Top 100 Youth Prospects in European Football
Welcome to B/R's rundown of the top 100 youth prospects currently plying their trade in European football.
Each year a slew of young stars enter our consciousness, with managers seemingly more willing than ever to throw their rookies in at the deep end to see if they sink or swim.
Advancements in sports science mean teenagers are more ready than ever to mix it with the big boys, and when you see clubs like Tottenham Hotspur fielding Premier League sides with an average age of 23, per Steve Burt of the London Evening Standard, you begin to realise just how big of a part young players play even at the top level.
The world's most prestigious academies continue to churn out fresh talent, and clubs such as Ajax, Schalke and Arsenal continue to play them. It provides a veritable feast for us to delve into and sort the best from the rest.
Read on to find out who we believe to be the stars of tomorrow (or, in some cases, today).
Important: Parameters, Selection Criteria and Honourable Mentions
To be eligible for this list, the first requirement is, of course, that you are a talented young footballer who could feasibly make it to the pinnacle of the sport.
Our first count of prospects included just over 200 promising young footballers, so competition to make the 100 was high.
Serge Gnabry, Divock Origi, Sinan Kurt and Hervin Ongenda haven't even made the honourable mentions list.
We've only included players aged 17-20. Why? Any lower and the footage isn't accessible, and that initial 200 would become 300. As a result, Martin Odegaard, who is 16 years of age, is not in this list.
You don't have to be of European nationality to make the cut, but you do have to be plying your trade in Europe. We have Brazilians, Argentinians, Nigerians, Malians and more, but all are playing for European clubs.
The players are ranked according to their potential, how high their ceiling is and how likely it is they make it to the top. The players are not ranked according to how good they are right now.
- Adrien Rabiot, CM, Paris Saint-Germain
- Kasey Palmer, ST/Wing, Chelsea
- Niklas Stark, DM, Hertha Berlin
- Marcus Edwards, Wing, Tottenham Hotspur
- Alper Ademoglu, Fwd, Anderlecht
- Viktor Kovalenko, AM, Shakhtar Donetsk
100. Jason Denayer, CB, Manchester City (on loan at Galatasaray)
Denayer has shot from nowhere to senior and international honours. He's firmly in Marc Wilmots' Belgian thinking at centre-back and is honing his skills at Gala domestically. Physically, he's perfect for the position, and Manuel Pellegrini will hope the rest falls into place shortly.
99. Moses Simon, Wing, Gent
Simon is a walking highlight reel of a player, an absolute joy to watch when he's on his game. Like his compatriot Victor Moses, he blows hot and cold, though. At times, he looks a world beater; at others, he's prone to copious turnovers.
98. Andriy Boryachuk, ST, Shakhtar Donetsk
Boryachuk's a well-rounded, clever, versatile forward. Shakhtar have used him in a variety of roles, and he has both the physical and technical attributes to rise to the challenge. He's good over the shoulder or dropping in, and he has an assured finish.
97. Nathan, AM, Chelsea (on loan at Vitesse)
In this list, 97th-ranked Nathan is your first taste of what is a sizeable glut of young playmakers on the books at Chelsea. Nathan's proving ground, like so many before him, is the Eredivisie, where his fleet-footed dribbling and long-range shooting have already impressed.
96. Alejandro Grimaldo, LB, Barcelona
B/R’s Jason Pettigrove rates Grimaldo as an all-around exciting prospect at left-back, and we share his enthusiasm. It’s going to be tough to break into Barcelona’s first-team setup, but he has what it takes should his name be called.
95. Ante Coric, AM, Dinamo Zagreb
Coric is receiving a lot of hype—articles like this UEFA.com one aid in that—but Croatian football aficionados are concerned he's not progressing as planned. He's a dynamic, lightweight, technical attacking midfielder, but he needs space to thrive and can't pull his weight defensively.
94. Lewis Baker, CM, Chelsea (on loan at Vitesse)
Baker is one of the most technically sound young central midfielders in England, but it already feels like he's in a do-or-die situation at Vitesse. He must impress out on loan this year to stand a chance of forging a career at Stamford Bridge.
93. Santi Mina, Wing/AM, Valencia
Valencia were wise to relieve Celta Vigo of this precocious talent in the summer. Mina showed during 2014-15 he can carry the creative burden of a lesser team, twisting and turning his way to assists and goals.
92. James Wilson, ST, Manchester United
Louis van Gaal doesn't appear to rate James Wilson, and that's a concern. The young striker has the size, speed and natural finishing instincts to make it to the top...but only if he's not neglected.
91. Julian Brandt, Wing, Bayer Leverkusen
Despite the riches Roger Schmidt has to pick from at Leverkusen, Schmidt is still forging a decent chunk of playing time from the wing. He's fast, direct, can cross a ball and take a set piece.
90. Beka Vachiberadze, DM, Real Betis B
Vachiberadze is a wonderfully tidy, deep-lying playmaker in the mould of an Ashley Westwood, but he must assert himself in games more heavily. He should be the focal point of the play from deep, spraying passes left and right, but he sometimes drifts.
89. Jordon Ibe, Wing, Liverpool
Suggestions that Ibe can be Liverpool’s next Raheem Sterling seem a little premature, and already the Liverpool winger is fighting to prove doubters wrong. He brings great width and pace, but he must improve his end product.
88. Vaclav Cerny, Wing, Ajax
Cerny's yet another wing talent on the books at Ajax, impressing with his penetrative dribbles, speed and ability to hit the byline and cross. He's got one hell of a long-range pass on him, too.
87. Ryan Gauld, AM, Sporting Club
Gauld caught the attention of Sporting scouts after making the Dundee United first team at age 17. A pretty playmaker, he zips about and lifts delicate passes in behind defences.
