Every so often a teenager comes along and lights up the world, making seasoned pro’s at the top of the game look average. It normally takes a few years for these players to mature into World Class footballers. Ronaldo and Messi are two good examples, regarded by many as the greatest pair of footballers the world has ever seen, but they didn’t hit their full stride until they reached their early 20’s.
There are some exceptions – Neymar and Mbappe became global superstars before their 20th birthdays, and Pele is another classic example, becoming the top scorer in the Brazilian league aged just 16. These guys are all the rarest of talents that don’t come around too often. But there are many exciting young players currently making their way up the ranks at their clubs, who could become future Ballon d’Or contenders if everything goes to plan!
Patrick Kluivert scored the winner in the 1995 Champions League final at the age of 18, bringing the most coveted club cup back to Ajax. Now his son Justin is 18, and broke his way into the Ajax first team last season after some dazzling performances for the reserves. At the weekend Justin managed something his dad never did for Ajax, scoring a hat-trick and taking home the match ball. Patrick was Ajax’s top scorer in two of his three seasons there, but he never scored a hat-trick for them, so Justin already has some bragging rights.
Justin’s three goals against Roda were all world class. He showed his rapid pace, slick dribbling, and excellent finishing abilities with all three goals. He plays on the left wing and loves to cut inside onto his right foot, and will be a dangerous player just like his dad.
The key thing that Justin has just like his dad is that they are so confident at such a young age and never worry about who their opponent is. That’s why they will take you on no matter how good you are.
Andreas Christensen became the first player from Chelsea’s academy since John Terry to start and finish three consecutive Premier League matches for Chelsea at the weekend. The Danish international is now 21, and it looks like he might have displaced David Luiz in Conte’s back three.
Christensen was on loan at Borussia Monchengladbach for the previous two seasons, and was voted player of the season in his first year ahead of Granit Xhaka. Gladbach tried to sign him permanently following that, but Chelsea rejected the £14m bid and now he is growing into a key member of the blues defensive set up. It means David Luiz will have to work very hard to fight his way back into the team!
Another player with a famous dad, Timothy Weah is aiming to follow in George’s footsteps. Weah Jr has been born and raised in the USA, but moved to France in 2014 to sign for his dad’s former club PSG. He plays as a forward, either wider on the right or through the middle, and bagged a hat-trick for PSG youth on his debut in the UEFA youth league. He also scored a hat-trick for the United States at the Under-17 World Cup in their 5-0 win over Paraguay.
He has big boots to fill with Mr Geroge, as I like to call him, going to the very top and winning the Ballon d’Or. But it looks like he has passed some of those skillful genes on!
The Stockport-born midfielder, who turned 17 in May, became Man City’s youngest-ever Champions League player when he came on against Feyenoord last week. There has been plenty of excitement around Foden after he played a key part in England’s Under-17 World Cup victory, where he won the Golden Boy award for best player of the tournament.
He plays in the centre of midfield and came on for Yaya Toure in the UCL. After the game Yaya said: “Phil Foden is fantastic. I think he is the future.” Big words from a city veteran who has been training with Foden all season.
Vinicius Junior became the second most expensive Brazilian transfer of all time, behind Neymar, when he was bought by Real Madrid for €45m in the summer. That was despite the fact he had never played a professional game of football. He was the top scorer and elected the best player at South American under-17 championship, and the Real Madrid scouts obviously saw something special when they paid that sum for his future services.
The Brazilian was immediately loaned back to his starting club Flamengo and is due to move to Spain on his 18th birthday next year.