Rodrygo to Man Utd, Greenwood to AC Milan: How a 2020 NFL-style Draft could look in soccer

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With college football's top prospects set to be snapped up by teams over the next three days, Goal ponders how such a process would work in soccer...

With the Covid-19 pandemic having brought a halt to almost all sport around the world, fans are begging for any kind of live event to get their teeth into while spending almost all their time at home.

The 2020 NFL Draft promises, then, to garner even more interest this week as the top college American football prospects are signed by the top professional league's 32 teams from Thursday through to Saturday.

However, what if soccer introduced a similar process for top clubs to select the best young players each year? How would it look, and could it give some of Europe's fallen giants the opportunity to rise again?

Goal has chosen to conduct such an experiment, using the recently revealed NxGn list of the 50 best teenage male footballers on the planet as the '2020 Draft Class', meaning the likes of Mason Greenwood, Gabriel Martinelli, Ansu Fati and winner Rodrygo are all up for grabs.

Goal 50 Revealed: The best 50 players in the world

So how does our draft work? Here are the rules:

- Goal has selected 15 of Europe's biggest clubs to take part in the draft, with those selected regarded as the frontrunners to form a 'European Super League' should that ever come to pass.

- Clubs will select in reverse order of strength, based on their ELO rating, which calculates a team's ranking using historic results (full details here). The draft will consist of two rounds, meaning 30 players will be drafted.

- Unlike in the NFL and other North American sports drafts, there will be no trades made at any point.

- The draft is theoretically taking place ahead of the 2020-21 season. As such, clubs should consider all out-of-contract players as having left to become free agents, while players whose loan deals expire at the end of the current campaign have returned to their parent clubs.

- Players within the draft should also be considered as being unattached rather than part of squads.

So with that all hopefully explained, clubs must now consider where the major gaps are in their squad and which players can fill them. Let the 2020 Goal Draft begin!

  1. AC MILAN select MASON GREENWOOD
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    #1 AC MILAN select MASON GREENWOOD

    Milan have issues to resolve in almost every area of the pitch, so identifying their biggest need is difficult.

    Attack probably outweighs defence in terms of weaknesses, with only three Serie A teams having scored fewer than Milan's 28 goals this season. Ante Rebic is their top scorer with six, with the two players immediately behind him in the standings a left-back (Theo Hernandez) and a player no longer at the club (Krzysztof Piatek).

    Zlatan Ibrahimovic's contract only runs until the summer of 2020 and, thus, has to be presumed as having left, meaning the Rossoneri are desperate for goals.

    Consequently, they plump for Mason Greenwood, with the 18-year-old Manchester United product able to play anywhere across the forward line and regarded as one of the most natural finishers to emerge in England for years.

  2. TOTTENHAM select EDUARDO CAMAVINGA

    #2 TOTTENHAM select EDUARDO CAMAVINGA

    Jose Mourinho has a lot of gaps to plug in his Spurs squad, with a defender and a back-up striker to challenge Harry Kane likely to be on his list of priorities.

    However, all of Mourinho's best teams have been built on a solid player at the base of his midfield who is both a tenacious tackler and a reliable distributor of the ball. He is the manager, it is easy to forget, who used Claude Makelele so effectively that the France international had a defensive midfield role named after him.

    With that in mind, Mourinho takes advantage of our draft to select another Frenchman, Eduardo Camavinga, with the 17-year-old having impressed at Rennes thanks to his ability both with and without the ball.

  3. ARSENAL select WILLIAM SALIBA
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    #3 ARSENAL select WILLIAM SALIBA

    Moving across north London, Mikel Arteta is another coach with more problems than answers right now.

    Camavinga may have been the ideal selection for the Gunners, with the teenager having the potential to fill the Patrick Vieira-shaped void in the Gunners' midfield for the past 15 years.

    With him off the table, however, Arteta and sporting director Edu instead use their first-round pick to shore up their leaky defence and secure the top centre-back on the board, William Saliba.

  4. INTER select RYAN GRAVENBERCH
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    #4 INTER select RYAN GRAVENBERCH

    Antonio Conte has not been shy in expressing his dismay at some of Inter's transfer business since his arrival at San Siro in the summer of 2019, with midfield seemingly where most of his issues lie.

    The arrival of Christian Eriksen in January was meant to help matters but the Dane hasn't yet looked a good fit for Conte's system. As a result, the Italian coach plumps for Ryan Gravenberch.

