Remember a 19-year-old Messi running through the best defenses in the world, making everyone look like backyard footballers. It was a revolutionary testament that football is not about age; if you are good enough, you are old enough.
All of this led to a trend of putting a lot of faith in young footballing prospects. Kids below 20 years are being transferred for hundreds of millions of euros. The perfect example is Kylian Mbappe, whom PSG signed for 180 million euros when he was 18.
More often than not, the culture of overrating young footballers doesn't always benefit the clubs. Over the years, many young signings have failed to deliver, leaving their teams in a financial mess.
We know that the youngsters are the future of the club. But some are running their club as talismans at a tender age. Here we're going to discuss the ten youngest footballers who are set to dominate the 2022/23 season.
The footballers of age 22 or below are only considered in this list.
10. Gavi (FC Barcelona)
Gavi took the world by storm when he made his debut for Barcelona's senior team at the tender age of 17. It didn't take long for Luis Enrique to recognize his talent, earning the 17-year-old Gavi a national team call-up for the Euros and Olympics.
The teenager is beyond exceptional. His maturity in the middle of the park is one thing to talk about, while his defensive qualities off the ball are sensational too. He presses like a center-forward. Otherwise, it's not common for an attacking midfielder to get nine yellow cards and a red card in 28 matches of his first-ever league season.
Technically gifted and equally hardworking, Gavi perfectly fits into the Barcelona system. He can also play as an attacking fielder, winger, and defensive midfielder.
The 17-year-old has a contract extension ongoing with FC Barcelona.
9. Florian Wirtz (Bayer Leverkusen)
The 18-year-old midfielder enjoyed a dreamy 21/22 season with Bayer Leverkusen.
When the German club sold Kai Havertz for a record fee, the slot of attacking midfield got open, and Florian Wirtz took the opportunity wonderfully. The transfer became a blessing for both the club and the player.
The teenage attacking midfielder brings out the vibe of Coutinho at his best. Taking possession from the midfield, running into defenses, and having the precision to net the ball have made Wirtz a potential target for bigger European clubs.
In addition, the midfielder possesses sublime skills in ball control, distribution, and vision.
8. Ansu Fati (FC Barcelona)
The Barcelona No. 10 has big boots of Leo Messi to fill; this could be the season he does it with style.
After starting his career at the highest point possible. The Spanish forward has dealt with injury issues. In 2021/22, he was just able to make ten appearances for the club.
The 19-year-old has already shown what he is capable of. Even in the first game after injury, he scored a goal that resembled the one by his predecessor after being subbed in the 89th minute in Camp Nou.
So, the winger has a lot to prove, and this might be the year he justifies taking the number 10 shirt from one of the best footballers to ever play the game.
7. Bukayo Saka (Arsenal FC)
Arsenal has had its problems, but Bukayo Saka is not one of them.
The 20-year-old London boy finished the last season as Arsenal's highest goal scorer with 11 goals in the premier league. It's not his goals, but the midfielder's courage to run into defenses, especially on wings, is phenomenal.
So, there's no denying that Saka is the most crucial player for the Gunners. And now, with Gabriel Jesus joining the side, Saka has a lot more quality alongside him to shine.
The English midfielder is known for his exceptional pace and dribbling. One would say that his finishing can be improved, but the youngster also has a decent conversion rate.
6. Jamal Musiala (FC Bayern)
One of the most exciting prospects in Germany, Jamal Musiala, can sometimes be pretty unstoppable.
Having trained with the youth team of Chelsea for eight years, he joined Bayern Munich in 2019. At 17, the forward became the youngest footballer to play for the Bavarians.
Not only the youngest, but the 20-year-old is also already one of the best footballers in the squad, as elite as Bayern's. The forward is well-known for its scintillating pace and quick feet.
Also, his awareness in the final third is often compared to the one of Thomas Muller. And with the signing of Sadio Mane to a team that is already packed with wingers, Musiala will have to show consistency to get ahead of the big guns.
Before we move forward to the top 5 of our list, here are some honorable mentions who couldn't make it to the list.
- Kylian Mbappe (Paris-Saint German, 23 years old)
- Kai Havertz (Chelsea FC, 23 years old)
- Trent-Alexander Arnold (Liverpool FC, 23 years old)
- Mason Mount (Chelsea FC, 23 years old)
- Ronald Araujo (FC Barcelona, 23 years old)
5. Jude Bellingham (Borrusia Dortmund)
The midfielder is already among the best central midfielders in the world.
A product of Birmingham City, Bellingham joined Dortmund in 2020 and has become their midfield's central figure. The 19-year-old plays with such maturity and skill that it's sometimes hard to believe he is still a teenager.
Moreover, he plays in the central midfield as a typical "Number 8." The youngster is also known for his defensive side of the game, but his anchoring role has lured top premier league clubs into singing him.
However, the Englishman's lack of consistency is something people seem to make an argument about. Baring that, the teenager is one of the most excellent footballing prospects in the world.
4. Phil Foden (Manchester City)
Moving into the top four, Manchester City's Phil Foden is fourth on the list.
The 22-year-old forward has proved himself to be one of the best players in one of the most significant leagues in the world. He scored nine goals in his 28 outings in the premier league. He also netted three times in the Champions League last season.
But the midfielder-turned-forward is not just known for his goals. With his great pace and dribbling skills, Foden runs through defenses and succeeds more often than not.
His ability to fit precisely into Guardiola's plan is the most important thing. The City number 47 can play as a midfielder, winger, and also a false 9.
Also, with the transfer of Sterling to Chelsea and Haaland's arrival, Foden will get more minutes in the wing.
3. Vinicus Jr. (Real Madrid)
Karim Benzema was probably the season's best player, but this little guy from Rio de Janerio was simply instrumental.
A colossal signing expected to fill the boots of great Cristiano Ronaldo was always going to be a difficult start for Vini Jr. in Santiago Bernabeu. But he took time to settle in and then exploded like a firework.
Moreover, last season, the 22-year-old scored 17 goals in 35 games for Real Madrid in Laliga. The winger also enjoyed a wonderful UCL season with four goals in 13 games.
It is imminent that Vini Jr. will have an impact in the upcoming season. With Haaland and Mbappe not arriving at Real Madrid, the spotlight is on the youngster who has proved in the grandest stage of world football more than once.
It won't be a surprise if we find him among the top 20 nominees for ballon d'Or.
2. Pedri (FC Barcelona)
If there's one player who has impressed everyone, it's Pedri.
At 17, the teenager fought for the first team in Barcelona. In the last two seasons, the wonder kid has done wonders not many thought he would do.
With a calm presence of mind at midfield, the 19-year-old deals with the pressure as he owns it. On the back of a hectic 20/21 season, the midfielder just played 12 games in Laliga.
Regarding his international career, Pedri became the youngest Spanish player in Euro Championships. He played all but one minute of the championship, making him the player with the most appearances in a calendar year.
Moreover, the teenage sensation is considered one of the greatest playmakers at the moment.
1. Erling Haaland (Manchester City)
There's no doubt about who's the most extraordinary youngster in the world at the moment. No one compares to Erling Haaland.
The Norwegian International has already proved to be a great striker at age 21. His agility and determination in front of the goal are practically unmatched.
The striker is best known for his direct running, finishing, pace, and physicality. The 6-foot-4 forward thrives at exploiting spaces with sharp movement inside the box.
With the back of a world-class coach and similar players, Haaland has a chance to reach his maximum potential this season. He has never been short of goals in his entire career but will those be enough to break the UCL deadlock? We'll see.