Although they always seem to make it harder and harder for us to say this, the age of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi is coming to its end. It was a long and entertaining era, but as with anything in sports, there comes a time when even the best of players cannot maintain their level of play. Yes, Cristiano and Messi are still the two best players in the world, and there is no argument around that. But if you look closely, and if you have followed their careers so far, you can already see the little hints of their decaying form. Maybe it’s not even that. Maybe Messi and Cristiano are still as good as they always were, but they have been so dominant that they have pushed everyone around them to work harder and become better players.
To follow that line of thought we could not help ourselves but start imagining who will be the players to take over the mantle once these guys call it quits in their careers. Sure, that might be a long way out, and there are still players between the age of 26 and 30 who will fill that void in the meantime, but we wanted to talk about the younger players who will eventually inherit the world without Ronaldo and Messi. With that in mind, we have separated a list of the top 25 soccer players in the world today who are 25 years old or younger. And here’s the fun thing, some of these guys are already so good that you won’t even believe how young they are.
25 Jose Gimenez
Forming what might have just been the most solid defensive duo in the World Cup alongside Diego Godin, José Gimenez is one of the many bright spots in the future of Uruguay. Only 23 years old, this kid is already one of the most valuable defenders in the world. According to transfermarkt, the Atletico Madrid defender has a market value of around €45 million.
He earned his spot as a starter for both club and country, and it wouldn’t be surprising if one of the juggernauts in the European continent decided to spend an astounding fee to acquire his signature.
Another young defender who many people hoped to watch in the World Cup was Brazil’s Marquinhos. The Paris St. Germain center back was a vital part of the Brazilian squad in their road to the 2018 Russia World Cup. He is also one of the most respected center backs in all of Europe playing for PSG.
Unfortunately for him, Marquinhos lost his spot to his club teammate Thiago Silva in the Brazilian starting lineup.
Nevertheless, he is one of the most promising under 25 players in the world today.
23 John Stones
Still sticking with young defenders, it is time we gave England some credit. Although they have what is considered by many the best professional league in the world, the British don’t get much recognition when it comes to players. Yes, they have had good teams over the years and developed really good prospects, but you rarely see a British player nearing the top of anyone’s player rankings.
That trend is changing with this new generation of English prospects, and one of the guys who are part of this generation and gives English fans much hope is Manchester City’s John Stones.
The game is played with your feet, but it is not unusual for the best player in a given team to be a goalkeeper. That is the role many consider goalkeeper Alisson took in the Cinderella story that was AS Roma’s UEFA Champions League campaign.
Also a starter for the Brazilian national team, Alisson had a year to remember.
He made unbelievable saves and was one of the most consistent goalkeepers in the world. A fact that did not go unnoticed by major clubs as everyone seemed to be trying to pry him from Roma, which Liverpool successfully did.
21 Hector Bellerin
Speed kills, and it is tough to find a player in the world who is faster than Arsenal’s Hector Bellerin. He might not be the tallest or strongest player whenever he is on the pitch, but Bellerin is the perfect guy to have around if your striker is someone who can use his head.
Bellerin consistently burns anyone trying to defend him with sheer speed and some glimpses of his often-overlooked skills.
This 23-year-old is very good, and we are still baffled that he was snubbed out of Spain’s World Cup squad.
When it comes to raw skills and unlimited potential, Brazilian and Argentinian players are usually the guys fans think about. And there is a good reason for that. After all, one of the most surprising signings in Europe last season was a 21-year-old Brazilian kid who came out of nowhere and became a Premier League sensation playing for Watford.
Just to give you a good idea of how much of an impact Richarlison had in his first Premier League season, he had a supposed market value of €2 million when he moved across the pond. Today, he is valued somewhere around €25 million.
19 Leroy Sane
Another young Premier League star who was snubbed out of a World Cup squad was Manchester City’s, Leroy Sane. The problem here is that many people believe Sane not only deserved a spot in the German national team for the World Cup but that he could even fight for a starting position. To make matters worse, Germany got knocked out in the first round, which only gave more backing to the folks who denounced Joachim Low for keeping Sane out of the squad.
Germany’s biggest problem was their inability to make something happen in the final third, which just happens to be Sane’s specialty.
