The Best U-21 Players in the World

Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Robin Van Persie, and so many more – what do all of these players have in common? Each of them made a name for themselves early on in their career, scoring at least 15 league goals before turning 21. Last season, the football world saw the beginning of the emergence of the new era of “wonderkids”, or incredibly talented teenagers. This year, an abundance of new players have been added to that list. With so many incredible talents under the age of 21, it can be so hard to really figure out which players have the highest ceilings. In this article, we are going to take a look at our Wonderkid XI, and give you one player each that we feel can be a future Ballon d’Or winner.

Our Wonderkid XI features a 3-4-3 formation, which is coincidentally a formation that is starting to pick up popularity, especially this year. Here are the players we selected:

Made with Eurosport’s Best 11 feature

Bench: Niklas Sule, Moussa Dembele, Julian Weigl, Marcus Rashford, Renato Sanches, Lee Seung Woo, Kingsley Coman

Now that the lineup has been established, each of our writers selected one player they believed would have an exceptionally bright future:

Kieran: Julian Brandt

A key player in this side is Julian Brandt. The young winger has 4 goals and 6 assists in 16 Bundesliga starts this season for Bayer Leverkusen. A lethal threat on the left-hand side, he’s a really good dribbler, he’s fast, and he can whip in one heck of a cross. These are qualities that could make him a Ballon d’Or challenge in the future, and his electric style is a major reason that he is being linked with teams like Liverpool and Chelsea. With the way he’s been playing, he definitely deserves their interest, and is definitely one of the best under-21 players in the world.

Nik: Dele Alli

Dele Alli really came onto the scene last season. Following a €5 million move from MK Dons to Tottenham Hotspur, the center mid scored 10 goals and provided 9 assists in his first season in the top flight. Over the summer he became a mainstay in England’s Euro 2016 squad that disappointingly was eliminated in the Round of 16. He continued his fine form in the 2016-17 season, as he has bagged 11 goals and 3 assists just over halfway through the season. He is now being linked with moves to Real Madrid and Manchester City, for figures as much as €100 million, although these deals are highly unlikely to actually happen. Dele Alli is a superstar already, and I expect him to win more than one Ballon d’Or by the time he finishes his career.

Kevin: Kingsley Coman

French winger Kingsley Coman is sure to be a dominant figure in European football for years to come. After graduating from the PSG Academy and featuring in their first team a handful of times, the 20-year old has already won major team honors in France, Italy and Germany. The youngster still has parts of his game to develop, like better passing, finishing, and the ability to consistently send quality crosses into the box. He is very versatile, capable of playing on both flanks, striker, and attacking midfield as well. His most preferred position is the left wing, where he can use his agility and technical ability to cut into to the center and wreak havoc with his powerful right foot. More often than not, however, we see players whose versatility hurts their role and playing time at a club, not being able to establish themselves as a starter at any position. Coman should learn from these players, and try to cement a role on either wing where he is usually the most productive. If he can establish a regular starting role at Bayern (where he is currently on loan) or Juventus, the future holds nothing but promise for the talented Frenchman.

Ben: Gabriel Jesus

Gabriel Jesus caught fire this season before picking up a unfortunate injury. Manchester City bought him in August of 2016 for a fee of £27 million from Palmeiras, where he scored 26 goals in 27 appearances. The Brazilian young star brings pace, skill, and huge passion to City, which has been shown this season. He is a huge threat up and down the wings and has brought excitement to City. For the Blues, he already has 3 goals in just 4 appearances, and earned a spot in the starting lineup over world class striker Sergio Aguero. I can see him doing massive things for City and maybe even winning a Ballon d’Or. Overall, Jesus is definitely one of the best young players in the world and has loads of potential. For more about Jesus, click here.

The current era of football has been headlined by the constant rivalry between Ronaldo and Messi. Those two are always the only real contenders for the Ballon d’Or. However, as they get older, it is important to look at the next chapter of superstars – this coming class of players is incredibly deep, with an abundance of potential. The coming years will determine if these players continue to stardom, or see their careers get sidetracked. However, if these wonderkids can keep up their form, the sport of football will continue to provide passion and entertainment for a long time to come.

Let us know who you think the best wonderkid in the world is in the comments!

Authors: Kieran, Nik, Kevin, Ben

3 thoughts on “The Best U-21 Players in the World”

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