Wonderkids: Sancho bests Messi and Man United target Tielemans is on rise

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An electric Englishman who has surpassed Lionel Messi – in one category at least – and four other hotshots from across three leagues take pride of place in this week’s list.

The aim of column is to shed light on the players, aged 21 or under across Europe’s top five leagues, who aspire to lead the game into a bold new era.

The likes of Kylian Mbappe, Marcus Rashford and Ousmane Dembele are sure to regularly pop up but as every week passes, we hope to sift out a few starlets who may have gone unnoticed.

Without further ado, here’s our five picks from last weekend’s action.

Jadon Sancho (Borussia Dortmund) Age: 19

Key stat: 13 assists, more than Messi, after 2-0 win v Wolfsburg

Comparing Sancho with Lionel Messi? Cue a succession of eye rolls, but the England teenager has jumped the Argentine in the queue in one pretty impressive way.

The winger galloped from his own half, skinning Max Arnold, and teed up Paco Alcacer for his second injury-time goal to put down a gallant Wolfsburg for good.

With that he had racked up his 13th assist of the Bundesliga season, pipping Messi – temporarily at least – as the leading provider across the top five leagues.

In what was a difficult game for the Bundesliga leaders, Sancho dealt damage in fits and spurts. Despite this he still mustered four successful dribbles, and was fouled three times.

Youri Tielemans (Leicester) Age: 21

Key stat: 3rd assist in five games in 2-0 win v Bournemouth

Such has been his impact in three short months, Brendan Rodgers is having to field questions over the 21-year-old’s permanent signing from Monaco amid widespread reported interest.

Murmurings of Man United and Tottenham will only continue to grow if Tielemans keeps delivering like he did against Bournemouth.

The Belgium midfielder possesses that rare knack of marrying precision with adventure in his passing, an ability no doubt nurtured through his 250 senior games at club level already.

Andy Robertson can claim to have produced the most gorgeous cross of the weekend for Roberto Firmino, but Tielemans was not far behind with his whipped in wonderball for Jamie Vardy.

The question is which English striker will be the beneficiary next season.

Moise Kean (Juventus) Age: 19

Key stat: 40 mins per Serie A goal after 1-0 win v Empoli

Moise Kean’s inclusion is not just for his 20-minute, match-winning cameo over the weekend, but just what he has managed to achieve on such a short supply of minutes with Juventus.

Italy found out what all the fuss was about following the forward’s first two goals in Azzurri and Bianconeri looks pretty good on him, too.

There was a touch of fortune about his winner against Empoli, his thrashed shot finding the net via a defender, but with that he became the youngest player to score eight goals in Serie A since an 18-year-old Mario Balotelli.

Two goals in his first Juve start against Udinese, and another in his third appearance. One wonders what he could do in the Champions League against Ajax, especially if Cristiano Ronaldo can’t recover in time.

Dwight McNeil (Burnley) Age: 19

Key stat: 1 shot, one goal in 2-0 win v Wolves

England’s surfeit of riches in attacking positions is likely to hinder McNeil’s progression into the spotlight – not that Burnley will mind too much.

The 19-year-old had only made two Premier League starts by the turn of the year, yet he’s doing as much as any January signing could have to keep the Clarets in the big time.

Having scored in what turned out to be a last-gasp loss at Leicester the week before, McNeil made sure the three points were staying at Turf Moor against Wolves with a drilled left-footer just inside the area.

McNeil is nominally a left midfielder but likes to roam, and his relentless work ethic is another reason why Sean Dyche has entrusted him with a key role in the run-in. Having been invited to train with England’s seniors, perhaps Gareth Southgate can envisage a bright future in white, too.

Suat Serdar (Schalke) Age: 21

Key stat: 6 successful dribbles and a goal in 1-0 win v Hannover

Bundesliga basement club Hannover will wonder how on earth they came away from the game with nothing, and if not for Suat Serdar, they undoubtedly wouldn’t have.

He was hardly the conductor of the midfield, attempting 15 passes overall, instead helping shield Schalke from the cacophony Hannover were making, with 62 per cent possession and 15 shots on goal.

The 21-year-old won the ball three times and generally stymied play. But it was his intervention in the 39th minute that saw him steal the show away from the sorry hosts.

Floating into space on the right-hand side of the box, the German watched the offside line diligently before taking on Benjamin Stambouli’s threaded pass and thrashing home.

With that the former Mainz man arrested Schalke’s horrendous run of form and lifted them six points clear of the drop zone, while Hannover are nine away from safety. On such thin margins relegation battles lie.

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