The 25-man shortlist for the Golden Boy 2017 award has been announced and there are plenty of worthy candidates in the mix.
The award is presented by sports journalists to the best performing player under the age of 21 plying their trade in Europe.
Renato Sanches was the recipient last year after starring for Portugal in their Euro 2016 triumph.
There is no shortage of contenders this time around as well.
Here’s a look at the top five contenders for the prize.
The Manchester United local talent burst onto the scene in phenomenal fashion at the start of 2016. Since Jose Mourinho has taken over, Rashford has still been an integral part of the team but has seen the bulk of the goal scoring responsibility wisely shifted to first Zlatan Ibrahimovic and then Romelu Lukaku.
However, when the big Swede suffered a knee injury towards the end of the previous campaign, Rashford stepped up impressively and guided United to a maiden Europa League trophy, displaying maturity beyond his years.
With Lukaku taking centre stage this season, the England international has been shifted out to the left flank again but has performed remarkably, already registering three goals and an assist in seven appearances across all competitions. However, it’s his industry, relentlessness and link up play that has caught the eye.
There aren’t many meteoric rises that could eclipse Rashford’s but Kylian Mbappe’s swift transition from anonymity to world football stardom is most definitely one.
As a mere 18-year-old, the Frenchman not only established himself in AS Monaco’s first team, but quickly grew into their undisputed talisman.
The pacey attacker scored 15 goals and provided eight assists as Monaco powered their way to the Ligue 1 title. What was particularly impressive though was his performances in the Champions League, really proving his mettle in the knockout stages.
He wasn’t daunted at all by club football’s biggest stage and instead made it his own with scintillating displays, scoring six goals as Monaco bowed out in the semi-finals against Juventus. Having moved to Paris Saint-Germain in the summer, he’s already hit the ground running, scoring in the league and Champions League.
Widely regarded as Europe’s most promising goalkeeper, Gianluigi Donnarumma was engulfed in an ugly standoff with AC Milan in the summer over a contract dispute. He’s now the third highest paid keeper in Europe, earning more than even his idol and Juventus legend Gianluigi Buffon.
Such is Donnarumma’s immense talent that he’s been regularly likened to the Italian football icon. The 18-year-old has no significant weaknesses and will only get better with time.
The young custodian has been in superb form for Milan this year as they finished sixth in Serie A, won Supercoppa Italiana and went out in the quarter-finals of Coppa Italia.
CLEAN SHEETS: 10
Gabriel Jesus has emerged as one of Brazil’s standout young stars and the ease with which he slotted into Manchester City’s set-up under Pep Guardiola, one of the more demanding coaches in world football, speaks volumes.
After beginning his City career in fine goal scoring form, a metatarsal fracture ruled him out for a month but he impressively got back to scoring ways immediately on his return. Meanwhile, relegating Sergio Aguero to bench last season was no small feat either.
He’s shown his ability to adjust as well, having forged a lethal partnership with the experienced Argentine this season with Guardiola keen to use the two as a pair up front more often than not.
Having become the second most expensive player of all-time this summer, it’s no surprise that Ousmane Dembele finds himself firmly in contention for the Golden Boy award.
The French attacker was the star of Borussia Dortmund’s season last term alongside top scorer Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. Despite finishing third in Bundesliga, they did make it to the Champions League quarter-finals. Meanwhile, Dembele was the standout performer as they beat Bayern Munich in a thrilling German Cup final.
Over the course of the league campaign, the 20-year-old popped up with 13 assists and six goals. He marked his first appearance for Barcelona with an assist this season but a hamstring injury is set to keep him out for around three months, hampering his chances to strengthen his claim for the coveted award.
Paris Saint-Germain kept their perfect start to the season going on Sunday, but the 2-0 win over Lyon also laid bare certain tensions in their all-star front line.
PSG were leading 1-0 at the Parc des Princes when they won a penalty with 10 minutes remaining for a foul on Kylian Mbappe, making his home debut.
Having already scored three times from the spot this season, Edinson Cavani assumed the responsibility would once again be his.
Neymar tried to get the ball from the Uruguayan but it was Cavani who eventually took it. And his effort was brilliantly saved, Anthony Lopes tipping the ball onto the bar.