86. Felix Passlack, RB, Borussia Dortmund
Passlack caught the eye at the European Under-17 Championship this summer for Germany, and Dortmund fans are excited they just might have a ready-made replacement for Lukasz Piszczek waiting in the wings. The 17-year-old is a leader, standard-setter and a near-complete full-back prospect.
85. Joe Gomez, CB/LB/RB, Liverpool
Gomez was signed from Charlton Athletic this summer after great youth performances for England, but not even Brendan Rodgers—Liverpool's manager at the time—would have anticipated how well he’s played this early on. Capable anywhere across the back line, he’s smooth on the ball, beats men and instigates attacks.
84. Jonathan Tah, CB, Bayer Leverkusen
Tah is a monstrously built centre-back who walls off strikers with his muscular frame. His instincts are good, though his defensive skill set could do with some tidying, but he has the size and speed to be a hit in his position.
83. Tammy Abraham, ST, Chelsea
With Dominic Solanke on loan at Vitesse, Abraham is taking the lead role up front for Chelsea's youth side. He scored more than 35 goals last season, displaying predatory instincts inside the box.
82. Zakaria Bakkali, Wing, Valencia
After bursting on to the scene with PSV Eindhoven, Bakkali’s star fell dramatically due to attitude issues. At Valencia, he’s been given a fresh chance, though, and has impressed greatly during the early stages of the season as a super-sub.
81. Charlie Colkett, CM, Chelsea
Colkett dominates at youth level and wears the captain's armband with pride. Many Chelsea fans hope he can be the next local hero and emulate his under-19 performances in the senior side.
80. Will Hughes, CM, Derby County
Hughes sustained a bad knee injury early this season and will likely miss the rest of Derby's campaign. Once an energetic, bright, pass-and-move midfielder, all eyes will be on whether or not he can recover.
79. Dele Alli, CM, Tottenham Hotspur
Alli's impact on Spurs has been astounding: He's livened up a once-static midfield, fearlessly pressing the opposition and taking on opposing markers. He inspires those around him to lift their game, and his good early form has been rewarded with a senior England call-up.
78. Jack Harper, AM, Brighton & Hove Albion
A casualty of the Galactico policy in Madrid, Brighton have landed an intelligent young attacking midfielder with a regular eye for goal. Can he prosper and progress on the south coast?
77. Abdelhak Nouri, AM/Wing, Ajax
Nouri is one of the most eye-poppingly talented technicians on the planet, but he's yet to translate that skill into real game-situation performances. He's 18, and he's not even starting for Jong Ajax.
76. Franck Mikal, Wing, Anderlecht
An exciting dribbler with quick feet, Mikal sits on the full-back's shoulder and constantly looks to breach the space in behind. He's tricky, but he could learn how and when to release the ball quicker.
75. Tonny Vilhena, CM, Feyenoord
Like Nouri, Vilhena is struggling to make good on his potential at the moment. He hasn't featured much this season for Feyenoord, despite carving out a first-team role last term. The left-footer has a wonderful touch and range of passing, and he injects positivity in every phase of play.
74. Rony Lopes, AM, Monaco
Lopes is a heads-up creator who sprays passes left and right to pick out runners. Capable of being the major outlet in a side despite being just 19 years of age, Monaco pounced this summer and bought him for £9 million from Manchester City. Money well spent.
73. Niklas Sule, CB, Hoffenheim
Sule is a beast of a centre-back who uses his height and long legs to his advantage, intercepting balls others simply can't. He doesn't look the tidiest, but he sure is effective.
72. Jordan Rossiter, CM, Liverpool
He has had to deal with the “next Steven Gerrard” tag for three years now, but it's easy to see why the comparison is made. Rossiter is an energetic, box-to-box presence who boasts bite and finesse in equal measures.
71. Max Meyer, AM/Wing, Schalke
Meyer's star is fading a little; he just hasn't made the impact he was expected to after bursting on to the scene 12 months ago. He's technically very talented and picks a lovely pass, but he drifts from games and lacks that defining impact you want to see.
70. Timo Werner, Wing/ST, Stuttgart
Werner first burst on to the scene as a rapid winger but has now transitioned inside to play as a No. 9. He's still extremely fast and very instinctive with his movement, but, at times, he can drift out of games.
69. Adnan Januzaj, AM/Wing, Manchester United (on loan at Borussia Dortmund)
Januzaj's extremely fast start under David Moyes is now a distant memory. Sent to BVB to prove himself, he's reminded of his slick ability to play on the half-turn and create in tight spaces.
68. Thierry Ambrose, Wing, Manchester City
Ambrose, in a way, is like a slightly less tidy Kingsley Coman: Outrageously fast, direct on the ball and lethal with it at his feet. But his movements are slightly on the chaotic side at the moment, and while he can be a wrecking ball of a winger, he turns it over a lot, too.
67. Sheyi Ojo, Wing, Liverpool (on loan at Wolves)
Ojo comes in fairly low on this list due to concerns over his end product, but if it snaps into gear for him, he'll become an absolute monster. Exquisite technical skill combined with overbearing size and speed make for a deadly cocktail.
66. Joshua Kimmich, DM, Bayern Munich
“Joshua has everything a player needs,” Pep Guardiola enthused to reporters following Bayern Munich’s demolition of Dinamo Zagreb in September, per Goal.com. “He is very intelligent, always aggressive toward the ball, strong in the air, has an eye for free space, has superb vision and knows when to charge forward and when to sit back.” Description nailed.
65. Borja Mayoral, ST, Real Madrid
Mayoral caught the eye during Real Madrid’s UEFA Youth League run in 2014-15. He’s almost like a mini-Karim Benzema—if they’ve been training together, it shows. He has good feet, good awareness and a strong finish to top it off.
