Football

Top 30 Talents: The best young players in the world (10-1)

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Top 30 Talents

Image credit: Eurosport

ByMarcus Foley | Pete Sharland
15/05/2020 at 13:17 | Updated 15/05/2020 at 15:57

After taking you through the biggest names in the transfer market we are now looking at the 30 best young players in the world in conjunction with our colleagues at Eurosport Italy. The only criteria is that they have to have been born on January 1st 2000 or later. We finish off with the best ten youngsters in the world.

  • Top 30 Talents: The best young players in the world (30-21)
  • Top 30 Talents: The best young players in the world (20-11)

10th - Rodrygo (Real Madrid)

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Age: 19 Position: Forward Contract until: June 2025

Rodrygo has long had to deal with the pressure and hype that comes with being labelled the 'new Neymar'. Yet, it is a pressure he has dealt with comfortably.

The wide forward turned down Barcelona to make a €45 million move to the Bernabeu back in 2019, and has since gone on to become the second youngest player - behind Real legend Raul - to register a Champions League hat-trick.

Rodrygo

Image credit: Getty Images

However, the 19-year-old has since been demoted to the Castilla side again, which suggests Real coach Zinedine Zidane still thinks there are areas of his game that need substantial improvement.

Fun Fact: He signed a deal with Nike when he was 11.

Player Comparison: Well, he remains known as the 'new Neymar', and the 18-year-old has the same streak of showmanship as his fellow countryman.

Who’s interested? Liverpool were known admirers before the forward moved to Spain so should Real Madrid step up their interest in Sadio Mane then the 18-year-old could be part of any deal.

Market value: £45m (All figures courtesy of Transfermarkt)

9th – Sandro Tonali (Brescia)

Age: 19 Position: Central midfielder Contract until: 30 June 2021

Sandro Tonali was born in Lodi in Lombardy on May 8 2000. From an early age he showed such impressive technical ability and vision whilst with Lombardia Uno and Piacenza that he was brought by Brescia at the age of 12. The midfielder has flourished in his new surroundings and he is being tracked by top clubs in Italy and around Europe.

With his goals and assists Tonali quickly earned a place in the Brescia midfield, showing maturity beyond his years and becoming a key part of the promotion-winning team under Eugenio Corini. Tonali has a wand of a right foot, perfect for playing long, raking passes, whilst he’s more than adequate with his left. Tonali is the perfect deep-lying playmaker but he is also happy going forward in a more attacking role, something he did when he was younger.

Sandro Tonali

Image credit: Getty Images

Capable of striking the ball from distance, controlling the pace of the game and receiving the ball in tight spaces, Tonali is really a complete midfielder.

Fun fact: Davide Gatti, his first coach with Lombardia Uno, says that even at the age of 10 he had remarkable maturity. He is the first player born in 2000 to be called up to the Italian national team. He has regularly been labelled as “the new Andrea Pirlo” but Tonali himself has said that his idol was another legendary Milan midfielder, Gennaro Gattuso.

Player comparison: Luka Modric.

Who’s interested? Take your pick. Pretty much every top club in Europe wants him but it seems as if his agent would prefer him to stay in Serie A for now. Inter Milan are leading the way but Juventus, Milan and Napoli are all keen as well.

Market value: €31.5 million (All valuations courtesy of Transfermarkt)

8th - Dominik Szoboszlai (RB Salzburg)

Age: 19 Position: Central midfield Contract until: June 2022

The merits of Dominik Szoboszlai have been somewhat overshadowed by the exploits of Erling Braut Haaland and Takumi Minamino. However, the Hungarian midfielder will almost certainly be the next player to make a big-ish money move from the Austrian side.

Reports suggest that the 19-year-old could be available for as little as £25 million come the summer, which for a player of his level and potential is a bargain.

The midfielder headed to Salzburg with a reputation as goal-scoring midfielder having come through at Austrian second division outfit and Salzburg feeder club FC Liefering but has developed into more of a provider at the Red Bull Arena.