    The Dutch talent has been likened to Paul Pogba, and given Conte brought the World Cup winner to Juventus as a teenager, he will be hopeful his latest acquisition can have a similar impact in Serie A.

  5. CHELSEA select BUKAYO SAKA
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    #5 CHELSEA select BUKAYO SAKA

    Frank Lampard needs to bolster the left flank of his team heading into next season. Marcos Alonso and Emerson have both struggled for consistency at left-back, Cesar Azpilicueta is not a long-term option in what is not his natural position and, further forward, Pedro is out of contract this summer.

    The Blues, therefore, take the versatile Bukayo Saka off the board, with the Englishman capable of playing either at left-back or on the left of a front three.

    Perhaps his best position may even prove to be left wing-back, which in turn would allow Lampard to use the three-man defence which has brought some success at Stamford Bridge this term.

  6. BORUSSIA DORTMUND select ERIC GARCIA
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    #6 BORUSSIA DORTMUND select ERIC GARCIA

    Dortmund's main issue under Lucien Favre is clear – they concede far too many goals.

    Only one team in Bundesliga's current top seven (Schalke) have let in more than the 33 goals that Favre's side have shipped in 2019-20, making their first-round pick a straightforward one.

    Dortmund bring in the best available centre-back in Eric Garcia, with the Spaniard likely to benefit enormously from playing alongside Mats Hummels at Signal Iduna Park.

  7. MANCHESTER UNITED select RODRYGO
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    #7 MANCHESTER UNITED select RODRYGO

    With Greenwood whipped out from underneath them, United have a hole to fill in their attack that is unlikely to be solved by Alexis Sanchez's return to Old Trafford after a loan spell at Inter.

    The right-hand side of their forward line looks weaker than their left once Marcus Rashford is back fit, so they opt for Rodrygo over Ansu Fati.

    The Brazilian was crowned the winner of NxGn in March and is set to join Rashford and Anthony Martial in an exciting and fast forward line.

  8. ATLETICO MADRID select GABRIEL MARTINELLI
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    #8 ATLETICO MADRID select GABRIEL MARTINELLI

    It has been a season of transition for Diego Simeone and Atletico, and while they have, on the whole, been able to maintain their defensive solidity, scoring goals has been a problem.

    They have netted just 31 times in 27 La Liga matches in 2019-20, with Alvaro Morata and Diego Costa failing to fire with any kind of consistency.

    With that in mind, they pick up Gabriel Martinelli to help lead their line heading into the new decade, with his clever movement also likely to aid Joao Felix's development behind him.

  9. REAL MADRID select MOHAMED IHATTAREN
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    #9 REAL MADRID select MOHAMED IHATTAREN

    Zinedine Zidane is still attempting to oversee a transition from the Madrid team that won three successive Champions Leagues to a new, more dynamic side, and nowhere is that more evident than in his midfield.

    Fede Valverde has added an energy to Los Blancos this season, and with Luka Modric and Toni Kroos both starting to look their respective ages, the Uruguayan needs a partner with a little more creativity to play alongside him and Casemiro.

    That man is Mohamed Ihattaren, with the Dutch playmaker set to slot in and learn from Modric for a year before making the midfield role his own.

  10. PARIS SAINT-GERMAIN select KI-JANA HOEVER
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    #10 PARIS SAINT-GERMAIN select KI-JANA HOEVER

    PSG may be one of Europe's most feared sides going forward but they have issues to resolve in defence.

    Thiago Silva, Thomas Meunier and young talent Tanguy Kouassi are, as it stands, all set to enter free agency this summer, leaving Thomas Tuchel short of options on the right-hand side of his backline.

    Enter Ki-Jana Hoever, with the versatile Dutchman able to play at both right-back and centre-back. He may be lower on the boards of most other teams, but he fits PSG's needs perfectly.

  11. JUVENTUS select BILLY GILMOUR
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    #11 JUVENTUS select BILLY GILMOUR

    With one of the most well-rounded squads in Europe, Juventus' needs in terms of filling gaps are more difficult to spot than most.

    However, it is well known that Maurizio Sarri requires a Jorginho-like playmaker to fully implement his style of play and he may have found his new midfield metronome in this draft.

    Billy Gilmour possesses a calmness in possession that belies his lack of experience, and with a willingness to put his foot in too, he has the potential to be the tempo-setter the Bianconeri need.

