Wunderkinder: Football Prodigies Under 20
They may not be able to drink or even vote legally, but these kids are making more money than most of us can even dream about.
Topping out at a ripe 20 years of age, the following players are fantastic talents that are sure to delight football fans for years to come.
Alexis Sánchez, Udinese (FW/Winger) — The talented Chilean debuted for his national team in 2006 at the age of just 16. That same year, during the summer break, Serie A squad Udinese snapped him up.
A talented winger with fantastic pace and skill, Udinese has already placed a 20 million euro price tag on the Chilean, before he has even played a single minute in Europe.
Carlos Vela, Arsenal (FW/Winger) — Arsene Wenger's eye for talent has been proved time and time again, and it was no surprise that after the 2005 U-17 World Cup, the Mexican was immediately signed by the Arsenal manager.
Plying his trade in Spain for three years on loan forged Carlos' skill with the ball, allowing him to play on the wing as well as up front as a striker.
In his Carling Cup debut for Arsenal, he scored a hat-trick against Sheffield.
Alexandre Pato, AC Milan (FW) — Moving back to Italy, we find the youngest of the talented Brazilians in Carlo Ancelotti's side.
Along with Kaka and Ronaldinho, Pato is part of an offensive triangle that—if not for Milan's weak defense—would run away with the Serie A this season.
Jozy Altidore, Villarreal (FW) — Altidore has eclipsed Freddy Adu as the most promising American talent in recent generations with his constant, mature play and sometimes spectacular goals.
A strong showing for New York Red Bulls landed him in La Liga in 2008. He's poised to break through a talented front line that includes Guillermo Franco, Nihat, and Giuseppe Rossi.
Emiliano Insúa, Liverpool (DF) — The Argentinian wasn't even allowed to debut for South American giants Boca Juniors before being snapped up by Liverpool.
At the age of 18 he debuted for the English side, impressing manager Rafael Benitez enough to buy out his loan and send a fellow compatriot, Gabriel Paletta, to Boca in his place.
Gavin Hoyte, Arsenal (DF) — Hoyte captains both England's U-18 squad and the Arsenal reserves team.
Debuting for Arsenal in the Carling Cup this season, he posted a clean sheet for Arsene Wenger's squad.
Equally dexterous with both feet, he can play on the right and left wings—as well being naturally equipped to play as a centre back.
Rafael Pereira da Silva, Manchester United (DF) — Another talented import from Brazil, this young winger has been likened to the great Cafú.
Signed for Manchester United at the age of 15, he was allowed two years to develop in Fluminense's youth system.
After a strong showing at the U-17 World Cup in 2007, he was brought to Old Trafford. He's played for United in the League Cup and in the Champions League.
Alexander Smithies, Huddersfield Town (GK) — The only goalkeeper on our list, Smithies is poised to end the drought of quality 'keepers in England.
Turning in an impressive performance in the U-17 World Cup in 2007, Smithies is currently fighting to be the first-choice goalkeeper at his club, Huddersfield Town, in the League One tier of English football.
Bojan Krkic, FC Barcelona (FW) — Like a child caught in a custody battle between bitter parents, both Serbia and Spain adamantly required Krkic's services for their full national teams—at the age of 18.
Bojan chose Spain, and at Barcelona, is being tipped to replace Thierry Henry as the first-choice striker should the Frenchman leave.
In 32 league games, Bojan has 10 goals.
Rabiu Ibrahim, Sporting Clube (MF) — Another player making the move to Europe after an excellent U-17 World Cup, the Nigerian was signed by Sporting of Portugal after leading Nigeria to their third title.
Already debuting for Nigeria's full national team at the age of 17, Ibrahim is being groomed as the next Cristiano Ronaldo for Sporting.
Sergio Aguero, Atlético Madrid (MF/FW) — Possibly the most obvious choice on this list, Aguero, along with Lionel Messi, is already making Argentina the odds-on favorite to win the 2010 World Cup.
After being purchased from Independiente as an 18-year-old, he's scored over 30 goals for club and country despite being just 20 years old.
He's currently engaged to Diego Maradona's daughter, and the couple are expecting their first child.
"El Kun" Aguero.
Theo Walcott, Arsenal (FW) — The other "duh" selection is our third Arsenal player on the list. Theo is England's crown jewel, and with good reason.
A player equally at home as a winger, striker, or attacking midfielder, Walcott can anchor an offense, make a living placing precision balls on strikers' feet or heads, or score them himself.
A hat-trick in World Cup qualifying match against Croatia has put the world on notice.
What do you think of the list? Any omissions or oversights? Any overrated players that shouldn't be on it? What do you think of the fact that most of these players play in England? Are offensive players favored because they show up on the highlight reels more often?
Have your say in the comments below.
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