The Top 25 Football Players Under the Age of 25 in the World

Vijay MuraliAnalyst IOctober 10, 2011

The Top 25 Football Players Under the Age of 25 in the World

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    There are a number of young and talented footballers in the world and many of them are excelling for their respective clubs. Most footballers tend to be at their best fitness levels between the ages of 23 and 28 and that is the time that they could excel and develop into a world-class player.

    There are many who play regularly for top clubs despite being very young, like Mario Goetze and Christian Eriksen, who are very talented teenagers. 

    Most successful clubs tend to have a good combination of youth and experience and Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson is a manager who believes in having veterans alongside youth players which could help the team develop as a unit.

    He has retained the likes of Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes and Gary Neville even though when past their best because playing alongside these legends could help youngsters gather experience and knowledge from their game.

    With the imminent introduction of financial fair play rules, elite clubs will also try to develop players from their academies as it would help them meet the regulations. Also, teams which are lower down in the table also produce some very good players, though they eventually end up in a big club, but the production of a talented player like Phil Jones of Blackburn or Wayne Rooney of Everton pumps money into these clubs.

    The potential of most players can be recognized before the age of 25 as they would have the maturity to understand and improve their game before they reach that age. Here are 25 players under the age of 25 who can dominate the world in the near future.

    With a limit of only 25 footballers in this article, it is not possible to include some very talented players in this list and please do comment on the players missed out on this article, which might be added later in a list of honorable mentions.

25. Cesc Fabregas (Barcelona)

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    Cesc Fabregas was signed by Arsenal when he was only 16 years old and everyone recognized that he was a special player in his first season for the Gunners as a precocious midfielder.

    Under the tutelage of Arsene Wenger, Fabregas developed into one of the best midfielders in the world and even captained Arsenal for around two years before departing to FC Barcelona, where he was a youth player. It is a dream for the Spaniard to play for his hometown club and he will certainly enjoy his time at the club.

    Though Arsenal were reluctant sellers, Fabregas' wish to move to Barcelona meant that they eventually sold their captain after a protracted transfer saga and despite leaving the Gunners, he still does respect the club and the manager. Pep Guardiola has utilized Fabregas in an advanced role and the midfielder has been scoring and making goals regularly for the team until this recent hamstring injury.

    The 24-year-old midfielder is one of the best players in the world and could eventually be the successor to the brilliant Xavi Hernandez.

24. Luis Nani (Manchester United)

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    Manchester United winger Luis Nani is one of the most talented players in his position but his inconsistent performances early in his career meant that Sir Alex Ferguson had to drop him for many games.

    However, Ferguson is one of the greatest managers ever when it comes to man management and he has finally helped Nani perform to his potential.

    Nani has been compared with former Manchester United winger Cristiano Ronaldo in the past because of his trickery and it seemed to be a burden for the winger. However, he has established an identity of his own after performing superbly in the last two years and is on the way to becoming one of Manchester United's most important players.

    He has to face quality competition for a place in the team but it could also help him improve as a player and he will certainly want to prove his worth to Ferguson, who did drop him from the starting 11 in the Champions League final against Barcelona.

23. Marek Hamsik (Napoli)

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    Napoli's Marek Hamsik is also included in this list alongside teammate Edinson Cavani and Hamsik is also a player who is integral to the club.

    The attacking midfielder has attracted the interest of several big clubs but Napoli are determined to hold on to the 24-year-old midfielder who provides creativity from midfield. The club is in the Champions League and despite having many strong teams in Serie A, Napoli do have the chance to challenge for the title again if they can keep their key players fit.

    Hamsik has also been appointed as the Slovakian captain and did lead the team in the 2010 World Cup where they were knocked out by the Netherlands.

    The Napoli midfielder is one of the most creative players in the world and it would not be a major surprise if he left the Italian club to join a European big club in the future.