“The penalties are taken by a couple of players, one is Cavani and the other is Neymar. There needs to be a gentleman’s agreement on the pitch to decide who takes the penalties,” coach Unai Emery admitted later.
“We will sort things out internally for the next time, because I think they are both capable of taking them, and I want the two of them to mix up who takes them.”
Those comments, and the fact Cavani was unsuccessful from the spot, suggests Neymar will get his chance in future.
The Brazilian had previously tried and failed to grab the ball from Cavani when a penalty was awarded in the 3-0 win over Saint-Etienne last month. Cavani scored that time.
Earlier in Sunday’s game, the duo disagreed over who should take a free-kick with the match still goalless. Dani Alves intervened to give his compatriot the ball on that occasion, and Neymar’s strike was saved.
“They are two great players. They want to score goals. There are no problems between them, everything is fine,” insisted PSG defender Presnel Kimpembe.
Trouble in Paradise?
Neymar demands to take penalty. Cavani insists.
And Misses pic.twitter.com/fQBBpx2X23
— Absolute Futbol (@Absolute_Futbol) September 18, 2017
Most coaches would envy the embarrassment of riches at Emery’s disposal.
The ‘MCN’ front line of Mbappe, Cavani and Neymar has cost the capital club €466 million but now the coach has to somehow keep them all happy.
Cavani scored a remarkable 49 goals in all competitions last season and already has nine this season — it would have been 10 had the opener against Lyon not been credited as a Marcelo own goal.
But Cavani, who previously lived in the shadow of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, has seen PSG commit the two biggest transfer fees in history to sign Neymar and Mbappe.
And €222 million man Neymar has come to Paris to be the main man after spending four years in Lionel Messi’s shadow at Barcelona.
“This victory has exposed tensions between Neymar and Cavani,” said sports daily L’Equipe on its front page on Monday.
The ‘MCN’ scored eight goals between them in their first two matches together against Metz (5-1) and Celtic (5-0), but Sunday was less encouraging.
Cavani saw very little of the ball, while Neymar and Mbappe were relatively subdued, even if they combined to force PSG’s second on the night, a Jeremy Morel own goal.
Julian Draxler, a €40 million signing from Wolfsburg in January, was also shoehorned into the team on Sunday but overloading the side with attacking stars is to the detriment of the overall balance.
PSG have not slipped up yet, but Sunday’s game showed that Emery has plenty on his plate.
Provided by AFP Sport
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp will hand Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain a first start for his new club in the Carabao Cup at Leicester now the midfielder is up to speed on what is required from him.
The England international has played only 57 minutes in three substitute appearances since his £35million deadline-day move from Arsenal.
Oxlade-Chamberlain made six starts this season for the Gunners and England but has been used sparingly by Klopp as he was schooled in how the German wants him to work.
“It is a fantastic opportunity for Alex because since he has been in it has been difficult to train on different things because of game after game after game,” said Klopp.
“There is no rush but we are in this three-game-a-week rhythm and during the international break he was with the national team.
“But it is a long-term project so I have no problem. We sat together with him and the analysts and showed him how we want him to play in this position and that position.
“He had a wonderful impact when he came on in the last game (Saturday’s 1-1 draw v Burnley) so it was very good for him.”
Currently in a run of four matches in 11 days, which includes a Champions League trip to Moscow early next week, and Klopp admits he has no option but to make changes for the match at the King Power Stadium.
He accepts, however, the decision to start Danny Ward – his third different goalkeeper in as many matches – may raise some eyebrows.
The Wales international was influential in Huddersfield’s promotion campaign having spent last season on loan but the closest he has got to any action so far this term was watching the 4-0 win over Arsenal from the bench in his only selection in a match-day squad.
“I am not sure if the world is ready for such a crazy decision – the third goalkeeper in one season without an injury,” added Klopp, who has had to field regular questions about his preferred number one having switched between Simon Mignolet and Loris Karius and back again already.
“We have to make changes, we have to rotate. We are convinced about this squad which is why we give different players opportunities.”
Klopp: “[This game] is a fantastic opportunity for Alex. He had a wonderful impact in the last game.” pic.twitter.com/UncBvM2YhU
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) September 18, 2017
Provided by Press Association Sport