Best Young Football Players in 2024

Football is king. The latest estimates tell us that half of the world’s population are football fans and that the sport has almost 300 million active players. These figures are astounding! When you think about it, you can expect to meet at least one footballer in 25 people you meet—it indeed is the great unifier beyond race, religion, language, gender and age.

Since football prodigies can come from every country on the globe, the ever-increasing number of budding new talents is varied and immense. Therefore, to be considered one of the best young football players in 2021, rookies must possess that magical “je ne sais quoi”. What else would set apart the best of the best when they are evenly matched in technical ability.

With that in mind, let’s kick off our list of future football stars to watch in 2021!

Top Ten Football Wonderkids in 2021

Harvey Elliott

Date of Birth: 4 April 2003

Position: Right Winger

Market Value: €15 Million

Current Club: Liverpool FC

Citizenship: England

18-year-old Harvey Elliott is one of the best soccer players under 20. He is a graduate of the Fulham Academy, and in 2018 he became the youngest-ever footballer to have played in the EFL Cup. In May 2019, he also became the youngest Premier League player ever, aged 16 years and 30 days.

After playing for Fulham for a year, Harvey Elliot transferred to one of the biggest English football clubs, Liverpool FC. During his first year at Liverpool, he broke several records as one of the club’s youngest players. There, he gained the much-needed guidance to further his development as an exceptional player.

However, in October 2020, Harvey Elliot joined Blackburn on loan to get more minutes on the pitch. His first and only Blackburn season was exceptional. He earned a nomination for the EFL Young Player of the Season, and his left-foot strike against Millwall was so impressive, it won the Goal of the Season award.

When looking at the Harvey Elliott stats for the 2020/21 season, we see that he made 43 appearances, 41 of which were in the EFL Championship, and the other two were in the EFL Cup and the FA Cup. His total tally was seven goals and 11 assists—a record number of assistances for a teenager. By the season’s end, he was back at Liverpool.

Eduardo Camavinga

Date of Birth: 10 November 2002

Position: Central Midfield

Market Value: €55 Million

Current Club: Real Madrid

Citizenship: France, Congo

The next prodigy on our teenage football players list is Eduardo Camavinga. His rags-to-riches story took him from a refugee camp to playing in France’s top football league and donning the French national jersey. He currently plays for Stade Rennais FC and was recently called up by the senior national selection, breaking several records as a result of his very young age.

His path to joining the best soccer prospects in the world started with the Rennes youth academy at the age of 11. Five years later (14 December 2018), he signed his first professional contract with the team. Within three months, he got his first-team debut, becoming the club’s youngest ever footballer. Wasn’t long until Eduardo Camavinga started helping Rennes get good results. He even won the Man of the Match award when Rennes beat PSG on 18 August 2019.

The 2020/21 Eduardo Camavinga stats show us that during his 39 appearances (35 in Ligue 1 and 4 in the Champions League), he scored one goal and had three assists in almost 2750 minutes of playtime.

Jude Bellingham

Date of Birth: 29 June 2003

Position: Central Midfield 

Market Value: €55 Million

Current Club: Borussia Dortmund

Citizenship: England

Jude Bellingham deservedly takes his place on our list of best young soccer players in the world even though he is younger than the previous two footballers. As a graduate of the Birmingham football academy and its most promising talent, he made astounding progress through the club’s ranks to become its youngest ever first-team player on 6 August 2019. Almost a month later, he became Birmingham’s youngest ever goalscorer soon after his 16th birthday.

His exceptional skills were noticed by other big clubs (both domestic and international), and by January 2020, he received and turned down several offers. However, by the end of the season, Jude Bellingham had to leave Birmingham to reach his full potential at a bigger club. His primary choice was Borussia Dortmund since youngsters get more playtime there.

