In this feature piece, Essentially Sports takes a look at five of the most exciting players under the age of 21, who have created a stir in the footballing world after their exploits in Europe’s top leagues this season. These players have displayed consistent performances throughout the season and have been instrumental to their respective clubs. With the amount of talent they possess, one only hopes that these wonder kids will go on to fill their enormous potential.So without further ado, here are five of the brightest young prospects in European football.
“I’ve never seen such a talented player before.” These were the words stated by BVB general manager Hans-Joachim Watzke about his latest recruit from the summer transfer window, Ousmane Dembele. Given the performances of the young prodigy this season, we are inclined to believe Mr. Watzke. At 19 years of age, Dembele has made a fantastic start to his career at Dortmund. Having signed in the summer from the French side, Stade Rennias Fc, the Frenchman is proving to be indispensable to the German outfit. Dembele has registered a total of 6 goals and 11 assists in the Bundesliga this season. He has also completed the most number of take-ons in the Bundesliga this season.Pretty impressive stats for a nineteen-year-old. If Dembele can manage to maintain his stellar form for the next few years, Dortmund stands a real chance to dethrone Bayern Munich as Germany’s best football team.
In Marcus Rashford, Manchester United may have finally found the solution to the hoodoo regarding their inability to produce top class strikers from their academy. The 19- year old first broke into the scene last year after he scored a brace in his premier league debut against fierce rivals Arsenal.His performances last season even earned him a spot in the England national team for Euro 2016.
Under Jose Mourinho, the Englishman has found limited opportunities to lead the line for the Red Devils. But Rashford has a knack of taking his opportunities by the scruff of the neck.In the past month, the young prodigy has been pivotal to the United attack coming up with match- winning performances, especially in the absence of Zlatan Ibrahimovic. The Manchester United faithful will be hoping its young star goes on to fulfil his enormous potential and bring back the glory days to Old Trafford.
On October 25, 2015, a sixteen-year-old Gianluigi Donarumma made his debut for AC Milan, becoming the youngest goalkeeper to ever start a match in the Serie A. Since then, the young Italian shot-stopper has grown in leaps and bounds. His impressive performances have drawn comparisons to his Italian counterpart, the legendary Gianluigi Buffon. At 6ft,5in the young teenager is an imposing figure on the pitch. But despite his height, Donarumma is known for his incredible reflexes and his ability to build up play from the back. He also boasts a fine record at penalties, making six career saves from twelve penalties.
It is quite evident that the charismatic goalkeeper is the lynchpin of this Milan team. Donarumma even dreams of captaining the Milan side one day and taking over the helm from Buffon for the Italian national team. With the progress he’s made so far, it seems apparent that his dream will soon come to fruition.
A man of Delle Alli’s stature needs absolutely no introduction. His impressive displays for Tottenham this season, earned him his second consecutive PFA young player of the year award. With 17 goals and 5 assists this season, Alli has undoubtedly been one of the standout performers in the premier league. But given his maturity as a player, one might forget that the young boy just turned 21 this April. When you compare his statistics to the premier league greats such as Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard at the same age, Alli is miles ahead. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves just yet. The boy still needs to achieve a lot more if he wants to join the distinguished club of premier league legends.
And No.1 on our list is the eighteen-year-old, French genius, Kylian Mbappe. The Monaco wonder kid has arguably been one of the best players in this year’s Champions League campaign. Mbappe has bagged 24 goals in all competitions this season and is on course to win his first Ligue 1 title with Monaco FC.The teenager has also been instrumental in Monaco’s progress to the Champions League semi-finals. At the tender age of 18, Mbappe is already being heralded by many as the next ‘big’ thing in football. His performances have even earned him praise from the legendary Thierry Henry himself. Asked about Mbappe, the former Arsenal man commented, “I don’t like comparing players – Mbappe has to become Mbappe and that is all. But my word, he is good. Ooh la la. l really like watching him play.”
The youngster has been heavily linked with a move to the likes of Real Madrid, Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United. But it will probably take a world record fee to tempt Monaco to sell their most prized possession. Wherever his future may lie, one thing is for sure. Kylian Mbappe has everything in his locker to take him to the pinnacle of World football.