NXGN 2024: The 50 best wonderkids in football

 The annual NXGN lists are back for another year, highlighting 50 of the most incredible talents to have been born after January 1, 2005

The annual NXGN lists are back for 2024, as GOAL ranks the world's top teenage talents in men's and women's football, crowning winners that will follow names like Jude Bellingham, Rodrygo, Jadon Sancho and Lena Oberdorf in being recognised as the best young footballer on the planet.

Covering all five continents and representing 17 different countries, the 2024 NXGN list is a truly global one, featuring established senior internationals, title winners and names that are set to light up major tournaments this summer.

So without further ado, here is the 2024 NXGN list, ranking the 50 top young talents born on or after January 1, 2005...

50 Jobe Bellingham (Sunderland)

Talk about pressure… For the uninitiated, jobe Bellingham is the younger brother of Real Madrid Star Jude, and there are those who believe the 18-year-old will eventually reach a similar level to that of the England international.

Like Jude, Jobe made his Birmingham City debut at the age of 16, but surprisingly departed his boyhood club to join Sunderland in the summer of 2023. Comfortable playing as a central striker or box-to-box midfielder, Jobe has made over 30 starts in the Championship since moving to the Stadium of Light and even though he has yet to set the world alight with his goal-scoring, That hasn’t stopped some Europe’s biggest clubs from showing on interest in signing him.

49 Nestory Irankunda (Adelaide United)

Not since Tim Cahill retired have Australian soccer fans had a genuine world star to call their own, but that might be about to change following the emergence of Nestory Irankunda. 

The forward has already agreed to join Bayern Munich in the summer of 2024 for a fee that will double the previous record sale by an A-League club, and it’s easy to see why the German giants were so keen to snap him up.

Irankunda’s rocket of a left foot helped him reach double-figures for top-flight goals before his 18th birthday and earned him a first Australia call-up in 2023. Able to play off both flanks, his dead-ball ability is particularly eye-catching, with Chelsea among those who showed an interest in signing him before Bayern swooped.

48 Benjamin Cremaschi (Inter Miami)

Most young players can only dream of getting to train alongside Lionel Messi on a daily basis, so Benjamin Cremashchi must have been dumbstruck when the eight time Balon d’Or Winner arrived at inter Miami last summer.

Cremaschi, 19, had already established himself in the Miami midfield by that point, but his game went to the next level during the second half of the 2023 MLS season as he began to build up a strong bond with Messi on the pitch. That relationship could yet continue at international level if Cremaschi opt to represent Argentina, for whom he is eligible, though his call-up to the United States squad late last year suggested he will opt to represent the country of his birth.

47 Sverre Nypan (Rosenborg)

Once a staple of European competitions, Norwegian outfit Rosenborg have fallen on harder times in recent years, but in Sverre Nypan do seem to have developed a talent worth following.

The 17-year-old midfielder, who has been likened to compatriot Martin Odegaard in his homeland due to his two-footedness and passing range, is already a regular in the Rosenborg first team after becoming the club’s youngest-ever debutant back in 2022. Manchester United are among the clubs who are said to be tracking the teenager’s progress closely, with Nypan having already entrusted super-agent Rafaela Pimenta with negotiating his next move.

46 Agustin Ruberto (River Plate)

If Manchester City-bound Claudio Echeverri is the Batman of River Plate and Argentina’s youngsters, then Agustin Ruberto is his Robin. Not as technically-refined as his compatriot, Ruberto is a pure goalscorer, and one who is appearing on the radars of plenty of European clubs.

The 18-year-old finished as the Golden Boot winner at the 2023 Under-17 World Cup, where he scored eight goals as Argentina reached the semi-finals. His performances at the tournament in Indonesia have opened the door for him to get a first taste of senior football at River, and he is expected to gradually earn more minutes through 2024. If he continues to impress, his €30m (£25.5m/$33m) release clause will be activated sooner rather than later.

45 Julian Rijkhoff (Ajax)

Ajax are renowned for their development of technically-gifted midfielders and wide players, but less well-known for producing bona-fide goal-getters up front. However, Julian Rijkhoff looks like bucking the trend in Amsterdam, with a little help from Borussia Dortmund.

The striker left Ajax to join Dortmund in January 2021 after decimating opposition defences in the Netherlands despite regularly playing a couple of years above his own age group. He continued to score freely in Germany, netting 65 goals in 79 youth-team games, but could not force his way into the senior squad. Consequently, he returned to Ajax in early 2024, and the move has paid off, with the 19-year-old Rijkhoff finding first-team opportunities more forthcoming back at his boyhood club.

44 Assane Diao (Real Betis)

Born in Senegal but raised in Spain, Assane Diao’s football showcases both sides of his upbringing, with the Real Betis winger a powerful and energetic runner who also possesses great technical ability with the ball at his feet.

Formerly a central midfielder, the 18-year-old displayed his new-found attacking abilities early in the 2023-24 campaign, when he marked his first two senior starts with a goal in each game. Those performances alerted Premier League clubs such as Brentford to his abilities, while Real Madrid have also been credited with interest in the past, with Diao having an attractive €30m (£25.5m/£33m) release clause in his contract.

