Andre Villas-Boas coaches one of his young superstars-to-be
Tottenham Hotspur currently sit fourth in the table in one of the most competitive early Premier League seasons in recent memory. Spurs sold their most expensive player ever, and spent money on seven new signings this summer. It's possible that expectations have never been higher at White Hart Lane, and with good reason.
So what does the future hold for the Lilywhites? If this list is any indication, it holds great things.
Without further adieu, here are the nine best youth players in the Tottenham system. By "youth players," we've made the somewhat arbitrary cutoff at "under 22 years old," and the list covers youth squad, senior squad and on-loan players alike.
This list attempts to rank the players on potential more than on their current form, but we're also taking into account current/recent success, whether at Spurs or elsewhere.
Kyle Walker is too old for this list; too good not to mention
A few players are very much a part of both Spurs' present and their future, while not making our cutoff of 21 years old.
Kyle Walker (23)
Spurs supporters received some excellent news when Kyle Walker signed a contract extension with the club last month. The extension will keep the pacey, exciting full-back at White Hart Lane through the 2018-19 season. He's a fixture both for Tottenham and for England, with nine senior squad caps already to his name.
Vlad Chiriches (23)
This recent addition (a member of this summer's Baldini Seven), the Romanian defender is already proving his worth in a Lilywhite shirt. His defensive skills and cheeky ball control have been on display in Tottenham's Europa League matches this season.
Lewis Holtby (23)
Holtby, formerly the captain of the Germany U21 team, has picked up six assists over five matches in Europa League and League Cup play. He's a true box-to-box midfielder, setting up goals in the attacking half and displaying an excellent work rate on defense.
Danny Rose (23)
While currently injured, Rose showed such skill on loan at Sunderland last season that he supplanted former choice left-back Benoit Assou-Ekotto to be Andre Villas-Boas' favorite for the position. When he returns healthy, he may find himself as second choice, since Jan Vertonghen has been taking left-back duties in light of Michael Dawson and Vlad Chiriches playing excellent defense at center.
Andros Townsend (22)
What can be said about the man of the month of October? Scoring goals for club and country, this incredibly fast-paced winger is growing into his skills nicely, and should continue to advance in the coming years. Like Walker, Townsend has just signed a contract extension with Tottenham, which will keep him at the Lane through the 2017-18 season.
Cristian Ceballos playing for Spurs XI
Ceballos is a striker in the Tottenham youth system, currently on loan to FC Arouca in Portugal's Primeira Liga. Arouca are struggling this season, as they have yet to win a match. Likewise, Ceballos has yet to score a goal, though he has found his way into the Arouca starting XI.
Last season, however, Ceballos shined for Tottenham U21, netting 11 goals and eight assists in 22 matches. There is some question as to whether he will fit in long-term at Tottenham, but he has skill, and if he can find his form in Portugal this season, he can prove his mettle for the club.
Nabil Bentaleb playing for Tottenham U19
Bentaleb turns 19 just this month, and is someone the Tottenham faithful should be very excited about, indeed.
A box-to-box midfielder, Bentaleb has yet to find a true goal-scoring touch, netting four and three assists in 20 U21 Premier League matches. But this teenager has already earned a cap for France U19. Good with both feet, Bentaleb shows a natural ease with the ball, and an excellent first touch. Perhaps not next season, but in the very near future, he will be challenging an already-crowded Tottenham midfield for playing time.
Shaquille Coulthirst playing for Spurs XI
This striker has jumped out to a quick start this season in the U21 Premier League. In just six matches for Tottenham's U21 squad, Coulthirst has three goals and an assist. The only downside is that all three goals came in August matches, and the forward hasn't scored since. The small drought aside, Coulthirst is an exciting young talent to keep an eye on.
When Tottenham signed Fryers in last January's transfer window, Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson was furious with the circumstances, claiming Spurs had "blatantly manipulated" the situation, signing Fryers from Belgian club Standard Liege, thus avoiding paying United the substantial transfer fee they were originally seeking for Fryers before he left for Belgium.
While Fryers has yet to live up to that outrage, he has found himself conscripted into the starting squad several times, thanks in part to several short- and long-term injuries in the Spurs back four this season. Hopes—and expectations—remain high for Fryers, however.
Alex Pritchard playing for Swindon Town
Currently on loan to League One Swindon Town, Pritchard had an incredible 2012-13 campaign for Tottenham U21.
This attacking midfielder, comfortable with both feet, scored six goals and four assists in 11 U21 Premier League matches last season. This season, he's found a real touch for setting up his teammates, securing eight assists (along with three goals of his own) in 17 matches for Swindon.
Harry Kane vs Hull City in the Capital One Cup
Harry Kane, admittedly, has been Tottenham's "Striker of the Future" for a while now. But he's still just 20 years old. This season has seen him score several times for his club.
In fact, in all competitions and at all club levels (Premier League, Europa League, League Cup, and U21 Premier League) Kane has netted six goals and five assists in nine matches. Not bad at all. Due to the early-season injury to Jermain Defoe, and Emmanuel Adebayor finding himself out of favor with boss Villas-Boas, Kane found himself playing for the senior squad (especially in cup ties) early and often.
The era of Harry Kane isn't far off now.
Erik Lamela vs Aston Villa in the Capital One Cup
The summer of 2013 was a record-breaking one for Tottenham Hotspur, as if you need to be told again. They sold Gareth Bale for a club-record deal, but only after breaking their own incoming transfer fee record not once, not twice, but three times over.
Erik Lamela was the final—and, therefore, standing—record-breaking purchase by Tottenham. Spurs paid £30 million to AS Roma for the winger, after breaking their pre-2013 record (£15.8 million for Luka Modric in 2008) twice already during the window.
While Lamela has, even by his own admission, struggled after transferring to the Premier League, this is the man who, a year ago, scored 15 goals and five assists in 33 Serie A matches for Roma. He'll come around. And when he does, Spurs will reap the rewards.
Tom Carroll in action for England U21
This box-to-box midfielder has played all over the middle of the park, and all over the English league structure so far in his young career.
Carroll plays stout defense for a man his size (he's just 5'10"), and can set teammates up in attack. His ball control is excellent and his passing is crisp. These skills have helped him earn his first three caps for England's senior squad this year, despite playing his club ball at Queens Park Rangers after their demotion to the Championship.
A future general in the field, Carroll looks to factor in to Tottenham's long-term plans as part of a midfield pivot.
Christian Eriksen with Andros Townsend in Tottenham's Europa League match vs Tromso IL
Having come over from Ajax Amsterdam of the Danish Eredivisie this summer, Eriksen has just one goal and two assists for Tottenham.
However, even though he's still just 21 years old, Eriksen has had quite the scoring career to date, netting 30 goals and 61 assists in 146 matches for Ajax. He's still finding his way around the Premier League and Andre Villas-Boas' system, but there is little doubt in anyone's mind that Eriksen has the chops to be the man at the Lane.