there is hope that Kaio Jorge will soon be following in the footsteps of Pele, Neymar and Rodrygo in reaching the top of the world game.

    The 19-year-old striker played a key role in firing the Peixe to this season’s Copa Libertadores final, with his five goals in the competition placing him fourth on the overall list of top scorers.

    A box of tricks when in possession, Kaio’s willingness to create space for others with his runs off the ball has also been noted by some of Europe’s top clubs, with Juventus and Real Madrid among those monitoring his progress.

    Full NXGN profile: Kaio Jorge (March 2020)

  34. NXGN 2021 Fabio Silva

    17. FabioSilva

    Fabio Silva may still only be 18, but he has already packed a lot into his short career.

    The youngest player and goalscorer in Porto history, Silva swapped his homeland for England in the summer of 2020 as Wolves paid a club-record £35m ($47m) to bring the striker to Molineux.

    He has since become the youngest player to find the net for the club in their Premier League history, and having earned comparisons to Cristiano Ronaldo back in Portugal, it is clear that Silva has all the attributes to become a potent goalscorer at the highest level.

    Full NXGN profile: Fabio Silva (January 2020)

  35. NXGN 2021 Tanguy Nianzou

    16. TanguyNianzou

    “Tanguy Nianzou is currently the greatest talent in Europe in this position,” were the words of Oliver Kahn in January when discussing the future of Bayern Munich’s defence, and few in Bavaria – or Paris – would disagree.

    A graduate of the PSG academy, the centre-back earned a taste of first-team football at Parc des Princes but still rejected a new contract in the summer of 2020 in order to join the Bundesliga champions.

    Persistent injury problems have limited the 18-year-old to sporadic appearances for Bayern thus far, but it is believed that the youngest player to score a Ligue 1 brace in 44 years will be imposing himself at both ends of the pitch in the very near future.

    Full NXGN profile: Tanguy Nianzou (February 2020)

  36. NXGN 2021 Youssoufa Moukoko

    15. YoussoufaMoukoko

    Rarely has there been so much excitement surrounding the debut of a 16-year-old, but it felt as if the whole world was watching when Youssoufa Moukoko made his Borussia Dortmund bow in November.

    Moukoko’s record of 141 goals in 88 youth team games since the start of the 2017-18 season helped put him on the map, and now the striker is taking the first steps towards replicating that at senior level.

    The youngest player in both Bundesliga and Champions League history became the youngest-ever goalscorer in the German top flight when he found the net against Union Berlin in December, and many believe it is only a matter of time before he is being talked about as one of the world’s best No.9s.

    Full NXGN profile: Youssoufa Moukoko (June 2019)

  37. NXGN 2021 Jeremy Doku

    14. JeremyDoku

    When Jeremy Doku visited the Liverpool training ground back in 2018, Jurgen Klopp told the then-16-year-old winger that he believed he could become the heir to Sadio Mane’s throne at Anfield, so highly was he thought of on Merseyside.

    Only a video message from Romelu Lukaku convinced Doku to remain with Anderlecht, where he impressed during his 18 months in the first team before joining Rennes in a €26m (£24m/$31m) deal in October.

    A full Belgium international who scored on his first start for Roberto Martinez’s side, Doku’s pacey, direct running style makes him a handful for any opposing full-back to deal with.

    Full NXGN profile: Jeremy Doku (July 2020)

  38. NXGN 2021 Yunus Musah

    13. YunusMusah

    A product of Arsenal’s academy system, Yunus Musah took the decision to leave north London for Valencia in the summer of 2019 and though the Spanish outfit continue to spiral downwards, the form of their midfielder has given cause for hope at Mestalla.

    Musah has long been touted as a potential star ever since he was noted as being a “classic phenomenon” when growing up in Italy, with his versatility meaning he is just as adept at playing through the middle as he is wide on the right side.

    Despite having represented England at youth level, he has since committed to the United States after putting in two eye-catching displays for Gregg Berhalter’s side following his first call-up in November.

    Full NXGN profile: Yunus Musah (October 2020)

  39. NXGN 2021 Gabriel Veron

    12. GabrielVeron

    Gabriel Veron may have been named after an Argentina legend but right now he is the leading teenage talent playing in Brazil.