  12. BARCELONA select ANSU FATI
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    #12 BARCELONA select ANSU FATI

    Not the most imaginative pick from Barca but then, a number of the other top players are already off the board and they have a hole to fill in their attack.

    Ansu Fati does just that, and though his ability on the wing rather than as a central striker means a back-up for Luis Suarez will likely have to wait until the second round, the Blaugrana will be happy just to have retained the talented 17-year-old, given how low in the draft they find themselves.

  13. MANCHESTER CITY select BENOIT BADIASHILE
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    #13 MANCHESTER CITY select BENOIT BADIASHILE

    In contrast to his former club Barcelona, Pep Guardiola likely finds himself dismayed at the options left for Man City with the 13th overall pick.

    City have a gaping hole at centre-back, which was not helped by Eric Garcia's removal from their squad and into the draft.

    With two of the remaining three centre-backs on the board having already been selected, the Premier League champions are left with little option but to bring in Benoit Badiashile.

    Perhaps Pep will have more luck in the second round...

  14. BAYERN MUNICH select KARIM ADEYEMI
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    #14 BAYERN MUNICH select KARIM ADEYEMI

    Much like a number of the clubs making their selections late in round one, Bayern have a formidable enough squad as it is, and are largely looking for players to supplement their starting XI rather than plugging gaps within it.

    With Ivan Perisic and Philippe Coutinho's loan deals set to end this summer, they require some help in the final third and, thus, take the top German player available in Karim Adeyemi.

    Adeyemi will likely start by providing competition for Serge Gnabry and Kingsley Coman out wide but certainly has the talent to usurp one of them in the not-too-distant future.

  15. LIVERPOOL select REINIER
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    #15 LIVERPOOL select REINIER

    If there is one criticism that has been thrown at Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool side over the past two seasons it is that they have failed to properly replace Philippe Coutinho.

    It has not stalled the reigning European and Club World champions too much, but they use this draft to go some way to solving that problem with the selection of Reinier.

    The 'new Kaka' has yet to play a first-team game in Europe but is rated as one of the game's very best young talents and would likely flourish under Klopp's tutelage.

  16. AC MILAN select DANIEL MALDINI
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    #16 AC MILAN select DANIEL MALDINI

    Into the second round and back to Milan, whose recent mismanagement is summed up here as they choose loyalty to the Rossoneri brand over playing ability.

    There is no doubt that Daniel Maldini has talent, but there are better and more experienced wide forwards still on the board who the San Siro outfit choose to overlook in the hope that the son of Paolo and grandson of Cesare will live up to the family name.

  17. TOTTENHAM select SEBASTIANO ESPOSITO
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    #17 TOTTENHAM select SEBASTIANO ESPOSITO

    With their midfield improved in the first round, Spurs now turn their attention to providing back-up for Harry Kane up front.

    In doing so, they select the top striker still on the board in Sebastiano Esposito, who is being tipped to help lead Italy back to the pinnacle of world football over the next decade.

  18. ARSENAL select LUCIEN AGOUME
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    #18 ARSENAL select LUCIEN AGOUME

    With their defence sufficiently bolstered and few areas of weakness in attack, Arsenal believe central midfield is the area which requires the most focus in round two.

    They turn to Lucien Agoume, with the Frenchman known predominantly for his passing game and, therefore, considered an ideal, long-term successor for Granit Xhaka.

  19. INTER select MYRON BOADU
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    #19 INTER select MYRON BOADU

    Inter are another side looking for forwards to provide cover for their preferred starting strikers, particularly with Alexis Sanchez and Sebastiano Esposito both gone.

    So, they choose Myron Boadu, with the Netherlands international likely to learn plenty from Romelu Lukaku and provide a goal threat off the bench.

  20. CHELSEA select FABIO SILVA
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    #20 CHELSEA select FABIO SILVA

    With their left-back issue resolved, Chelsea's next main area of weakness is at centre-back. There are, however, no more central defenders left on the board. As such, they will need to enter the transfer market to fill that void.

    They still have a pick to make, however, and join the glut of sides taking strikers in the second round, with Fabio Silva brought in to provide competition for Tammy Abraham, after the expiration of Olivier Giroud's contract.

  21. BORUSSIA DORTMUND select GIOVANNI REYNA
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    #21 BORUSSIA DORTMUND select GIOVANNI REYNA

    Few teams will feel they have had a better draft than Dortmund, having first bolstered their struggling defence before bringing back a player who has already had an impact on their first team.

