The Centre International d’Etude du Sport (CIES) Football Observatory, an independent study centre located in Neuchatel, Switzerland, has crunched the numbers to come up with the most promising Under-20 players across Europe.
The learned three-man panel (Dr Raffaele Poli, Dr Roger Besson and Dr Loïc Ravenel) looked at data from 22 European leagues to identify those with the best career prospects.
Taken into consideration were minutes played, weighted according to the level of leagues, and the results achieved by employer clubs.
In all 50 players with the highest “capital experience” scores were listed graded from three to five stars.
The five-star prospects should be able to establish themselves in the very best European teams, while the four-star category list have a concrete possibility to spend a big part of their career in the most top European leagues. Three-star prospects are in a favourable position to stay or reach the highest levels of the football pyramid.
Here below are the top ten on the list, all who gained five stars. Expect a few more zeroes to be added to their next contracts.
1. Gianluigi Donnarumma (Main image)
Club: AC Milan (Italy)
Debut: October 25, 2015
The 18-year-old has been a regular between the posts for AC Milan this season with 33 appearances in all competitions. He debuted for the Rossoneri in 2015, becoming the second youngest goalkeeper ever in Serie A, aged 16 years and 242 days. He also already has four caps under his belt for the national team.
2. Alban Lafont
Club: Toulouse (France)
Debut: November 28, 2015
The 19-year-old made his Ligue 1 debut on 28 November 2015, becoming the youngest-ever goalkeeper to play in Ligue 1 at the age of 16 years and 310 days. Lafont kept clean sheets in his first two competitive fixtures and Toulouse, who had been 10 points adrift of safety at the time of his introduction into the first team, managed to avoid relegation thanks to eight clean sheets he kept in his 24 appearances for the campaign.
Club: PSG (France)
Debut: December 2, 2015
With his extraordinary achievements (and price tag) it might be a surprise to see the 19-year-old at just No.3 in the list. Mbappe became Monaco’s youngest-ever first-team player at 16 years 347 days, breaking Thierry Henry’s record set 21 years previously. He played a huge role in Monaco winning their first Ligue 1 title in 17 years in 2016-17, scoring 26 goals in the campaign. On August 31 last year he left Monaco for PSG in deal believed to be worth 166m pounds.
Club: Dortmund (Germany)
Debut: January 30, 2016
Position: Attacking midfielder, wing
The highly rated American 19-year-old has already set a number of records in his fledgling career: youngest foreigner to score a goal in the Bundesliga, youngest player to score two goals in the Bundesliga, youngest player in the modern era to score a goal for the United States, and youngest American player to score a goal in World Cup qualifying history. With his goal scoring instincts its not surprising he’s a rumored target for Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester United.
5. Malang Sarr
Club: Nice (France)
Debut: August 14, 2016
Position: Central defender
Sarr made his Ligue 1 debut for his home club aged just 17 and scored the winning goal for his team, becoming the second youngest player to ever score on debut in Ligue 1. This is the only goal he has scored in close to 50 appearances since but he has become a constant in the Nice back four also representing France at age levels from Under 16 to Under 21.
6. Dayot Upamecano
Club: Red Bull Leipzig (Germany)
Debut: July 31, 2015
Position: Central Defender
The 19-year-old made his professional debut at the age of just 16 for Red Bull Salzburg’s feeder team Liefering. On January 13, 2017, he joined Red Bull Leipzig on a four-and-a-half year deal, for a reported €10 million fee, where he has become a regular in their defensive line, showing great maturity despite his young years. Also represented France from Under 16 to Under 19 levels.
7. Tom Davies
Club: Everton (England)
Debut: April 16, 2016
Position: Central midfield
Those who watch the blond 19-year-old’s energetic performances in the Premier League won’t be surprised to see him feature in the list. A graduate of the Everton academy system, Davies was handed his Premier League debut by Roberto Martínez at the age of 17, coming on as an substitute in a 1–1 draw with Southampton at Goodison Park. An England representative from Under 16 to Under 21, Davies has struggled a little this season but recently has returned to first-team football on a regular basis.
8. Matthijs de Ligt
Club: AFC Ajax (Netherlands)
Debut: August 8, 2016
Position: Central defender
A graduate from the Ajax academy, which he joined when he was nine years old, he made his professional debut for Jong Ajax on August 8, 2016 before making his debut for Ajax’s senior team on 21 September the same year. The elegant defender scored after 25 minutes from a corner, making him the second youngest goalscorer for Ajax ever. Since then he has gone on to make over 30 appearances for Ajax and on 25 March 2017 he made his debut for the Netherlands national team, becoming the youngest national debutant since 1931.
9. Kai Havertz
Club: Leverkusen (Germany)
Debut: October 15, 2016
Often compared to Mesut Ozil, the 18-year-old midfielder made his debut for Leverkusen at the age of just 17 years and 126 days, becoming the club’s youngest ever Bundesliga debutante. Four days later, he was handed his first Champions League start in the first leg of the round of 16 loss to Atletico Madrid. Since then he has racked up over 40 appearances with six goals and represented Germany at Under 16, 17 and 19 levels.
10. Ryan Sessegnon
Club: Fulham (England)
Debut: August 9, 2016
Position: Left back or left wing
The talented 17-year-old made his first-team debut in an EFL Cup match aged just 16 years and 81 days. Less than two weeks later, he scored his first professional goal in a league match against Cardiff City, becoming the first professional footballer in the English leagues to have been born in the 2000s to score a goal and the youngest player ever to have scored in a Championship match. He also scored the winner on his FA Cup debut on January 8 2017, becoming one of the youngest goalscorers in the history of the competition. The England Under 16, 17 and 19 representative has gone on to make 57 appearances for the first team scoring 17 goals.
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