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Best football XI of the future: 2022?

Donnarumma is destined for greatness
Liam Flin

Predictions are the lifeblood of football journalism. Everyone has their say on who the next big player will be and the majority of the time, the expectations don’t come to fruition. There are countless young starlets out there at the moment with the potential to become the next Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo, but a lot can change in a short space of time in football, so we can never be sure of who will reach the expected mark.

Even looking forward just five years to 2022, the football picture could read very differently. One thing’s for certain, though; we will see a vast change.

Here then we attempt to predict and evaluate the team of the future for 2022…


Goalkeeper

Gianluigi Donnarumma

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(Video Courtesy: SportVideosMM YouTube Channel)

Eyebrows will be raised when gazing over a lot of names on this list, but 18-year-old Donnarumma would be a certainty for most. The Italian shot-stopper rose to prominence after superseding Diego Lopez for a brief spell at AC Milan, before the teenager became a permanent inclusion between the sticks.

In 2022, Donnarumma will be 23-years-old and, with 58 appearances for the club under his belt already, he will be vastly experienced for one so young. This term, Donnarumma has impressed with a 100% average claim success rate, nine clean sheets and the most saves (102) made by any other keeper in Serie A. His strengths lie in one-on-one situations and his ability to take command of the box at set-pieces.

The Italian ranks ahead of the likes of Manuel Neuer and David de Gea, who will both still have many years left in their respective careers, as he is on course to exceed the level of the pair now.

Other notable mentions: Manuel Neuer, David De Gea, Thibaut Courtois

Defenders

Right-Back: Hector Bellerin

Bellerin was part of Barcelona’s famed youth academy

It was as a result of Mathieu Debuchy being sidelined with injury that helped Hector Bellerin burst onto the scene for the Gunners in 2014. The Spaniard rapidly earned the reputation of one of Arsenal’s hottest young properties on the right-hand side of defence, establishing himself as the first-choice right-back and recapturing the attention of boyhood club Barcelona, in the process.

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(Video Courtesy: Score 90 YouTube Channel)

Bellerin is remarkably pacey, having been clocked running the 100m in 4.41 seconds, 0.23 seconds faster than Usain Bolt. He tracks back efficiently and keeps some of the sharpest wide men in the game under wraps, whilst he’s also adept at delving forwards and sparking danger in the final third.

In 2022, Bellerin will be 26-years-old and will be close to the prime time in an average player’s career; there really are few players who come close to the Spaniard.

Other notable mentions: Dani Carvajal, Sergi Roberto, Serge Aurier


Centre Back: Presnel Kimpembe

Kimpembe has excelled at the back for PSG

Having signed a very lucrative deal with French champions PSG at the end of last year which saw a pay rise of 2,350%, Presnel Kimpembe has risen through the ranks rapidly at one of Europe’s most formidable clubs. With all the financial firepower PSG have in their arsenal, it’s in their existing youth system that they found a gem.

Of his 20 appearances for the club, 13 have come this season, during which he has made the joint second highest average number of defensive actions per game (6), meanwhile maintaining the highest average pass completion rate of any other PSG player.

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(Video Courtesy: WorldOfFootballHD YouTube Channel)

The youngster still has a great deal to learn but alongside the likes of Thiago Silva, he is gaining invaluable experience of high-level football and by 2022, could be one of the most well-rounded defenders in the game.

Other notable mentions: John Stones, Raphael Varane, Aymeric Laporte


Centre Back: Marquinhos

Marquinhos is just 22-years-old but has already played nearly 150 games for PSG

It’s testament to the work of the PSG coaching staff that the two centre-halves in the ‘Team of 2022’ both ply their trade in the French capital. Marquinhos, still by no means a veteran, has more experience than Kimpembe and is currently valued at £27 million by Transfermarkt.

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(Video Courtesy: Defence is an Art YouTube Channel)

The Brazilian defender has won Ligue 1 on three occasions and the Coupe de France twice, having played close to 100 games for PSG during which time he has established himself as one of the sharpest young defenders across the continent. He too would have worked closely with Brazilian counterpart Thiago Silva by 2022 and have accumulated a lot of experience domestically and continentally.

Other notable mentions: Jose Gimenez, Kalidou Koulibaly, Eric Bailly


Left-Back: David Alaba

David Alaba
Alaba is a versatile player who can play in a number of positions in all parts of the pitch

At present, one of the most valuable defender in the world, David Alaba is a crucial cog in the Bayern Munich wheel. Over the years he has played in midfield, on the flank and at the heart of defence but, as difficult as it may be to identify, his ‘primary’ position is at left-back.

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(Video Courtesy: BayernCompHD YouTube Channel)

The 24-year-old will be hitting the peak years of his career by the time the 2022/23 season arrives and given that he’s already being dubbed one of the greatest full-backs in the world, we are in for something pretty special.

For the Bavarians, Alaba has played over 150 games and there are seldom ninety-minutes where he doesn’t perform at a high standard.

Other notable mentions: Alex Sandro, Layvin Kurzawa, Jose Luis Gaya

Midfielders

Defensive midfielder: N’Golo Kante

N'Golo Kante
Kante is set to win to consecutive Premier League titles with two different clubs

In the wake of his blockbusting display against Manchester United, N’Golo Kante was dubbed the best midfielder in the world by Frank Lampard. The 25-year-old box-to-box midfielder made the most interceptions (156) and the most tackles (175) in the 2015/16 Premier League season, becoming the catalyst in a title-winning midfield for Leicester City.