22. Thomas Mueller (Bayern Munich)

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    Thomas Mueller has established himself as one of the best young players in the world in the last couple of years after his performances for Bayern Munich guaranteed him a place on the German national team for the World Cup.

    Mueller has excellent off-the-ball movement, good dribbling and passing skills and importantly, an eye for goal as well. He is also versatile and can play on the flanks or as a support striker in a more central role.

    Germany manager Joachim Loew has many attacking players at his disposal and he considers Thomas Mueller as an important part of the current team and the future as well. He was brilliant in the 2010 World Cup and was also named as the tournament's best young player and also won the Golden Boot as the highest scorer.

    Mueller is comfortable with Bayern Munich's style of play and has been able translate his performances for the club on the international stage as well.

21. Gonzalo Higuain (Real Madrid)

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    Gonzalo Higuain has established himself as one of the best strikers in the world with his consistent performances over the past few seasons and has also started contributing for the Argentina national team.

    Higuain's off-the-ball movement and positioning coupled with his ability to finish clinically make him a very difficult striker to mark for defenders.

    Higuain was signed from River Plate in 2006 and though many attacking players have arrived and left the club since then, the striker has been able to find enough playing time and has scored a lot of goals for Madrid.

    He is a fan favorite at the club and though he is currently facing immense competition from Karim Benzema for his place, he has the quality to be a very important player for the club for a long time.

20. Joe Hart (Manchester City)

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    There are not too many young goalkeepers in football in the past but there are a number of young and talented keepers who are impressing for their clubs like Joe Hart of Manchester City, Arsenal's Wojciech Szczesny or Bayern Munich's Manuel Neuer.

    Hart was always recognized as a very talented keeper but with Shay Given performing consistently for City, he was loaned out to Birmingham City in the 2009-10 season where he was brilliant.

    His performances for Birmingham meant that manager Roberto Mancini recalled him back to City and even promoted him ahead of Given, who should consider himself rather unfortunate.

    However, Hart proved that Mancini had made the right decision and has further improved as a keeper and he can be considered as one of the best keepers in the world. 

19. Luis Suarez (Liverpool)

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    Liverpool suffered a difficult time under Roy Hodgson and with Fernando Torres also leaving the club, it was supposed to be further dark times for the club.

    However, under the astute management of former Liverpool striker Kenny Dalglish, the club have made great progress in the last year and the signing of Uruguayan Luis Suarez from Ajax has played a huge role in turning things around for the club. Suarez has been impressive and has ensured that the Reds have not missed the presence of Torres.

    The lively striker has not only scored important goals for the club but has also created numerous opportunities for others. With his smart movement and excellent dribbling, he has been a very difficult to contain for defenders and also, he has established a good partnership with some Liverpool players like Dirk Kuyt.

    Steven Gerrard has not played alongside Suarez on too many occasions but with the England international having completely recovered from his injuries, those two could form a lethal combination for the Reds. 

18. Edinson Cavani (Napoli)

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    Edinson Cavani has established himself as one of the world's best strikers with his impressive performances for Napoli in the last season. Also, during his time at Palermo, he did show his quality on numerous occasions but was not consistently hitting the back of the net as he is doing currently for Napoli.

    He has been prolific for Napoli, scoring as many as 39 goals in only 57 games, making him one of the most feared strikers in the world.

    The Uruguayan international has forged an excellent partnership with attackers Marek Hamsik and Ezequiel Lavezzi and Napoli have emerged as a strong club in Serie A.

    They were drawn into a very tough Champions League group consisting of Bayern Munich, Manchester City and Villarreal and not many gave Napoli much of a chance. But Cavani proved against City that he can score against any opposition and also Napoli do have a fighting chance of qualifying to the next stage from the group. 

17. Alexandre Pato (AC Milan)

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    Alexandre Pato is one of Brazil's most talented players to emerge in recent years and though he has been inconsistent in the past, he has the quality to establish himself as one of the best players in the world in the future.

    AC Milan have some very exciting forwards like Pato, Robinho and Zlatan Ibrahimovic which is why it is important that Pato establish himself as a vital part of the team.

