WITH the arrival of Kylian Mbappe, Marcus Rashford and Ousmane Dembele on the football scene over the past few months, it’s fair to say that the next generation of top footballers looks to be in safe hands.
Any true football fan will be aware of the likes of Youri Tielemans (thanks FIFA!), Marco Asensio, Renato Sanches, Gianluigi Donnarumma and of course Dele Alli coming to life in recent times, but what about those other wonderkids who haven’t got a mention yet?
Here, AFEFootballNEws gives you the lowdown on ten of the best rising stars who could grab the headlines soon enough.
Reiss Nelson – Arsenal
Arsenal fans have been very excited about Nelson since he burst onto the scene during their pre-season matches in the summer.
The 18-year-old winger has been given a few chances for the club in competitive matches since then, starring against Doncaster in the Carabao Cup and in both their Europa League matches to date as well.
Nelson has bags of pace and skill and makes for an ideal wide player. For me, he looks like he could be a fine replacement (but probably better) than Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in the near future.
He has been included in Arsenal’s squad in the Premier League this season too so I’m sure that he will be given the odd chance to shine here and there.
I’m sure that under the guidance of Arsene Wenger, the youngster will continue to grow as a player and go on to fulfil his potential.
Malang Sarr – OGC Nice
Sarr is your typical strong and commanding centre back who looks for all the world like he could go onto lead France’s national team in the future.
Much like Kurt Zouma when he played in Ligue 1, 18-year-old Sarr is held in high regard by fans and pundits over in France and is tipped to become a great defender.
He made a name for himself last season as he made 30 appearances for Nice in a season that saw them qualify for the Champions League, finishing third in the Ligue 1 table.
Sarr also currently captains France’s under 18’s side and is amongst many top young French talents who are progressing their way through various clubs throughout Europe (Mbappe being the main breakthrough one of course).
Keep an eye on this guy because he really could be a star in a couple of season’s time!
Ethan Ampadu – Chelsea
Ampadu has only just turned 17 years old but just like his Welsh compatriot and fellow rising star Ben Woodburn, he’s already been named in the Wales squad and has shown real signs of promise.
The centre back signed for Chelsea from Exeter City in the summer and made his first appearance for the club in their 5-1 routing over Nottingham Forest in the Carabao Cup last month, coming on as a substitute.
At Exeter, Ampadu became the club’s youngest ever player when aged just 15 years 10 months and 26 days, he made his debut for Exeter in a League Cup match against Brentford, breaking an 87-year-old record set by Cliff Bastin and being named man of the match in the process.
It’s no surprise then that the teenage sensation is already receiving rave reviews from the likes of Chris Coleman and looks like a very good player for his age as he gets stuck in and looks as though he’s been playing at a high level for years.
He’s a highly promising talent and is playing regularly for the Blues reserves side. Let’s just hope he doesn’t end up on loan at Vitesse like the rest of them!
Alban Lafont – Toulouse
You know I was talking about top, young French footballing talent? Well, here’s another one to add to the ever-growing list of candidates.
Lafont is an 18-year-old who has already established himself as first choice goalkeeper at Ligue 1 side Toulouse, making 67 appearances in the league since his debut back in 2015, when he became the youngest goalie to play in France’s top flight (16 years and 310 days old).
With his fine shot-stopping abilities and tremendous confidence at such a young age, it’s not hard to see why some of Europe’s top clubs are after his signature.
Arsene Wenger is thought to be eyeing him up as the ideal replacement for Petr Cech, so could we see him in the Premier League soon? perhaps.
Ezequiel Barco – Independiente
I can guarantee that most people won’t have heard of Barco before and that’s probably because he plays in the Argentinian League, but this boy is a talent.
The 18-year-old winger plays for Independiente in his homeland and is held in high regard by fans and pundits alike throughout South America, with some seeing him as a Angel Di Maria type player (and by that I mean Madrid or PSG Di Maria not United Di Maria obviously).
Quick with the ball at his feet and skilful too, Barco possesses that typical Latin footballing flair and desire and seems to have the potential to go very far.
Having made 25 league appearances for his club already since last season, scoring four times, he’s now cemented a first team place down. Best thing he could do right now in my opinion is to carry on playing in Argentina, as it is a VERY physical and challenging league, and get some game time under his belt.
If he does that, he can only continue to improve as a player and eventually we might see him playing in one of Europe’s top leagues.
Tammy Abraham – Swansea City (on loan from Chelsea).
A slightly more recognisable name on the list to all my fellow Premier League fans now.
