Two young bucks that Manchester United – reportedly – like the look of make the cut this week, while there are also young, bright-eyed representatives from Germany, Spain and France.
The aim of this 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.
Without further ado, here’s our five picks from last weekend’s action.
Aaron Wan-Bissaka (Crystal Palace) Age: 21 Position: RB
Key stat: 8 clearances in 1-0 win v Newcastle
The move would just make so much sense. Swap out a waning, aging, converted winger of a right-back in Ashley Young for a player more than 10 years his junior and at least 10 times the defender.
Against – an admittedly goal-shy – Newcastle the 21-year-old was imperious, as he has been so many times during his first full Premier League season.
The Magpies’ record buy, Miguel Almiron, was forced to cut inside or drop deep down Wan-Bissaka’s flank on numerous occasions, with Palace under sustained pressure.
Most tackles in Europe's top five leagues this season:— WhoScored.com (@WhoScored) April 8, 2019
🥇 W. Ndidi -- Leicester (123)
🥈 I. Gueye -- Everton (121)
🥉 A. Wan-Bissaka -- Crystal Palace (115)https://t.co/BwvcOK7fm0 pic.twitter.com/4h3NCim5kz
There’s an air of mystery around the England hopeful’s attacking prowess – he has only provided two assists this campaign, and has never had a shot in anger in the EPL.
However, United’s defence is hardly water-tight, and his 115 tackles and 105 clearances this campaign alone in a bottom-half battling Palace side should be two of the key stats that matter for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer this summer.
Youri Tielemans (Leicester) Age: 21 Position: CM
Key stat: 5 goals or assists in last six games after 4-0 win v Huddersfield
Youri Tielemans makes back-to-back appearance in Weekend Wonderkids and it’s easy to deduce why.
While Huddersfield have been less Premier League and more Championship fodder for some time, the way Tielemans has been playing for the last two months, he has proven a match for any midfield in the division.
His wicked curling effort – bamboozling Ben Hamer between the sticks – kicked off the 4-0 rout, but his impact in Leicester’s team goes far beyond mere strikes and assists.
The 21-year-old’s calming presence in midfield opens up space for No10 James Maddison, only 22 himself, whose debut top-flight season has only got better since dovetailing with his Belgian team-mate.
That price tag to prise him from Monaco is going up by the week, as is the number of suitors …
Jean-Philippe Mateta (Mainz) Age: 21 Position: ST
Key stat: 3 goals from just four shots in 5-0 win v Freiburg
It’s hard to miss Jean-Philippe Mateta, even when he’s not scoring hat-tricks. Mainz’s record signing, arriving from Lyon in a deal last summer that could top out at €10m, is 6ft 4in of mostly muscle.
The conversion from Ligue 2 striker to Bundesliga hotshot – he was on loan at Le Havre this year – has not been all smooth sailing, but he put on a clinic of clinical finishing against Freiburg.
Mainz only had 29 per cent possession when all was said and done on Friday, but Freiburg’s defenders couldn’t cope with Mateta’s movement all the same.
The Frenchman first rounded goalkeeper Alexander Schwolow before supplying two clinical close-range finishes. Now in double figures for the year and Mainz almost safe, this could be the confidence booster he needed.
In-form #Bundesliga partnerships 🤝 (season stats)— Bundesliga English (@Bundesliga_EN) April 8, 2019
Jovic & Rebic
2️⃣6️⃣ goals, 9️⃣ assists
Kramaric & Belfodil
2️⃣8️⃣ goals, 5️⃣ assists
Kruse & Rashica
1️⃣8️⃣ goals, 🔟 assists
Mateta & Boëtius
1️⃣2️⃣ goals, 6️⃣ assists pic.twitter.com/Ru434uLw0B
Juan Soriano (Sevilla) Age: 21 Position: GK
Key stat: 4 victories from four La Liga starts after 2-0 win v Real Valladolid
Soriano will set up camp on the bench again sooner rather than later, but Tomas Vaclik will be peering over his shoulder a little more frequently despite his fine season to date.
The Czech stopper’s recent injury problems have supplied chances to the Andalusia-born Soriano, and the hometown boy produced arguably his finest performance yet in a match that Sevilla were lucky to escape with three points from.
Relegation-battling Real Valladolid pelted Sevilla with all they had, particularly in the first half, and Soriano’s vigil between the sticks is a key reason why they remain just one point behind fourth-placed Getafe.
