THE BEST YOUNG PLAYERS IN THE WORLD OF FOOTBALL
The logic is simple: find relatively unknown players who have the raw materials to be superstars in the near future and sign them while their value is low. Some clubs – more than others – have benefitted immensely from their excellent scouting teams and have gone on to make huge profits from selling these talents.
Many of the players on this list are already well-known quantities in the world of football and have shown over the last 2 – 3 years that they could be superstars in the years to come.
For our list of best young players in the world, we have set the maximum age to be 21 years and have written on 15 of these young talents. This list is by no means exhaustive, however, the prospect shown by many of these players means we’ll be hearing their names as the years go by.
The Best Young Players in the World: 1 – 5
PEDRI (Spain, Barcelona, Midfielder, Right-footed, 20):
In 2021, Pedri won all possible awards for U-21 players. In 2022, he backed up the hype with more consistent performances whether for Barcelona or Spain. The talented midfielder made his debut for Barcelona in September 2020 after joining from Las Palmas. He has been likened to Barcelona legend Andres Iniesta because of his movement and intelligence with the ball at his feet.
JUDE BELLINGHAM (England, Borussia Dortmund, Midfielder, Right-footed, 19):
The 19-year-old midfielder has been likened to Steven Gerrard, and it’s not difficult to see why. Jude Bellingham became England’s second-youngest scorer at the FIFA World Cup after Michael Owen. He won the Championship Young Player of the Year award in 2020 before joining Borussia Dortmund. The young midfielder has become an important player for both Borussia Dortmund and the English national team. He has been linked to a move away from Dortmund, with Liverpool and Real Madrid reportedly interested in his services.
JAMAL MUSIALA (Germany, Bayern Munich, Attacking Midfielder/Winger, Right-footed, 19):
Jamal Musiala’s growth over the past two years has been meteoric. The attacking midfielder joined Bayern Munich from the Chelsea academy and has grown from being a fringe player to one of the first names in the Bayern and even the German starting lineups. Former Bayern Munich and current Germany coach Hansi Flick, who gave Musiala his debut had this to say about the youngstar: “He has a great eye and feeling for choosing the right spaces. He is very confident on the ball and can play well between the lines.”
At just 19, Musiala can go on to be a Bayern Munich and a Germany great if he continues to grow.
BUKAYO SAKA (England, Arsenal, Winger, Left-footed, 21):
With back-to-back Arsenal Player of the Season awards, Bukayo Saka has grown from an untested Hale End academy graduate to club’s best player over the last two seasons. He has since banished memories of his penalty shootout miss in the final of EURO 2020 against Italy, and has become Arsenal’s number one penalty taker. His club performances have earned him 24 caps for the Three Lions and started all but one of their matches enroute to a quarter-final exit in Qatar 2022.
The next player on our list of best young players in the world is a Spain and Barcelona youngster.
GAVI (Spain, Barcelona, Midfielder, Right-footed, 18):
On the 21st of October 2022, Barcelona’s Pablo Gavira became the 20th winner of the Golden Boy award since its inception in 2003. The 18-year-old has already shattered a number of records. For instance, he recently became Spain’s youngest scorer at the World Cup and the third youngest of all-time behind only Pele and Manuel Rosas. He is also Spain’s youngest debutant, and youngest scorer. Valued at around 60 million Euros, Gavi is the most valuable player in the world aged 18 or under. He has the world at his feet, and there is no limit to what he can achieve at this rate. Gavi has been compared to his Barcelona coach Xavi.
The next player on our list of best young players in the world is a French international.
The Best Young Players in the World: 6 – 10
EDUARDO CAMAVINGA (France, Real Madrid, Midfielder, Left-footed, 20):
At 20, Eduardo Camavinga is already a well-known name in the football world. The midfielder possesses all the tools required to be successful at a very high level. With impressive defensive workrate and enviable ball progression, Camavinga is considered one of world football’s brightest talents. He is already a France International and is part of the Les Blues squad at the Qatar 2022 World Cup. Despite struggling to make the Real Madrid starting XI, the consensus is that it is only a matter of time before Camavinga takes one of the three midfield spots from the aging duo of Luka Modric and Toni Kroos.
WILLIAM SALIBA (France, Arsenal, Centre-back, Right-footed, 21):
Signed by Arsenal in July 2019, William Saliba was sent out on loan on three occasions to French clubs Saint-Étienne, OGC Nice, and Olympique Marseille – where he won the Ligue 1 Player of the Year award before returning to Arsenal ahead of the 2022-2023 season. At Arsenal, he has established himself as one of the best center-backs in the league with his reading of the game, tackling and ball-playing ability. He was included in Didier Deschamps France squad for the World Cup and there is no telling what the limit is for the young Frenchman.