18 Julian Weigl
It was a tough year for Borussia Dortmund as a whole, and someone who became a very good example of that was their young defensive midfielder, Julian Weigl. Previously a man whose consistency was considered to be one of his biggest traits,
Weigl was as inconsistent this season as the rest of his team. This is one of the reasons why he was left out of the German World Cup squad.
However, one season does not define a player, especially not a 22-year-old who has already proven at the world stage that he has the potential to be one of the best central midfielders of his generation.
17 Leon Goretzka
The first of four guys on our list who were part of Germany’s disappointing 2018 World Cup campaign, Leon Goretzka is another player who just could not show his worth in the World Cup. Known in Germany for his skill not only in creating opportunities for his teammates but also for putting the ball in the back of the net, Goretzka played a single game in the World Cup and was not able to help his team at all.
Tall and skilled, he has the potential to become a leader for his country in what they certainly hope will be a redemption campaign in 2022.
16 Marcus Rashford
It has been a while since a prospect coming up from the Manchester United Youth Academy was met with as much hype as Marcus Rashford when he became a first-team player. And much of the hype is deserved because Rashford is a rare player.
First of all, this kid is a master at leaving his mark on his debut.
He did that for almost every competition he played in a Manchester United jersey.
At just 20 years old, Rashford is already one of the most valuable attackers in the world and has a market value of around €65 million.
15 Dele Alli
We told you that England is finally happy and fans are hopeful with the generation of players they have coming up. This young crop is so good that most of them are already part of the national team that just competed at the World Cup.The interesting thing here is that these guys are so young that they are probably going to play another two or three of these things before they retire.
One of the headliners in this generation is 22-year-old Dele Alli, who has a ridiculous market value of €100 million.
14 Julian Brandt
If there was one guy who played for Germany in the World Cup this season who managed to improve his stock in the world of soccer, it was Julian Brandt. One of the youngest players in that roster, this 22-year-old striker from Bayer Leverkusen was nothing short of a super sub whenever he was given a shot to get onto the field.
The kid played a total of 19 minutes in the entire tournament, and still, he was the most dangerous player Germany had. It is unfortunate he did not get to leave his mark in his first World Cup.
13 Joshua Kimmich
One of the most unorthodox players in the world today, Germany’s Joshua Kimmich is as interesting a prospect as players come. If you watched this kid play and you were not used to him, you would have a hard time pinpointing his natural position on the pitch.
Kimmich is a right back, but he is so skilled and has such a knack for finding pockets between defenders that his coaches give him the freedom to roam about the pitch as he sees fit on offense.
This 23-year-old was another player who managed to save himself individually from Germany’s disaster as he played well in all three games.
12 Sergej Milinkovic-Savic
The only guy on our list who is not from a major soccer nation, Sergej Milinkovic-Savic is certainly someone who earned and fought for his spot as one of the most promising players in the world today. It is not always that you see a Serbian player being touted as possibly one of the next great midfielders in the game.
After a dream-like season playing for Lazio in Italy, Milinkovic-Savic saw his market value in the world soar as high as €90 million. It might be surprising considering where he is from, but not at all when you find out this is a central midfielder who scored 12 goals and gave four assists in 35 Serie A games.
11 Timo Werner
Another German to make it onto our list, Timo Werner fits the bill of someone who did not make the most out of his opportunity to play a World Cup. Seriously, it is not always that someone has the chance to wear the number nine jersey for their country at just 22 years old.
Although he did not manage to put the ball into the net during the World Cup, no one can say it was for a lack of trying.
Werner is a very good striker, and he has all the tools to develop into a player who could become a World Cup Golden boot if he is given another shot.
10 Gianluigi Donnarumma
Fear. That is the only world we can come up with to describe what a striker feels whenever he finds himself face to face with Italian goalkeeper, Gianluigi Donnarumma. Despite only being 19 years old, this kid is already considered by many to be one of the best goalkeepers in the world. The AC Milan keeper is also the unquestionable heir to Gianluigi Buffon in the Italian national team.
Those are some very big gloves to fill, but somehow, we think that that 6’5” Donnarumma has more than enough in him to give Buffon a run for his money and also become a legendary Italian keeper.