On 20 July 2020, the transfer to the German giants was confirmed at a record rumoured transfer fee of £25 million, making him the most expensive 17-year-old footballer in history. Throughout his first season in Germany, Jude maintained his spectacular form and earned the Newcomer of the Season award, as voted by his peers. The England senior team also called him up later that year, which resulted in an appearance at the UEFA Euro 2020 in June 2021.

By looking at the most recent Jude Bellingham stats, we can see how spectacular his first season with Borussia Dortmund was. He made 46 appearances in 2020/21—29 in the Bundesliga, 10 in the Champions League, 6 in the DFB-Pokal, and 1 in DFL-Supercup. In total, he scored four goals (1 in the Bundesliga, 1 in the Champions League, and 2 in the DFB-Pokal) and had five assists.

João Félix

Date of Birth: 10 November 1999

Position: Second Striker

Market Value: €80 Million

Current Club: Atletico Madrid

Citizenship: Portugal

Next up on our list of best young football players in 2021 is the Portuguese footballer João Félix. This 21-year-old currently plays for Atletico Madrid in La Liga and has made regular appearances for the Portugal national team. 

However, before moving to Spain’s top league, Félix was enchanting fans at home while playing for Benfica. In his first and only season as a first-team player there, he helped the team win the league title and was awarded the country’s Best Young Player of the Year award. He also won the Golden Boy accolade—given to the most impressive young footballers in Europe.

João Félix began his Atletico Madrid career on 3 July 2019 when he signed a seven-year contract worth €126 million, thus breaking both Atletico’s and Benfica’s transfer records. He’s the second-most expensive teenage signing in the game’s history. Atletico Madrid helped Felix reach his full potential. So far, he’s had 76 appearances for the Spanish side in all competitions, and he has scored 19 goals.

Per the latest João Félix stats, he’s made a total of 40 appearances in 2020/21—31 in LaLiga, 8 in the Champions League, and 1 in Copa del Rey. Furthermore, he scored ten goals (3 in the Champions League) and made six assists.

Ansu Fati

Date of Birth: 31 October 2002

Position: Left Winger

Market Value: €60 Million

Current Club: FC Barcelona

Citizenship: Spain, Guinea-Bissau

Ansu Fati is an 18-year-old football prodigy playing for FC Barcelona and the Spanish national team. Despite being one of the younger teenage soccer players, he’s accomplished so much! Before getting there, however, he had to prove his mettle playing for Herrera (his home town) and Sevilla’s youth teams. 

Fati’s incredible career started with his move to La Masia (Barcelona’s youth academy) when he was 10 years old. Once Barcelona’s management noticed his impressive rise through the team ranks, it offered him his first professional contract. Thus, on 24 July 2019, Ansu Fati began his Barcelona professional career by signing his first contract with the club until 2022.

The following month, on 25 August, he had his La Liga debut as a late-game substitute (the club’s second-youngest player to do that). Furthermore, on 14 September, he became the youngest player in LaLiga to score a goal and assist in a single match (Barcelona vs Valencia) during his first career start.

After reviewing the Ansu Fati stats on Transfermarkt, we can conclude that this youngster had fantastic two seasons with the first team. In his second year, he made ten appearances (7 in LaLiga and 3 in the Champions League), scoring five goals and four assists. September 2020 was an exceptional month for Fati since he was named the La Liga Player of the Month, and he made his first international debut for the Spain senior team.

Mason Greenwood

Date of Birth: 1 October 2001

Position: Right Winger

Market Value: €50 Million

Current Club: Manchester United (suspended)

Citizenship: England

When talking about the best young footballers nowadays, one must mention the name Mason Greenwood as well. This 19-year-old plays for Manchester United and the English senior squad. However, before Mason Greenwood started for England, he went through every rank of Man U’s academy (since starting at the age of 6).

For the 2017/18 season, he joined Manchester Utd’s U18 side, ending up as the competition’s top scorer with 17 goals in 21 matches. After a year of scattered appearances for the club, he made his professional debut on 6 March 2019 in the Champions League, while his start for the first team came on 12 May the same year against Cardiff City.