    The Brazilian was dropped from the World Cup squad by Dunga, who left after the tournament but he has subsequently been recalled to their squad and certainly has a vital role to play in the future.

    Pato has the pace, skill and an eye for goal and under the management of the astute Massimiliano Allegri, he will continue to improve and hone his talent.

16. Neymar (Santos)

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    Neymar is undoubtedly one of the best talents to emerge from Brazil in recent years and has been touted by many to be a huge success in Europe and also on the international stage.

    The precocious striker is a hugely skilled player who is excellent on the ball and also has the rare ability to create goals from virtually nothing.

    Though Neymar has shown that he can be a volatile character in the past, his quality is undeniable and he could go on to be one of the greatest players in the world. He has already represented Brazil in the Copa America and is expected to be a integral member of the team in the future.

    He is certain to move to an European big club in the near future and that could be vital in his development as managers have an important role in guiding their players. 

15. Nuri Sahin (Real Madrid)

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    Nuri Sahin was arguably Borussia Dortmund's best player in the previous season as the versatile midfielder helped the German club win the Bundesliga title.

    Sahin emerged through the youth ranks of Borussia Dortmund and though he was considered to be very talented, Dortmund loaned him for one season to Feyenoord for him to improve by getting more playing time.

    Sahin returned to Dortmund and proved his potential in the next few seasons as he slowly established himself among the best midfielders in Germany and the world.

    Though he was born in Germany, he plays for Turkey and is a valuable player for them. Real Madrid signed Sahin for a relatively lesser fee in the summer but injuries have meant that he is yet to make a competitive appearance for the club though he could be back to full fitness in the next couple of weeks.

14. Javier Pastore (Paris St. Germain)

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    Argentina international Javier Pastore has established himself as one of the top attacking midfielders in the world by consistently impressing for Italian side Palermo in the last couple of seasons.

    His style of play has drawn comparisons with Real Madrid's Ricardo Kaka, though Pastore has some way to go before any realistic comparison with the Brazilian star.

    In what could be considered a somewhat surprising move, Pastore moved to cash-rich Paris St. Germain in the summer to join their ambitious project which aims at establishing the French club among the biggest clubs in the world.

    They have signed many good players like Kevin Gameiro and with the addition of Pastore, who has had a good start to his time at the club, PSG do have a good chance of winning the French league and progressing to the Champions League.

13. Eden Hazard (Lille)

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    Eden Hazard is one of the world's most talented young players and has the opportunity and the quality to develop into one of the best players in the near future. Hazard was named as the best player in the French league in the previous season after his impressive performances helped Lille win the league title.

    The versatile winger is a highly talented player who will only get better with further experience and could prove his quality in Europe as well.

    He has also been called up for the Belgian national side, who have many talented players and Hazard could also help his country establish his country among the best in football in future.

    Many clubs have been interested in the talented winger but Lille were determined to hold on to him after selling some important players like Gervinho and Yohan Cabaye. However, should Hazard continue to put in impressive performances, he could soon find himself in a big club in the near future.

12. Mats Hummels (Borussia Dortmund)

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    Mats Hummels emerged from the youth ranks of Bayern Munich, who are arguably the biggest club in Germany and though he was talented, he could not get regular opportunities with the club, which is why he did leave the club to join Borussia Dortmund.

    Though he initially joined the team on loan, his performances were recognized and Dortmund were able to seal a permanent deal for the German defender.

    Hummels has continued to make impressive progress under the management of Jurgen Klopp and alongside Neven Subotic, he has been integral to building one of the strongest defenses in the Bundesliga. Also, Hummels is a good ball-playing defender and can distribute balls from deep.

    He has attracted great praise from plenty of people for his composed performances and is considered as one of the best young defenders in the world.

11. Gareth Bale (Tottenham)

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    Though Gareth Bale did have a tough start to his Tottenham career after being signed from Southampton, the left-sided player has had impressive performances which have attracted big clubs who could be interested in signing him in the future.