Dominik Szoboszlai

Image credit: Getty Images

His ability to carry the ball at pace and a keen eye for a threaded pass sets him apart from his contemporaries - even if his decision making could be improved.

Fun Fact: His dad, Zsolt, was his coach at youth level.

Player Comparison: He has previously said he models his game on Paul Pogba and Toni Kroos but there is an uncanny likeness to Kevin De Bruyne in the manner in which he carries the ball.

Who’s interested? Well, according to the Liverpool website, Liverpool.

Market value: £25m

7th – Dejan Kulusevski (Parma, on loan from Juventus)

Age: 20 Position: Attacking midfielder Contract until: 30 June 2024

Before the arrival of the global pandemic, Kulusevski was one of the surprises of the Serie A season. Like so many of the impressive young players on this list, Kulusevski has that incredible quality of combining technical ability with intensity and physicality. Finding avenues of space, and mixing that with his quick mind and vision makes for one special player.

Dejan Kulusevski

Image credit: Getty Images

However having such a wide array of talents means that there is some ambiguity over his position. Is he best through the middle or out wide? With Parma he has played outside in a 4-4-2 whilst in a 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1 he’d be in the wide right position. Having the ability to do great things does not make necessarily make things straightforward, especially when you don’t have a mentor (consider Paul Pogba, or Kevin De Bruyne before he met Pep Guardiola). In short, Sarri will have to carve out a specific role for him continuously and build around him. Kulusevski is Juventus’ first major investment in a player born in this millennium so there has to be something to show for it.

Fun fact: Born in Stockholm to Macedonian parents, Kulusevski is one of the many ‘new Swedes’ who have transformed the demography of the country over the past 20 years. His love for football came from older sister Sandra, who still plays, and who showed no mercy when tackling her younger brother mercilessly. Like so many young players in Sweden he honed his technical skills with indoor football during the winter. He was discovered by the head of Atalanta’s academy Maurizio Costanzi.

Player comparison: Half of Nicolo Zaniolo and half of Kevin De Bruyne.

Who’s interested? Juventus have already won the race, spending €35 million to acquire his services.

Dejan Kulusevski - Juventus Turin

Image credit: Getty Images

Market value: €35 million.

6th – Ferran Torres (Valencia)

Age: 20 Position: Winger Contract until: June 2021

Electric. That is the word best used to describe Ferran Torres. A kid from Valencia who joined the club’s famous academy at the age of six when he was spotted playing futsal with his friends, he has followed in the footsteps of the likes of David Silva and Juan Mata into the first team.

Coming into the team’s 4-4-2 system, Torres has slotted in nicely in on the right flank. Often Marcelinho would use his right flank as the more defensive side, with Jose Gaya and Goncalo Guedes causing beautiful chaotic havoc on the left. However with Torres coming in on the right he has brought new energy.

Ferran Torres

Image credit: Getty Images

A blisteringly quick winger, Torres has a level of comfort coming deep to get the ball you would expect from a product of Valencia’s academy. His crossing is also a joy to watch, in particular the way he gets a seemingly absurd amount of whip.

Fun fact: In 2017 he came off the bench against Eibar to become the first player to feature in La Liga born in this millennium.

Player comparison: Marco Asensio. There’s so much in Torres in a young Asensio with that lightening pace and direct style of play.

Asensio has developed some skills that you would perhaps associate more with a No. 10 over the years but there are some signs to suggest that Torres could also follow a similar path. It will be fascinating to see how his next team chooses to use him, but adding to his creativity certainly could be worthwhile.

Who’s interested? Take your pick honestly. Barcelona, Real Madrid, Chelsea, Manchester United, Liverpool and Borussia Dortmund are all reportedly interested.

Market value: £40.5 million

5th - Alphonso Davies (Bayern Munich)

Age: 19 Position: Full-back/Winger Contract until: 30 June 2025

When Bayern Munich announced the signing of teenage sensation Alphonso Davies from the Vancouver Whitecaps nobody, nobody saw this coming. Davies was a lightning winger, who was tearing MLS apart, yet there were as an expectation that he would take some time to adjust.