64. James Ward-Prowse, CM, Southampton
Ward-Prowse has long been seen as a pre-eminent English talent but is struggling to impact games at a senior level—be it with goals, assists or meaningful passes. Ronald Koeman has recently relocated him to a deeper role, and it's paying dividends.
63. Izzy Brown, Wing/Fwd, Chelsea (on loan at Vitesse)
Brown has shown immense promise over the past few years in Chelsea’s academy but must iron an element of consistency into his game. He can dominate if he wants, but it doesn’t always happen. Brown has a sharp finish and immense movement in his locker.
62. Kenedy, Wing/Fwd, Chelsea
Kenedy has the build of a 25-year-old forward and the dazzling dribbling ability to flummox defenders. Can he tie it all together at the top level?
61. Patrick Roberts, Wing/AM, Manchester City
Roberts shone in Fulham’s youth setup, and despite widely being regarded as a homegrown-quota signing for Manchester City this summer, he continues to flash genuine world-class potential. Silky feet and David Silva-esque playmaking abilities make him one to watch.
60. Steven Bergwijn, Wing, PSV Eindhoven
Bergwijn has replaced Memphis Depay on the wing at PSV Eindhoven and looks electric. He's helped soften the blow of losing the club's best overall player.
59. Goncalo Guedes, CM, Benfica
Guedes is an unbelievable tricky right winger who boasts explosion off the edge, a great timing of runs and a remarkable awareness when supplying the final ball. An accurate shooter who is capable of cutting tight passes back across goal, Benfica have constantly sought his runs off the edge to create goalscoring chances.
58. Dominic Solanke, ST, Chelsea (on loan at Vitesse)
Solanke took the bold step of joining Vitesse on loan this season despite only turning 18 in September. A natural finisher with great movement, we have yet to see if he has the requisite link play to cut it at the top. This is his chance to demonstrate.
57. Renato Sanches, FB/Wing/CM, Benfica
It seems as though Sanches can play in most positions; he's tactically very intelligent and has been used by Benfica in a variety of roles. Technically he's very slick, his calmness on the ball is infectious, and he creates an awful lot for his team-mates.
56. Federico Bonazzoli, ST, Sampdoria
Bonazzoli is old school; he's a classic No. 9 who hunts down mistakes, makes good runs and finishes coolly. Diminutive, quick and lively, centre-backs won't enjoy dealing with his constant harassment and movement.
55. Karim Rekik, CB, Marseille
Rekik didn’t really get a look in at Manchester City, but he’s already won the Eredivisie with PSV Eindhoven and has now nailed down a starting role at Marseille. He’s very calm on the ball and loves to push forward to open up attacking avenues.
54. Jean-Kevin Augustin, ST, Paris Saint-Germain
Augustin shone during Paris Saint-Germain’s pre-season, flashing genuine predatory skills that would make some of the established strikers on this planet jealous. He's quick, deadly and assured of his own ability one-on-one.
53. Bertrand Traore, Wing, Chelsea
Bertrand Traore already has 24 caps for Burkino Faso and has played at an Africa Cup of Nations. He enjoyed a brilliant 2014-15 at Vitesse but hasn’t been trusted with any responsibility at Chelsea yet. He’s fast, direct and decisive in the final third.
52. Adama Traore, AM/Wing, AS Monaco
Adama Traore's spell at Lille was short lived, with a stunning FIFA U-20 World Cup display earning him both the Golden Ball and a €14 million (£10 million) move to Monaco. Capable through the middle or out wide, he spearheads attacks and produces in the final third.
51. Alen Halilovic, AM, Barcelona (on loan at Sporting Gijon)
Halilovic is a little lightweight, but his movement and technique are top notch. He finds space between the lines, quickens the tempo of attacks and distributes cleanly. A threat on the move or picking out a pass, he’s quickly becoming Sporting Gijon’s key attacking outlet.
50. Munir El Haddadi, Wing, Barcelona
It's now Munir El Haddadi's time to shine. With Lionel Messi out for at least six weeks and Rafinha done for the season, October and November are going to be huge months in the young Spaniard's development.
The 20-year-old rose to fame last season in a whirlwind few weeks, making such an impressive Barcelona debut that Vicente del Bosque saw fit to cap him and lock his nationality. Operating from a wide role, his speed, quick feet and high football IQ rose to the fore.
But then he was stashed, and the last 12 months haven't produced the sort of progress expected. There aren't many Spanish footballers who get eaten by the hype machine, but Munir is at risk.
49. Nabil Bentaleb, DM, Tottenham Hotspur
Tottenham Hotspur have plenty of young prospects worth keeping an eye on, but the one with the highest ceiling is Nabil Bentaleb.
The Algerian started the 2015-16 season in iffy form, gifting the ball away at Old Trafford in the build-up to Kyle Walker's own goal, but don't forget that Bentaleb spent the entirety of 2014-15 establishing himself as one of the premier young talents in the division.
The 20-year-old is a tough tackler and a graceful passer, with progression visible in how he distributes the ball (between the lines more), and how he stands up against more physical opponents. He has the potential to become physically and technically dominant as an anchor midfielder.
48. Balde Keita, Wing, Lazio
Balde Keita has managed to carve out a consistent first-team role for himself at Lazio this season, and that should further speed up what has already been a rapid individual rise.
An electric dribbler and a game-changer with the ball at his feet, Keita boasts poise and balance while on the move that few can match. His ability to keep his body in neutral while facing up one-on-one leads to him being fouled a lot, and Lazio stand to benefit from all of the free-kicks he draws in dangerous areas.
The 20-year-old is still a bit raw in terms of end product, but he has that X-factor in the middle third that will ensure Stefano Pioli remains patient with him.
47. Hector Bellerin, RB, Arsenal
Hector Bellerin arrived on the scene during Arsenal’s demolition of Benfica in the Emirates Cup in 2014, but Yaya Sanogo’s big goalscoring day meant barely anyone noticed the Spaniard.
