20 Great Young Football Players You Haven't Heard Of...Yet
Footballers are being scouted at increasingly young ages as teams fight to find, develop and profit from the best young players in an increasingly competitive industry.
While this list does not include any of the seven-year-old YouTube sensations you come across every now and then, it does include plenty of players you might not be familiar with.
For this list, I imposed an age limit of 20. That means that this list is basically comprised of footballers from the ages of 16 to 20.
You may actually have heard of, or even seen, some of these players, but they still make the list because they have not experienced the same attention that figures such as Neymar have.
There is, of course, no guarantee that any of these players will succeed—many of them have yet to start a match for a senior side, and few of them have played for big teams.
However, they all have shown remarkable talent. I have done my best to find videos of these players exhibiting said talent, but in some cases I have been unable to. Sorry.
There are, undoubtedly, countless other young talents whom you haven't heard of, but clearly I haven't either (or I've forgotten them). To spread the word about such players, please leave their names and videos (if possible) of them in the comment section below.
The list is in no particular order, so choose who you think is or will be the best for yourself.
Xherdan Shaqiri is probably best known for scoring a fantastic goal against England during European qualification.
That moment aside, the Swiss winger, who plays for FC Basel, is wowing audiences in his adoptive country with a blend of quick feet, good passing and excellent shooting.
At 20 years old, Shaqiri could well be on the move to one of Europe's big clubs in the near future and on the path to more widespread recognition.
Serbian Adem Ljajic made headlines back in 2009 after Manchester United came to an agreement with Partizan to buy the then 17-year-old. Since then, he has dropped off the radar.
Manchester United ended up not signing Ljajic, and he is now at Fiorentina where he had a good first full season, scoring three and assisting four goals.
A playmaker who has been compared to Kaka, he has some impressive dribbling skills and, still only 20, is increasingly popular in Serbia where he has recently broken into the national side.
After impressing for River Plate even as the Argentine giants suffered relegation, Erik Lamela moved to AS Roma where he is already showing a great deal of promise.
He scored a fantastic curled goal in his debut for Roma, and his build, skill and speed are reminiscent of Cristiano Ronaldo.
The attacking midfielder starred for Argentina's under-20 side during the 2011 World Cup, scoring three goals, and has already made his full début for Argentina.
Still only 19, Lamela has a very bright future ahead of him, provided he keeps working hard.
Iker Muniain is an 18-year-old winger and the same height as Lionel Messi. Playing his trade for Athletic Bilbao, Muniain is impressing with goals and skills.
He is the youngest player to score in La Liga, an impressive achievement considering some of the players to have graced the division from a young age—Fernando Torres and Messi, to name two.
Muniain is one of many young Spanish players who could well end up superseding some of the Spanish side's big names in a few years' time. He has some work to do beforehand, but he is certainly one to watch.
Like Cesc Fabregas, 16-year-old Jon Toral was signed to Barcelona's youth system before he moved to Arsenal for a small transfer fee (£300,000 in this case).
Toral, who is half English, signed a contract with Arsenal after being offered one by Barcelona, according to a report from Goal.com.
He is yet to feature for Arsenal, but if the video is anything to go by, Barcelona have lost one of their main goalscorers and a player with a good deal of skill.
Arsenal's website says that Toral is "a left-footed creative midfielder who likes to play just off the strikers," "has an abundance of technical quality" and "has an eye for goal and his late runs into the penalty area see him on the scoresheet regularly."
With a bit of luck and hard work, this kid could turn out to be a superstar. Hopefully, he won't go the way of Lewis Holtby and will choose to represent England, if the opportunity arises.
Héctor Bellerín is another player who has made the jump from Barcelona to Arsenal this year. An attacking right-back who can also play in midfield, Bellerín is still only 16 years old.
That means that there are no guarantees that he will find success at Arsenal, but the Spaniard is now under the care of Arsene Wenger, who has had great success developing young players.
As the video shows, he gets into good positions and puts the ball into the right places for goals to be scored.
While the title of the video, "The New Messi," is taking it far too far, Raheem Sterling does look like a promising player.
At 16 years old, he still has plenty of developing to do, including, considering the amount of time he spends cutting in off the wing, improving his left foot.
However, he has good speed and surprising strength given his small stature and young age.
Liverpool poached this winger from QPR in 2010, after the London club had spent seven years on him. He is eligible to play for either Jamaica or England.
16-year-old Alejandro Grimaldo isn't doing badly for himself. At 15, he made his debut for Barcelona B and held his own against professional footballers in the Liga Adelante, Spain's equivalent of the Championship.
To put that in perspective, Lionel Messi did not play for Barcelona B until he was 16, although he had also featured in a friendly for the first team at the age of 16 before appearing for the reserves.
The left-back is full of pace and skill, as the video shows, and is handy in dead-ball situations. Originally from Valencia, Grimaldo moved to Barcelona in 2008 and is certainly one to keep an eye on as he moves up the Barça ranks.
17-year-old Ross Barkley made his debut for Everton earlier this season, and probably would have done so earlier had he not suffered a broken leg after having already made the bench early last season.
Barkley is tough, but also skillful and creative, which makes for a potent mixture in the Premier League.
He is already gaining suitors, with Chelsea the latest addition to a list that already includes Manchester City and Manchester United.
Barkley is not yet on the radar of those who don't follow the Premier League, but will be looking to barge his way into the international limelight as quickly as possible.
John Guidetti is a 19-year-old Swedish striker on the books of Manchester City. Unfortunately for him, this means that opportunities to impress have been severely limited.
Nonetheless, he has been impressive in youth and reserve fixtures and has now been loaned out to Feyenoord where he has racked up four goals in six games.