43 Archie Gray (Leeds United)

Most football-mad families are fortunate if just one member of their clan makes it as a professional player, but for Archie Gray, playing for Leeds United is just part of the family business. Gray’s father, grandfather and great-uncle all represented the Whites - but there is a real chance that the 18-year-old could surpass them all with his achievements.

Gray first made the Leeds bench as a 15-year-old, and eventually forced his way into the line-up at the start of the season. He has become a bear ever-present under Daniel Farke, as he began the campaign in central midfield before showcasing his versatility by switching to right-back. An England youth captain, Grays performances have seen him linked with Liverpool and Manchester United, though it could take a bid of up to £40m ($51m) to take him away from Elland Road.

42 Julien Duranville (Borussia Dortmund)

Back in 2022, when Vincent Kompany was asked to name who, other than Kylian Mbappe or Erling Haaland, he thought could challenge for the Ballon d’Or in the future, he named two players: Barcelona sensation Gavi, and then-unknown Anderlecht teenager Julien Duranville. As endorsements go, that’s got to be right up there.

Kompany had handed Duranville his senior debut during his final match in charge of Anderlecht earlier that year, and the pacey forward went on to become the second-youngest scorer in the club’s history - behind Romelu Lukaku. The 17-year-old’s potential convinced Borussia Dortmund to fork out €8.5m (£7m/$9m) to sign him in January 2023, and by the end of last season he had forced himself into the first-team picture. Injury setbacks have stalled his progress this campaign, but Duranville is still seen as a leader of Belgium’s next generation.

41Ethan Nwaneri (Arsenal)
Becoming the Premier League’s youngest-ever player has not always guaranteed success at the highest level, but current record-holder Ethan Nwaneri certainly has all the credentials to become more than just a quiz question answer as he continues to take the first steps in his senior career.

The first player to ever appear in the Premier League before their 16th birthday when he came off the bench for Arsenal at Brentford in September 2022, Nwaneri is a forward who has all the attributes required to become a regular at the Emirates Stadium. Now 16, he has begun to appear more and more in Mikel Arteta’s matchday squads, with the Gunners having done well to fend off interest from both Chelsea and Manchester City in Nwaneri’s services last summer.

40 Paris Brunner (Borussia Dortmund)

While Youssoufa Moukoko maybe hasn’t set the world alight in the way many believed he would when he broke into the Borussia Dortmund first team after his record-breaking exploits at youth level, there is a belief at Signal Iduna Park that ‘the new Moukoko’, Paris Brunner, can replicate his remarkable goal record in under-age football once he graduates to the senior squad.

The 18-year-old forward enjoyed a 2023 to remember as he won both the U17 World Cup and Euros with Germany, taking home the Player of the Tournament prize at both competitions. While he waits for his chance in the Dortmund first team, other elite clubs from around Europe are tracking his progress, though Brunner needs to eradicate the disciplinary issues that have plagued his 2023-24 campaign if he is to realise his full potential.

39 Ben Doak (Liverpool)

If not for a knee injury that required surgery in December, Liverpool fans would likely have seen plenty of Ben Doak in action this season, given the senior squad’s fitness issues during Jurgen Klopp’s final campaign in charge. However, the Anfield faithful have already seen enough of Doak since his arrival from Celtic in 2022 to know that the Reds have a special winger on their hands.

The youngest Scotsman to ever play in the Premier League, 18-year-old Doak’s direct and physical dribbling style has drawn comparisons to Wayne Rooney, and there are those who believe he can help fill the void left by Mohamed Salah when the Egyptian inevitably leaves Liverpool in the near future.

38 Franco Mastantuono (River Plate)

Julian Alvarez, Enzo Fernandez, Claudio Echeverri… The talents to have emerged from the River Plate academy in recent years is hugely impressive, and Franco Mastantuono looks set to add his name to that list.

Mastantuono actually rejected River’s first invite to their academy as he eyed a career in tennis, and he was ranked within the top 10 Argentine players for his age. However, he ended up choosing football and the versatile midfielder looks to have made the right choice having already become River’s youngest-ever goalscorer, aged 16. Tellingly, Barcelona and Manchester United are already said to be interested in acquiring him in the near future.

37 Marc Guiu (Barcelona)

How does one gain half a million Instagram followers within a matter of hours? Marc Guiu’s answer was to score with his first touch for the Barcelona first team, as his late winner against Athletic Club in October 2023 turned the striker into an overnight sensation in Spain.

The 18-year-old backed up that strike with his first Champions League goal in December, and though La Masia doesn’t usually develop physical No.9s who are strong in the air and predators in the penalty area, the Barca academy looks to have built a seriously strong centre-forward in Guiu. Indeed, he is already challenging big-money signing Vitor Roque for minutes and is only going to be more involved over the next 12 to 18 months.

36 George Ilenikhena (Royal Antwerp)

Dubbed ‘the new Romelu Lukaku’ in Belgium, Royal Antwerp striker George Ilenikhena actually got his footballing education in France after moving to Europe from Nigeria as a three-year-old. He is putting that grounding to good use this season, with the teenage striker enjoying a superb breakout campaign.