There was some time but the way Davies has exploded in the past 6-9 months has been absolutely astonishing. Not only has Davies made himself one of the most important players in Bayern’s squad, he has done so in a new position.

Davies’ meteoric rise at left-back only came due to injury issues at centre-back, which forced David Alaba inside. Hansi Flick has said that he always felt Davies could be an option there and so it has proven to be. He is going to be a threat down Bayern’s left for years to come.

Fun fact: More of a feel-good story this. Davies’ parents fled Liberia during the country’s civil war and he was born in Ghana before moving to Canada at the age of five. Now he is playing for a Champions League contender, a remarkable story indeed.

Player Comparison: Bixente Lizarazu. Yes this is partly because they’re both Bayern players but honestly Davies could be even better. At the time he played, Lizarazu was considered one of the most attacking full-backs going but this is a completely different era and we really haven’t seen too many players like Davies.

Who’s interested? Hard to see a way that anybody is going to be able to prise him away from Bayern…

Market value: £40.5 million

4th - Ansu Fati (Barcelona)

Age: 17 Position: Attacking midfielder Contract until: 30 June 2022

There are arguably no other clubs where there is such pressure on an academy product. There is nothing Barcelona fans love more than products of La Masia and they will chastise boards and coaches for not using the academy, even if there is success on the pitch.

Yet there is no group of fans quicker to judge these young players, not that they can be blamed when they were spoiled with the Golden Generation that conquered the world under Pep Guardiola.

Ansu Fati (l.)

Image credit: Getty Images

Things have been trickier since then but in Ansu Fati there is a glimmer of hope, a glimmer that shines brighter and brighter every time he steps onto the pitch in Blaugrana colours. Goals, assists: Fati brings the complete package to this Barcelona team.

It’s not surprising that there is plenty of hype surrounding him at the moment but he really is that special.

Fun fact: Fati is the youngest scorer ever for Barcelona and the second-youngest player in the club’s history. He is also the youngest player ever in La Liga history to record a goal and an assist in the same game. His younger brother plays with Messi’s son in the club’s youth system.

Player Comparison: Lionel Messi. This is really as big as it gets and it’s hard for it not to be hyperbole. However if anyone is going to be able to step into Messi’s shoes at Barcelona, Fati seems best placed at the moment. Don’t forget that at one stage people at Barcelona thought that Ronaldinho would never be replaced until this little kid from Argentina showed up. Of course what Messi has done has greatly surpassed Ronaldinho and arguably every other player in history. Fati is just starting his journey and it’s impossible to know what will happen, but anything feels possible.

Who’s interested? It’s unlikely that anybody is going to be signing Fati any time soon. There are some suggestions that there may be a loan move next season but it is not clear either way.

Market value: £32.4 million

3rd – Vinicius Jr (Real Madrid)

Age: 19 Position: Forward Contract until: June 2025

The kid is starting to become a man. When Vinicius Jr arrived at Real Madrid in the wake of Cristiano Ronaldo’s shock departure to Juventus, people didn’t really know what to expect. Filling the lofty shoes of Ronaldo was always going to be an impossible task but the boy from Brazil certainly made people sit up and take notice.

Quick, direct and a nightmare for opposing defenders, Vinicius is a stereotypical winger. Where he really shines though is in his defensive work-rate. It’s a rare trait to see in a young player, especially one with a massive price-tag who is playing for one of the biggest clubs in the world.

After a slow start this season, perhaps in an effort from Zinedine Zidane to manage expectations, Vinicius was really shining before the pandemic struck. With the creativity of Eden Hazard and Karim Benzema alongside him it’s really exciting to think how Zidane will use the pace of Vinicius when all three can get onto the pitch at the same time on a regular basis.

Fun fact: When he scored in the Clasico he became the youngest scorer in the fixture in the 21st century, breaking Lionel Messi’s record. Speaking of Barcelona he could have signed for the Catalans as both teams made offers to him, but he chose Real.

Player comparison: Neymar. It’s not necessarily a surprise that he has been compared to both Messi and Ronaldo but there’s a way to go in that department yet. However he is very similar to the way a younger Neymar played at Barcelona: picking up the ball before turning and storming towards the opposition goal, often leaving defenders looking very silly in his wake.

