Ranking the Top 10 Under-20 Footballers in the World Right Now
Young players are always holding a special place in any sport. It is they who will determine the future of the sport. They are the symbol of the changing of the guard. In football, several players like Ronaldo Nazario, Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, and Neymar have made a name for themselves since their early years. So, the emergence and development of young players in football are often seen as a development of the 'beautiful game' itself.
Here we take a look at the top 10 Under-20 footballers in the world right now:
#10 Gianluigi Donnarumma
Club: AC Milan
Having made his senior debut at 16, Donnarumma has gone on to amass a total of 156 appearances for his club and has become a key cog in AC Milan's resurgence to the top. Seen by many as a natural successor to Buffon, he emulated his hero by making his international debut at 17 and broke Buffon's record as the youngest goalkeeper ever to represent Italy.
Known as 'Prince of Italy', he possesses exceptional reflexes, positional skills and has a great penalty-saving record. His penalty shootout heroics against Juventus earned him the 2016 Supercoppa Italiana. He is a natural leader on the pitch, often guiding his much older teammates and motivating them when things are not working for the Rossoneri. He has often shown maturity beyond his years, just as Buffon did at the same age.
#9 Achraf Hakimi
Club: Borussia Dortmund (on loan from Real Madrid)
Achraf Hakimi was first introduced on the world scene by Zinedine Zidane in the 2017-18 season. With Real Madrid, he scored 2 goals and won the UEFA Champions League in his debut season. A pacy and powerful player who is capable of playing anywhere in defence or as a winger, he was loaned out to Borussia Dortmund to continue his development.
With an average of 1.9 tackles and 1.2 interceptions per game, he has set the Bundesliga on fire this season, thereby earning the accolade of the best fullback of the division. With 3 goals and 4 assists, his exploits with his new club have propelled his side to the 2nd place in Bundesliga. Fittingly, his best performance came in the Champions League against Atletico Madrid, when he provided three assists in a 4-0 victory.
Hakimi will still harbour hopes of returning to Madrid, and with Zidane returning to the helm once again, a move back to his former club could be on the cards.
#8 Trent Alexander-Arnold
Trent Alexander Arnold has made the Liverpool Right Back position his own. He has gone on from the periphery of the first team to reach the Champions League Final in less than a year. This season he is challenging for the Liverpool's first Premier League glory. His story is a perfect example of an underdog achieving success. He has achieved this with his humility, tenacity, and sheer hard work.
Liverpool fans voted him best young footballer in the previous Premier League season. He is the one with most ball retrievals in the Premier League. He is very active when he loses the ball, often pounding the opponents with a good quality tackle and an excellent vision of the game.
Hyped by the media and the fans he has lived up to the expectation. A confident defender and a clinical striker of dead balls, he could be a Liverpool and England regular for the next decade at least - and may become a future captain.
#7 Matthijs de Ligt
After putting a monumental performance in the 4-1 win against defending champions Real Madrid, Matthijs de Ligt has become the talk of the town. Rumours claim that Barcelona has already submitted a €60m bid to Ajax for his services. Other suitors include Manchester United, PSG, Juventus and Real Madrid.
At 19, he has been named as the captain of Ajax. This shows the faith his club have in him and his maturity. He announced himself on the global scene in this season's Champions League match against Bayern. The Dutchman nullified Bayern's many attacking outlets with an outstanding display in a 1-1 draw at the Allianz Arena.
De Ligt would be a perfect signing for Barcelona given their recent defensive struggles. His compatriot Frenkie de Jong has already joined the Catalans. Maybe he will follow soon.
At the international level, a partnership of De Ligt and Virgil van Dijk could make the Netherlands a serious force over the next few years.
#6 Houssem Aouar
With 7 goals and 5 assists in 37 appearances, Houssem Aouar has made himself an integral part of the Lyon squad. While his teammates Nabil Fekir and Tanguy Ndombele continue to hog, he is slowly working his way to the top. However, his mind-boggling performance in Lyon's Champions League group stage 2-2 draw with Manchester City meant that he could no longer go unnoticed.
In this game, he showed the world his true potential and earned rave reviews from Pep Guardiola. It wouldn't be a surprise if clubs come calling for him this summer. Liverpool seems the most likely destination for Aouar as they are still searching for a Philippe Coutinho replacement and his technical ability would make him a tempting option.