Having joined the Belgian champions from Amiens in the summer of 2023 in a deal worth €6m (£5m/$6.5m), Ilenikhena has been a revelation in the Jupiler League, and is closing in on a 20-goal campaign across all competitions. The 17-year-old - who dreams of one day representing Manchester United - also has a stoppage-time winner against Barcelona on his resume, having netted against the Spanish giants during the Champions League group stages.

35 Paul Wanner (Bayern Munich - loan at Elversberg)

“An extraordinary talent” was how former Bayern Munich manager Julian Nagelsmann described Paul Wanner after he made the attacking midfielder the youngest player in the club’s history in January 2022, and that is a sentiment that is shar edby most who have watched the teenager in action ever since.

A tall, languid No.10, Wanner is using his current loan spell at second-division side Elversberg to improve his physicality, with the hope being that he will then become a regular at the Allianz Arena over the next couple of seasons. The 18-year-old has also long been seen as a future star for Germany, though Austria boss Ralf Rangnick is doing everything he can to convince Wanner to switch allegiances ahead of Euro 2024.

34 Isaac Babadi (PSV)

PSV might be closing in on an undefeated Eredivisie season but, off the pitch, their most important achievement of 2024 thus far was successfully negotiating a new deal with out-of-contract teenage star Isaac Babadi, who had attracted attention from the likes of AC Milan and Atletico Madrid.

A true box-to-box midfielder, Babadi’s ability to dribble through the middle of opposition teams is seen as his biggest asset, while the midfielder has also been singled out for his leadership after captaining the Netherlands at youth level.

33 Eliesse Ben Seghir (Monaco)

Until recently, Eliesse Ben Seghir described himself as “an artist” in his Instagram bio, and the Monaco attacking midfielder has probably got that description bang on given the fluid way he is able to move with a football at his feet. If not for injury problems, his ‘art’ might even have gone fully mainstream by now.

The 19-year-old marked his Ligue 1 debut in December 2022 with a spectacular brace against Auxerre, and he continued to chip in with goals and assists for the remainder of the campaign. Those aforementioned fitness problems have restricted the unpredictable Ben Seghir in 2023-24, but when he has been on the pitch, he has shown just why he is one of French football’s top prospects.

32 Simone Pafundi (Udinese - loan at Lausanne)

Back in November 2022, Simone Pafundi’s potential was such that he convinced then-Italy manager Roberto Mancini to make him the youngest player in over 100 years to represent the Azzurri. The forward’s potential remains high, but he has since been forced to leave his homeland in a bid to truly kickstart his senior career.

The 18-year-old found opportunities hard to come by at Udinese over the past 12 months and, thus, joined INEOS-owned Lausanne on loan in January. Pafundi, whose magical left foot allows him to play as either a No.10 or an inverted, right-sided forward, has made an encouraging start to life in Switzerland, and recently netted his first senior goal as he looks to fully establish himself as one of Europe’s top talents.

31 Jack Hinshelwood (Brighton)

Brighton have earned a reputation for being one of European football’s smartest teams when it comes to identifying and developing potential superstars before selling for huge profits. However, it is one of their homegrown heroes, Jack Hinshelwood, who has really caught the eye in 2023-24.

The 18-year-old comes from a family of footballers, and has impressed at the heart of Roberto De Zerbi’s midfield in the Premier League, while also displaying his versatility by filling in at right-back on occasion. Hinshelwood also has a useful habit of popping up with the odd important goal, and if he continues on his current trajectory, he looks like an England international in the making.

30 Eli Junior Kroupi (Lorient)

Tiemoue Bakayoko saw first-hand the emergence of Kylian Mbappe at Monaco, so he knows talent when he sees it. As such, the ex-Chelsea midfielder’s claim that current Lorient team-mate Eli Junior Kroupi can be the next Mbappe carries plenty of weight.

For his part, 17-year-old Kroupi has gone some way to living up to such a major comparison. The youngest player and goalscorer in Lorient history, the teenager is closing in on double-figures for direct goal involvements in Ligue 1 this season, despite his team facing a battle to avoid relegation. Unsurprisingly, Barcelona and Real Madrid are both said to be keeping tabs on the versatile forward.

29 Dean Huijsen (Juventus - loan at Roma)

“Where can [Dean] Huijsen go? There are no limits, because he has a level of knowledge, reading and playing of the game that is difficult to teach to a first-team player. He looks like a 30-year-old.” Those are the comments of Roma interim manager Daniele De Rossi, who has fallen in love with Juventus loanee Huijsen since taking over at Stadio Olimpico.

Huijsen has long been earmarked as a future pillar of the Juve defence, and the 18-year-old has shown that he is ready for regular Serie A action since arriving at Roma on loan in January, with his ability to carry the ball into midfield and help launch attacks. He has also made a big call on his international future in recent weeks, as he looks set to turn his back on the country of his birth, the Netherlands, and instead represent Spain, where he spent much of his childhood.

