Neymar and the 7 Most Exciting U-20 Talents
Rich Schultz/Getty Images
Watching a prodigious youngster blossom into a world-class footballer is such a surreal feeling.
When Lionel Messi lofted the ball over Albacete’s Raul Valbuena, little did we know that the Argentine would later surpass Ronaldinho’s legacy. Of course, it was Ronaldinho’s dink over the Albacete back line that allowed Messi to execute the first of many exquisite finishes.
Neymar is already a star and here are seven other exciting U-20 talents. Invariably the list doesn’t include any defenders or defensive midfielders. Why? It's not a list of the best U-20 talents, rather a list filled with players that bring joy to the game.
U-20 means 20 years or younger, so Eden Hazard is ineligible.
Don’t hesitate to suggest alternative names in the comment section.
Raheem Sterling, Liverpool, Left Forward, Age: 17
Alex Livesey/Getty Images
Does Raheem Sterling normally play with this intensity? It's as if he's played his entire career as a wing-back because he's making tackles all over the place.
Right now, he's made three more tackles than Glen Johnson.
Sterling is fearless when taking on defenders, which is why he averages the highest dribbles per game at Liverpool.
Memphis Depay, PSV Eindhoven, Left Forward, Age: 18
Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images
Memphis Depay has elite competition for a wide-forward role in Dries Mertens and Luciano Narsingh.
Should Mertens have another productive season, PSV Eindhoven will sell him and replace him with Depay.
Depay's acceleration is astonishing.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Arsenal, Right Attacking Midfielder, Age: 19
Clive Mason/Getty Images
Arsène Wenger made a perfect analogy when describing Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain's development:
When you come from youth-team football to the senior squad, it's like going from primary school to university and you have to learn quickly. This kind of progress could be bad for someone who is bit big-headed, but Alex is very relaxed, very humble. It can be damaging if a guy thinks 'Hey, look who I am', but he is not like that. Alex is ahead of schedule because I didn't expect him to be honestly in the national team at the moment.
Focus on the "It can be damaging if a guy thinks 'Hey, look who I am'" part; who could Wenger possibly be referring to?
Oh, yeah, Le Sulk.
It's been 15 years since Wenger made one of the smartest deals in European transfer history by signing Nicolas Anelka for £500,000, selling him for £22.3 million and replacing him with Thierry Henry.
Oxlade-Chamberlain's physical attributes are just as good as Anelka. The English teenager has a very bright future.
Xherdan Shaqiri, Bayern Munich, Right Forward, Age: 20
Victor Fraile/Getty Images
Xherdan Shaqiri has sent in a few lovely passes, but he's been unlucky not to have accumulated an assist yet.
He hasn't played in the preferred right forward role yet because Thomas Müller is playing excellently on the right.
Shaqiri is a deadly dribbler, but the reason he evades so many tackles is because of his low centre of gravity.
Erik Lamela, Roma, Right Forward, Age: 20
Paolo Bruno/Getty Images
Erik Lamela is Roma's biggest cash cow and the Italian club needs to take some lessons on how to negotiate an inflated transfer fee like Porto.
Selling Fabio Borini to Liverpool for minimal profit was a joke.
Following such a harrowing experience at River Plate, he underachieved in his first season at Roma. Spitting at Stephan Lichtsteiner heaped more unnecessary pressure on the Argentine.
He is one of the most gifted players in Serie A, and Roma are expecting him to produce more goals and assists this season.
Mario Götze, Borussia Dortmund, Right Attacking Midfielder, Age: 20
Alex Grimm/Getty Images
During the 2010-11 season, Mario Götze formed an effective, entertaining and interchanging midfield "3" with Shinji Kagawa and Kevin Großkreutz. There was also Nuri Şahin orchestrating play behind them.
Last season, Götze watched on as Borussia Dortmund dominated without him.
Götze will eventually slot into the No. 10 role and could be one of the best players in that position.
Lucas Moura, Paris Saint-Germain, Right Forward, Age: 20
Lucas Moura has made a terrible decision to go for money over career development.
Of course, he still has a few months of running free in Brazil before he comes over to Paris.
Gianfranco Zola hit rock bottom under Carlo Ancelotti at Parma.
When Ancelotti moved to Juventus, he infamously underrated Thierry Henry's potential for greatness.
At AC Milan, world-class youth prospects Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Yoann Gourcuff weren't given a chance by Ancelotti. Though in the case of Gourcuff, he just didn't work hard.
Lucas won't play if he doesn't immediately impress Ancelotti.
How on earth can Lucas live up to his absurd €45 million transfer fee? He can't. Unless, he starts scoring goals out of nowhere, he'll be Denílson 2.0.
I've watched about 15-20 full games of Lucas and my average grade would be a C.
The YouTube compilations make him out as if he's some God, when in fact, he's doing the exact same thing that Gervinho and Gökhan Töre are criticised for—dribbling blind.
Lucas is probably the most overrated player in world football right now.
Neymar, Santos, Left Forward, Age: 20
Neymar is basically a more efficient Djalminha.
Hopefully Neymar moves to Europe sooner rather than later.
The only way he'll fail is if his body breaks down.
At minimum, he should score 30 goals a season. He's proficient at set pieces, he's always looking to score or create a goal, not to mention he takes a ton of shots.
Which club should he join? Real Madrid because he has more of a chance at displacing Cristiano Ronaldo as the main man. At Real, he'll also take more shots than he would at Barcelona, where he'll be second to Lionel Messi.