    The Welsh international started his career as a left-back but Spurs manager Harry Redknapp did get the best out of him by playing him as a winger.

    He is a good dribbler and uses his pace to good effect and also, after getting past his marker, he can cross accurately which is a big threat for the opposition.

    His performance against Inter Milan in the Champions League was one of his best performances and should he continue to progress, he could be one of the best wingers in the world.

10. Mario Goetze (Borussia Dortmund)

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    This prodigiously talented youngster has already been dubbed as the "German Messi" for some for his excellent dribbling and if he continues his development, he could be one of the best players in the world in the near future.

    Mario Goetze has only played regular football for just over a season but his performances have attracted many big clubs who could be interested in him in the future.

    Jurgen Klopp provided opportunities to Goetze for Borussia Dortmund and alongside the likes of Nuri Sahin, Shinji Kagawa and some others. He was one of the most important players who contributed to their Bundesliga title.

    The midfielder is not only capable of dribbling past players but can also pick out the right pass and for a player who is so young, he displays a maturity that is rare for such youngsters.

9. Karim Benzema (Real Madrid)

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    Karim Benzema had a tough start to his Real Madrid career after signing for them for a big transfer fee following his performances for Lyon.

    The youngster had to compete for a place with the impressive Gonzalo Higuain, who also scores goals regularly for Madrid. However, he got regular opportunities following the long-term injury to Gonzalo Higuain and he made good use of his chances under Jose Mourinho.

    He has established a good partnership with Cristiano Ronaldo and Mesut Ozil and the France international has become a much better player under Jose Mourinho.

    Even though Higuain has returned to full fitness, Benzema has been able to retain his place in the starting 11 due to his impressive performances and his good link-up play which has helped Madrid create more opportunities. However, with Higuain back among the goals with hat tricks for Real Madrid and Argentina in the previous week, Benzema will face tough competition for his spot in the team.

8. Sergio Aguero (Manchester City)

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    Sergio Aguero is undoubtedly one of the world's best strikers and was signed in the summer for a huge transfer fee by Manchester City, who also have quality strikers like Edin Dzeko, Mario Balotelli and Carlos Tevez.

    There are many foreign players who take their time before exhibiting their quality but Aguero has settled very quickly at Manchester City.

    The Agentina international has linked very well with the likes of David Silva, Edin Dzeko and Samir Nasri and has started the season scoring plenty of goals.

    He was also very prolific for Atletico Madrid where he did help the club win the Europa League during his time but with FC Barcelona and Real Madrid dominating the league, Atletico could not compete realistically for titles with them. That is why he joined the ambitious Manchester City, who are in the Champions League.

7. Juan Mata (Chelsea)

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    Juan Mata was signed by Chelsea in the summer in order to provide creativity to the Chelsea midfield and the left-sided midfielder has already proved to be a good signing by the Blues.

    The former Valencia midfielder has not taken much time to adjust to the Premiership and he will only continue to get better playing alongside quality players like Fernando Torres and Frank Lampard. 

    Mata came through the academy of Real Madrid but joined Valencia because of limited opportunities for academy youngsters at Madrid and has developed into one of the most creative midfielders in the world. He is also a regular member of the Spanish squad but just like Cesc Fabregas and some others, he is not able to get regular appearances because of the immense quality in the Spanish national team.

    The youngster could be the key to Chelsea in the future and should he continue to improve, he could become one of the world's best players in his position.

6. Alexis Sanchez (Barcelona)

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    Alexis Sanchez is another brilliant youngster who was signed by FC Barcelona in the summer along with Cesc Fabregas, and it is rather unfortunate that Sanchez has sustained an injury which will rule him out for several weeks.

    The Chile international is one of the most talented players and his style of play has been compared to Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo in the past due to his trickery, which he uses to beat defenders.

