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US football fans are a funny old bunch. We see a youngster with talent, build them up as the next generational talent on the conveyor belt of wonderkids only to knock them down as soon as they have a poor run of form. Here’s hoping the same thing doesn’t happen to these 10 wonderkids.
Who are the wonderkids to watch in the world right now?
If you follow European football then Brenner might be a name that has escaped your attentions. Well, if that is the case then you might be in for a treat as the 21-year-old makes progress in his career. Until now, he’s spent his career plying his trade in his native Brazil. He aspires to be an out and out centre forward who thrives on putting the ball in the net and, based on his statistics so far, he might become exactly that. Last year he scored 17 in 33 appearances with a strike rate of a goal every 143 minutes. In January, Brenner earned a move away from Brazil. European clubs, namely Ajax, were interested but he opted for a £9m move to CincinnatiFC in the MLS instead. If things go to well for him under Jaap Stam’s tutelage then a move across the Atlantic likely awaits.
9. Amad Diallo
Diallo emerged as the big news story out of the January transfer window with Manchester United paying £18m for his signature. The 18-year-old winger already has a handful of senior appearances to his name after getting a few minutes under his belt with Atalanta in both Serie A and the Champions League. In fact, despite only spending 59 minutes on the grass, he also has a goal to his name. He’s only be in England for a few weeks but Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has seen enough to include him in the matchday squad for their fifth round FA Cup tie; it’s hardly a surprise either. In the development side he’s scored three and assisted three from just two games.
8. Jude Bellingham
Jude Bellingham started landing on the radar of most clubs 12 months ago when he was linked to some of Europe’s top clubs. Borussia Dortmund were the side that won the race for the Birmingham teen paying £25m to clinch the deal. The questions weren’t about his potential but whether he’d get game time. It looks like the central midfielder made the right call. Since arriving in Germany, he’s made 26 appearances and is a regular in Edin Terzic’s starting lineup. He’s shown himself to be capable in possession and out of possession with a head on his shoulders that is more mature than his age would suggest. Bellingham has also propelled himself into the England setup too with his debut having come in November.
7. Rayan Cherki
Lyon’s 17-year-old winger was being linked with a move to Real Madrid without having kicked a ball in senior football such is his raw talent. His displays in the youth system have showed what the trickster is capable of with many young defenders left bamboozled with the manner in which he manipulates the ball in tight spaces. Last season, as a 16-year-old, he made his bow in the Champions League but getting consistent minutes under his belt has proved difficult as Lyon fight for the Ligue 1 title. He’s a constant feature in the matchday squad but, to date, he’s only managing an average 25 minutes per appearance. You’d expect Cherki to get more time on the pitch as he gains maturity and then we’ll hope to see him really shine.
6. Jadon Sancho
If you need an example of the way wonderkids flip-flap in the eyes of fickle supporters then look no further than Jadon Sancho; the England attacker was linked with a £120m move to Old Trafford in the summer. Fans urged their club to pay whatever it took to land the former Man City youth team player. It was understandable; he’d just lit up the Bundesliga with 34 goal contributions, which were split evenly between goals and assists. Based on his game time, that’s a goal involvement every 67 minutes. The problem came this season. Sancho, despite his experience, is only 20-years-old but when he went 11 games without a goal at the start of the season people were counting their blessings United had ‘dodged a bullet’. Of course, his talent hasn’t disappeared and he’s since started finding the net again. Patience will be important but Sancho will reach the top.
5. Eduardo Camavinga
Rennes’ midfield maestro is quickly emerging as one of the most wanted players on the planet with Dortmund, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich and Manchester United all linked. The reason? Well, simply put he has the whole package. Predominantly, Camavinga plays the holding role with the aim of protecting his defence but his qualities mean he may well mature into a more box-to-box player. Looking at his goal and assist output achieves little but it’s hardly a fair way to assess the impact of a central midfield player who is just 18. If you watch him play the game, you’ll see he has the brain to snuff out danger, he’s good at moving the ball – as supported by his 90% pass completion – and has the legs and control to drive his team forward. Oh, and if you happened to catch his debut for France, you’ll know he’s capable of the sublime too, which he proved with the goal that saw him become the nation’s youngest scorer in over a century.
4. Phil Foden
There were a lot of questions asked of Phil Foden whilst he struggled for minutes at Manchester City over the last few seasons; Pep Guardiola, however, insisted he had big plans for the English playmaker. This season, Foden is showing signs of the talent his boss has alluded to in the past. So far this campaign Foden has nine goals to his name along with five assists from under 2000 minutes of action. At just 20-years-old he’s already facing the pressure of being a key player for his club whilst England fans are hyping him up as a key player ahead of the European Championships. The talent is there. Can he stay grounded and keep progressing?
3. Joao Felix
Atletico Madrid raised eyebrows when they splashed out a whopping £115m to land Benfica sensation Joao Felix in July 2019. He was just 19-years-old. Already though he’d stood out in Liga NOS having been involved in 24 goals in just 26 matches. Life in Madrid wasn’t plain sailing for Felix though with the price tag and change of playing style clearly weighing heavy. Still, he managed to contribute in the form of nine goals and three assists in 36 matches. This season, the star quality has been oozing. The Portuguese already has more direct goal involvements (9 goals, five assists) than last season having played 11 games less. Fast forward a decade and he could look like cracking value for money.
2. Ansu Fati
When your own fan base has you labelled as the player to step into the boots Lionel Messi will one day vacate it’s fair to say you might feel under pressure to perform. It’s hard to believe that 18-year-old Fati doesn’t sense the masses of expectations on him when he steps onto the Nou Camp turf; if he does, then he doesn’t show it. The kid does the business on a frequent basis with 13 Barca goals to his name already including one in El Classico. His performances and mentality have been so impressive that the Spanish national side have rewarded him with four caps to date too; that’s extremely noteworthy given their plethora of options. On talent and psychology, Fati is going to have a glorious career. We just keep our fingers crossed that he can overcome his latest injury setback to get back at it.
1. Erling Haaland
It feels strange to label Haaland as one of football’s wonderkids; the guy already has over 100 goal contributions to his name in professional football. Sure, it was easy to look past his strike rate with Molde and Red Bull Salzburg and dismiss him as a big fish in a little pond. The Norwegian is impossible to ignore now. He joined Borussia Dortmund just over a year ago; he’s averaging a goal every 82 minutes for the German side. That ratio improves – yes, improves – to 65 minutes when looking at the Champions League games he’s played. There are no questions about Haaland. He will become the best striker in the world.
Wonderkids, hey? Some, like Cristiano Ronaldo, make the grade and live up to the hype. Others, such as Freddy Adu, fall by the wayside. What will be of these 10 wonderkids over the coming years? Who knows, it’s fair to say we’ll enjoy finding out though and, unfortunately, the law of averages suggest at least some of these will fail to meet the lofty expectations we measure them by.