Mason Greenwood and Man Utd strengthened their bond when he scored his first goal for the senior team on 17 July 2019. Throughout the 2019/20 season, he accrued an impressive tally of 19 goals in all competitions, cementing his place as a first-teamer. The newest Mason Greenwood stats show us that he made 52 appearances in 2020/21 and scored 12 goals and six assists in all tournaments.

Jadon Sancho

Date of Birth: 25 March 2000

Position: Right Winger

Market Value: €100 Million

Current Club: Manchester United

Citizenship: England

Professional football player Jadon Sancho is 21 years of age, and he currently plays for Manchester United and the England senior team. When he was 7 years old, Sancho joined Watford to develop his prodigious talent before signing for the Citizens in March 2015.

Despite impressing the youth academy managers, Jadon Sancho didn’t get a position in the first team as he expected to do by 2017. Therefore, he engineered a move to Borussia Dortmund on 31 August 2017, where he was immediately included in the senior team. Jadon Sancho debuted for Dortmund against Eintracht Frankfurt on 21 October and made his first start for the senior team on 14 January 2018. 

After scoring his first professional goal on 21 April 2018 against Bayer Leverkusen (and two assists), he started recording success after success. In his second season at Dortmund, he scored 12 goals and 18 assists, which earned him a spot in the 2018/19 Bundesliga Team of the Season. The following season was even better for him. The Jadon Sancho stats for 2019/20 include a total of 44 appearances, 20 goals and 20 assists in all competitions.

In his last season for the club, Sancho had 38 appearances (26 in the Bundesliga, 6 in the Champions League and 6 in the DBF-Pokal), scored 16 goals (8 in the Bundesliga, 2 in the Champions League and 6 in the DBF-Pokal) and had a total of 20 assists in all his games. His impressive form guaranteed him a high-profile transfer to Manchester United, which was realised on 23 July 2021 with a five-year contract.

Phil Foden

Date of Birth: 28 May 2000

Position: Left Winger

Market Value: €80 Million

Current Club: Manchester City

Citizenship: England

Phil Foden is an England national considered one of the best football youngsters today. No other club has benefited from the talents of Phil Foden except Man City. He joined the club when he was as young as 4 years old. There he honed his skills to become an indispensable part of both Manchester City and the England senior squad.

Phil Foden was recognised as one of the best young soccer players when he helped England win the Under-17 World Cup in 2017, winning the title of the tournament’s best player. Later that year (21 November 2021), Foden made his Man City debut against Feyenoord in the Champions League. His first Premier League appearance took place on 16 December 2017 against Tottenham Hotspur. Foden will never forget the 2017/18 season since he became the youngest Premier League medal recipient in history when Manchester City won the title.

By the end of the 2020/21 season, Foden has accumulated more than 100 appearances for the team he has devotedly supported throughout his entire life. Despite his very young age of 21 years, he has won a plethora of honours with Man City, including three times English champion, four times English League Cup winner, two times English Super Cup winner and one FA Cup medal. Furthermore, for his contribution to Manchester City’s successes in 2021, he was also awarded the PFA Young Player of the Year and the PL Young Player of the Season awards. 

From the latest Phil Foden Transfermarkt stats, we see that he made 50 appearances in all competitions for the 2020/21 season—28 in the Premier League, 13 in the Champions League, 5 in the FA Cup, and 4 in the EFL Cup. Furthermore, he scored 16 goals—9 in the Premier League, 3 in the Champions League, and two each in the FA Cup and the EFL Cup—and he assisted his teammates on ten separate goal-scoring occasions.

