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10 youngsters who will dominate the headlines in the next decade

  • We have been lucky enough to witness some legendary figures like Messi, Neymar and Ronaldo dominate the 2010s.
  • However, it is time for the young ones to take center-stage and dominate the sporting headlines in the 2020s.
Rupam Nag
ANALYST
Feature
Modified 20 Jun 2020, 18:15 IST
These three have dominated the 2010 decade
These three have dominated the 2010 decade

Many iconic talents have graced the sport of football in the 2010-2020 decade with their consistently marvellous performances. It has truly been a great ten years for football, where we have been introduced to many special players who we will talk about for years to come.

In fact, there are so many of them that we couldn't possibly take the time out to mention every single one. We're lucky to have witnessed greatness in the form of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, who continue to shatter records even in the new decade.

Besides the two stalwarts, players like Robert Lewandowski, Luis Suarez, Sergio Agüero, Thiago Silva, Andres Iniesta and many, many more legendary footballers have enjoyed their best moments in these ten years.

Luckily for fans around the world, a host of young talent is raring to take centre stage in the decade to come. Exciting times lie ahead of us, and it will be interesting to watch who will be the heir to Ronaldo and Messi as the best player in the world.

The professionalism and quality that these young guns portray at such a young age is almost uncanny. Vinicius Jr, Phil Foden, Ferran Torres, Eduardo Camavinga and many more incredible wonderkids find themselves out of this list of 10 of the very best. Such is the amount of genuine talent we have on display.

Needless to say, it was very difficult to make a list of only 10 players out of the many who deserve to be in it. One thing is for certain- we will be in very good company for the rest of the decade!


#10 Matthijs de Ligt (20, Netherlands, Juventus)

Netherlands have a seriously good center-back pairing in Van Dijk and De Ligt
Netherlands have a seriously good center-back pairing in Van Dijk and De Ligt
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The youngest captain to ever play in a Champions League knock-out game, Matthijs de Ligt just about edges his former Ajax teammate Frenkie de Jong, with a three year difference in age proving vital.

Although the young 6'2" centre-back is undoubtedly a special talent, with his elite mentality and ability to lead at such a young age catching eyes, he has endured a tough spell at the start of his Juventus career. However, there is hardly any concern from the Old Lady faithful, who believe it's just a matter of time before he begins dominating games as is expected of him.

He belongs to a rare breed of defenders who take more pride in nailing a last-ditch tackle to deny a goal-scoring opportunity than scoring a thunderous header at the other end of the pitch. Regardless, he is very good at either end, which is another noteworthy aspect of his game.


#9 Sandro Tonali (20, Italy, Brescia)

Tonali has already received 3 Italy caps
Tonali has already received 3 Italy caps

Admittedly, Sandro Tonali is yet to make an impact on the big stage, but it is tough to expect the same from him when he plays at a club like Brescia, who are languishing at the bottom of the table.

Despite lack of any major support, Tonali has impressed viewers with his immaculate long-range passing and ability to dictate the tempo of the game. He has shown such maturity at just 20 that he has been likened to the legendary Andrea Pirlo, although the similarity in long locks both sported certainly has something to do with this!

For a player of his ability to make plays from deep in midfield, he is quite good defensively. He is willing to run the length of the pitch to contribute in any way he can. He is quite adept at using his feet in order to stop attacks, just as he is in using them to start them.

Tonali is a special talent, and having already made his Italy debut, he is set to be a mainstay in their midfield for years to come. A move to a European giant beckons for the midfielder.


#8 Alphonso Davies (19, Canada, Bayern Munich)

Davies is one of the fastest players in the world
Davies is one of the fastest players in the world

It's not everyday that a Canadian makes it as one of the biggest prospects in world football. Having said that, Alphonso Davies is no normal player. When he joined Bayern Munich from Vancouver Whitecaps barely a year and a half ago, it was difficult to predict what lay ahead for the rapid left-winger.

It was difficult to see him getting many chances is a packed Bayern roster. Understandably, he played only 74 minutes in the Bundesliga in the 2018/19 season. However, owing to some injuries at the back, the left-back spot opened up to Davies.

Full props are in order to anyone who predicted the young lad taking his opportunity the way he has done. He has made the left-back spot his own, establishing himself as not just one of the best in the league, but all over the planet.

His electrifying pace allows him to commit fully to offense, knowing that any chances of possible counters will be erased by - in the words of Thomas Muller - "Bayern's roadrunner". He is the perfect example of the modern fullback - good on the ball, terrific offensively, and blessed with the perfect physique.


#7 Ansu Fati (17, Spain, Barcelona)

Though only 17, Fati plays with a cool head of a veteran
Though only 17, Fati plays with a cool head of a veteran

It is not possible for a normal player to break into the Barcelona first team at the age of 17, and clearly, Anssumane Fati is no normal player. Fati combines terrific dribbling ability at searing pace with considerable goal-threat, like any other top-quality winger.

However, the fact that he does so at the highest possible level of club football, alongside and against some of the greatest players in the world, at the tender age of 17, is just unbelievable. It makes one wonder how good he will be ten years from now, when he will likely be in his prime.

Fati made a name for himself when he helped the Barcelona U19s reach the semi-final of the UEFA Youth League in 2018/19, whilst also scoring two goals against Chelsea in that very match. Although he would fail to win the tie and progress through to the final, he had shown enough quality to be included in the first team the following season.

Since then, he has continued to leave spectators astounded with his natural talent, sometimes even making us forget about the Messis and Griezmanns that he shares the pitch with.


#6 Gianluigi Donnarumma (21, Italy, AC Milan)

Donnarumma
Donnarumma's reflexes are up there with the very best

Donnarumma has been AC Milan's first choice goalkeeper for FIVE straight seasons now. Yet, he has just turned only 21. That in itself is quite hard to believe. At the rate at which he is playing games, and wonderfully too for that matter, he might break many appearance-related records if he decides to play his career out in Italy.