    The 18-year-old winger won the Golden Ball as the Player of the Tournament at the 2019 Under-17 World Cup and has since become a key figure in Palmeiras’ Copa Libertadores-winning team.

    Manchester United, Real Madrid and Manchester City have all been credited with interest in signing a player described as having “enormous talent” by former Brazil international Bebeto.

    Full NXGN profile: Gabriel Veron (January 2020)

    NXGN exclusive: Veron aiming to follow in Jesus' footsteps

  40. NXGN 2021 Rayan Cherki

    11. RayanCherki

    “He is undoubtedly a player who will go to the highest level,” Lyon president Jean-Michel Aulas said of Rayan Cherki, before going on to reveal that Real Madrid and Manchester United have both shown an interest in signing the 17-year-old.

    That illustrates just how highly the playmaker is thought of, with Kylian Mbappe among those to have publicly praised the teenage Frenchman for the way he has taken to senior football so quickly.

    The youngest goalscorer in Lyon history and youngest anywhere to ever appear in a Champions League knockout match, it is expected that the next 12 months will see Cherki truly emerge into the consciousness of football fans outside of his homeland.

    Full NXGN profile: Rayan Cherki (November 2019)

  41. NXGN 2021 Reinier

    10. Reinier

    Given the number of talented young attackers Borussia Dortmund already had available to them heading into the new season, it came as something of a surprise that they felt the need to add Reinier to their squad, regardless of the Brazilian’s supreme talent.

    Perhaps predictably, the 19-year-old has, thus far, struggled for game time during the opening months of his two-year loan deal, though that should not diminish from the supreme ability that he possesses.

    Real Madrid forked out €35m (£29m/$39m) to sign Reinier in January 2020, with the elegant playmaker having scored six goals and laid on two assists in 14 league appearances for Flamengo.

    Then-Flamengo boss Jorge Jesus made no secret of his unhappiness at Reinier’s sale, going onto describe the teenager as being “exceptionally gifted” with “extraordinary characteristics” during an interview with Marca.

    Dubbed ‘the new Kaka’, it is still expected that Reinier will follow compatriots Vinicius Junior and Rodrygo into the Madrid first team once he gains more experience of the European game, whether that is at Dortmund or elsewhere.

    Full NXGN profile: Reinier (May 2019)

  42. NXGN 2021 Mohamed Ihattaren

    9. MohamedIhattaren

    “I must admit that I don’t really like talking about myself, but I do think I’ve got something special,” Mohamed Ihattaren told Goal in the summer of 2019, and everything that has happened since backs up that confession.

    Despite only turning 19 in February, Ihattaren is regarded as one of the finest playmakers in Eredivisie, with his performances having earned him a series of call-ups to the senior Netherlands squad.

    Though a slump at the start of the current campaign means equalling his 16 direct goal contributions from the 2019-20 season looks tough, the former Chelsea and Manchester City target remains a supreme attacking talent, and could yet play a part at this summer’s European Championship.

    “He has the quality to make the right decision in a difficult situation, and that’s not normal,” former PSV boss Mark van Bommel said of the player he handed a first-team debut to at the age of 16.

    Ihattaren rarely does what is considered “normal” – that is what makes him so special.

    Full NXGN profile: Mohamed Ihattaren (October 2019)

  43. NXGN 2021 Jamal Musiala

    8. JamalMusiala

    Back in the January transfer window of 2019, Chelsea and Bayern Munich were locked in a battle over the future of Callum Hudson-Odoi that culminated eight months later with the forward signing a new deal with the Blues.

    In the background, though, another Chelsea youngster was in talks with the German giants, and Jamal Musiala certainly seems to have made the right call in switching clubs after making a rapid rise through the ranks in Bavaria.

    The midfielder went from being part of the club’s Under-17s on the opening day of the 2019-20 season to holding the record as both Bayern’s youngest debutant and youngest goalscorer in Bundesliga history in the space of 12 months, with his displays ensuring he is firmly part of the first-team picture at the Allianz Arena.

    Team-mate Serge Gnabry described Musiala’s talent as “amazing” ahead of the 18-year-old’s announcement that he would be joining Gnabry in the Germany national team, despite having represented England at youth level.

    If Musiala delivers on his incredible potential, then Gareth Southgate’s loss will be Joachim Low’s gain.