28 Francesco Camarda (AC Milan)

It was always going to take a special talent to usurp Paolo Maldini as AC Milan’s youngest-ever player, but that’s just what Francesco Camarda did when he made his Rossoneri bow in November 2023. The striker also became Serie A’s youngest-ever player that night against Fiorentina, having long been earmarked as a potential star at San Siro.

The definition of a goal machine at youth level, Camarda has reportedly netted over 500 times for Milan’s academy sides, despite regularly playing above his own age group. A boyhood Milan fan who idolises the likes of Ronaldo and Marco van Basten, there is a fear that the 16-year-old could leave the club if the two parties cannot agree terms on his first professional contract. PSG and Arsenal are waiting in the wings to pounce should the talks break down.

27 Gianluca Prestianni (Benfica)

In Argentina, being given the nickname ‘Pulga’ (‘Flea’) comes with certain connotations. That was the same moniker bestowed upon Lionel Messi in his early days, so Gianluca Prestianni has a lot to live up to in the coming years. The early signs are promising, though.

A revelation at boyhood club Velez Sarsfield, Prestianni’s fearless dribbling and close control marked him out as a special talent, which in turn led to Real Madrid showing a keen interest in signing him. However, it was Benfica who won the race for the 18-year-old winger, as the Portuguese giants paid an initial €9m (£7.5m/$10m) to bring Prestianni to Europe in January, and it will be interesting to watch him develop in Lisbon over the coming months.

26 Valentin Carboni (Inter - loan at Monza)

Back in June 2023, at a gala to celebrate the opening of the summer transfer window, Inter CEO Beppe Marotta advised the assembled press to “take Valentin Carboni in fantasy football this season”. And though the Nerazzurri’s attacking midfielder might not have put up numbers to please his fantasy managers during his loan spell at Monza, he has shown he can compete at the highest level.

The 19-year-old has quickly established himself as a fixture in Serie A while showing off his versatility, with Carboni able to play as a No.10 or as a wide forward, or even fill in as a false nine if required. He represented Italy during his youth career, but has since opted to play for Argentina, and has become a fixture in the Albiceleste’s squad since their 2022 World Cup triumph.

25 Amara Diouf (Generation Foot)

A genuine phenomenon, Amara Diouf has already made his full Senegal debut, at the age of 15, becoming the African nation’s youngest-ever player in the process. That international bow came off the back of the forward breaking Victor Osimhen’s record for the most goals at a single U17 Africa Cup of Nations in 2023, and he looks set to follow the Napoli superstar to the very top.

Diouf is currently developing at Senegal’s famed Generation Foot academy, where he has been compared to former graduate Sadio Mane because of his pace, finishing ability and willingness to dribble at speed - whether he plays out wide or as a central striker. He will follow in Mane’s footsteps, too, when he joins Metz in 2026, as the French club beat off competition from the likes of Real Madrid, Barcelona, Manchester City and Arsenal to sign Diouf.

24 Assan Ouedraogo (Schalke)
There has not been much to cheer about at Schalke in recent years, but the emergence of Assan Ouedraogo has put a smile on the faces of fans in Gelsenkirchen. Standing at 6’3’’ (191cm), the midfielder’s stature belies his tender age, but Ouedraogo has shown in his short career thus far that he can put his physical gifts to good use.

A box-to-box midfielder, the 17-year-old proved in the early weeks of the season that he is already too good for the German second division, and though he has missed the past four months of action with an ankle injury, he is set to return for the business end of the season. Clubs from around Europe will be watching on with interest, as the likes of Liverpool, Bayern Munich and RB Leipzig have all been linked with his signature.

23 Lucas Bergvall (Djurgarden)

Swedish football is at something of a low ebb right now after an embarrassing Euro 2024 qualifying campaign, but there is hope that a new generation can lift the Scandinavian nation back to its previous heights, with 18-year-old Lucas Bergvall having been earmarked as a potential leader of this next wave of talent.

In less than two years, Bergvall, who spent time on trial at Manchester United around the turn of the decade, has gone from debuting in the Swedish second division with Brommapojkarna to being unveiled as Tottenham’s newest £8.5m ($10.8m) signing - via an impressive season with Djurgarden in the top flight. After rejecting advances from Barcelona, Bergvall will complete his move to north London this summer, and his ability to turn defence into attack from his central midfield position should make him ideal for Ange Postecoglou’s fast-paced style of play.

22 Desire Doue (Rennes)

From Ousmane Dembele to Eduardo Camavinga to Mathys Tel, Rennes’ recent hit rate when it comes to academy products is among the best in Europe, and Desire Doue looks like the French club’s latest success story after an encouraging first two seasons in the senior squad at Roazhon Park.

A two-footed midfielder with real attacking instincts, the 18-year-old has already racked up almost 70 appearances for Rennes, and was linked with Barcelona and PSG last summer before Bayer Leverkusen had a €20m (£17m/$22m) offer for Doue rejected in January. There is a strong chance he moves on this summer, however, with Borussia Dortmund and Newcastle also tracking his progress closely.

21 Estevao Willian (Palmeiras)

It’s not often that a prototypical Brazilian forward reminds you of an Argentine wizard, but it’s already clear that Palmeiras protege Estevao Willian, AKA Messinho, is a rare breed.