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(Video Courtesy: AJcompsHD YouTube Channel)

Since his transition to Chelsea, Leicester have fallen short of last campaign’s successes, whilst the Blues have risen to the pinnacle of the Premier League. Kante is physically strong, intelligent in his reading of the game and has unrivalled stamina, rendering him an excellent candidate to physically dominate the ‘Team of the Future’.

The Frenchman will be approaching the latter stages of his career in 2022 and will therefore have added to his existing knowledge and experience of the game, and perhaps officially be recognised as the most formidable middle-man in world football.

Other notable mentions: Julian Weigl, William Carvalho, Granit Xhaka


Central midfielder: Max Meyer

Max Meyer
Meyer is one of the many young talents to come out of the Schalke academy

‘Mini-Max’, as his team-mates dub him, is the latest development in a production line of supreme young talent being churned out at Gelsenkirchen side Schalke 04. The 21-year-old has already made a remarkable 116 appearances for the Royal Blues, and is renowned as one of the fiercest attacking prospects in the German side.

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(Video Courtesy: WorldOfFootballHD YouTube Channel)

It’s from his training regime combining regular workouts with ‘Futsal’ practice, that he has developed unparalleled technique for one so young and fantastic ball control. Meyer is versatile and can play on the flank as well as through the centre.

Meyer created the second most chances of any Schalke player last term (45), maintaining the highest average shot accuracy in the side too (72%). He may be an unusual choice for many but it’s the fact that Meyer has already been a regular performer at the very highest level at just 21-years-old which asserts that he will be one of the best in his position in the years to come.

Other notable mentions: Marco Verratti, Saul Niguez, Renato Sanches


Central midfielder: Paul Pogba

Paul Pogba
Pogba has had a slow start since his world-record move but is still only 24 years of age

Following his £89.3 million transfer to Manchester United last summer, Paul Pogba initially failed to match the astronomical expectations laid out by Premier League followers. Since then though, he has created more chances than any other United player (50) as well as having made the most key passes (47).

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(Video Courtesy: Vanemas YouTube Channel)

The Frenchman has also made the second highest number of successful passes in the division this term with 1,844 and is beginning to master the basics once more. There’s a lot of evidence to suggest he warrants such a gargantuan price tag, given that he has attained the reputation of France’s most promising talent for the future and was arguably Juve’s best player for a number of years.

Other notable mentions: Koke, Dele Alli, Thiago

Forwards

Right winger: Yunus Malli

Yunus Malli
Malli is one of the brightest prospects in the Bundesliga

Prior to his January switch to Wolfsburg, Yunus Malli plied his trade with FSV Mainz where he developed into one of the sharpest attacking talents the Bundesliga has to offer. In the first half of the season, the Turkish international scored 11 goals in 34 games and across the entire term so far he’s managed six assists.

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(Video Courtesy: Home of Football YouTube Channel)

For those who aren’t followers of the German top flight, Malli isn’t exactly a household name, but he’s undergone rapid improvements at the tip of the Mainz midfield and out on the wing. He’s proven to be adept at holding onto the ball, finishing clinically and creating chances out of nothing.

Currently at one of Germany’s biggest outfits, the 25-year-old has the perfect platform on which he can build to develop into one of the most prolific midfield talents around.

Other notable mentions: Felipe Anderson, Federico Bernardeschi, Bernardo Silva


Left winger: Ousmane Dembele

Ousmane Dembele
Dembele moved to Dortmund from Rennes last summer

Like their Gelsenkirchen rivals Schalke, Borussia Dortmund are also a side renowned for mass producing top young talent. One only needs to look at Mario Gotze, Marco Reus and Robert Lewandowski as examples of how the club multiplies the value of its personnel.

Behind the barnstorming Aubameyang, 19-year-old Ousmane Dembele is Dortmund’s second top goalscorer this term with six goals to his name in the Bundesliga. The Frenchman signed a bumper five-year contract with the German outfit last summer and has received regular game-time since.

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(Video Courtesy: MTFilmz YouTube Channel)

He has infectious desire to press forwards and is versatile, quick and athletic enough to navigate his way through the sturdiest of defences.

Dembele is very much the jewel in the crown of the vast French talent we are seeing develop and is my personal favourite on the list. He’s a player moulded by circumstance, forced to play with determination and confidence in the ranks of a Rennes side severely lacking attacking talent last term. He’s adjusted to Dortmund’s compact, but equally energetic style to capture the attention of European football connoisseurs everywhere.

Other notable mentions: Julian Draxler, Raheem Sterling, Thomas Lemar


Striker: Harry Kane

Kane has had another impressive season with Tottenham

Despite his dismal display at Euro 2016, Harry Kane has replicated his remarkable form shown in the 2015/16 campaign, during which he dispatched 25 goals across 38 games, with 19 goals in 22 appearances this term. Kane is level with Lukaku as the top scorer in the division at present and also has four assists to his name.

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(Video Courtesy: SPORT CORE YouTube Channel)

The 23-year-old has made over 100 appearances for Tottenham since making his debut for the North London side in 2011. Along with Sergio Aguero, Kane is regarded as one of the Premier League’s most fearsome forwards and one of the most sought-after properties in world football.

Tottenham may be fertile ground for his attacking prowess now but one would expect that Kane will be tempted by a bigger outfit in the years to come. With this in mind and the fact a 28-year-old Kane will be in his prime in 2022, we should expect phenomenal things from the striker domestically and internationally.

Other notable mentions: Gabriel Jesus, Romelu Lukaku, Paulo Dybala

Edited by Staff Editor

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