Erling Haaland

Date of Birth: 21 July 2000

Position: Centre Forward

Market Value: €130 Million

Current Club: Manchester City

Citizenship: Norway

Erling Haaland has earned his place on our list of top young soccer players by virtue of his prolific goal-scoring abilities. In his last two seasons (Red Bull Salzburg and Borrusia Dortmund), he scored 85 goals in 81 matches in all competitions—the stuff of legends! However, before this 21-year-old Norwegian footballer started breaking records for Borussia Dortmund and the Norway senior team, he had to hone his talent playing at his hometown club Bryne. After climbing the ranks of his childhood team, he had his first-team professional start in May 2016 (three months before his 16th birthday).

The Terminator” started finding the back of the net on a regular basis after moving to Molde FK in 2017. There, he started building his renown as one of Europe’s best young footballers, thus catching the attention of the continent’s big clubs. The Austrian Bundesliga champions eagerly snatched him up on 1 January 2019 and his brief time with Red Bull Salzburg ended with two championship titles and one cup title.

After Haaland started scoring hat-tricks as regularly as other players score single goals, he cemented himself as one of the best soccer prospects in the world. With Salzburg, he also became the first teenage footballer to score in five consecutive Champions League matches. His incredible goal-scoring skills and imposing physique in the box incited many top European clubs to seek his signature. Despite interest from Juventus and Manchester United, Erling Haaland moved to Dortmund.

Borussia Dortmund’s management couldn’t spend the $20 million they paid for Haaland any better. He repaid the trust of his new club in the first 23 minutes of playtime by scoring a hat-trick on 23 January against FC Augsburg. For the following 2020/21 season, the brilliance of Erling Haaland boosted his stats even more. In 41 games in all competitions, he scored an average of one goal per game, as well as 12 assists. After Messi’s and Ronaldo’s retirement, Haaland will surely become one of the contenders for the best football player in the world moniker.

Kylian Mbappé

Date of Birth: 20 December 1998

Position: Centre Forward

Market Value: €160 Million

Current Club: Paris Saint-Germain

Citizenship: France

Kylian Mbappé is the 22-year-old French footballer who will be contesting Haaland’s claim as the best football player in the world in the years to come. He was predicted to become the best of the best young football players from a very early age. While playing for his childhood club, AS Bondy, Kylian attracted the attention of Europe’s big clubs, such as Bayern Munich, Chelsea, Real Madrid, Liverpool, and Manchester City. However, he ultimately decided to stay within his home country and sign for Monaco AC.

During his first season with Monaco (starting October 2015), Mbappé showed incredible promise, breaking several of Thierry Henry’s records set 20 years prior. Owing to his immense progress, Kylian Mbappé stayed in France by signing a professional contract with Monaco on 6 March 2016 (at 17 years of age). The following season (2016/17), he truly showed what he can do on the football pitch. In 44 appearances (including 29 in Ligue 1 and 9 in the Champions League), he scored 26 goals (including 15 in Ligue 1 and 6 in the Champions League) and had 14 assists—helping Monaco become French champions in the process.

Once France and the world were left speechless by the phenomenon called Kylian Mbappé, clubs spared no expense to lure him away from Monaco. Paris Saint-Germain was the lucky team that managed to acquire the inimitable talents of potentially the greatest footballer to come. Kylian Mbappé signed for PSG on 31 August 2017 for a record fee of €180 Million, making him the most expensive teenage football player and the second-most expensive signing of all time, behind teammate Neymar.

Starting with the 2017/18 season, during which he helped his team win the domestic treble, he has been filling his trophy cupboard to the brim throughout the following four seasons. When reviewing Kylian Mbappé on Transfermarkt, we see that he has become four times French champion by now, winning the Top Scorer award during each of the last three seasons. To this date, he has also been awarded the Player of the Year and the Footballer of the Year trophies once each and the Best Player of the Competition award two times. His other accolades include one World Cup medal, three times French Cup winner, two times French League Cup winner and three times French Super Cup winner.

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We’ve presented you with ten of the best young football players in 2021, but, who among them is destined to reach the fabled heights of Pele, Maradona, Ronaldo, or Messi?

If their lofty ambitions are any indication, we can expect to see them all vying for supremacy.

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