    Giovanni Reyna already seems to have struck up an understanding with Erling Haaland, and even if Jadon Sancho leaves, Lucien Favre's side look well stocked in the final third.

  22. MANCHESTER UNITED select ADIL AOUCHICHE
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    #22 MANCHESTER UNITED select ADIL AOUCHICHE

    With his forward line replenished, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer now must decide which area of the pitch needs attention next.

    His dilemma is solved for him in part by the lack of defenders, meaning a midfielder becomes a second-round priority. 

    Adil Aouchiche is the man the Red Devils plump for, with the Frenchman a threat going forward while positionally aware enough to slot in alongside Scott McTominay once fully up to speed.

  23. ATLETICO MADRID select HARVEY ELLIOTT
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    #23 ATLETICO MADRID select HARVEY ELLIOTT

    With Atleti hopeful that they have solved their goalscoring problem in the first round, they head in the creativity direction second time around.

    Thomas Lemar has struggled to find his best form in the Spanish capital, meaning reinforcement is required on the left-hand side in the shape of Harvey Elliott, with the Englishman joining compatriot Kieran Trippier at the Wanda Metropolitano.

  24. REAL MADRID select TAKEFUSA KUBO
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    #24 REAL MADRID select TAKEFUSA KUBO

    The loss of Rodrygo to the draft has left Madrid with a space in their squad for a right-winger, and so they set their sights on a familiar face.

    Takefusa Kubo is yet to make an appearance for Los Blancos, but after impressing during his loan at Mallorca, the young Japanese star is brought back to the Santiago Bernabeu.

  25. PARIS SAINT-GERMAIN select YOUSSOUFA MOUKOKO
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    #25 PARIS SAINT-GERMAIN select YOUSSOUFA MOUKOKO

    Having made a quite sensible selection in the first round, PSG would not be PSG if they did not make a splash and grab the headlines somewhere along the way.

    It is no surprise, then, to see them pick up German striker Youssoufa Moukoko, with the 15-year-old the youngest player in the draft and being dubbed a potential generational talent thanks to his goalscoring feats at youth level.

    With Edinson Cavani and Mauro Icardi both departing Parc des Princes, there is a spot available for him in the Parisiens' squad, but it will be interesting to see how long it takes him to earn a first-team berth.

  26. JUVENTUS select TOMAS TAVARES
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    #26 JUVENTUS select TOMAS TAVARES

    If there is one position where Juve are a little behind their rivals it is at right-back, with neither Danilo nor Mattia De Sciglio likely to worry opposition wingers.

    With that in mind, the Bianconeri pick up Tomas Tavares with the aim of moulding the Portuguese into a player that they can rely on for the next 10-15 years.

  27. BARCELONA select JOSHUA ZIRKZEE

    #27 BARCELONA select JOSHUA ZIRKZEE

    Not a difficult one this for Barcelona, who desperately need someone to provide able back-up for an ageing Luis Suarez.

    As the top striker left on the board, Joshua Zirkzee is their man, with the Dutch star having already shown he can handle the pressure of first-team football.

  28. MANCHESTER CITY select RAYAN CHERKI
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    #28 MANCHESTER CITY select RAYAN CHERKI

    Having been left disappointed in the first round, City can barely believe their luck that they have the chance to bring in Rayan Cherki with the 28th overall pick.

    The needs of other teams have left Pep Guardiola's side with a free path to the French playmaker, and though he does not necessarily fill any kind of void in their squad, the 16-year-old can learn under the Catalan before eventually making his mark on the first team.

  29. BAYERN MUNICH select JOAO PEDRO
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    #29 BAYERN MUNICH select JOAO PEDRO

    The strong class of strikers in 2020 is really baring its teeth in the second round as yet another team opt to add goals to their squad.

    This time it's Bayern, and with Zirkzee lost to the draft, they bring in the next-best player in his position, Joao Pedro, to serve as Robert Lewandowski's understudy.

  30. LIVERPOOL select CURTIS JONES
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    #30 LIVERPOOL select CURTIS JONES

    With the final pick of the second round, Liverpool are left with a choice: take the best player left on the board in Lee Kang-in or opt for local knowledge in the same position and take Curtis Jones?

    They choose the latter, knowing that the Anfield faithful love watching fellow Scousers thrive for the Reds.