KHVICHA KVARATSKHELIA (Georgia, Napoli, Winger, Ambipedal, 21):
With eight goals and 10 assists in 17 games this season, Khvicha Kvaratskhelia is one of the most in-form players in world football at the moment. His difficult-to-pronounce name is on the lips of commentators and analysts, and at just 21, the Georgian international has the world at his feet. With speed, trickery and an eye for goal, Kvaratskhelia has a style of play similar to former France legend Franck Ribery. Napoli’s form at the start of the 2022/2023 season has put them in the driving seat for the Serie A title, and if Kvaratskhelia can stay fit, they might stand a chance to win the league title since the 1989-90 season.
GABRIEL MARTINELLI (Brazil, Arsenal, Winger, Right-footed, 21):
Signed as an 18-year-old from Ituano FC (a then fourth division side in Brazilian football), Gabriel Martinelli joined Arsenal amidst much speculation about his talents. However, after over three years with Arsenal, he has risen from an unknown quantity to one of the most-feared wingers in the Premier League. His speed and direct style makes him a handful for defenders and with improving finishing ability, he is gradually becoming one of Arteta’s most consistent performers. He was selected in the Brazilian squad for the 2022 World Cup, and considering where he was playing just three years prior, this is a great feat.
The next player on our list of best young players in the world is also a Brazil international.
RODRYGO (Brazil, Real Madrid, Forward, Right-footed, 21):
Rodrygo Goes joined Real Madrid from Santos in the summer of 2019 and has gone on to make over 80 appearances for the Los Blancos. Despite struggling to nail a starting berth, he has proven himself to be a reliable goalscorer in big games as he showed during Real Madrid’s run to their 14th UEFA Champions League title in the 2021/22 season. Rodrygo popped up with important goals off the bench in matches against Chelsea and Manchester City, thus earning a status as a supersub. He was part of Brazil’s squad at the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
And for the final five players on our list of best young players in the world, we have:
The Best Young Players in Football: 11-15
JOSKO GVARDIOL (Croatia, RB Leipzig, Centre-back, Left-footed, 20):
“Gvardiol is the best central defender in the world. He’s so mature. The way he plays, with the grace he controls the ball – it’s amazing.” – Croatia head coach Zlatko Dalic. Good in the air, strong, tenacious, good on the ball, the RB Leipzig defender is the complete package. He has been linked with a move to the Premier League as Chelsea and Manchester United are reportedly interested in his services. He is part of the Croatian side at the World Cup and has started all their matches so far.
FLORIAN WIRTZ (Germany, Bayer Leverkusen, Attacking midfielder, Right-footed, 19):
The Bayer Leverkusen youngster is a gem and is regarded as one of the most promising creators in Europe. Florian Wirtz is already a German international, and even though he missed out on Hansi Flick’s squad for the 2022 World Cup, many are confident that he could play a major role in the renaissance of German football. With good passing and movement with the ball at his feet, Wirtz has the right tools to excel at the highest level.
ANSU FATI (Spain, Barcelona, Winger, Right-footed, 20):
Ansu Fati’s stock dipped after suffering an injury to his left knee on November 7th, 2020. However, the Spanish winger has the makings of a great player as shown by his inheritance of Lionel Messi’s number 10 shirt for Barcelona. Ansu Fati is regarded as one of the best young talents in world football and has drawn comparisons to Lionel Messi. His speed, ambidexterity, acceleration, intelligence and goal scoring ability makes him a difficult player to dispossess. Fati is already a Spanish international, despite being born in Guinea-Bissau. He was in Spain’s squad for the 2022 World Cup.
KARIM ADEYEMI (Germany, Borussia Dortmund, Winger, Left-footed, 20):
Karim Adeyemi is a quick left-footed winger, with a knack for scoring spectacular goals. The 20-year-old first gained recognition during his time with RB Salzburg, before making a move to Borussia Dortmund in the summer transfer window. Adeyemi is already a German international, making his debut for the Die Mannschaft in September of 2021. He was part of the German squad for the World Cup even though he failed to make a World Cup appearance. With the decline of the German team in recent international competitions, Adeyemi is one of those who can lead the resurrection of German football.
TAKEFUSA KUBO (Japan, Real Soceidad, Winger, Left-footed, 21):
Takefusa Kubo first gained recognition after Barcelona lost the youngster during a transfer saga that saw the Japanese move to Real Madrid. He however failed to establish himself with Los Blancos, going on a series of loans to other Spanish sides. While on loan at Mallorca, Villareal and Getafe, Kubo showed why he was regarded as the Japanese Messi during his time at Barcelona. His trickery, speed and acceleration makes him a tough customer for any defender. Now on the books of Real Soceidad after Real Madrid sold him in the summer, Kubo can now work on improving the consistency of his performance. There is no telling what this Japanese youngster can become.
A number of highly-rated youngsters failed to make our list of best young players in the world. The likes of Harvey Elliott, Nuno Mendes, Ryan Cherki, Ryan Gravenberch, Endrick, Mathys Tel can go on to take the world of football by storm in the coming years.