Watching a talented young player explode on to the scene for the first time is one of the most exciting things about football. When a youngster emerges and immediately shines among his more experienced peers, supporters understandably get a little giddy.
At the start of every new season, a fresh batch of wonderkids seem to materialise ready to showcase their skills and potential to the watching world. Reputations are quickly earned as people clamour to witness the game’s “next big thing”.
With club football taking a short exhale following another frenetic round of continental fixtures, we thought we’d take the opportunity to share some information about 20 of the most exciting young players who have been making waves this season.
Club: Fiorentina (Serie A)
Stat/Info: Castrovelli has 5 goal contributions (3 goals, 2 assists) in 11 Serie A appearances this season.
“We don’t put [buyout clauses] in, otherwise we’d have to send the figures to Barcelona. From €250-300 million.” – Fiorentina Sporting Director Daniele Pradè after Castrovelli signed a new deal in October.
Having impressed last season during a loan spell with Cremonese in Serie B, Gaetano Castrovilli has taken the Italian top-flight by storm this term. The 22-year old’s eye for a defence splitting pass, along with his unique ability to beat men in one on one situations in the middle of the pitch has made him an instant cult-hero with the Viola faithful.
Club: Borussia Monchengladbach (Bundesliga)
Stat/Info: Marcus Thuram is the son of French World Cup winning star Lilian Thuram
“He’s a fast, robust and dangerous assailant who fits very well in our squad and we are sure he will make his way in the Bundesliga.” – Gladbach sporting director Max Eberl.
Versatile attacker Marcus Thuram moved from French club Guingamp to German side Borussia Monchengladbach for €12m in the summer, and the 22-year old has been an instant hit, scoring five times and creating four goals for his teammates in just nine Bundesliga starts. The 6’2” forward has represented France from U16 right through to U21 level, and senior caps feel inevitable.
Club: Parma (on loan from Atalanta) (Serie A)
Position: Attacking midfielder
Stat/Info: Kulusevski ranks in the top six in Serie A for both key passes played (2.5) and dribbles completed (2.4) per game this season.
“They (Arsenal) were watching me at Atalanta, but they did not bid so it did not matter, but they showed interest. Then the thing is also that they are one of my favourite teams, so it was great, really cool. It would definitely be a club I would like to play for in the future.” – Kulusevski in 2018.
Schooled at the famed Brommapojkarna academy in his homeland, Swedish winger Dejan Kulusevski is one of a group of talented young players currently on Atalanta’s books. The skilful wide attacker has been terrorizing full-backs in Serie A this season, and the 19-year old has already claimed five assists and two goals in eleven league starts.
Club: Dijon (Ligue 1)
Position: Left Winger
Stat/Info: Chouiar made his debut at professional level at 17 for RC Lens in a 0–0 Ligue 2 tie with Chamois Niortais on 29 July 2016.
Born in France but with Moroccan heritage, exciting attacker Mounir Chouiar has been a shining light during what has been a frustrating campaign for Ligue 1 strugglers Dijon. The 20-year old was in inspired form for his club last weekend against champions PSG, scoring his club’s equalizing goal in a remarkable 2-1 turnaround win.
Chouiar and Dijon travel to take on Monaco in the Principality this weekend, and you can read our Monaco vs Dijon predictions and betting tips in our detailed match preview.
Club: Corinthians (Brazilian Serie A)
Position: Right Winger
Stat/Info: Pedrinho’s agent is Kia Joorabchian – the man who controversially took Javier Mascherano and Carlos Tevez from Corinthians to West Ham in 2006.
“My wish is to stay. When I heard that Corinthians wants to renew with me I was happy.” – Pedrinho in October.
Skillful winger Pedrinho is the latest in a long line of potential superstars to emerge in the Brazilian leagues, and the 21-year old who has nine goal contributions (five goals, four assists) in 22 appearances for Corinthians this season is reportedly already on the radar of a whole host of Europe’s biggest clubs. Pedrinho is typically Brazilian in playing style, combining a silky touch with an ability to conjure up off the cuff movements that leave his markers kicking air.