The 16-year-old has been keen to shake off the comparisons to Lionel Messi, but there is no doubt that his small stature, incredible agility and pace in the open field is similar to that of the diminutive Argentine legend. Brazilian fans have known about Estevao ever since he signed a deal with Nike aged 10, but fans around the world will soon know his name, too, especially once he signs with a top European club. Barcelona and Chelsea are currently thought to be at the front of the queue to sign him.

20 Luis Guilherme (Palmeiras)

While Endrick dominates all the headlines at Palmeiras, there is another academy product who spent his whole youth career playing alongside the Real Madrid-bound teenager who also looks set for a place at the top table of European football.

A pacey winger that once clocked 36 km/h in a game, Luis Guilherme is most comfortable playing off the right-hand side before cutting onto his lethal left foot, though he has experience of playing centrally too. The 18-year-old, who has also provoked comparisons with Rivaldo in his homeland, has been routinely linked with a move to Liverpool, though Manchester United, Chelsea and Real Madrid are also reportedly interested.

19 Lewis Miley (Newcastle)

Lewis Miley has long been tipped for the top by those who have followed Newcastle’s under-age teams in recent years, but nobody could have foreseen the immediate impact the 17-year-old has made on the first team this season.

An almost ever-present since making his first Premier League start in November, Miley’s “brilliant brain” has been hailed by manager Eddie Howe, and he was exceptional during the Champions League group stages, most notably in the draw with Paris Saint-Germain at Parc des Princes. He is already Newcastle’s youngest-ever Premier League goal-scorer and, after signing a new long-term contract in January, Miley should become the homegrown centrepiece of the Magpies' ambitious project in the coming years.

18 Arthur Vermeeren (Atletico Madrid)

Belgium’s ‘Golden Generation’ may be past their peaks, but that doesn’t mean that the Red Devils will soon disappear into international obscurity, with a number of young talents having emerged in recent years to take up the mantle. One of the most impressive is Arthur Vermeeren, whose potential was confirmed when Atletico Madrid agreed to pay an initial €18m (£15.4m/$19.5m) for the midfielder, so as to beat off competition from the likes of Manchester United and Barcelona to sign the 19-year-old in January.

Atleti were convinced of Vermeeren’s ability after watching him play a major role in Royal Antwerp winning the Belgian league-and-cup double in 2022-23, as the teenager barely missed a minute after breaking into Mark van Bommel’s line-up in November of that season. A deep-lying playmaker who is not afraid of the physical side of the game, Vermeeren is already a full Belgium international after making his debut in October 2023, and promises to become a key member of Diego Simeone’s side once he is fully settled in Spain.

17 Pau Cubarsi (Barcelona)

After Pau Cubarsi shone for Barcelona against Getafe in February, his team-mate Joao Cancelo wrote on the teenager’s Instagram, “Franz Beckenbauer Cubarsi”, so impressed was the Portuguese by the defender’s mature performance. In truth, he is not the only one to have been wowed by the 17-year-old in recent weeks.

Cubarsi is just the latest gem from La Masia to make themselves at home in the Barca line-up, with Ronald Araujo having compared him to Gerard Pique, while manager Xavi has commented on how “he never misses a pass”. The next job for Barca is to tie down the young Catalan, with Manchester City and Chelsea having made it known that they would be keen to sign him if the chance arises.

16 Gabriel Moscardo (Paris Saint-Germain - loan at Corinthians)

The importance of an elite defensive midfielder is becoming more and more apparent with every season that goes by, so PSG were unsurprisingly keen to bring in a potential game-changing No.6 when Gabriel Moscardo became available for just €20m (£17m/$22m) in January.

That the French champions did that deal despite the 18-year-old requiring foot surgery that has already ruled him out of the rest of the season is testament to his talent, with Moscardo having already been compared to Declan Rice following his breakout campaign at Corinthians, with whom he is back on loan as he recovers from his operation. Brazil fans also believe he can be the Selecao’s long-term Casemiro successor, which is really saying something given Moscardo still only has 25 senior appearances to his name.

15 Guillaume Restes (Toulouse)

When asked what he made of new France Under-21s No.1 Guillaume Restes, manager Thierry Henry laid out some pretty lofty comparisons. “He gives me the impression that he has 200 games in Ligue 1 already,” the Arsenal legend said of the Toulouse goalkeeper. “He reminds me of a young Fabien Barthez.”

Given the start 19-year-old Restes has made to his senior career, becoming France’s premier shot-stopper should not be beyond him. He is every inch the modern goalkeeper, with his agility between the posts only matched by the serenity he shows when the ball is at his feet. Restes is already one of the best ‘keepers in Ligue 1, and it won’t be long before the rest of Europe is familiar with his work.

14 Kendry Paez (Independiente del Valle)

Chelsea have shown they are not afraid to spend big to ensure they acquire the superstars of tomorrow and, in Kendry Paez, they look to have secured themselves a gem. The 16-year-old will join up with the Blues in the summer of 2025 after they agreed to pay Independiente del Valle £17m ($21.5m) to bring the talented playmaker to Stamford Bridge.