Sadly, he broke into the AC Milan team at a time where Champions League aspirations were at an all-time low. However, Buffon's namesake has done his level best to help Milan finish as high in the table as possible. We can only predict what Milan would be like in his absence.

Donnarumma has already recorded 70 clean-sheets for AC Milan, and is closing in on 200 games- numbers are truly hard to believe. Donnarumma's reflexes are top-draw and are up there with the best keepers in the world. He also continues to improve other aspects of his game, like catching, positioning, and the ever-so-vital quality in today's game - distribution.


#5 Trent Alexander-Arnold (21, England, Liverpool)

A dead ball expert, Trent can nail a free-kick just as well as he can find a teammate in the box
A dead ball expert, Trent can nail a free-kick just as well as he can find a teammate in the box

It is not easy to come across players with the insane technical ability that Trent Alexander-Arnold possesses. Not many right-backs in the history of football can boast of being such a direct goal-threat as the England international. His crossing and long range passing are already among the world's finest.

In the Premier League this season, Alexander-Arnold has 12 assists already - second only to Kevin De Bruyne. Putting up such ridiculous numbers from a defensive position is quite outrageous, and something the Premier League has never seen before.

His limited defensive ability is pretty much the only complaint against his otherwise excellent skill-set. Owing to the same, there have been suggestions that his future lies somewhere in midfield.

In an even more advanced role and not having to worry about tracking back as much, Trent Alexander-Arnold can be far deadlier than he already is, which is a big cause of concern to opposition teams.


#4 Erling Braut Haaland (19, Norway, Borussia Dortmund)

Much like Zlatan, Haaland is a savage with words!
Much like Zlatan, Haaland is a savage with words!

Looking at Haaland play, one can tell where the Zlatan Ibrahimovic comparisons come from, and the fact that they are both Scandinavian has little to do with it. Haaland possesses a mammoth 6'4" frame, and that in itself is enough to outmuscle defenders.

However, much like Ibrahimovic, he combines amazing technical ability to go with that strong, towering physique. On top of that, he is much faster than you would expect from someone of his stature. He is naturally gifted finisher, who just seems to know where the back of the goal is, and he is excellent in involving others in the play as well.

He is still a teenager and is already involved in more goals than matches he has played. He really has no major flaws in his game and just needs to get better at things he is already quite good at. We are potentially looking at a legendary goal scorer. It would be no surprise to see him in the center of another big transfer saga in the near future.


#3 Kai Havertz (21, Germany, Bayer Leverkusen)

Havertz combines elegance and brute goalscoring like only a few others can
Havertz combines elegance and brute goalscoring like only a few others can

Kai Havertz just celebrated his 21st birthday, and is already involved in some pretty serious big-money transfer talk. Almost every club is after his services and understandably so.

If Haaland seemed like a physical specimen, wait till you hear about Havertz. The youngster stands at 6'2", and although he looks quite lanky, he is not weak by any means. It is not easy at all to dislodge him off the ball. He carries the elegance of someone like a Mesut Ozil, but with a much more potent goal-threat to his name.

He has great vision and a special pair of feet that are capable of some quite magnificent things. Although it is said that he is predominantly left-footed, his right is almost as good. Just when you thought he is the complete offensive midfielder already, he'll make his way into the box and rise like a hawk to head home a cross, making best use of that height.

Attacking midfielders don't come any more complete than Havertz is.


#2 Jadon Sancho (20, England, Borussia Dortmund)

Sancho is one of the most complete wingers in the world - if not the most.
Sancho is one of the most complete wingers in the world - if not the most.

It truly is a golden generation for England, who are blessed with talents like Foden, Mount, Alexander-Arnold, Wan-Bissaka, Abraham, Hudson-Odoi, James, Greenwood, Chilwell among many others. The top of the pile, however, is a certain Jadon Sancho.

Sancho is putting up numbers from the wings we have never seen a 20 year old put up before. He has 17 goals and 17 assists in 30 Bundesliga games this season, which is clearly an outrageous return. He is already one of the most well-rounded forwards in the world, and at this point, is almost certain to bag both goals and assists in double-figures almost every season.

He is ridiculously quick, unbelievably good with the ball at his feet, and can find a teammate just as well as he can cut-in and curl one into the bottom corner of the goal. There is nothing he is incapable of doing offensively, other than heading the ball.

If Sancho continues to develop at the rate he is, at his prime, we might be looking at statistics we have never seen before.


#1 Kylian Mbappe (21, France, Paris St. Germain)

Mbappe is matching Messi and Ronaldo
Mbappe is matching Messi and Ronaldo's numbers at 21.

He has won the World Cup aged 19. He has won the league title in every year of his professional career. He has won the Golden Boy award. He has won the World Cup's 'best young player' award. The list goes on...

If you have a look at the number of accolades achieved by Mbappe in his short career already, you'd think you're looking at the CV of a legendary veteran. Mbappe at 21 has already achieved things most others would be happy to retire with.

Before Mbappe arrived, it was difficult to see someone emulating Messi and Ronaldo's numbers consistently, but it seems as if though we do have a deserving heir to the football throne. Mbappe has 90 goals and 49 assists in only 120 games for PSG - numbers that are more suited for video games than the real world.

He is a jaw-dropping combination of qualities: blistering pace, unreal finishing, superb passing, bamboozling dribbling, and decent strength.

We are quite likely looking at one of football's greatest-ever players and best-ever careers. Honestly, it almost seems impossible for Mbappe to not become the player we are speculating he will.


Published 20 Jun 2020, 12:39 IST
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