The 21-year-old’s technique was a little, shall we say, unorthodox at times, electing to punch occasionally when the catch was there. But he made up for one instance with a fine save from a snapshot, and went on to improbably claw another strike from Ivi away from goal.
An able understudy could soon become a La Liga fixture.
Jeff Reine-Adelaide (Angers) Age: 21 Position: AM
Key stat: 28 games without a goal before double in 3-3 draw v Rennes
The only piece of action you’ll have likely seen from this game is the one orchestrated by Hatem Ben Arfa, who despite pouring most of his talent down the drain, can still turn defenders’ legs into liquid on his day.
But Rennes didn’t win – and one of the reasons why is down to a name who will likely only be familiar to Arsenal fans – Jeff Reine-Adelaide.
The France Under-21 international made a few humdrum cup appearances for the Gunners before skulking off to Angers, but on Saturday the former Lens youth product showed why he earned a (brief) stay in London.
After Ben Arfa’s outrageous solo show-off, Reine-Adelaide took centre stage. He showed he can shimmy, too, before unleashing from a narrow angle to level the score up. That was with his left. With his right, he then whipped in a delicious ball to serve up Stephane Bahoken with an easy header.
Reine-Adelaide has similar gameplay/running style as Pogba. He'll blossom now he's getting games in midfield.— RGA (@Regista_EN) April 8, 2019
Angers found themselves down again deep into injury-time but the midfielder stood up again. Confusion reigned from a set-piece but the 21-year-old anticipated the ball at the far post to nod home.
He may not be as talented as Ben Arfa, but Reine-Adelaide would have half a chance of stardom if he found the consistency.
Perennial Serie A champions Juventus have emerged as Ivan Rakitic’s preferred option if he is forced out of Barcelona this summer, according to reports.
Rakitic, 31, has been a mainstay of the Catalans’ midfield since a June 2014 move from Sevilla. This standing, however, has been threatened by the imminent arrival of Netherlands and Ajax prospect Frenkie de Jong.
Gazzetta dello Sport have stated that the Croatia international reacted positively when sounded out by the Bianconeri about a transfer. He has previously been linked to fellow Serie A-outfit Inter Milan, plus Champions League quarter-final opponents Manchester United.
In February, Rakitic stated an intent to remain at the La Liga holders.
“I have three more years on my contract, I want to stay here,” he said, according to Marca.
“I’m full of pride that big clubs ask for me, if they do.
“I only see myself at Barcelona, it makes me laugh a little when I have my morning coffee.”
Rakitic has netted 35 times in 259 run-outs for Barca and lifted 12 trophies.
Zinedine Zidane has admitted his admiration for Eden Hazard as Real Madrid continue to be linked with the Chelsea forward.
Zidane’s side will host Eibar on Saturday but attention in the Spanish capital is already turning to the summer transfer window.
Madrid are expected to undertake a major rebuilding job after a disappointing season, with the European champions starting the weekend 13 points behind rivals Barcelona in LaLiga.
Asked if Madrid might seek to lure Hazard from west London, Zidane said: “I will not give my personal opinion about what may happen because the season has not ended, but I’ve always appreciated him.
“I’ve seen him a lot since I was playing in France. He’s fantastic.”
An overhaul of the squad will come with Zidane as yet unable to transform Madrid’s fortunes since his return as coach. They go into Saturday’s game on the back of a 2-1 loss away to Valencia on Wednesday night.
Madrid’s season is effectively over with nothing left to play for, but Zidane – who experienced a similar situation when Barca took the title by 12 points in 2006 – told his players they must play with pride to see out the campaign.
“I am not inside each player’s head,” he said when asked about motivation. “What I see in training is that they have the pride to finish the season well.
“Our defeat (to Valencia) says the opponent played well, but we did good things too.
“I’ve lived it as a player. It’s not easy. You have to accept it when things like this happen.
“The best way to get out of it is to work, to be happy when you win matches even if there’s nothing at stake.”
Madrid will take on an Eibar side comfortably in mid-table with their place in LaLiga effectively secure for another season.
They could be forgiven for taking their foot off the gas, but coach Jose Luis Mendilibar expects his players to want to show their best on the Bernabeu stage.
“Playing at the Bernabeu is enough motivation in itself,” he said. “If you are not motivated there, they will put you away.
“Of course they can get you even if you are not motivated. They are not enjoying their best moment but they still have very good players.
“Even when they are not playing well, at home they usually win and score many goals.
“But we are going well and have an opportunity to pick up more points.”
*Copy provided by Press Association Sport