Kylian Mbappe, Christian Pulisic, Justin Kluivert Top 2018 Kopa Trophy Shortlist

Gianni Verschueren@ReverschPassFeatured ColumnistOctober 8, 2018

PARIS, FRANCE - OCTOBER 07:  Kylian Mbappe forward of Paris Saint-Germain team celebrates his goal during the Ligue 1 match between Paris Saint Germain and Lyon at Parc des Princes on October 7, 2018 in Paris, France.  (Photo by Frederic Stevens/Getty Images)
Frederic Stevens/Getty Images

France Football unveiled the 10 finalists for the inaugural Kopa Trophy, an award handed to the best under-21 player in the world, on Monday. The list included a few surprises and a handful of big names like Kylian Mbappe, Christian Pulisic, Gianluigi Donnarumma and Justin Kluivert.

Here is the full shortlist:

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They are the future of football... Let's discover the ten nominees for the 2018 Kopa Trophy France Football! #ballondor #kopatrophy https://t.co/jZR3IMfhVH

France Football announced the new award in September on the same day as the FIFA The Best awards show. It's a counter to the Golden Boy, an award that has been in existence for some time and is decided by a collection of European newspapers.

Mbappe is the favourite after a year that included a World Cup win and some dominant performances for Paris Saint-Germain. The 2017 Golden Boy winner made headlines yet again on Sunday by scoring four goals in the span of 13 minutes against Lyon:

He's one of the more established and successful names among the nominees, and his great 2018 makes him the obvious candidate to win.

Other regulars for massive clubs include Liverpool's Trent Alexander-Arnold, Borussia Dortmund's Pulisic and the AC Milan duo of Donnarumma and Patrick Cutrone.

Donnarumma would likely be the favourite if not for Mbappe. Still just 19 years old, he's been the unquestioned No. 1 for the Rossoneri since 2015 and a full Italy international since 2016.

AC Milan's Italian goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma warms up prior to the Europa League Group F football match between AC Milan and Olympiakos at the San Siro stadium on October 4, 2018 in Milan. (Photo by Miguel MEDINA / AFP)        (Photo credit should r

Cutrone's role has diminished since Gonzalo Higuain made the switch to Milan, but he remains one of the most exciting attacking talents on the continent. The 20-year-old scored 10 Serie A goals last season.

Serie A is well-represented with AS Roma's Kluivert also making the list. The former Ajax man was wanted by several top clubs during the summer and has started to find his feet in Italy of late.

Pulisic continues to improve at Dortmund with every season and seems ready for the breakout campaign we've all been waiting for. BVB have started the 2018-19 campaign in excellent form and will need the American at his best to hold off Bundesliga giants Bayern Munich.

DORTMUND, GERMANY - SEPTEMBER 26: Christian Pulisic of Borussia Dortmund and Lukas Muehl of FC Nuernberg battle for the ball during the Bundesliga match between Borussia Dortmund and 1. FC Nuernberg at Signal Iduna Park on September 26, 2018 in Dortmund,
TF-Images/Getty Images

Alexander-Arnold is fully deserving of inclusion as well. The England international has quietly emerged as one of the most consistent full-backs in the sport despite being just 20 years old. He's a fixture for Liverpool and the Three Lions and will likely continue to be for years to come.

Red Bull Salzburg's Amadou Haidara, Lyon's Houssem Aouar, Santos' Rodrygo and Groningen's Ritsu Doan were the surprise inclusions.

Doan has been a smash hit since moving to Europe last year but plays his football for lowly Groningen. The Japanese attacking midfielder should take on a bigger profile once he moves to a top club.

Rodrygo's move to Europe should come in the near future, while Aouar introduced himself on the big stage in a shock UEFA Champions League win over Manchester City. Haidara is a member of the Red Bull family―don't be surprised if he joins RB Leipzig in 2019.


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