There are millions of young soccer players across the world, but only the best of the best will become household names. This list will take a look at 10 of the top young players on the planet with each one of them having the potential to be an all-time great. They’ve already gotten off to excellent starts, but now need to keep developing at the same pace to achieve this goal.
Not every potential star makes it to the elite level though as some of them don’t have the mental fortitude to excel and others simply stop developing physically or their skills begin to erode. There’s a good chance that all 10 of these players will become world stars though as they’re either still teenagers or have just turned 20 years old.
10. Rhian Brewster
It’s not too often we see England winning anything on the world football stage, but 2017 was a year the nation can be proud of. Not only did the English squad win the Under-20 World Cup they also hoisted the Under-17 World Cup. Leading the way for the Under-17’s was Rhian Brewster, who won the Golden Boot as the tournament’s top scorer with eight goals and won the Bronze Ball as the third-best player in the event.
The 17-year-old striker is signed for Liverpool after spending 2008 to 2014 with the Chelsea youth system. He’s been a prolific scorer with England with four goals in four games for the Under-16 squad and 20 in 22 matches with the Under-17’s. Brewster is also eligible to play internationally for Turkey once he reaches senior level since his mother is Turkish. But no matter who he decides to play for, it looks like he’s got a fine career ahead of him.
9. Vinicius Junior
Brazilian forward/midfielder Vinicius Junior is one of the world’s top prospects at the age of 17. Junior plays with Flamengo in his homeland and led Brazil’s Under-17 team to the South American Championship in March, 2017. Junior was the tournament’s top scorer with seven goals and was also named the event’s best best player. He’s a physically strong player who can dribble the ball with amazing speed and possesses plenty of creativity.
He had a €45 million release clause with Flamengo and Real Madrid reportedly made a deal with the Brazilian club to secure his services when he turns 18 next summer. However, it may not be in his best interests to join the star-studded club to sit on the bench and that’s why he’s supposed to remain with Flamengo on loan until 2019. Junior had six goals in six games for the Under-15 team and has 19 in 22 matches with the Under-17’s.
8. Phil Foden
Even though Rhian Brewster was the top scorer at this year’s Under-17 World Cup, his England teammate Phil Foden won the Golden Ball as the event’s best player. The 17-year-old from Stockport can do it all, as he owns tremendous dribbling and playmaking skills and can also deposit the ball in the net. He’s played 33 times with England’s Under-16, 17, and 18 teams and has 14 goals to his name. These include a pair in the World Cup Final against Spain and one in the European Under-17 Championship Final.
Foden has been with Manchester City since he was nine years old and has already played with the senior squad in this year’s preseason tour of the United States. Foden’s Golden Ball win at this year’s World Cup was certainly deserved and he looks to be one of the brightest prospects on the globe at the moment.
7. Christian Pulisic
Heading over to North America now, we find midfielder Christian Pulisic as the USA’s top prospect at the moment, as he’s already playing with Dortmund of the German Bundesliga. He holds the league record for being its youngest player to score twice when he achieved the feat at the age of 17 years and 218 days. He’s also the youngest foreign-born player to score in the league. Pulisic’s a regular with the American national team now due to his intelligence, technical skills, quick thinking, and versatility and can play as a wing-back or winger as well.
Liverpool was interested in the 19-year-old youngster, but he recently signed a new contract with Dortmund. His dribbling and shooting skills are steadily improving and Pulisic should be a fixture in the American squad for years to come. He has nine goals in 20 games with the U.S. after netting 49 in 62 games with the Under-15 and 17 sides.
6. Gianluigi Donnarumma
The best teenage goalie in the world at the moment has to be 18-year-old Gianluigi Donnarumma of Italy. He made his debut in Serie A with AC Milan when he was 16 years and eight months old to become the second-youngest player in the league’s history. He’s six-feet-five-inches tall and has invariably been compared to Italian great Gianluigi Buffon. Donnarumma is an excellent shot stopper and is also good with the ball at his feet.
