It’s been nine months since the last international break, plenty of time for youngsters to break through with their clubs and attract the attention of national team coaches.
This latest round of Nations League matches has seen a number of promising starlets handed their international debut, and some have taken the opportunity to set the hype train steaming further ahead.
Here’s a list of ten of the very best youngsters in world football. We’ve set the cut-off point at 21 – so discounting stars like Kai Havertz, Kylian Mbappe and Trent Alexander-Arnold – and included only players 20 or younger.
10. Ansu Fati
The electric winger became Barcelona’s youngest-ever player in the Champions League earlier this season, at the age of 16 years and 321 days, beating the previous record held by Bojan Krkic.
Since then, it’s been a meteoric rise for the Guinea-Bissau-born La Masia academy graduate, with eight goals in 33 appearances for the Catalan club in all competitions.
Given his first Spain call-up by former Barcelona boss Luis Enrique, he looked lively off the bench in his debut, a 1-1 draw against Germany, and unstoppable in his first start against Ukraine. Within two minutes he dashed into the box and won a penalty with a quick bit of footwork, and opened his account half an hour later with a thunderous effort from outside the area.
9. Jonathan David
Having beaten Bayern Munich star Alphonso Davies to the Canadian Men’s Player Of The Year award in 2019, it’s been another great year for the 20-year-old forward.
He caught the attention from scouts across Europe for his performances with Belgian side Gent, scoring 30 goals in 60 appearances in the Belgian top-flight after arriving in January 2018.
Leeds United were said to be keen on his signature, but were beaten to it by Marcelo Bielsa’s old club Lille. The Ligue 1 club paid €30m for his services – a transfer record for a Canadian, as well as for a player from the Belgian first division.
8. Mason Greenwood
Mason Greenwood, 18, has been talked up as the next great hope of Manchester United’s famous academy, having been exceptional for years in the youth set-up, and he’s lived up to the billing in his breakthrough season.
Having seemingly bulked up during lockdown, he returned from the hiatus to stake a place in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s favoured starting XI. He scored five goals in nine post-lockdown Premier League outings and looks remarkably clinical when given space to shoot.
Those performances earned him a well-deserved England call-up by Gareth Southgate, who brought him off the bench for the final 12 minutes as he searched for an opener against Iceland.
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7. Phil Foden
It’s easy to forget that Phil Foden is still just 20-years-old, given how long he’s been in and around the Manchester City first-team set-up.
Nearly three years have passed since he was named the tournament’s best player as England’s Young Lions won the Under-17s World Cup in India, and he’s slowly but surely been delivering since, rewarded with his first start for the England senior team against Iceland.
A lack of first-team opportunities has long been a concern for the midfielder, but he notched up well over 1000 minutes for City last term and looks set to be a first-team regular in the 2020/21 season following the departure of David Silva.
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6. Vinicius Junior
The fleet-footed Brazilian winger has seen his time in European football stunted by a nasty ankle ligament injury suffered last March, but he’s not taken long to recover his best form at Real Madrid this season.
He scored five goals in all competitions for Zinedine Zidane’s title-winning Los Blancos last term. By contrast, €100m star signing Eden Hazard scored just once and faces real competition for the left side of Madrid’s attack.
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5. Eduardo Camavinga
Surely set to be one of the most in-demand players in the transfer market next summer, if not already, 17-year-old Rennes starlet Eduardo Camavinga looks to have it all.
He reads the game incredibly intelligently for such a young age and has outstanding technical quality on the ball, but he’s also a diligent worker and tenacious. In Europe’s top five leagues last season, only Leicester City’s Ricardo Pereira averaged more tackles per match.
He’s recently become the youngest player to be given a call-up for France since World War II.
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4. Joao Felix
The Portuguese wonderkid might not have set La Liga alight to the extent his €126m pricetag suggested he might, having moved from Benfica to Atletico Madrid last summer, to be Antoine Griezmann’s replacement at the Wanda Metropolitano.
But there were still plenty of bright flashes, he’s still just 20, and lots of offensively-minded players have struggled under Diego Simeone’s management before him. Nine goals from 36 appearances in all competitions wasn’t a bad return in the circumstances.
He looks set for big things in his second season.
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3. Alphonso Davies
He’s already conquered it all after just 18 months in Europe, and moving him from a winger to a left-back has proved a masterstroke at Bayern Munich. He’s arguably the best player in his position in world football, and was a key part of Hansi Flick’s treble-winners last term.
Barcelona right-back Nelson Semedo will still be having nightmares after getting ripped apart by the Canada international in the 8-2 thrashing they suffered against Bayern in the Champions League quarter-final.
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2. Erling Haaland
It’s been a rapid rise for Alf-Inge Haaland’s man-mountain son, who already looks one of the world’s best centre-forwards. Last summer he famously scored nine goals in one game for Norway’s Under-20s as they beat Honduras 12-0 at the Under-20 World Cup.
He followed that up in prolific form for Red Bull Salzburg, scoring 28 goals in 22 appearances for the Austrian club in the first half of the 2019-20 season, which included eight goals from six games in the Champions League Group Stage.
The goals haven’t dried up since moving to Borussia Dortmund in January, either, with 13 goals in his first 15 appearances in the Bundesliga.
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1. Jadon Sancho
It should be no surprise that Borussia Dortmund have reportedly slapped a £108m price-tag on the 20-year-old England star. He’s registering numbers almost unheard of for a player so young.
Manchester United will have to pay a hefty fee if they’re to get their hands on their top target, and may have to wait until next summer. Rightly so – he’s scored 29 goals and registered a further 30 assists across the last two seasons in the Bundesliga.
The Camberwell-born attacker is already a world-beater, with 12 caps for England and many more to come.
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