A goalscorer who can also provide assists, Guidetti will really benefit from the season with Feyenoord. He may still have to secure a permanent move away from Manchester City, but there are plenty of teams waiting to take him on; he has been linked to Arsenal, and Feyenoord may well want to keep hold of the Swede.
Tottenham's Souleymane Coulibaly is already being described as the "new Didier Drogba" and has been linked to Real Madrid.
The description not surprising considering he's an Ivorian centre-forward and recently scored nine times in four games at the Under-17 World Cup, including a hat trick against Brazil.
Still just 16, Coulibaly is a huge talent and has already played for Tottenham in a preseason friendly.
It may be a while before Coulibaly breaks into the first team; Tottenham have a good combination of attacking players at the moment. However, if he can keep scoring for the youth side the way he has been, Harry Redknapp may be forced to give him a shot.
You probably heard about Arsenal's Ryo Miyaichi when he was signed in January of this year, but he quickly dropped off the back pages.
He was loaned out to Feyenoord where he was in impressive form, exhibiting some promising technical skill which has earned him the nickname "Ryodinho," a combination of his and Ronaldinho's names.
The 18-year-old Japanese can play as a winger or striker, but has yet to feature for Arsenal aside from a brief run out against Shrewsbury Town this season.
Rafa Alcântara is an attacking midfielder playing for Barcelona B. If his name seems familiar, it is because his brother, Thiago, already plays for Barcelona as well as Spain.
Rafa recently made his debut for the first team, coming on as a substitute in a Cup game, and at the age of 18, will be hoping to secure a more regular spot in Barcelona's squad as quickly as possible.
Barcelona have a whole heap of talent, which means that Alcântara will have his work to cut out for him if he is to make it there. If he doesn't, there are bound to be clubs willing to take on the teenager.
Stefanos Kapino recently made his debut for Greece. In the process, the 17-year-old became the youngest Greek player ever, an impressive accomplishment.
What makes it even more impressive is that Kapino is a goalkeeper. Goalkeepers tend to develop later, although that is not always true, and Kapino certainly still has plenty of developing to do, despite his rapid ascension to the national side.
The Panathinaikos goalkeeper is quickly becoming a fan favourite; he single-handedly secured a point for his side in a recent derby match. His reflexes are impressive, as his stature—he is a touch under two metres tall.
Greek goalkeeping is not at its strongest at the moment, but Kapino could solve that particular problem; he is already being tipped by Panathinaikos fans to be one of Europe's finest goalies.
Marc-André Ter Stegen
Marc-André Ter Stegen is a 19-year-old German goalkeeper who is starting to impress in the Bundesliga. His team, Borussia Mönchengladbach, are currently third in the table, partially thanks to the athleticism of the young German.
Borussia Mönchengladbach have put their faith in the young goalkeeper, and the club reckons he could be a major star. He certainly hasn't struggled in the competitive Bundesliga so far.
Oscar Dos Santos Emboaba Junior
Oscar Dos Santos Emboaba Junior, known as Junior, is a Brazilian attacking midfielder. With all the hype around players like Neymar and Ganso, you could be forgiven for having missed this 20-year-old star.
He recently scored a hat trick in the Under-20 World Cup Final, becoming the first player to score a World Cup final hat trick since Geoff Hurst.
The Internacional player made his debut for Brazil earlier this year, and could prove to be a popular man if he chooses to pursue a move to Europe, as many of his compatriots have done in the past.
Skip to 0:15 in the video. I'm sorry I couldn't find a more informative video, but that was all that was on offer.
17-year-old Marco Bueno has already had a trial with Liverpool, but will have to wait until he is 18 before he can sign for the Merseyside club.
He is a trequartista who played a vital role in leading Mexico to the Under-17 World Cup. Bueno is a natural playmaker who also has quite an eye for goal.
He should not be thought of as the next Javier Hernandez as he plays in a comparatively deep position and is not a pure goalscorer; he brings more to the table than that.
There is no certainty that Bueno will succeed. Plenty of players have fallen by the wayside, but he has shown a great deal of promise and that earns him a place on this list.
Erick Torres is another Mexican striker, and Manchester United are reportedly interested in winning the signature of the 18-year-old.
Torres has already picked up five goals this season and has been winning plaudits in his home country for his clever movement in the penalty box and his uncanny knack for being in the right place at the right time.
Mexico currently have a great crop of youth players, and Torres is one of their leading lights.
Oriol Romeu, formerly of Barcelona and now of Chelsea, is a Spanish defensive midfielder. Playing in that position for Chelsea means, naturally, that he has been described as the "new Claude Makelele."
Whether or not this proves to be true remains to be seen but from the few appearances he has made for Chelsea so far, it is not out of the question that the Spaniard could be of huge importance to the club over the coming years.
His signing was rather overshadowed by the arrival of the much-vaunted Romelu Lukaku, but Romeu is no less a promising player.
Barcelona have been churning out players, and Romeu is yet another who could well have a productive career away from Catalonia.
Juan Manuel Iturbe
Paraguay may end up kicking themselves after they managed to fall out with a potential superstar and drive him into Argentina's welcoming arms.
FC Porto's 18-year-old forward, signed by Andre Villas-Boas, is quite a talent. Being Argentinian, he has been labelled as the next Messi and the next Maradona by those who know him.
This may or may not be the case, but one thing is for sure: Iturbe has potential. Pace, close control and determination mean that he does actually share some of Messi's and Maradona's qualities.
FC Porto may want to keep the Argentinian on a tight leash; Barcelona are already on the trail of the skillful attacker.