By his own admission he needs to take a step forward in his finishing. If he can add that to his game, and avoid injuries, he has all the tools to be a contender for the Ballon d’Or.

Who’s interested? There was some suggestion that Liverpool might be interested if Real turn their attention to either Sadio Mane or Mohamed Salah but realistically the Brazilian’s future is in Madrid.

Market value: £40.5m

2nd – Erling Braut Haaland (Borussia Dortmund)

Age: 19 Position: Striker Contract until: June 2024

Does anything phase this kid? Honestly we want to know. Every single thing that football and life seems to throw at Erling Haaland he takes in his stride with that enormous smile of his.

Haaland proved his worth in Norway and then Austria before this season announcing himself on the biggest stage in the Champions League. A winter move to Borussia Dortmund soon followed, where he just went from strength to strength. A ridiculous haul of 12 goals came in his first eight matches in Dortmund colours. Across Europe’s big five leagues only Cristiano Ronaldo (13) had scored more goals in 2020 before football’s suspension.

Haaland can seemingly do everything, with his imposing physical frame and deceptive turn of pace, along with eerie ruthlessness in front of goal that is reminiscent of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, one of the best finishers the game has ever seen.

The sky truly seems to be the limit for Haaland when it comes to being able to place himself in the pantheon of great strikers. The world is his oyster…

Fun fact: Regular readers of Eurosport will be aware of just how much of an impact his former manager Solskjaer has had on his career. In particular, before a game in which he scored four goals in a matter of minutes, a match that had many scouts of top clubs in attendance.

The birth of a superstar: When Haaland scored 4 goals in 21 minutes for Molde

00:00:48

Incredibly Haaland had no idea he was even being watched until he was told in the post-match interview.

Want to know more? Check out our exclusive series with the Norwegian thanks to our colleagues at Eurosport Norway.

Haaland on the shooting advice he got from Solskjaer

00:02:56

Player comparison: Robert Lewandowski. For some this may feel as if we are selling Haaland short but that might reflect more on the way some people chronically underrate the Polish striker. Lewandowski deserves to be remembered as one of the best strikers in history; the perfect combination of pace, power, movement and finishing. Haaland has all those traits and it seems that at last Lewandowski is going to have some competition for the Bundesliga’s Golden Boot.

Who’s interested? Real Madrid and Manchester United are both reportedly extremely keen on signing Haaland. The plan appears to be that Haaland will continue to develop at Dortmund for another season or two before moving on. The heir to Karim Benzema?

Market value: £64.8 million

1st - Jadon Sancho (Borussia Dortmund)

Age: 20 Position: Forward Contract until: June 2022

Jadon Sancho's current performance level dictates that he is the best - and most sought-after - young talent in the world.

In fact, his performances already mark him out as one of world football's best talents regardless of age. The 20-year-old already has 66 goal contributions in 88 career games, and was the first player across Europe's top five league to register double figures in goals and assists this season.

In the truncated 2019-21 season, he has 16 goals and 17 assists across 31 games in the Bundesliga and Champions League. Remarkable.

Sancho is a provider first and a scorer second yet only Bayern's Robert Lewandowski (25) and Leipzig's Timo Werner (21) have scored more goals than the Londoner and only Erling Braut Haaland and Borussia Mönchengladbach captain Lars Stindl have a better shots-per-goal ratio than Sancho's 3.3.

By any measure Sancho is already one of the best players in the world.

Fun Fact: Sancho grew up in Camberwell, South London, which has proven a hotbed for young English talent. So much so that Sancho and Arsenal's Reiss Nelson played on the same five-aside team in their youth.

Player Comparison: He is fairly unique in as much as players as skilful as Sancho are rarely as ruthless in front of goal as the England international. He idolised Ronaldinho growing up and despite his efficiency Sancho definitely has a touch of the showman.

Who’s interested? Openly? Manchester United. Probably? Every elite club in world football.

Market value: £105m

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