Paez has long been seen as the first global superstar to emerge from Ecuadorian football, and the early indicators are that he can live up to those lofty expectations. A full international, he already holds the record as the youngest goalscorer in the history of South American World Cup qualifying, and is likely to play a key role for one of the dark horses in this summer’s Copa America.

13 Roony Bardghji (FC Copenhagen)

Few players can claim to have a winning goal against Manchester United in the Champions League on their CV before their 18th birthday, but that’s exactly what Roony Bardghji was able to conjure up as his late strike downed the Red Devils in November’s thrilling group-stage encounter.

That strike introduced Roony to a wider audience, but the tricky Copenhagen forward was already well-known to fans in Denmark and his native Sweden. The 18-year-old broke the record for the youngest goalscorer in Danish Superliga history back in 2021 and, this season, he has reached double-figures for goals for the first time in his career. No wonder United, Chelsea and more are chasing his signature, with a summer transfer now almost inevitable.

12 Jorrel Hato (Ajax)

Even for a club such as Ajax, whose history is so steeped in developing young players, seeing them being led out for a European match by a 17-year-old earlier this season was quite the sight. But that just speaks to the maturity possessed by Jorrel Hato, who is set to become the latest Ajax academy graduate to become a household name the world over.

Now 18, Hato has proven one of the few bright spots during a gloomy campaign at the Johan Cruyff ArenA, with the defender having established himself in the starting line-up while going on to make his full Netherlands debut. Though not physically imposing, the defender’s reading of the game and confidence on the ball means he can handle himself comfortably in his favoured centre-back role - though he can also play left-back. That versatility, among many other qualities, is why Arsenal are so keen to bring Hato to north London if they can.

11 Antonio Nusa (Club Brugge)

‘The Norwegian Neymar’ is quite the nickname to live up to but, so far, Antonio Nusa looks capable of following in Erling Haaland and Martin Odegaard’s footsteps by becoming a footballing face of the Scandinavian nation. The winger’s stock has risen significantly over the past six months and Club Brugge are almost certain to cash in at the end of the campaign.

A winger with a bag full of tricks, the 18-year-old is most comfortable cutting in from the left-hand side onto his right foot, and he has already produced plenty of highlight-reel moments during his time in Belgium and with boyhood club Stabaek. He has also made a glittering start to his international career, as he both scored and assisted on his full debut in September before providing three further assists in his next two caps. Tottenham came close to a £25m ($31.5m) deal to sign Nusa in January, but other clubs are likely to be interested come the summer.

10 Leny Yoro (Lille)

“Leny Yoro is extraordinary. Never in my career have I come across such a mature young man.” Those the words of Lille manager Paulo Fonseca, who has overseen the development of one of Europe’s - if not the world’s - top defensive prospects, and whose performances are now set to kickstart a bidding war this summer.

Yoro, 18, has been likened to Raphael Varane and William Saliba after emerging in Ligue 1, with his unimposing physique hiding a player whose dribbling ability is superb for a centre-half. Yoro routinely starts Lille attacks from the back by carrying the ball out of defence, while he has also popped up with the odd goal when attacking set-pieces.

Real Madrid, PSG, Liverpool and Manchester United have all been credited with interest in Yoro, who looks set to fetch upwards of €50m (£42.5m/$55m) once the transfer window opens at the end of the season. Whomever wins that race will be adding an elite-level defender to their armoury.

9 Claudio Echeverri (Manchester City - loan at River Plate)

Many young Argentines have wilted under the pressure of being dubbed ‘the next Lionel Messi’, but Claudio Echeverri certainly seems to have both the talent and character to carry the burden. Certainly, Europe’s biggest clubs went out of their way to secure his signature over the past year, only for Manchester City to win out in the end.

City have paid an initial £12.5m ($16m) to bring the 18-year-old to the Etihad Stadium, fighting off major competition from Barcelona, as well as PSG, Real Madrid and Juventus to Echeverri. The winger will remain on loan at River Plate until the end of the 2024 campaign, with the hope being that ‘El Diablito’ (‘The Little Devil’) will truly ignite in South America over the next nine months or so.

Capable of playing as a No.10 or on either wing, Echeverri’s quick feet and direct dribbling style make him a nightmare for defenders to deal with, while he has also shown a keen eye for goal, most notably when netting a hat-trick against Brazil at the U17 World Cup in 2023. That display came off the back of training alongside Messi and the rest of the Argentina senior squad prior to the tournament, and it surely won’t be long before Lionel Scaloni takes another look at Echeverri if he continues on his current trajectory.

8 Kenan Yildiz (Juventus)

Few teenagers can claim to receive regular phone calls from Alessandro Del Piero after their matches, but Kenan Yildiz is no ordinary teenager. Having broken into the Juventus first team around the turn of the year, the forward has already done enough to suggest that, like Del Piero before him, he will become one of the pillars of the Bianconeri over the next decade.

An attacking midfielder who is able to cut through opposition defences at will, the 18-year-old certainly has a lot of Del Piero in the way he plays, while he also copied the legendary No.10's celebration after scoring his first senior goal in December 2023; a superb solo strike against Frosinone just 12 minutes into his first Serie A start.

