Ranking the Best International Teams Only Using Players Aged 25 and Under
What would the international football landscape look like if the maximum player participant age was 25?
Would the same superpowers still reign, or would other countries enter the mix? Who would be able to field the best XI, courtesy of an elite generation coming through, and which major nations would fall by the wayside?
We've scouted every national talent pool and compiled the strongest XI possible for each country (according to current player ability, rather than potential), selected the top 10 for your viewing, and ranked them for an extra kick.
If you're struggling with international-break boredom or just keen to see who has the most talent coming through, look no further.
Juan Musso; Fabricio Bustos, Emanuel Mammana, Juan Foyth, Alexis Soto; Leandro Paredes, Santiago Ascacibar, Giovani Lo Celso; Angel Correa, Paulo Dybala, Lautaro Martinez
Much like Argentina's current setup, this crop is packed with talent up top...but looks a little suspect further back.
Correa, Dybala and Martinez will strike fear into any defence, and in selecting those three, we've omitted serious talents like Cristian Pavon and Exequiel Palacios from the forward line.
The midfield three is a good blend of tenacious, strong and silky, and the central defensive duo is good, but Musso and Soto are weak points when you compare this XI to the others.
Mile Svilar; Timothy Castagne, Leander Dendoncker, Jason Denayer, Jordan Lukaku; Yannick Carrasco, Youri Tielemans, Dennis Praet, Thorgan Hazard; Michy Batshuayi, Romelu Lukaku
That Batshuayi and Romelu Lukaku still qualify for this exercise tells you how much they've managed to achieve despite being so young. They feel like they've been around forever!
They head up a strong overall side, but like Argentina, they suffer due to a lack of options at the back. Leander Dendoncker's had to drop in to the defensive line to fill a gap.
Leandro Trossard has had an excellent year—so much so that he's attracting Arsenal's eyes, according to James Benge of Football.London—and may consider himself unlucky to miss out on a spot here.
Justin Bijlow; Denzel Dumfries, Matthijs de Ligt, Nathan Ake, Jetro Willems; Frenkie de Jong, Tonny Vilhena, Donny van de Beek; Justin Kluivert, Steven Bergwijn, Memphis Depay
The Netherlands also feel quite similar to Argentina, in that they're top-heavy. As talented as that front three is, parts of the defensive group hold them back.
Bergwijn's an excellent, sprightly winger who probably doesn't get the credit he deserves because he plays opposite Hirving Lozano. He, Kluivert and Depay are great, but they'll have to score a lot, given Bijlow, Willems and Dumfries aren't the most inspiring of selections (though Dumfries has a bright future).
Diogo Costa; Joao Cancelo, Ruben Dias, Diogo Leite, Raphael Guerreiro; Ruben Neves, Bernardo Silva, Bruno Fernandes; Diogo Jota, Joao Felix, Andre Silva
There are parts of this team that look exceptional, but others that appear undeveloped. As such, despite the fact Portugal's next generation have plenty of potential, they don't rank quite as highly as you'd expect here.
That's largely down to Costa and Leite, goalkeeper and centre-back, respectively, who are Porto Youth League players, rather than first-team stars. Their futures look good, but they don't stand on the same level as the others just yet.
There is serious quality coursing through the veins of this team, though; Bernardo, Neves and Fernandes is a super midfield, and Felix playing off Silva would cause every opponent problems.
Gianluigi Donnarumma; Davide Calabria, Alessio Romagnoli, Daniele Rugani, Leonardo Spinazzola; Nicolo Barella, Nicolo Zaniolo, Federico Bernardeschi, Federico Chiesa; Patrick Cutrone, Moise Kean
Bernardeschi and Chiesa are a dream wing pairing. The duo of Federicos are all-action, speedy, creative and direct. Fiorentina fans must lament the fact they didn't really get to see too much of them together in purple.
Talking of duos, Nicolos Barella and Zaniolo in midfield is pretty tasty. How it would actually function is anyone's guess (fortunately this side don't have to play an actual game), but it looks quite nice on paper.
