In soccer, as in most sports, there is always a fascination with the most gifted and talented young players in the game. Every club wants to spot or create the next Leo Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo, something which is of course no mean feat. One of the dangers of this is that coaches, fans and particularly the media, can tend to put unnecessary and potentially detrimental pressure on a player when overhyping them at such a young age.
Often players who are touted for greatness in their teens never make real on their promise and potential. The likes of Freddy Adu and Nii Lamptey are fine examples of players who did just that, and there are a myriad of reasons why that can happen. Conversely however, promising young players do indeed often turn out to be excellent players. Just in recent years the likes of Lionel Messi and Wayne Rooney both had huge pressure and expectation put on them at a young age and went on to achieve greatness within the game.
The players on this list are 20 of the most highly rated footballers on the planet under the age of 20. Some are already full internationals and established stars, while others you may never have heard of and are yet to burst onto the scene, being held in the wings by coaches or gaining experience at lower levels. Here are the top 20 most talented teenagers in world soccer right now:
20 Gedion Zelalem
19 Jose Maria Amo
18 Lee Seung-woo
17 Marcus Rashford
16 Simone Scuffet
15 Ante Coric
14 Timo Werner
13 Kelechi Iheanacho
12 Breel Embolo
11 Martin Odegaard
10 Youri Tielemans
9 Andrija Zivkovic
Gerson Santos da Silva, better known simply as 'Gerson', is somewhat surprisingly the first South American on this list, given the plethora of talent that tends to come out of the likes of Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Columbia. There is sometimes a little less known of youngsters plying their trade in South America than those who emerge in Europe, but the talents of Fluminense's attacking midfielder Gerson certainly haven't gone under the radar.
7 Ruben Neves
6 Gabriel Barbosa
5 Alen Halilovic
We spoke about the plethora of talent in midfield that Croatia have produced in recent years earlier in this list, and the fact that two Croatian midfielders make this list is further testament to that. Alen Halilovic is even more highly rated than Ante Coric. Halilovic became the youngest player in Dinamo Zagreb history when he made his debut aged 16 in 2012, a few months later, he became the youngest debutant in the history of the Croatian national team, still only 16.
4 Julian Brandt
The overhaul of youth development in Germany over the last two decades has been a remarkable success, and the country's triumph at the 2014 World Cup, a final won with a goal scored by a 22-year-old. The world champion's production line shows no signs of letting up, and Julian Brandt is arguably the most talented teenager in Germany right now, at least since Leroy Sane turned 20. Brandt is a gifted winger with all the crossing and technical abilities at a young age which suggest he should make it to the top, providing the desire and huger is there.
3 Dele Alli
The English national team may have seemed in the doldrums after the country's dismal display at the 2014 World Cup, but there are actually a number of talented young players emerging in England. Harry Kane, Ross Barkley, Raheem Sterlin, John Stones and Luke Shaw are just some of the highly talented England players in their early 20s, but in terms of the teens, currently one man stands head and shoulders above the rest. Dele Alli joined Tottenham from MK Dons last summer, and remarkably, despite being only 19, Alli has already played 125 first team games, reportedly making him the most experienced teenager in European football.
2 Gianluigi Donnarumma
The second goalkeeper to make this list, Gianluigi Donnarumma is a truly remarkable prospect. Goalkeeping is one position where players tend not to break into the first team until at least their early 20s, and most much later. This is especially true at a top club, who would normally rather farm their young goalkeepers out to gain experience with others than risk throwing them straight in at the deep end with the strains and pressures which come with playing in goal for a big club. Donnarumma is the exception to all of these rules. The Italian shot stopper is only 17 years of age, yet he has already played 19 games for AC Milan.
1 Kinglsey Coman
The most talented teenager in world soccer right now as far as we are concerned in Kingsley Coman. The French winger has been involved in France's youth set-up since under-16 level, and he is now already a full international. Blessed with explosive pace and quick feet, Comas came through the PSG academy, but the club lost him on a free transfer having failed to agree terms to a new contract with the player. He then joined Juventus, where he played 22 games in two seasons, including playing in the Champions League final as an 18-year-old in his final season.
In the summer of 2015 though, Coman was on the move once more, joining Bayern Munich on a two-year loan deal for just shy of $10 million. Bayern have the option of making the move a permanent one once the loan deal comes to an end for a further $24 million, an option they will most likely take up. Coman has played 24 times for the Bavarian giants since joining them in the summer, and with Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery both ageing and seeing increased injury problems, Coman's importance to Bayern is only likely to grow.
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