Yildiz has barely been out of Massimiliano Allegri's line-up ever since, as Juve's ability to persuade the teenager to leave Bayern Munich and pick them over Barcelona back in 2022 is now being richly rewarded. Look out for him, too, at Euro 2024, with Yildiz likely to be a key figure for Turkey after netting his first international goal back in November - a winner against the country of his birth, Germany.

7 Kobbie Mainoo (Manchester United)

Finding reliable central midfielders has been one of Manchester United’s many issues over the past decade of discontent at Old Trafford, but it seems that in Kobbie Mainoo they may finally have produced a player who is capable of controlling games at the very highest level. Certainly, the way the 18-year-old has handled himself since breaking into Erik ten Hag’s side in late 2023 suggests he has a massive future.

A product of United’s famed academy, Mainoo was expected to find a place in Ten Hag’s team from the very start of the campaign, but an injury in pre-season ruled him out for three months. Upon his return, however, the 18-year-old has taken to Premier League football like a duck to water, and has regularly put some of his more senior colleagues in the shade with his assured performances at the heart of midfield.

Mainoo’s serenity when in possession is what has marked him out as a potentially special talent, while both his passing and shooting have also caught the eye, with his stunning, stoppage-time winner at Wolves in February one of the moments of United’s season so far. His displays have even led to calls for him to be selected by England, and even if he doesn’t make it to Euro 2024, it surely can’t be long before the Three Lions come calling.

6 Vitor Roque (Barcelona)

Brazil have struggled to find a reliable No.9 since the retirement of Ronaldo, but there is a feeling that in Vitor Roque, the Selecao might finally have found an heir to ‘Il Fenomeno’. That is in part due to the similarities in both their styles and career paths, but there is no doubt that the 19-year-old has all the tools to enjoy an elite-level career.

Like Ronaldo, Vitor came through the Cruzeiro academy, but shortly after making his breakthrough into the first team with the second-division outfit, he joined Athletico Paranaense so as to test himself in the top flight. The gamble paid off, with Vitor scoring 21 goals in all competitions in 2023, prompting Barcelona to pay an initial €35m (£30m/$38.5m) to sign the striker last summer before bringing him to Catalunya in January.

A pacey and direct striker, Vitor certainly shares a lot of attributes with Ronaldo, while he has already displayed his predatory instincts with a couple of goals for Barca in his early appearances. With Robert Lewandowski not getting any younger, it is expected that Vitor - who has already been capped at senior level by Brazil - will step into the Pole’s shoes in the not-too-distant future.

5 Arda Guler (Real Madrid)

When it comes to signing teenage talents, few do it better than Real Madrid right now, so it should have come as no surprise to see the Spanish giants win the race to sign Turkish talent Arda Guler in the summer of 2023. The play-making midfielder had been linked with pretty much every top European club over the previous 18 months, and was already easy to see why.

Having emerged from the Fenerbahce academy in 2021, by the end of the 2021-22 campaign he had become the club’s youngest-ever goalscorer while earning comparisons to team-mate Mesut Ozil. Some even went as far as to christen him ‘the Turkish Messi’ due to his dribbling ability and the way in which Guler was able to pick a pass even when in the tightest of spots.

Though never a regular starter for his boyhood club - much to the disappointment of many Fener fans - Guler still managed to score nine goals and provide 12 assists in his two seasons with the first team, averaging a direct goal involvement every 91 minutes he was on the pitch. It was that form that convinced Madrid to pay an initial €20m (£17m/$22m) to bring him to Santiago Bernabeu.

Madridistas have only seen glimpses of the 19-year-old’s potential thus far, however, after a spate of injuries ruined Guler’s first six months in Spain. However, now that he is fit, the hope is that he can provide Carlo Ancelotti with a game-changing option off the bench down the final stretch of the campaign, while he is also likely to play a key role for Turkey at Euro 2024 having been part of the senior national-team squad for almost two years.

4 Mathys Tel (Bayern Munich)

Bayern Munich’s 2023-24 season has, to say the least, not gone according to plan. But one of the big positives to take away from the campaign at the Allianz Arena has been the development of Mathys Tel, who continues to make match-winning contributions despite having to wait patiently for a run in the starting line-up.

A centre-half during his early years in the Rennes academy, Tel switched to playing in attack during his mid-teens, and he has never looked back. At 16, he broke Eduardo Camavinga’s record in becoming the French club’s youngest-ever player, and though he only made seven appearances for Rennes, that was enough to convince Bayern to part with an initial €20m (£17m/$20m) to bring him to Germany in the summer of 2022.

Tel has been limited to almost exclusively substitute appearances during his first two campaigns in Bavaria, but he has taken almost every opportunity afforded to him when he has made it onto the pitch. The 18-year-old averages a direct goal contribution every 90 minutes for Bayern, and though some have questioned whether he would have been better served by going out on loan, there is now no doubt that Tel can be a key player for Bayern as they look to rebuild under Thomas Tuchel’s successor.

