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Where are they now? The 10 best wonderkids of 2021 according to GOAL

We’re back on the wonderkids wagon. This time, we’re zooming in on the top ten most highly-rated youngsters on GOAL’s 2021 NXGN list to see where they were then, and what they’re up to now.

The different paths these ballers’ lives have taken in the past three years is insane. One of them is probably the world’s best player right now, while another is without a club and allegedly involved in mafia activity.

Let’s get going, starting with a Brazilian who had the football world all starry-eyed when he made his big move to Europe.

10. Reinier

Reinier was heralded as a Kaka regen when he broke through at Flamengo. When GOAL compiled their NXGN list in 2021, Kakinho (no one called him that, we’ve just coined that now) was on loan at Borussia Dortmund from his parent club Real Madrid.

The Brazilian hasn’t reached the levels of his legendary compatriot yet but, now on loan at Frosinone, he’s still only 22 and still technically a Real Madrid player. The jury is still out on Reinier.

READ: Where are they now? Zinedine Zidane’s 11 signings as Real Madrid manager

9. Mohamed Ihattaren

After turning heads in PSV’s youth setup, Ihattaren was hotly tipped to go right to the very top. He was a first-team regular by 2021, but it’s all gone a bit awry for the Dutchman since then.

Ihattaren is currently without a club, following failed spells at Juventus, Sampdoria, Samsunspor, and Slavia Prague.

Reports also suggest he’s gotten himself into a bit of mafia-related trouble in the Netherlands. Jeez.

8. Jamal Musiala

In Munich, they call him Bambi such is his balletic poise on the ball. We just call Musiala an absolute baller of the highest order. The midfielder was at Bayern in 2021, and he’s still at Bayern now.

The English-raised German is still only 21 years old, and is undoubtedly going to become one of the best in world football. Lock it in. Put your house on it.

READ NEXT: Where are they now? The 10 best wonderkids of 2020 according to GOAL

TRY A QUIZ: Can you name the 20 youngest goalscorers in Champions League History?

7. Ryan Gravenberch

Some of you may have noticed that Gravenberch made 2020’s NXGN list too, so highly rated was the Ajax midfielder. The Dutchman was drawing comparisons to Paul Pogba and was being linked with Barcelona, Manchester United, and Bayern Munich.

He ended up going to Bayern Munich and is now at Liverpool, struggling to make an impact, which just goes to show that nobody knows anything about anything. Except for us. We know everything.

6. Florian Wirtz

Wirtz was 17 years old when he was included in 2021’s NXGN list and, fair play, they were absolutely right to do so. The now 20-year-old Wirtz has just spent a year or so taking the p*ss out of the Bundesliga.

They can’t get close to him. Nobody can touch Bayer Leverkusen, nobody can lay a finger on Xabi Alonso, and they can’t even see Wirtz. One more year of Xabi and Florian in Leverkusen would be delicious, bitte und danke.

5. Jude Bellingham

Bellingham really trailed off, fell out of favour at Dortmund, never really fulfilled his potential, and has faded into obscurity.


The England midfielder might be the best player on Earth right now, and is the figurehead at the bow of Carlo Ancelotti’s unstoppable Real Madrid side.

Jude is the man. Plain and simple.

4. Pedri

It takes a bit of mental gymnastics to get your brain to believe that Pedri didn’t come through La Masia. It’s true, though, he didn’t. Barca signed Pedri from Las Palmas after seeing play just three times at senior level. Real Madrid said he wasn’t good enough.

Imagine being that wrong about anything. Reminds us of when our dad bought a sh*tload of minidiscs because he was confused they were the future. Our dad was wrong. Pedri was the future (although he hadn’t been born yet).

Pedri is still at Barcelona and is perhaps their most important player in terms of creativity and identity.

Lamine Yamal of FC Barcelona reacts after a fail during the match between Granada CF and FC Barcelona of La Liga EA Sports on October 8, 2023 at Estadio Nuevo Los Carmenes at Granada, Spain.

TRY A QUIZ: Can you name Barcelona’s 15 youngest La Liga goalscorers since 2000?

3. Gio Reyna

Jude’s Dortmund teammate Reyna was stirring just as much excitement as the Englishman in 2020 (or more, actually, if you believe GOAL), but it hasn’t quite turned out that way since.

Erling Haaland nicknamed Gio The American Dream when they were at Dortmund together, which was fitting for USMNT’s most exciting prospect at the time.

Reyna was born in Sunderland, where Jude’s younger brother Jobe currently plays his football. Connections. Everything is connected.

Injuries have delayed the American’s development a wee bit but he’s currently coming toward the end of a loan at Nottingham Forest, aimed at getting him back on his feet.

This summer may be crucial in deciding where his career is headed.

2. Eduardo Camavinga

In 2021, Camavinga was still at Rennes, but Ligue 1 was too easy for him. He was the Year 9 kid dominating a Year 7 breaktime football match on the schoolyard. He had every attribute you could possibly ask for in a midfielder, and he very much put them to work.

The Frenchman is also now at Real Madrid, playing any position Don Carlo asks him to, and doing it exceptionally well. He’s just so good at football.

1. Ansu Fati

The hottest young talent of 2021, according to GOAL, was Barcelona’s Ansu Fati. Injuries got him this season. They found him and they struck him down. A massive shame for a player overflowing with promise and potential.

Fati worked through those injuries and managed to get back up and running the following season, but not to the same exciting heights. He’s currently on loan at Brighton, trying to drag himself back to the levels we all know he’s capable of.

The Seagulls have an option to buy, but injuries have hounded the Spaniard again, and Brighton have Kaoru Mitoma, Simon Adingra, and Julio Enciso all competing for first-team football with Ansu.

Another young potential superstar for whom this coming summer may be career-defining.