    He was one of the best players in Serie A in the last couple of seasons for Udinese, who finished fourth in the previous season but could not qualify for the Champions League after drawing Arsenal in the qualification playoffs.

    Sanchez is undoubtedly very talented and can prove to be an excellent signing for the long-term for Barcelona but he will have immense competition for his place in Barcelona's current first team, which has a forward line comprising of the likes of David Villa, Pedro Rodriguez and Lionel Messi.

5. Jack Wilshere (Arsenal)

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    Jack Wilshere is one of Arsenal's best young players to emerge in the last decade and if his performances in the last season is any indication, he has the quality to be a world-class player in the near future.

    Despite his age, he is not afraid to go into tackles and does not shrug off his defensive duties. Wilshere is also an excellent dribbler with sharp directional changes and can help the Gunners dominate midfield when he is there on the pitch.

    England manager Fabio Capello has also called the youngster to the team and Wilshere is an integral member of the national team as well.

    It is rather unfortunate for Arsenal that he has sustained a long-term injury which will keep him out of action for more than six months and the medical staff has done the right thing in providing him as much time to recover as possible.

    The versatile 19-year-old is one of the world's best midfielders and has a very important role to play in turning things around for the Gunners following the departures of Fabregas and Nasri.

4. Mesut Ozil (Real Madrid)

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    Real Madrid signed Mesut Ozil at a bargain price from Werder Bremen in the previous summer and he was probably one of the best signings in the world in that season.

    Ozil had proven his quality in the World Cup where he excelled in the attacking midfield role for Germany, who played an exciting brand of football. Any youngster will be under pressure to deliver when Real Madrid signs him but it did not take much time for Ozil to adjust to the team.

    With many injuries to Ricardo Kaka, it provided Ozil the chance to establish himself in the team and in a short span of time, he proved his importance to the team by creating plenty of opportunities for the team.

    He finished the season with a hugely impressive 25 assists and with time, he will only get better with Jose Mourinho at the helm. The 22-year-old is one of the best in his position and will hope to help Madrid secure more trophies in the future.

3. Gerard Pique (Barcelona)

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    Gerard Pique is one of the most technically accomplished centre-backs in the world and his style of play has been compared to the legendary Franz Beckenbauer in the past.

    He left Barcelona to join Manchester United at a young age but did not manage to establish himself and the Blaugrana signed him back in 2008.

    The 24-year-old defender, who played alongside Lionel Messi and Cesc Fabregas as a teenager in the Barcelona academy, has gone on to establish himself as one of the best players in the world in his position.

    He contributes much to the Blaugrana's style of play and alongside Carles Puyol, he has helped not only Barcelona but also the Spain national team achieve great success.

2. Samir Nasri (Manchester City)

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    Samir Nasri is certainly one of the most talented midfielders to emerge from French football and the 24-year-old is one of the most talented players in the world.

    He had a superb season with Arsenal in 2010-11 but Manchester City enticed him with a good offer and with only one year left on his contract, the Gunners had to sell him. This did not go down well with Arsenal supporters, who were already not satisfied following the loss of Cesc Fabregas.

    Nasri is an excellent dribbler and is capable of evading challenges with ease as his fantastic goals against Fulham in the previous season for Arsenal indicate. He is also very versatile and is comfortable on the wings or in a role behind the striker, which he prefers.

    The French international has had a good start to his City career and could prove a vital component in Roberto Mancini's team.

1. Lionel Messi (Barcelona)

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    There is not much to write on Lionel Messi except that he is arguably the world's best player and is one among a brilliant set of players to have emerged from Barcelona's esteemed academy.

    Messi has smashed plenty of records in his relatively short career and is in the process of becoming Barcelona's highest ever goal scorer in the near future.

    The diminutive Argentine is certainly one of the most gifted players and has the calibre to score against any other team in the world.

    The only criticism endured by him is his lack of success with Argentina but he still has time and the quality to win a major tournament with his country, which is certainly one of his most important ambitions.