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Liverpool's Philippe Coutinho was No. 22 on the long-list
The aim of this article is to provide you with an accurate list of the top 20 European-based footballers aged 20 or under.
Please note that I have excluded footballers who aren't playing regular top-flight football, so apologies in advance if you wanted to see the likes of Gerard Deulofeu (Barcelona), Kevin Friesenbichler (Bayern Munich), Islam Feruz (Chelsea), Jesé (Real Madrid) and Serge Gnabry (Arsenal) on this list.
Last 10 Long-List Cuts
Florian Thauvin (Bastia), Philippe Coutinho (Liverpool), Tonny Vilhena (Feyenoord), Serge Aurier (Toulouse), Viktor Fischer (Ajax), Samuel Umtiti (Lyon), Matthias Ginter (Freiburg), Adam Maher (AZ), Kurt Zouma (Saint-Étienne), Mauro Icardi (Sampdoria)
Comments on Notable Omissions
Adrien Rabiot (Toulouse; on loan from Paris Saint-Germain): It’s imperative that he ups his passing percentage (76.6) into the mid- or high-80s. Elegant playing style, and isn’t afraid to put his foot in.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (Arsenal): His first season as a Gunner was impressive, but he hasn’t kicked on. Will need to watch his back with Gnabry set on being the club’s breakout star next season.
Alvaro Morata (Real Madrid): For a player of his talent, he should have played 50 La Liga games by now. Real Madrid Castilla have consistently produced prospects who weren’t given a chance in the first team. As soon as they moved on, they developed into world-class players.
Amin Affane (Chelsea): For a struggling club like Roda to kick him out as a loanee, despite him being one of their most incisive players, gives you an idea how unbearable he must have been.
Granit Xhaka (Borussia Mönchengladbach): His petulance and outspoken demeanour have caused friction among teammates (via ESPN FC). Xhaka’s inability to back up his talk has left him looking like a fool. He has flashes of brilliance, but isn’t justifying Mönchengladbach’s €8.5 million investment with turnover after turnover.
Iker Muniain (Athletic Bilbao): He is showing signs of being an early bloomer, because his career is at an impasse—he isn’t making improvements, nor has he kept up the standard of play expected in him.
Jetro Willems (PSV Eindhoven): Hasn’t really been the same since being thrown to the wolves at Euro 2012. Isn’t in the league of Patrick van Aanholt and Daley Blind, but Jetro does have time on his side.
Joel Campbell (Real Betis; on loan from Arsenal): Considering he wasn’t even getting a look-in at the start of the season, his loan should be considered a positive, in that he’s managed to consistently get playing time.
Juan Quintero (Pescara): His mind is already focused on his next destination, hence why he hasn’t come to Pescara’s rescue in their fight against Serie A relegation.
Lucas Digne (Lille): Can’t understand why there are transfer rumours linking him to big clubs. His positioning is not elite, and he’s constantly being bailed out by his teammates.
Lucas Moura (Paris Saint-Germain): Fantastic to watch, but he isn’t producing like a €45 million-valued player—Denílson 2.0.
Lucas Piazón (Málaga; on loan from Chelsea): What’s the point of buying Oscar for £25 million when Piazón has the potential to be a better player?
M'Baye Niang (AC Milan): Supremely gifted, but hasn’t been efficient in front of goal.
Moritz Leitner (Borussia Dortmund): He’s a quality footballer, but he just hasn’t been able to solidify a permanent starting position in a talented BVB midfield.
Nicola Murru (Cagliari): Of all the traits the left-back could have taken from midfield general Daniele Conti, Murru took the worst one—Conti’s habitual tendency to make stupid fouls. Nicola leads the club in interceptions per game and should have a bright future, provided he erase his trend of conceding pointless free kicks.
Raheem Sterling (Liverpool): His defensive and offensive production have steadily decreased throughout the season. At one point, his tackles per game were higher than several well-known right-backs.
Ricardo Rodriguez (Wolfsburg): Is a modern day full-back, in that he can win back possession and be a threat in the attacking half. However, he’s has had a few André Santos-like moments at the back.
Sead Kolasinac (Schalke): He is a left-back version of Jermaine Jones. Kolasinac is an intimidating presence on the field and may end up as Schalke’s permanent LB if Christian Fuchs continues to have lapses in concentration at the most inopportune moments.
Tomas Kalas (Vitesse; on loan from Chelsea): Hasn’t been able to start in his preferred centre-back position, so he’s been doing a job at right-back. But does he have world-class potential in that position? No.