He’s about as fast as football players get without the ball, pushes forward superbly from right-back and offers a real outlet for Arsenal in the wide areas. Whenever Arsene Wenger goes back to Mathieu Debuchy, it’s clear how much they miss Bellerin’s width and speed.
He’s got a fair bit to learn defensively, but that’s very normal for a 20-year-old in his position. His recovery pace allows him some leeway when it comes to errors, as he can usually mop them up himself.
46. Aaron Leya Iseka, ST, Anderlecht
Aaron Leya Iseka, brother of Marseille ace Michy Batshuayi, is one of the most confident one-on-one finishers you'll find at youth level.
When the 17-year-old tears through on goal, it's almost a guarantee he'll find the back of the net, as he boasts the sort of cool, calm demeanor we've quickly come to associate with Manchester United ace Anthony Martial.
A proper No. 9, Leya Iseka makes good runs, holds off markers and finishes instinctively. He takes a mean penalty, too; the ease with which he strikes the ball home screams confidence in his own abilities.
45. Simone Scuffet, GK, Udinese (on Loan at Como)
Simone Scuffet shot to prominence in early 2014 after replacing an injured Zeljko Brkic in a Serie A match for Udinese. He was 17 years of age at the time, yet he proceeded to relegate the Serbian to the bench permanently after turning in a series of stunning showings.
Scuffet's now on loan at Como in Serie B, though that's largely in order to hide him from prying eyes and prolong his stay with the Zebrette.
The 19-year-old has shown for both Como and Udinese a remarkable ability to drop to the deck and block low shots, taking the word "agility" to a whole new level.
He's good coming off his line and excellent one-on-one with strikers, keeping his body big and his eyes on the prize.
44. Tin Jedvaj, CB/RB, Bayer Leverkusen
Many questioned Roma’s decision to allow Tin Jedvaj to go to Bayer Leverkusen, and the Croatian’s performances in Germany have vindicated said concerns.
The 19-year-old is a tactically intelligent, clean defender, who will likely end up at centre-back once he’s bulked up and filled out. For now, he’s fulfilling a stabilising role on the right for Roger Schmidt opposite the marauding Wendell, balancing out the formation well.
With mild concerns over some of Croatia’s other young prospects’ failure to progress as planned, Jedvaj is considered the safest bet when it comes to the nation’s emerging talents.
43. Kingsley Coman, Wing/CF, Juventus (on Loan at Bayern Munich)
Kingsley Coman was featured on Juventus’ 2015-16 kit posters, prompting speculation he’d be integrated into the first team this coming year, but he was then loaned to Bayern Munich with an option to buy.
When Pep Guardiola signs a young player, you sit up and take notice, and Coman, 19, has already flashed electric speed and devastating dribbling ability in his limited exposure to the Bayern first team so far.
Clearly concerned by the injury demise of both Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery last season, Guardiola has taken on Douglas Costa and Coman as dribbling, vertical options to flesh out the squad. Already Coman has won two penalties this season; defenders can’t deal with him running at them head-on in the box.
42. Andy Kawaya, Wing/AM, Anderlecht
Andy Kawaya is an extremely eye-catching player; he steals the limelight with his ambitious, positive dribbles into space and tendency to carry the ball long distances at his feet.
Quick, fast and technically very strong, he’s capable of flummoxing defenders and twisting markers inside out. Anderlecht have a lot of excellent young players, but it’s arguable Kawaya is the most exciting and the most penetrative of them all.
The 19-year-old has already made his senior debut and is on track for more first-team football this season.
41. Jeremie Boga, Wing/AM, Chelsea (on Loan at Stade Rennais)
Jeremie Boga is one of Chelsea’s most exciting prospects. The belief held among youth aficionados last season was that he’s ready for senior football, and the Blues made the right choice in loaning him out to Stade Rennais for the 2015-16 campaign.
He’s built like a small tractor, yet fizzes across the pitch with speed and gracefulness. It’s an odd physical blend rarely seen, and the 18-year-old takes full advantage of it, beating defenders and midfielders one-on-one however necessary.
His goal output has been pretty good, but the real story is how he dictates games in the final third and creates so much space for others due to his penetrative dribbling. If you play in the same team as Boga, you will have room to work with.
40. Saul Niguez, DM, Atletico Madrid
Ahead of the season, we profiled Saul Niguez as one of La Liga’s hidden gems. After being used sporadically in 2014-15 at Atletico Madrid, he’s coming in for a bigger, more important role in 2015-16.
We’re still not entirely sure where he plays—he had a stint at centre-back at Rayo Vallecano and has been used all over the midfield by Diego Simeone—but his snappy defensive instincts and tough-tackling demeanour scream “defensive midfield” in the long run.
The 20-year-old is good playing out from the back and in tight spaces, can dictate a game through sheer force and split wide to play runners in over the top. He's aggressive, asserts himself in games and is willing to do the dirty work most won't.
39. Richairo Zivkovic, ST, Ajax (on Loan at Willem II)
Richairo Zivkovic was snapped up by Ajax in 2014 after emerging as one of the Eredivisie's most promising young Dutch talents, but since then he's stalled a little.
A snappy, instinctive striker, Zivkovic hits the channels quickly and encourages his team to play quicker balls forward to spark transitional play.
The 19-year-old drops in and pressures opposing midfielders well, never letting them settle. He often manages to nick possession, but he needs to start showing more efficiency in his use of the ball.
38. Donis Avdijaj, ST, Schalke (on Loan at Sturm Graz)
Donis Avdijaj’s development has stalled a little, so Schalke have sent him to the Austrian Bundesliga to reignite his flame. If he can put defences to the sword for Sturm Graz, his stock will resume rising once more.