9 Raphael Varane
You won’t hear people saying his name very often, and if you are not someone who follows the sport closely, there is a good chance you don’t even know who this guy is. Nevertheless, at 25 years old there is a very real possibility that Raphael Varane is one of the top-three center backs in the world today.
The French defender is someone who simply does not make mistakes, and that might just be the most valuable trait for a defender. It also helps that he is unbelievably good with his feet and always a menace for opposing teams whenever there is a set piece for Real Madrid or France.
8 Marco Verratti
You know how they say you should not judge a person by his or her appearance? That is very good advice, especially if you are going to play against Italy or Paris St. Germain. The reason for that is because taller and stronger players could be led to look the other way and underestimate 5’5” central midfielder, Marco Verratti. That would be a mistake you would dearly regret.
This 25-year-old bulldog is about as vicious as they come.
He loves to slide tackle, and to make matters worse for the opposition, he is one of the most skilled passers in the game today.
7 Romelu Lukaku
You know how we told you that a striker probably feels a lot of fear when he has to go up against Donnarumma? Well, let’s turn things around because that is exactly the emotion a goalkeeper must feel when he sees himself face to face with Romelu Lukaku.
Physically, the only comparison in other sports that we could find to Lukaku was LeBron James. This guy is a tank, but what puts him above the rest is his exquisite finishing touch near the goal.
6 Mauro Icardi
Lukaku might have the physical edge, but when it comes to skill when in front of the goal, it is tough to find a player under 25 years of age who is as good as Argentinian striker, Mauro Icardi.
The most amazing thing about this kid is that he was not called up for the Argentinian national team to play in Russia this year.
It is mind-boggling, especially when you consider that playing for Inter this season, Icardi scored an astounding 29 goals in 34 Serie A games.
5 Marco Asensio
Real Madrid is just unfair. Seriously, there is no way to say otherwise. Not only do these guys have enough money to buy any player in the world that they want, but they also have one of the best youth academies in the history of the sport. If you need any proof of that, just check out the players they have coming out of that academy. A perfect example is 22-year-old Marco Asensio, who was acquired by Madrid when he was still a teenager and had all the financial backing of the club to develop.
This is called good business. They acquired him as a youngster for €3.5 million, and today he is worth around €75 million.
4 Paul Pogba
Paul Pogba certainly enjoyed the little time he had as the most expensive player in history. Sure, the Neymar transfer to PSG blew his transfer to Manchester United out of the water, but still, having someone pay €105 million to acquire your services? It is not that bad.
For the most part, we could say that the was money well spent by Manchester United.
Pogba is without a doubt one of the most talented players we have in the world today. His problem is inconsistency. If Pogba can get a handle on his emotions, he could become a Balon d’Or contender soon enough.
3 Harry Kane
When we said that it is tough to find another striker in the world who is as talented in front of goal as Mauro Icardi, we meant it. But here’s the thing. The one guy who is undoubtedly better than him when it comes to putting the ball into the net is England’s, Harry Kane.
Kane is the kind of goal scorer we had not seen in the world for a long, long time. A traditional number nine, Kane is a player who somehow manages to please both the old-timers and younger fans. A lot of that has to do with the fact that he can score 30 goals in a single Premier League season.
2 Paulo Dybala
There is no doubt in anyone’s mind that Lionel Messi is one of the best players who has ever lived. But if there is one thing Argentinian fans should be mad at him about (other than the fact that he was unable to bring Argentina a title in the past two decades), it should be because he’s the reason Paulo Dybala has not featured in an Argentina jersey as much as he should.
Apparently, Argentinian coaches don’t believe the two can play together, and their fans will be the first one to say that was to the detriment of their national team. Dybala is without a doubt the most talented Argentinian player outside of Messi today, and he should be a starter for their national team.
1 Kylian Mbappe
If you go into a circle of friends who love the game of soccer and say the words young and talented, the minds of 9 out of 10 people will immediately picture the face of Kylian Mbappe.
The 19-year-old French striker has a bottomless pit of talent.
Even the likes of Neymar and his other PSG teammates are terrified at the unlimited potential they see every day when this kid shows up to practice.
If he keeps working hard and manages to stay away from injury trouble, you could bet all of the money you want that Mbappe will be crowned as the best player in the world at some point in his career.