    Full NXGN profile: Jamal Musiala (June 2020)

  44. NXGN 2021 Ryan Gravenberch

    7. RyanGravenberch

    “He is the new Paul Pogba,” former NXGN winner Justin Kluivert said of Ryan Gravenberch when speaking to DAZN this time last year, and, 12 months on, that comparison does not look too wide of the mark.

    Gravenberch has taken his game to the next level during the course of the 2020-21 campaign, with the 18-year-old now being tipped to earn a place in the Netherlands squad for this summer's European Championship.

    After establishing himself in Erik ten Hag’s side last season, Gravenberch’s output, particularly in the final third, has increased this term, with his stunning, long-range strike against Midtjylland one of the goals of the season in the Champions League.

    Having followed in the footsteps of Clarence Seedorf to become the youngest debutant in Ajax history back in 2018, the likes of Manchester United, Barcelona and Juventus have all been tipped to make a move for the elegant midfielder.

    They are unlikely to be the only suitors, though, when he eventually leaves Amsterdam.

    Full NXGN profile: Ryan Gravenberch (April 2019)

    NXGN exclusive: Gravenberch is a better version of Pogba, claims first coach

  45. NXGN 2021 Florian Wirtz

    6. FlorianWirtz

    When Kai Havertz left Bayer Leverkusen for Chelsea during the summer transfer window, there were questions over how Peter Bosz’s side would fill the void left by the club’s homegrown talisman.

    They had not, however, factored in the talents of Florian Wirtz.

    The 17-year-old attacking midfielder has been one of the breakout stars of the European season at the BayArena after breaking Havertz’s record as Leverkusen’s youngest-ever player towards the end of the 2019-20 campaign.

    Described by Koln as “best player to emerge from their academy in 30 years”, Leverkusen beat off competition from Bayern Munich and Liverpool to sign Wirtz in January 2020, having been hypnotised by his confidence and comfort when in possession.

    Formerly the youngest-ever Bundesliga goalscorer, Wirtz has since become the first player to reach five Bundesliga goals before their 18th birthday.

    His form has seen him rewarded with a first call-up to the senior Germany squad, where he and Havertz could find themselves scheming alongside one another for the next decade.

    Full NXGN profile: Florian Wirtz (May 2020)

  46. NXGN 2021 Jude Bellingham

    5. JudeBellingham

    Though it was met with derision at the time, it is starting to become more and more clear why Birmingham City made the decision to retire Jude Bellingham’s No.22 shirt following his departure from the club over the summer.

    Put simply, he is on course to become the greatest player the club has ever produced, and by some distance.

    After Borussia Dortmund beat Manchester United to the €25m (£23m/$29m) signing of the central midfielder, Bellingham has hit the ground running in Germany, becoming a key figure in the Bundesliga side as well as, albeit briefly, their youngest-ever goalscorer.

    “He plays like a man,” revealed team-mate Thorgan Hazard of the 17-year-old back in September. “He is everywhere on the pitch, can score goals and defend.”

    Potentially the most complete midfield talent England have produced in over 20 years, Bellingham is already the third-youngest player to ever represent the Three Lions and is in the running to make Gareth Southgate’s squad for the European Championship this summer.

    If he does, then Birmingham’s gesture might start to make even more sense.

    Full NXGN profile: Jude Bellingham (January 2020)

  47. NXGN 2021 Pedri

    4. Pedri

    When speaking to Goal in November 2019, Las Palmas manager Pepe Mel claimed that Pedri could be an “era-defining” talent following the teenager’s sale to Barcelona.

    So far, so good on that front.

    Barca fans have been blown away by the speed in which the midfielder, once dubbed ‘the new Iniesta’, has taken to life in the Camp Nou spotlight following his €5m (£4m/$5.5m) move from the Segunda Division.

    The Blaugrana needed to see Pedri play just three games of senior football before making their move for a player who was previously told by Real Madrid that he was not good enough to make the grade at Santiago Bernabeu, and he has already been dubbed “the signing of the decade” by Spanish newspaper Marca.

    Pedri’s relationship with Lionel Messi has been particularly eye-catching, with the teenager seemingly already on the same wavelength as the greatest player in Barcelona history. There even remains a sense that Pedri’s presence, and the hope he offers for the future, could be enough to convince Messi to stay past the end of the season.