Mattia Caldara was a consideration here, but he's only played one game this season for AC Milan due to a serious injury. Kean, fresh off a good performance for Italy vs. Finland, gets the nod instead in a switched up formation.
Julian Pollersbeck; Joshua Kimmich, Matthias Ginter, Niklas Sule, Nico Schulz; Emre Can; Leon Goretzka; Kai Havertz, Julian Brandt, Leroy Sane; Timo Werner
Speed isn't going to be an issue for Germany moving forward. In Leroy Sane and Timo Werner they boast two of the quickest forwards in the world, while Julian Brandt is no slouch either.
Missing out are Julian Draxler, Serge Gnabry, Jonathan Tah, Timo Horn and many more. Some will argue Draxler should be in this XI at the expense of Can, but that might tip the balance scales slightly!
Perhaps the talent present in this crop is what persuaded manager Joachim Low to close the door on players like Thomas Muller, Mats Hummels and Jerome Boateng.
Kepa Arrizabalaga; Alvaro Odriozola, Mario Hermoso, Jesus Vallejo, Alex Grimaldo; Rodri, Dani Ceballos, Saul Niguez; Marco Asensio, Carlos Soler, Paco Alcacer
There's not a hole or weak point in sight here. All bar Mario Hermoso play for a club involved in the UEFA Champions League or Europa League this season, the majority of them key players too.
Even Hermoso is fancied by some of the bigger clubs, with Real Madrid opting against signing him in January, according to Eduardo Redondo of Marca. However, they could retain an interest in him following a debut for Spain.
Rodri, Ceballos and Saul is a perfectly balanced midfield three, Asensio and Soler can help Alcacer in terms of goalscoring and those full-backs won't need to be told twice to fly forward.
Ederson Moraes; William, Marquinhos, Eder Militao, Wendell; Fabinho, Lucas Paqueta, Arthur; Vinicius Junior, Felipe Anderson, Gabriel Jesus
Finally, Ederson Moraes wins the Brazilian goalkeeping battle with Alisson Becker! Admittedly it's because the latter is 26 and ineligible for this XI, but you take victories any way they come.
Marquinhos and Eder Militao form one of the strongest central defensive pairings in this list, then Fabinho, Arthur and Jesus complete an extremely strong spine.
William, who plays for Wolfsburg, narrowly beats Bernardo of Brighton for the left-back spot. You could take Richarlison or David Neres over Felipe Anderson, depending on your preference.
Jordan Pickford; Trent Alexander-Arnold, Joe Gomez, John Stones, Ben Chilwell; Harry Winks, Declan Rice; Jadon Sancho, Dele Alli, Raheem Sterling; Harry Kane
England's XI is stacked full of talent, so much so it actually keeps pace with traditional powerhouses like France, Spain and Brazil. It's been a while since anyone's been able to say that, and it does feel as though the Three Lions are on the cusp of a golden era.
The strength of this team is perhaps best measured by those who have been left out. You could replace any one of that front four with Marcus Rashford and barely skip a beat. Eric Dier and James Maddison would argue they deserve a spot, too, and Luke Shaw could easily slot in at left-back.
In Alexander-Arnold and Sancho, England have two of the very best under-21 players on the planet. In Kane and Sterling, England have two of the very best players—regardless of metric—on the planet.
Alban Lafont, Benjamin Pavard, Raphael Varane, Samuel Umtiti, Lucas Hernandez; Tanguy Ndombele, Houssem Aouar; Nabil Fekir, Ousmane Dembele, Kingsley Coman; Kylian Mbappe
Incredibly, France's 25 and under selection includes seven World Cup winners: Pavard, Varane, Umtiti, Lucas, Fekir, Dembele and Mbappe. That's an automatic justification for top spot in this ranking.
The other four are all extremely talented too; the midfield is Lyon's own, the same one that took on Barcelona earlier this month, while in a more attack-minded formation Ferland Mendy could also represent them from left-back.
Kingsley Coman's growth at Bayern Munich earns him a role at the expense of Anthony Martial and Thomas Lemar. That decision's a bit of a toss-up, though, and may well come down to personal preference (we went for all the speed).
The French are set up for years of success from here.
All statistics via WhoScored.com.