He made his debut for Italy’s Under-21 team when he was 17 to become the squad’s youngest ever player. He then debuted for the senior national team half a year later to become the youngest Italian goalie to do so. Donnarumma spent his childhood days with Napoli until signing with Milan at 14 and he’ll soon play in his 100th game with the club. There’s a good chance Donnarumma is the best keeper on the planet by the time he’s 23.
5. Marcus Rashford
English international forward Marcus Rashford is no longer a teenager as he just turned 20 on Halloween. He’s already a regular with Manchester United and England’s senior team and has shown that he’s here to stay. He definitely makes a great first impression on his managers as he’s scored on his debut for two different Man United and two different England bosses. His first goal for England made him the youngest debut scorer in the team’s history and the third youngest overall.
Rashford has speed to burn and combines it with fine playmaking and scoring skills while playing on the wing or in the middle of the pitch. He has a good attitude and doesn’t seem to get flustered or frustrated if things don’t always go his way. Rashford scored 26 times in his first 90 matches for Man United and should consistently add to that total each year.
4. Ousmane Dembele
Ousmane Dembele of the French national team and Barcelona turned 20 back in May and has been playing regular first team football since he was 18. Dembele started his career with Rennes in France in 2014 before spending the 2016/17 campaign with Borussia Dortmund in Germany. The winger was then bought by Barcelona for a club record €105 with a reported €40 million in add-ons and a release clause of €400 million. It’s believed to be one of the three costliest moves in football history and Dembele now wears Neymar’s old number 11 shirt.
He won the Young Player of the Year Award in France after his stint at Rennes for his excellent crossing and dribbling skills and debuted for France just 15 months after playing his first pro game. Dembele had 35 goals in his first 104 club games, but suffered a knee injury early in the 2017/18 season and could be out of action for up to four months.
3. Gabriel Jesus
Brazilian international Gabriel Jesus is another 20-year-old and is currently starring in the English Premier League with Manchester City. He started his career in his homeland with Palmeiras and was voted as his league’s best newcomer in 2015. He was then voted the player of the season the next year when his club won its first league championship in 22 years. Man City paid a relatively low €32 million for Jesus in January, 2017 and he’s scored 17 goals in 28 appearances since then.
He’s also played in the 2015 Under-20 World Cup Final, won a gold medal at the 2016 Olympics and has seven goals in 13 matches with Brazil’s senior squad. Jesus is an excellent finisher, but some believe his development may be stunted at Man City due to manager Pep Guardiola’s ridiculous decision not to play him alongside Sergio Aguero.
2. Renato Sanches
One of the best players at the 2016 European Championships was easily Renato Sanches of Portugal. He became the youngest player to appear in a major tournament for Portugal at the age of 18, was named the Young Player of the Tournament and won Europe’s Golden Boy Award in 2016. The 20-year-old was signed by German champions Bayern Munich from Benfica after the event and is now on loan with Swansea City of the English Premier League.
The midfielder may not be a big goalscorer, but has all of the skills needed to be a star on the world stage. Sanches can control and dictate the pace of a game as a box-to-box player and has already shown he can be one of Europe’s best players. On the downside, he’s suffered a few nagging injuries with a weak Swansea side this season, but if Sanches reaches his full potential he’ll become a dominant world-class player.
1. Kylian Mbappe
French international forward Kylian Mbappe of Paris Saint Germain is just 18 and already a budding star. He joined PSG this year on loan from Monaco where he scored 27 goals in 60 games and had six goals in his first 12 appearances with PSG. Mbappe could one day set a new transfer fee record if he continues to develop at the same pace. He’s cool, calm, and collected on the pitch with a superb finishing touch. His five goals for France’s Under-19 team helped it win the last U-19 European Championship, including a goal in the semifinals and final.
He excelled in the Champions League last year, made his debut for France’s senior squad this March and won the Ligue 1 title with Monaco shortly after. The sky’s basically the limit for this young man and his individual accolades already include being named Young Player of the Year and to the Team of the Year in France for 2016–17 as well as making the Champions League Team of the Season and winning Europe’s Golden Boy Award.