    If that proves to be the case, Pedri truly would be the best signing Barcelona have made in a very long time.

    Full NXGN profile: Pedri (November 2019)

    NXGN exclusive: Pedri not getting carried away after Spain call-up

  48. NXGN 2021 Gio Reyna

    3. GioReyna

    U.S. soccer has been crying out for a world-class star to thrive in Europe and raise the profile of the game back home.

    Within the space of five years, two have come along.

    If Christian Pulisic was the original poster boy of the USMNT, then Gio Reyna is not far behind him having arguably made an even better start to life at Borussia Dortmund than his compatriot did.

    “I think for Gio, really, the sky's the limit,” Pulisic said of the 18-year-old forward back in October, with Reyna now a key figure in Dortmund’s youthful attacking group.

    Having last season become the youngest goalscorer in DFB-Pokal history, Reyna has taken things up a notch in 2020-21, with his performances matching those of fellow forwards Erling Haaland and Jadon Sancho at Signal-Iduna Park despite playing a number of different roles.

    Nicknamed ‘The American Dream’ by Haaland, the son of former United States captain Claudio Reyna is already a full international after making his long-awaited debut in November.

    There is a school of thought that states Reyna will even usurp Pulisic at some stage over the next few years. The potential is certainly there for a player who can seemingly do it all.

    Full NXGN profile: Gio Reyna (September 2019)

  49. NXGN 2021 Eduardo Camavinga

    2. EduardoCamavinga

    It is now over 18 months since Eduardo Camavinga first came to worldwide prominence following his all-action display against Paris Saint-Germain in August 2019, but still the teenager continues to leave supporters and opposition players in awe.

    Whether he is utilised as a defensive midfielder or slightly further forward as a box-to-box player, Camavinga continues to thrive for Rennes while also making his mark on the international game.

    The 18-year-old became the third-youngest player ever to be capped by France in September, before a month later becoming the second-youngest goalscorer for Les Bleus, propelling him into contention for a place at this summer’s European Championship.

    “I don't really want to take him out of the squad or the team considering how he plays,” admitted World Cup-winning coach Didier Deschamps following Camavinga’s debut, hinting that there may well be a place for the youngster on his 23-man roster for the tournament.

    For now, the new star of the French game is focusing on securing European football for Rennes once more, as the continent's top clubs prepare to circle in a bid to secure the signature of a player who looks destined to become one of the most expensive teenagers of all time.

    Real Madrid continue to be reported as his likeliest destination, though there is set to be plenty of competition to sign one of the best midfield talents to have emerged anywhere in the world over the past five years.

    Full NXGN profile: Eduardo Camavinga (August 2019)

  50. NXGN 2021 Ansu Fati

    1. AnsuFati

    Barcelona’s youngest-ever league goalscorer. The Champions League’s youngest-ever goalscorer. The Spain national team’s youngest-ever goalscorer.

    Records are there to be broken, and Ansu Fati has made a habit of smashing a whole host of them during the first 18 months of his senior career.

    One of only a handful of players to make the leap into the Barca first team without ever having represented their ‘B’ team, Fati has been a revelation for the Blaugrana ever since making his debut at the age of 16 years and 298 days.

    Electric pace, supreme confidence and the skills to match make Fati the ideal modern winger, and with his killer instinct in front of goal ever improving, it is no surprise that the 18-year-old is being earmarked by many to lead Barca into a new era.

    “I think Fati is the one for the future. He’s currently doing amazing stuff,” ex-Barcelona striker Samuel Eto’o said in January before marking the youngster out as the obvious potential replacement for Lionel Messi should the Argentine depart Camp Nou this summer.

    In truth, before a knee injury suffered in November sent Fati to the sidelines, the teenager was largely outplaying Messi in the opening weeks of the campaign, with the baton of responsibility seemingly within touching distance of being passed to a player who already boasts a €400m (£367m/$468m) release clause.

    Fati’s early-season form was enough to see him named La Liga’s MVP for the month of September. Naturally, he was the youngest player to ever receive such a prize.

    Breaking records is just what Ansu Fati does. NXGN has a worthy winner in 2021.

    Full NXGN profile: Ansu Fati (August 2019)

    NXGN exclusive: Fati on his Euro 2020 dream