A natural goalscorer, Avdijaj, 19, totalled 54 goals and 16 assists in 45 appearances in 2012-13 to affirm his burgeoning potential and killer instinct, but he hasn’t hit the heights the Royal Blues expected after signing a contract with a whopping €49 million (£35.1 million) buyout clause in it.
37. Pione Sisto, Wing, Midtjylland
Pione Sisto is easily the most exciting prospect in Scandinavia right now, and he’s such an atypical Danish player he’s earning plenty of admiring, inquisitive looks.
He’s already emerged as one of Midtjylland’s key players (he was sorely missed while dealing with injury earlier this year), providing spark and ingenuity from the flank. He dribbles, feints and cuts inside to create chances with consistency.
The 20-year-old can also pop up in the right place at the right time to score key goals—a good trait to have for any emerging final-third player.
36. Andreas Christensen, CB/DM, Chelsea (on Loan at Borussia Monchengladbach)
Andreas Christensen is something of an infamous youth footballing figure due to the Daily Mail’s claim he was earning £20,000 per week at age 18. True or not, that somewhat distracted from the fact he’s a brilliant prospect and, mega-wage or not, is well worth the footballing hype he receives.
Chelsea have loaned the Dane out to Borussia Monchengladbach this season, where he has forged a partnership with Tony Jantschke in the centre of defence. He’s a bit weedy for the moment, truly yet to fill out, but his feet are exquisite and his football IQ is very impressive. Positionally, he's stronger than most in his age group.
The Denmark youth coaches have tried him in holding midfield to bring an element of calm and stability to their teams, and that has worked, too. Sadly, no matter how good the 19-year-old looks in any role (he even performed well at right-back against Shrewsbury in the League Cup last season), it doesn’t feel like there’s a place for him at Stamford Bridge.
35. Jack Grealish, AM, Aston Villa
It’s arguable Jack Grealish is already Aston Villa’s best player. He makes them click in the final third, and without him, his colleagues look directionless and clueless as to what to do.
The 20-year-old has been guaranteed a first-team role by Tim Sherwood and has quietly progressed into one of the Premier League’s more skillful, impactful playmakers. He dominates between the lines, links play and forces wide overloads with class and ingenuity.
He still needs to work on his finishing and improve his scoring tally, but that aspect of his game is at least coming. He netted his first against Leicester City in September.
34. Adama Traore, Wing, Aston Villa
This summer, Adama Traore departed the cushy surroundings of La Masia and Barca B for the harsh realities of life at Aston Villa. The Catalonia-born winger was ready to take the next step and will be eager to prove himself after Luis Enrique showed no interest in integrating him into Barcelona’s first team.
We’ve only seen a snippet of him in England due to an injury sustained against Notts County, but his debut off the bench against Crystal Palace will be tough to forget and only serves to justify the hype surrounding the speedster.
Receiving the ball wide right, he skinned two Palace defenders with ease and forced an own goal with a low cross. He’s ridiculously fast, skillful with the ball and impactful on the pitch. At Barca B, he was perhaps a little selfish, but now that he doesn’t need to stand out in order to progress, that tendency might flicker out.
33. Andreas Pereira, AM, Manchester United
Andreas Pereira is the classy, silky playmaker every fan wants to see in their team. He thrives between the lines, his first touch is golden, and he's so exciting once he embarks on a dribble.
He scored his first Manchester United goal in late September, netting a free-kick against Ipswich Town, and those who witnessed his remarkable exploits during the U-20 FIFA World Cup this summer will have been nodding their heads knowingly.
He faces an uphill battle to make it into Louis van Gaal's side, but he at least appears to have jumped ahead of Adnan Januzaj in the pecking order.
32. Ruben Neves, DM, FC Porto
Despite only turning 18 in March this year, Ruben Neves has already racked up more than 40 senior appearances for FC Porto, per Transfermarkt.
The classy, deep-lying playmaker has taken on a fuller role this season now Casemiro has gone back to Real Madrid, and he's impressing with his outrageous long-range passing ability, capable of switching play accurately and setting his wide players off one-on-one.
He's a strong tackler despite his underdeveloped frame and makes good decisions in key areas; it's not often a player so young takes such an important role in a top side.
31. Marco Asensio, AM, Real Madrid (on Loan at Espanyol)
Marco Asensio was assessed thoroughly during pre-season by the Real Madrid staff, and after taking in a full program and training with the first team, he's been sent out to play some football in a less crowded arena.
An accurate pro-player comparison would be Isco: Quick feet, excellent at finding space to receive passes and even better at dropping in and picking them out himself. He's an excellent dribbler and has the speed to beat defences over the top.
He probably projects to a No. 10 role rather than a winger, but the pace gives him an extra edge in a clogged field of up-and-coming Spanish playmakers.
30. Kelechi Iheanacho, ST, Manchester City
Kelechi Iheanacho has nicked the third striking spot in Manuel Pellegrini’s Manchester City squad, ousting Edin Dzeko and Stevan Jovetic to Serie A on loan in the process.
He’s a born poacher who comes alive in the box, utilising superlative movement to fool his markers and make space for a finish. He’s absolutely brilliant at the classic near-post run and can turn finishes in from odd angles.
A typical No. 9, defenders will despise playing against him. He never stops moving.
29. Julian Weigl, DM, Borussia Dortmund
Julian Weigl has emerged from nowhere to become a key part of Thomas Tuchel’s Borussia Dortmund revival, showing outrageous maturity on the ball for his age.
Much has been made of Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Shinji Kagawa’s improved form, but there’s a 20-year-old in the engine room doing the basics well to allow that to happen.
He’s a European No. 6, takes the ball in tight areas in holding midfield and passes between the lines to set up attacks.
Much of the “creative” burden is on Ilkay Gundogan, but Weigl does his bit, too, and defends his zones well, getting through his tackles and interceptions with aplomb.