6ft 3′ striker Abraham made a name for himself last season (when surprise surprise Chelsea loaned him out again) at Bristol City, where he netted a very impressive 23 goals in 41 matches in the Championship and helped the club avoid relegation. Not bad considering he had only ever made two senior appearances at Stamford bridge prior to that!
Now of course, the 19-year-old is on loan in the top flight with Swansea City and has shown signs of what he can do. Two goals in his first seven matches for the South Walian outfit is decent and I have no doubt that he can go on to add quite a few more before May.
Great in the air, as well as with his feet, Abraham looks as though he could be good enough to go on to play for England (or Nigeria, if he chooses to do so) in the not so distant future.
I really do believe that if he’s given enough game time at the right club, he could be come a truly brilliant striker.
Leon Bailey – Bayer Leverkusen
It’s not often that Jamaica produces a truly top talent in the footballing world, but it looks as though they may just have got it right with Bailey.
The 20-year-old left winger joined his current side, Bayer Leverkusen in the winter transfer window of the 2016-17 season, for a fee of around 20m euros, after rejecting the likes of Manchester United and Chelsea. Since then, he’s made 13 appearances in the Bundesliga, scoring once, but has shown real promise.
it was during his time with KRC Genk in Belgium before his move to Germany, that Bailey had truly made a name for himself however. He made 58 appearances in the Belgian Pro League and built a reputation for being a player that knew exactly how to get past defenders with his quick turn of pace.
I have no doubts that we’ll see him given a chance at Leverkusen this season and that he will show just what he can do.
The attitude of his may prove to be a problem though, as he’s currently refusing to play for Jamaica unless “their standard of football improves drastically”. Sassy.
Justin Kluivert – Ajax
Another young left winger, only this time from the Netherlands. Kluivert is making a name for himself in the Eredivisie.
With him being the son of legendary Dutch forward, Patrick Kluivert, it was always going to be certain that the pressure on Justin’s shoulders to follow in his father’s footsteps would be a great one that is only ever increased by the media spotlight.
However, he seems to be handling it better than most in his position would.
Having been a regular in Ajax’s famous youth system, Kluivert made his debut for the first team in January of this year, coming on as a substitute against PEC Zwolle. A couple of weeks after that, he bagged his first goal when he netted against SBV Excelsior, exactly 10 years after his father scored his last ever goal as a professional.
Currently, Ajax see him as their biggest young talent that they have at their disposal, despite having a range available to them. He was awarded the club’s prestigious Young Player of the Year award at the end of the 2016-17 campaign, an accolade that has previously been awarded to the likes of Rafael Van Der Vaart, Nwankwo Kanu and more recently Christian Eriksen and Kasper Dolberg.
Not many players manage to replicate a successful career that was enjoyed by their fathers, but it seems as though Justin may just have what it takes to do so.
Timo Werner – RB Leipzig
Werner is widely regarded as one of the best up and coming strikers around at this moment in time.
Since making the move from VFB Stuttgart to RB Leipzig in the summer of 2016, the 21-year-old German has become a prolific goal scorer, netting 26 goals in 37 Bundesliga appearances to date.
Werner ended the 2016-17 season with 21 goals, making him the highest German goal scorer in the division and his goals helped RB Leipzig to qualify for the UEFA Champions League for the first time in the club’s history.
He was also called up to the German senior side by Joachim Lowe earlier on this year and has since scored six goals in just eight caps, so he’s certainly proving that he knows exactly where the goal is.
It’s no surprise that his phenomenal record has attracted the eyes of many a European giant and I fully expect him to make the move to a, no offence to Leipzig, bigger club within the next two years.
He’s got all the makings of a Premier League striker in my opinion so watch this space.
Ryan Sessegnon – Fulham
Last on the list, but by no means least, is Fulham’s 17-year-old Ryan Sessegnon.
In terms of debut season’s, it couldn’t have got much better than it did for the left back in the Championship last year.
He scored six goals in 31 appearances in the league and was a standout star in a Fulham side that narrowly missed out on their long-awaited return to the Premier League. His most memorable moment came in March, when he scored twice in an away match against eventual league champions Newcastle United.
Sessegnon capped off a brilliant campaign by becoming the youngest ever player to be named in the PFA Championship Team of the Year.
Despite interest from all over Europe for his signature, the England under 19 international put pet to paper on his first ever pro contract at Fulham this summer, citing regular firs team football as his choice for doing so.
However, with the likes of Tottenham, Arsenal, Manchester United and Liverpool all sniffing around him since his incredible rise out of the shadows, it would be a huge surprise if Sessegnon stayed at Craven Cottage for a lot longer.
All stats correct as of October 4, 2017.
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