Over the next 12 months, a new wave of exciting footballers will make their mark on the game. Here, ChampsArea takes a look at some talented youngsters who are set to enjoy breakout years in 2020.
Club: Rennes | Age: 17 | Position: Central midfielder
As if France needs more incredible young talent. Eduardo Camavinga, a silky smooth Angolan-born midfielder, is already attracting interest from nearly every mammoth European club, with Real Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane said to be keen on bringing him to the Bernabeu.
Camavinga is a do-everything midfielder who is equally adept at gliding past opponents when he has the ball and bullying them off it when he doesn’t. He opened everyone’s eyes earlier this season when he bossed Paris Saint-Germain, running circles around Marco Verratti and Marquinhos. “Technically and physically, he is a monster,” former Rennes teammate Hatem Ben Arfa said of the teenage star. “Everything he does is perfect. For me, he is the modern midfielder by definition. There is nothing he can’t do.” High praise.
Club: Inter | Age: 17 | Position: Striker
It’s not easy to earn the confidence and trust of Antonio Conte – the Inter bench boss is one of world football’s most demanding managers. But that’s exactly what 17-year-old striker Sebastiano Esposito appears to be doing.
Already dubbed a future star with the Italian national team, Esposito has made seven appearances so far this season – six coming off the bench – between Serie A and the Champions League, notching his first senior goal on his full debut when he slotted home from the penalty spot against Genoa in December. Physically imposing, tenacious, and clever inside the area, the Naples-born forward figures to earn more playing time going forward in relief of star duo Romelu Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez.
Club: Bayern Munich | Age: 19 | Position: Left-back, winger
Alphonso Davies is already making his mark at Bayern Munich. A rash of defensive injuries forced the Bavarians to shuffle things around, with David Alaba slotting into the heart of the backline. That paved the way for the explosive teenager, who’s been a regular at left-back since Hansi Flick replaced Niko Kovac on the bench, as the Canadian has made 17 appearances across all competitions so far this season.
The former Vancouver Whitecaps star has been open about his desire to eventually play in a more natural attacking role, but if last month’s jaw-dropping assist against Freiburg was any indication, he’s doing just fine as an ultra-attacking full-back who can wreak havoc from a deeper position.
Club: FC Porto | Age: 17 | Position: Forward
You’re going to be seeing plenty of Fabio Silva’s curly locks in 2020. Porto have yet to fully unleash their crown jewel, as the striker has largely been used as a substitute this season. Still, they’ve already taken steps to ensure that his eventual move to a European superpower is one of the biggest in Portuguese history, renewing his contract in November and inserting a mammoth €125-million release clause.
It’s hard not to make direct comparisons to the situation that recently played out with hated rivals Benfica, who cashed in to the tune of €126 million when they sold burgeoning star Joao Felix to Atletico Madrid. Silva, who became Porto’s youngest-ever scorer in October, may not hit those heights just yet, but it feels like it’s only a matter of time.
Club: Barcelona | Age: 17 | Position: Left winger
Arguably the most promising player to emerge from La Masia since a certain little Argentine worked his way through Barcelona’s famed talent incubator, Ansu Fati is smashing records before he’s even old enough to get behind the wheel of a car.
A mesmerizing dribbler, Fati made his first-team debut in August. He’s since become the youngest player to ever score for Barca, the youngest to make his full debut with the club, and the youngest to ever find the net in a Champions League match when, aged 17 years and 40 days, he bounced Inter from the competition with a goal at the San Siro. Not too shabby, kid. Barcelona have spent oodles in recent years trying to bring more attacking firepower to the Camp Nou in advance of Lionel Messi’s eventual departure, but perhaps the solution to that impending issue was internal all along.
Club: QPR | Age: 21 | Position: Attacking midfielder
Eberechi Eze is destined for the Premier League – and soon. The 21-year-old is doing the bulk of the heavy lifting at Queens Park Rangers this season, with his creativity and scoring prowess helping the club steer clear of the relegation battle in the Championship; the talented No. 10 is among the league leaders in both goals (10) and assists (six) on the campaign.
That type of attacking contribution simply doesn’t go unnoticed. It’s only a matter of time before someone in England’s top flight comes calling – with a wide-open checkbook – for a player who has a knack not only for finding open pockets of space but for making the most of them once he gets there, be it with a perfectly weighted pass or mazy run.
Club: Atalanta | Age: 19 | Position: Winger, attacking midfielder
Dejan Kulusevski has come out of nowhere this season to establish himself as one of the brightest young prospects in Serie A. Sent on loan to Parma to gain more first-team minutes, the Atalanta-owned Swedish winger has been a revelation, scoring four goals and adding seven assists. The latter is good enough for second in the league, trailing only Lazio fulcrum Luis Alberto.
His intriguing blend of gangly athleticism, size, and skill are not commonly associated with a wide attacking player and quickly caught the eye of Juventus, who have reportedly splashed an initial €35 million to bring him on board this summer. It could end up proving a shrewd deal if Kulusevski puts forth a strong showing at Euro 2020.
Club: Ajax | Age: 17 | Position: Central midfielder
What, you didn’t think someone from Ajax would be on this list? Arguably the game’s most prolific developer of young talent, the Dutch club has seemingly unearthed another gem in the form of rangy midfielder Ryan Gravenberch. The Paul Pogba comparisons, fair or unfair, are rampant.
The precocious Gravenberch became Ajax’s youngest-ever debutant in 2018, breaking a mark that Clarence Seedorf held for 27 years. Considering the teenagers who’ve come through the Johan Cruyff Arena and gone on to superstardom, that’s no small feat. When you see his impressive range of passing and the ease with which he seems to do everything on the pitch, it immediately becomes clear why Gravenberch is touted as a future star and why he holds that vaunted benchmark.
Club: Manchester United | Age: 18 | Position: Forward
Has Mason Greenwood already broken out? Probably. A teenager scoring eight goals across all competitions in just 22 appearances – many of those coming off the bench – tends to have that effect. Doubly so when you do it for Manchester United, who, despite their current malaise, remain one of the biggest footballing entities on the planet. There’s no hiding that type of production at Old Trafford; the hype train is already moving at full tilt.
In fairness to the two-footed forward, it certainly seems justified. Among teenagers in Europe’s top five leagues this season, only Jadon Sancho has more goals in all competitions (12). Pretty good company. Greenwood’s development has so excited the United brass that they were reportedly content to let Erling Braut Haaland slip through their grasp in order to give the homegrown attacker more opportunities to shine. How’s that for trust?
Club: Red Bull Salzburg | Age: 19 | Position: Midfielder
Having already seen the aforementioned Haaland and Takumi Minamino make moves to two of Europe’s top clubs in recent weeks, versatile Hungarian midfielder Dominik Szoboszlai may be next in line at Red Bull Salzburg.
Previously linked with the likes of Arsenal and Juventus, he’s flown somewhat under the radar this season thanks to the record-breaking exploits of Haaland, but his varied skill set should once again come to the fore in the wake of Salzburg’s two high-profile sales. Deployed both on the left and in a more traditional midfield role this season, Szoboszlai does a little bit of everything and figures to develop into a dominant box-to-box force. For whom is the big question, though. It shouldn’t be too long before we find out.
Honorable mentions: Reinier (Flamengo), Yacine Adli (Bordeaux), Dusan Vlahovic (Fiorentina)