28. Luka Jovic, ST, Red Star Belgrade
Charles Ducksbury of FourFourTwo wrote a profile of Luka Jovic, detailing just how highly club director Zvezdan Terzic rates him.
Terzic was quoted as saying:
I called [Ranko] Despotovic to explain why I took the No. 9 shirt from him.
I said to him: 'You’re a good player but at this moment [Robin] van Persie could come to Red Star and the nine would still go to Jovic.'
If we want to sell him for €8 million, then he must wear No. 9, not 46.
Jovic is one of the few players Red Star have decided to hold on to for more than a season or two; they believe he will become one of the best strikers in the world and can sell him for an exorbitant fee soon enough.
He's a technically skilled, well-rounded forward with a good finish on him, and now that he's started to make more runs into dangerous areas, the goals are flowing.
27. Breel Embolo, ST, Basel
Breel Embolo was promoted to FC Basel's senior team so early, he once had to ask for time off school to play in the Champions League at Anfield.
The 18-year-old Swiss star, born in Cameroon, has the size and speed to be a roaring success up front, and so far in his short career, he's displayed immense technical talents and an eye for space. He surges forward, confidently knocking the ball into pockets and beating defenders one-on-one with ease.
His finishing can still improve, but he's flashed real ability to place a shot in the box. B/R can confirm both Aston Villa and Juventus enquired for him this summer but were put off by Basel's price tag of €20 million (£14.3 million). He'll move for big bucks soon enough.
26. Sergi Samper, DM, Barcelona
At times, it's easy to see why Barcelona fans rate Sergi Samper as Sergio Busquets' eventual successor: Stylistically and physically, they appear pretty similar.
Samper is no athlete, but his football IQ shines through in everything he does. Playing at the base of Barca B's midfield, he controls games, sets the tempo, works under extreme pressure and delivers crisp, accurate passes most of the time.
He can turn and jink well considering his size—just like Busquets can—and his technical tidiness allows him to manipulate the ball how ever he sees fit.
25. Oliver Torres, CM, Atletico Madrid
Oliver Torres shot to prominence in the 2013 FIFA U-20 World Cup, displaying masterful technical skills and a lovely passing range in a classic Spanish 4-3-3 setup.
Since then he's been on loan at FC Porto, further honing his skills and adjusting to senior football, and is now part of Diego Simeone's Atletico Madrid squad, taking up a wider role like Koke has, despite being labelled as a central midfielder.
His feet are exquisite, and he can control the tempo of a game given the opportunity.
24. Leroy Sane, Wing/AM, Schalke
Schalke have a rich history of bringing through stunning young players, and Leroy Sane appears to be the latest off the production line. His arrival has come at the right time—while Max Meyer's star appears to be fading a little, Sane has been able to reinvigorate fans' hopes.
The young German forward, at ease either from the wing or playing in a more central position, is the best of both worlds: Wildly talented with the ball at his feet, yet also a hard worker off it.
His strange dribbling style makes him impossible to read, and he jinks left and right to leave attempted tacklers in his dust. He lifts his head quickly, rarely over-complicates things and makes good decisions on the run.
He's not yet a 90-minute player at the top level—more suited to super-sub appearances in the short term—but he's progressing so fast it's just a matter of time before he's an automatic starter for Schalke.
23. Angel Correa, AM, Atletico Madrid
Angel Correa could have been forgiven for a slow start to this season after missing all of 2014-15 following heart surgery, but the young forward has instead seized his few early opportunities to showcase his immense promise and propel himself into the reckoning to play a big part in Atletico Madrid's campaign.
Despite only one start thus far and a handful of substitute appearances, he's already among the most effective, decisive forwards in the team once in the final third and even scored on his senior Argentina debut last month.
Among his finest technical attributes are a great first touch and the ability to turn tightly and dribble past an opponent, but Diego Simeone will see other traits in Correa that he loves, too: Relentless work-rate, good movement to find space in the final third and flashes of that type of ingenuity found in the likes of Sergio Aguero or Luis Suarez that somehow turn an awkward situation into an improbable goal.
22. Jay Dasilva, LB, Chelsea
Jay Dasilva is Chelsea and England's next big hope at left-back; he has shone in every youth competition he's played in despite often tackling players two years his senior.
He has shown a level of maturity and all-around competence youngsters rarely show—particularly at full-back, the least disciplined position of all among youth football—and has a clear future either at left-back or left-wing.
His high football IQ, technical ability and impressive athleticism mean he has the potential to become one of the Premier League's great left-siders. He's aggressive, tracks runners, pushes forward purposefully and swings in a good cross.
In the UEFA Youth League last season, he pocketed Daniele Verde—a fully fledged senior player for Roma—with ease for 90 minutes. Impressive stuff for one so young.
21. Leon Goretzka, CM, Schalke
Leon Goretzka is a strange player; he almost looks a little awkward due to his running style and gait, but everything he does is measured, controlled and skillful.
He's an all-action central midfielder with a wide array of skills. Capable of playing box-to-box, slotting between the lines or threading perfectly weighted through balls in to runners, he's the very epitome of a manager's dream.
Goretzka has struck up a great understanding with fellow young gun, Leroy Sane, with the former often picking out the latter's clever runs.
20. Harry Wilson, AM, Liverpool (on Loan at Crewe Alexandra)
While fans in the here and now focus on Jordon Ibe, those looking to the future will no doubt fancy Harry Wilson as Liverpool’s next major emerging talent.
His wand-like foot is a joy to watch; he can land a pass on a sixpence from 60 yards, cut a defensive line in two with a deft, curling effort or find the back of the net with an arcing shot that leaves the goalkeeper no chance. Gliding through challenges and dancing around stray legs, he represents a serious threat on the move, too.