Nicolás De La Cruz
Club: River Plate (Argentinean Superliga)
Position: Attacking midfielder
Stat/Info: De La Cruz was detained by police in Paraguay under suspicious circumstances for a few hours in August ahead of River Plate’s Copa Libertadores quarter final second leg against Paraguayan club Cerro Porteño. He was later released without charge and scored in the game.
Uruguayan sensation Nicolás De La Cruz has been in sparkling form for Argentine giants River Plate this season, notching eight goals and four assists in 17 appearances in all competitions for Los Millonarios. De La Cruz’ development under Marcelo Gallardo has been incredible and the 22-year old is remarkably consistent for a player so young.
Club: Rennes (Ligue 1)
Stat/Info: Camavinga signed his first professional contract with Rennes on 14 December 2018 at the age of just 16 and one month, becoming the youngest ever professional for the club in the process.
“We were like ‘wow’. He was incredible. Technically and physically, he is a monster. Everything he does is perfect.” – Hatem Ben Arfa
Everybody in France has been talking about teenage wonderkid Eduardo Camavinga this season. The midfielder who turns 17 later this month started 11 of Rennes’ 12 Ligue 1 games in 2019/20, and Camavinga has been one of the club’s most impressive performers. Born in Angola to Congolese parents, Camavinga arrived in France with his family when he was 2, but the youngster only recently obtained French citizenship.
Club: RB Leipzig (Bundesliga)
Stat/Info: Nkunku was born in the same Parisian commune as French superstar Paul Pogba, Lagny-sur-Marne.
“I’m inspired by his game. He’s not the biggest but he knows exactly how to use his body on the pitch.” – Nkunku on Marco Veratti
Powerful French midfielder Christopher Nkunku swapped France for Germany in the summer when he moved from PSG to RB Leipzig for €15m during the transfer window. Die Roten Bullen manager Julian Nagelsmann has been trying to ease Nkunki into his team, though the 21-year old’s haul of three goals and four assists from four starts and five substitute appearances makes him hard to leave out.
Nknunku will hope to feature from the start this weekend when RB Leipzig take on Hertha Berlin in the German capital. Click here to read our expert’s Hertha Berlin vs RB Leipzig betting tips.
Club: AZ Alkmaar (Eredivisie)
Stat/Info: In his early career Stengs played for lower-league club HFC Haarlem – the same club that Dutch legend Ruud Gullit forged his reputation with.
“I dream big. Ultimately, I want to reach the top. The top is Barcelona, that has been my club since childhood. Since Ronaldinho.”– Stengs in an interview in March.
A tall and physically strong left-footed right winger, Stengs has explosive pace and superb technique. He can glide past his opponents seemingly at will on the right and loves to cut in and shoot at goal, just like a certain former Dutch international Arjen Robben. Stengs has three goals and six assists in 11 Eredivise starts for AZ this season, and the 20-year old has two goals and two assists in just three Europa League appearances.
Club: Benfica (Liga NOS)
Position: Defensive midfielder
Stat/Info: Florentino Luís is so good at tackling, that Portuguese media outlets have begun to refer to him as ‘O Polvo’ (The Octopus).
“He will be among the top 6 players in the world. Yet again, many clubs are interested but there is a common project with Benfica. Florentino is not going to leave because he wants to play with the first team of Benfica. We could think about a transfer only after” – Luís’ agent Bruno Carvalho.
Likened in style to marauding Chelsea midfielder N’Golo Kante, Benfica anchorman Florentino Luís has averaged a whopping 3.2 tackles and 4.2 interceptions per game in the Liga NOS this season. Amazingly, Luís tackle average jumps to an even more impressive 6.0 per 90 minutes in the Champions League – a figure that makes him the most prolific challenge maker in the competition this season.
Check out the rest of our match previews, predictions and betting tips for all major European domestic leagues here.