Capable of playing as either a wide forward or a central striker, Tel’s pace and dribbling ability has earned him comparisons to Kylian Mbappe, while his unerring finishing ability has been likened to that of Karim Benzema. He has already led France to glory at the U17 Euros in 2022, and with more senior forwards coming towards the end of their international careers, the thought of Tel partnering Mbappe up front for Les Bleus in the coming years should be a scary one for defenders around the world.

3 Warren Zaire-Emery (Paris Saint-Germain)

We will soon live in a world where Kylian Mbappe no longer plays for Paris Saint-Germain, and thus the French champions will be looking for gifted individuals who can lead them into a new era at Parc des Princes. In Warren Zaire-Emery, they already have a teenager who can become the face of the club for the next decade, if PSG so wish.

The French champions do not have a great record when it comes to giving homegrown talents the chance to shine at senior level, but as soon as Zaire-Emery emerged as a force in the UEFA Youth League as a 15-year-old in 2021, he was fast-tracked to the first team. PSG’s youngest-ever debutant and goalscorer, Zaire-Emery has become an almost ever-present under Luis Enrique in 2023-24, and there is an argument to suggest that only Mbappe is more important to the Parisiens’ cause as they chase domestic and European glory.

Certainly, Zaire-Emery’s performances in the Champions League this season have belied his lack of experience, with the 18-year-old having shone against some of the continent’s top midfield units. The youngest French player to ever score in the competition, his European exploits convinced Didier Deschamps to hand him his senior France debut in November, and Zaire-Emery rewarded that faith in him by marking the occasion with his first international goal.

Nominally a defensive midfielder, Zaire-Emery is able to dictate games from a deep position while also showing a willingness to get forward and join in with attacks. His passing ability is already among the best in Europe, and Pep Guardiola is a noted fan, having tried to sign the teenager for Manchester City in the past. If PSG are unable to hit the heights of recent times once Mbappe leaves, don’t be surprised if City and others come calling for Zaire-Emery - there might not be a better midfielder in the world in a few years’ time.

2 Endrick (Palmeiras)

Not since Neymar’s emergence at Santos has there been the level of excitement that surrounds Endrick in Brazil, with the forward regarded as a superstar-in-waiting after his headline-grabbing emergence over the past two years. Real Madrid definitely agree with that notion; otherwise they would not have agreed to pay the eye-watering €60m (£52m/$64m) release clause in Endrick’s contract back in January 2023.

The 17-year-old will not complete his move to Santiago Bernabeu until the summer of 2024, but excitement among Madridistas is palpable, especially after they watched Endrick fire Palmeiras to the Brazilian title late in 2023. After a difficult start to the campaign, the forward found his form during the run-in, and finished the season with 11 Brasilerao goals.

The youngest player in Palmeiras history, Endrick has been making defenders look foolish for much of his short career thus far. He is able to skip past defenders with ease, while his unerring finishing ability means he will likely carve out a career as a central striker. He also possesses an eye for the spectacular, with clips of him scoring overhead kicks from outside the penalty area having gone viral since his breakthrough into the wider footballing consciousness.

Endrick has also been capped twice by Brazil already, as he became the youngest player to be called up by the Selecao since Ronaldo when he was first selected back in November. His versatility is likely to be important when it comes to his international career, with the five-time World Cup winners rarely short of elite attacking options, and so being able to plug Endrick into the gap where he is required most will surely help coaches of the future.

Back at club level, the thought of him combining with Jude Bellingham, Vinicius Jr and, potentially, Kylian Mbappe is a mouth-watering one. Young players like Endrick don’t come along all that often, and Madrid can offer him the perfect environment to grow into a true Galactico.

1 Lamine Yamal (Barcelona)

Lamine Yamal might only be 16, but within the corridors of La Masia his name has been whispered for some time already. The talk has long been that Barcelona’s famed academy had done the seemingly impossible by conjuring up a worthy successor to Lionel Messi.

It might seem like hyperbole to suggest Yamal will ever reach the level of the World Cup winner, and those that believe that such suggestions are blasphemous are probably right. But there is no doubt that in Yamal, Barca have produced a player who is capable of defining a generation of not just Spanish football, but the global game.

The list of records Yamal has already broken is remarkable; he is the youngest player to ever start for Barcelona, the youngest goalscorer in both Barca and La Liga history, the youngest player to ever start a Champions League match and both the youngest player and goalscorer in Spanish national-team history.

Most comfortable playing off the right-hand side before cutting in onto his stronger left foot, Yamal does play a lot like Messi. His low centre of gravity, willingness to take defenders on and eye for both a pass and a shot are reminiscent of the Argentine. His spectacular winner against Mallorca in early March was also eerily similar to a number of goals that Messi has scored in his career, and there is genuine belief that he is the superstar around whom a new era of Barca success can be built.

Of course, the Blaugrana will need to be careful with Yamal, as their overreliance on teenagers in recent years has led to those youngsters suffering injury problems. But if Yamal can be managed properly, then there isn’t a teenage player of greater potential anywhere in world football right now. He is a truly special talent - and your NXGN 2024 winner.

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