Wilson was capped by Wales in 2013 to commit his nationality and, if he progresses quickly enough, could find himself part of a deadly triumvirate alongside Aaron Ramsey and Gareth Bale soon.
19. Alessio Romagnoli, CB, Milan
Alessio Romagnoli made himself a very unpopular person in certain parts of Rome this summer, leaving Roma for Milan and simultaneously revealing himself as a Lazio fan.
There'll be no going back to the Giallorossi side of the capital for the 20-year-old, but if the move to San Siro works out as planned, there'll be no need—they hope he can be their next Paolo Maldini.
The Italian displays all the natural instincts of a top-class defender, is dominant in the air for his size and stands a precision tackler. Like so many in his age group, he needs to thicken out a little, but there's a very clear path to stardom laid out before him.
It's been a very difficult start to the season for him, conceding a penalty and receiving a red card already, with the pressure clearly playing on his mind and a lack of talent around him letting him down. His potential, though, remains clear to see.
18. Andrija Zivkovic, FWD, Partizan Belgrade
Despite being just 19 years of age, Andrija Zivkovic has already won the Serbian Super League twice with Partizan Belgrade. He was integrated into the first team two years ago and has become a key member of the squad since.
Zivkovic, a diminutive figure on the pitch, boasts the same short stride and balance that Sergio Aguero and Paulo Dybala do. He seeks out space like a homing missile, can thread passes with the perfect weight and score from any distance inside 30 yards.
He's exciting, he's instinctive, and he's ruthless.
17. Doria, CB, Marseille (on Loan at Granada)
Doria got caught up in a political storm at Marseille last season and, as a result of Marcelo Bielsa’s stubbornness, essentially wasted a year of football by not playing.
But this year he’s gone on loan to Granada to get some football, and he stands a better chance of making it into their XI. When he does start playing, we’ll quickly be reminded of what a remarkably complete centre-back he is, despite his age.
Doria is tall and strong, yet graceful on the turf. He senses danger early and smothers it, dominates aerially and loves to step out to dispossess. Commanding without being overly aggressive, he relies on remarkable positional sense and great instincts to get the job done.
16. Anwar El Ghazi, Wing, Ajax
Anwar El Ghazi is an absolute live wire with the ball at his feet, capable of twisting defenders left and right and landing them on their backsides while he steams forward newly unopposed.
His mesmerising feet and core agility allow him to breeze past opponents reticent to dangle a leg, and his finishing has come on leaps and bounds over the past 12 months, now able to slot measured strikes home after deceiving the goalkeeper.
His long-range shooting makes him a danger from any distance, and despite all of the talent present on yet another young Ajax team, El Ghazi is, arguably, the X-factor in attack.
15. Jose Gaya, LB, Valencia
Think of your typical attack-minded full-back in 2015. Think of things he is supposed to do well, and you've pictured Jose Gaya. He's the modern prototype for his position.
A former winger, he's better going forward than defensively, but at least flashes good instincts and shows an understanding of how to close off angles and track runners.
He's great at linking playing and adding width to the final third, he's not afraid to take possession in tight spots, and his delivery into the box is very good.
14. Ruben Loftus-Cheek, CM, Chelsea
Ruben Loftus-Cheek continues to impress whenever he's given the chance (barring post-season friendlies in Australia, of course), and he seems destined to become the first academy graduate to establish himself in the Chelsea first team since John Terry did 15 years ago.
The elegant, commanding midfielder boasts defensive aptitude and the ability to make the difference surging forward, showing against Maccabi Tel Aviv in September that he can break between the lines and create attacks.
He's 6'3" and well built, yet glides across the turf with consummate ease—a rare, remarkable combination.
13. Charly Musonda, CM/AM/Wing, Chelsea
It can be tough to stand out in Chelsea's youth academy nowadays due to the remarkable collection of prospects Roman Abramovich has curated, but Charly Musonda is one of the true jewels in the system.
Now able to play in a deeper central-midfield role as well as anywhere across the front three, the Belgian displays poise, football IQ and slick technique to go with his slippery speed. The one concern is that he's very slight—can he thrive in England when he's that skinny?—but he's still growing and can pack on a bit of muscle as he gets older.
His game is all about technical ability and good decision-making, and if he can fill out physically, he could well be the full package.
12. Daley Sinkgraven, CM/AM/Wing, Ajax
Daley Sinkgraven cost Ajax €6.5 million (£4.6 million) in January despite not yet completing a full Eredivisie season, but the talent was so obvious, he was regarded as a can't-miss prospect by anyone who'd seen him take to the field.
Stefan Coerts of Goal.com waxed lyrical about his talents in February this year, commending his rare blend of stunning technical ability and work ethic. He chases down and harasses opposing players and strives to retrieve the ball should he lose it.
Having already starred on the left, in the centre and behind the striker, what his best position is remains something of a question mark. Insane technical qualities—including a golden touch, incredible awareness and silky dribbling skills—make him a near certainty to make it to the top regardless of position.
11. Luke Shaw, LB, Manchester United
Luke Shaw's sickening leg break in mid-September places a big question mark over whether or not he can fulfill his potential. Some have rebounded brilliantly from the injury, while others have never been the same again.
The 20-year-old had started the season brilliantly, buccaneering forward from left-back and influencing the game high up the pitch. He also locks up his side of the pitch defensively, too; he's aggressive and commanding when tracking and fighting for the ball.
A clearly complete prospect, fans of England and Manchester United will pray his recovery goes smoothly.
10. Hachim Mastour, AM, Milan (on Loan at Malaga)
Videos of Hachim Mastour wrecking youth squads took the Internet by storm two years ago, and now, at the age of 17, he's been loaned to Malaga to continue his footballing education in a more pressure-free environment. The Rossoneri faithful are convinced he is their next true star player.