#5 Rodrygo Goes
Club: Santos (Real Madrid from 2019)
For most players, winning a move to Real Madrid at the age of 17 would be seen as a major success, but for Rodrygo Goes it is merely a stepping stone to greater things.
In his debut season with Santos, he scored 12 goals and added a further 3 assists. He grabbed his first career hat trick just two months after his 17th birthday. His performances in Brazil didn't go unnoticed as he earned himself a nomination for the Kopa Trophy (awarded to the world's best young player).
His obvious talent is for everyone to see, but what sets him apart from players of his age is his level-headedness and maturity. At the 2019 U-20 South American Championships, he proclaimed that his goal is to be the best player on the pitch, no matter what the circumstances are. With a desire to prove himself on the biggest stage, he could be fast-tracked into the Real Madrid first team if he picks up from where he left off in São Paulo.
#4 Christian Pulisic
Club: Borussia Dortmund (on loan from Chelsea)
On the wake of a transfer ban, Chelsea was quick to fork out £57.6m for American sensation Christian Pulisic. For a 20 year old, this price may seem too much but for a player of Pulisic's quality, this might prove to be a bargain.
The attacking midfielder cum winger has racked over 100 appearances for Borussia Dortmund and has earned 24 caps at international. Jadon Sancho's form has been keeping Pulisic out of the starting lineup lately, but a possible title challenge coming for Dortmund, the American will definitely be needed at his best for the remainder of the season.
Even though things have come in life fairly quickly for, him he is keeping his feet on the ground and knows that he has to grow a lot as a player and as a person too.
#3 Vinicius Junior
Club: Real Madrid
In a disastrous season by Real Madrid's standards, Vinicius Junior was the lone bright spark. Despite his relative inexperience, the 18-year-old Brazilian remain unfazed by the challenges he had to face since his arrival from Brazil to becoming the brightest player of his club. In fact, many believe that the club's failure in integrating him in the first team was the main reason for Lopetegui's ill-fated tenure.
Solari's appointment proved to a turning point in Vinicius's career. He took his chance, providing two assists against Melilla on his first start, scoring his first La Liga goal against Valladolid, and then setting up a goal on his Champions League debut against Viktoria Plzen. With his technical brilliance, dribbling skills and daring attitude, he cemented his place in the starting XI soon. He would go on to score 4 goals and claim 6 assists in 26 appearances before an ankle injury in Real Madrid's 4-1 defeat against Ajax would cut his season short.
#2 Jadon Sancho
Club: Borussia Dortmund
Jadon Sancho is a name which is pretty much on every club's wish list. An exciting young talent with exquisite ball control and great technical ability, he made a bold decision to swap his homeland for Germany at the beginning of last season. By doing this he has become a potential trendsetter, with his move to the Bundesliga proving that youngsters do not have to suffer on the sidelines in England.
In the early stages of this season, Sancho averaged an assist every 30 minutes for Borussia Dortmund. With 12 assists he sits at the top of Bundesliga's assisting table.
The English teenager has continued his red hot form in 2019, scoring twice and setting up another five, thus creating 12 chances and completing a remarkable 39 dribbles in nine appearances – six more than any other player in the Bundesliga. His exploits with his club have earned him a place in the International team as well.
Borussia Dortmund might not be able to hold Sancho for long as a bidding war between top clubs for his signature is expected this summer.
#1 Kylian Mbappé
Club: Paris Saint-Germain
At the age of twenty, Kylian Mbappe has the world at his feet. A future Ballon d'Or winner in the making, he bagged this World Cup's Best Young Player award.
He became the first teenager since Pelé to score a World Cup brace and the first since Pelé to score in a World Cup final, as well as becoming France's youngest ever World Cup scorer with his group stage goal against Peru. Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo may finally have a worthy challenger for the top honours.
The 2018 Kopa Trophy winner with 31 goals this season, is only behind Lionel Messi for most goals scored in all competitions. A two time Ligue 1 winner, he has become indispensable to PSG too.
His success at such a relatively young age suggests we may be witnessing the emergence of a once-in-a-generation talent.