The Moroccan has a very slight frame and relies on the deftness of his feet and exquisiteness of his touch to make progress on the pitch. He uses the ball delicately, threading it between the lines and initiating one-twos into space.
He's shown an ability to score from distance—an important, game-breaking ability that could see him reach world-class status—and it's easy to label him one of the world's true upcoming elite talents.
9. Jairo Riedewald, CB, Ajax
At 19 years of age, Jairo Riedewald has locked down a starting spot for Ajax and made his debut for the Netherlands. That’s impressive going, but no less than he deserves.
An instinctive, combative defender, he excels when leaving the line to intercept high up—a la Vincent Kompany—and nearly always makes the ball his own. Technically proficient and confident on the ball, he’s also deputised in midfield in the past and shone there, too.
He’s the youngest-ever goalscoring debutant in Ajax and Eredivisie history, netting at the age of 17 years and 103 days.
8. Dan Crowley, CM, Arsenal (on Loan at Barnsley)
Arsene Wenger decided to loan Dan Crowley out this year to Barnsley, but has been recalled due to the injury crisis at Arsenal. Already, despite only turning 18 in August, he's playing like a seasoned veteran capable of controlling a midfield.
His range and accuracy of passing are downright astounding at times, and he's the kind of player who—should you let him get on the ball and lift his head—will pick out a run in behind and land the ball perfectly in stride.
Crowley may be young, but he's already a midfield general capable of making the difference.
7. Riechedly Bazoer, CM, Ajax
Riechedly Bazoer hasn’t had to wait long before coming in for a big role with Ajax, nailing down a starting spot at the beginning of this season and impressing on a consistent basis.
The 19-year-old has flashed a stunning range and weighting of pass, a brilliant eye for a through ball and some remarkably quick feet. He thrives in tight spaces, nipping the ball around markers and consistently beating them or drawing fouls.
Bazoer is still very much a box of raw talent, but with the right guidance, he could end up some player.
6. Jose Maria Gimenez, CB, Atletico Madrid
We profiled Jose Maria Gimenez in depth this summer, labelling him the emerging face of La Liga as he assumes a full-time role in Atletico Madrid's defence.
The Uruguayan has progressed rapidly over the past 12 months, usurping Miranda and making him expendable, buying into what Diego Simeone asks of his defenders and receiving exceptional tutelage from countryman Diego Godin.
A colossus in the air and robust in the challenge, his only weakness is that he's a little rash with some of his tackles and passing.
5. Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, CM, Bayern Munich (on Loan at Schalke)
Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg is already an important cog in the Denmark national team, commanding a first-team spot and, at times, assuming a leadership role. He's put in some big performances during the Euro 2016 qualifiers and even burst into tears during a post-match interview following a 2-0 win over Serbia, such is his pride for international duty.
He's a dynamic, physical player who thrives in a box-to-box role, dribbling forward and taking on the main creative mantle for his side. He can shoot from distance and conjure goals out of nothing, his passing range is strong, and his effort levels exceed expectation.
Whether he can find a home in a crowded Bayern Munich midfield is a tough question, but if not, the queue of clubs to take him should be hundreds long.
4. Kurt Zouma, CB, Chelsea
Kurt Zouma has progressed rapidly into a stable, consistent, top-tier centre-back. Credit to Jose Mourinho for keeping him with Chelsea in 2014-15 and teaching him the finer points of the game, rather than sending him off on loan.
He has now usurped John Terry for a place in the Blues' XI. That shows just how far the Frenchman has come—in early 2014, he was still muddling through games at Saint-Etienne in Ligue 1.
He's a physical phenomenon—tall and fast with ox-like strength—and has vastly improved his marking, reading of the game and timing. He sticks his head in where it hurts, recovers superbly when tracking runs over the top and provides a great set piece threat in the box.
3. Youri Tielemans, CM, Anderlecht
Youri Tielemans signed a five-year contract with Anderlecht the day after his 18th birthday, fending off interest from Diego Simeone's Atletico Madrid, per Goal.com. He had played the entirety of 2014-15, established himself as a key man in the side and attracted the flirting eyes of Europe's top teams all whilst 17 years of age.
Tielemans is a controlling midfielder with exceptional positional awareness and a lovely stroked pass. He's not yet big enough to dominate games on his own, but he has flashed brilliance in a two-man pivot.
He's mentally tough and boasts the technical talent to make it to the very top.
2. Raheem Sterling, Wing, Manchester City
It feels as though Raheem Sterling has been around forever, but he won't turn 21 years of age until December. It's remarkable what he's already achieved in his short career to date.
A £49 million move to Manchester City this summer only confirmed what we were all thinking: This kid has the potential to become one of the best players in the world. He seriously needs to improve his composure in front of goal, but everything else is already in place.
Quick, dynamic, a dribbling threat and a hard worker, he plays scintillating football off the left flank or through the middle, dancing through challenges and creating chances.
Having recently netted his first career hat-trick against Bournemouth, Sterling will be eager to spark a goalscoring run and put to bed the doubts over his only discernible weakness as of now: Finishing with composure.
1. Anthony Martial, ST, Manchester United
Anthony Martial joined Manchester United on transfer deadline day for a gargantuan fee, sparking fears (and jeers) that the 19-year-old represented a panic buy by Louis van Gaal.
But early evidence suggests the scouting was spot on; the Frenchman, who featured in our top 100 talents last year, has seized the mantle and displayed cold, hard evidence of his burgeoning talent.
Boasting good size, excellent athleticism, decent close control and, most importantly, a calm, composed finish in the box, there's every chance Martial becomes one of the world's top-tier strikers within the next five years. The potential was never in doubt, but few could have predicted this fast start.
After making good on clear potential with an outrageously fast start, we make him our No. 1 prospect for 2015.