Project Mbappe or project Littler?

Football’s Luke Littler? 11 young ballers we’re predicting will break through in 2024

Luke Littler has set the world alight with his mesmerising run to the World Darts Championship final aged just 16, in one of the fastest rises to the top of the sport ever.

Football has been shown up as vastly inferior to the arrows in the wake of Littler’s astronomical rise, with our sport’s young ballers unable to fuel themselves on kebabs and a crowd chanting about Yaya and Kolo Toure in 2024. Yes, those chants still happen.

But his emergence has got us thinking about what young ballers we expect to emerge and steal headlines in 2024.

Excluding extremely obvious names such as Endrick, we’ve compiled a list of 11 talented teenagers you should look out for in 2024.

Lucas Bergvall

A Swedish midfielder born in 2006, Bergvall is strutting his stuff for Djurgardens, but is attracting interest from Barcelona at the age of just 17.

He made his full debut at 15 and already roams around the pitch like a veteran, using size and press resistance to his advantage.

Kevin Zeroli

Captaining Milan’s primavera side in 2023-24, midfielder Zeroli was handed his debut for the Rossoneri by Stefano Pioli as his side beat Cagliari 4-1 in the Coppa Italia.

Zeroli joined his boyhood side at five years old and has progressed through all the youth ranks to make his debut at the beginning of 2024. We’re expecting big things throughout the year as he forces his way into the first team.

Shea Lacey

While the seniors continue to misfire at United, Lacey is just getting warmed up in their under-18 side.

Developing at youth level is probably a good thing right now for the 16-year-old, but his potential is simply too much to go unnoticed. Especially once Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s more sustainable and youth-focused approach begins to take shape.

Shea Lacey provides an assist in the UEFA Youth League. (Credit: @utdreportAcad Twitter)

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Kendry Paez

Snapped up by Chelsea in the summer of 2023, 16-year-old Paez is set to join the club in 2025 after his 18th birthday.

2024 could be his year, though. Having already been capped five times by Ecuador, the obscenely skilful midfielder carries the ball with wicked strength and agility for his age. One to watch.

Paulo Iago

With Carlo Ancelotti staying put at Real Madrid until at least 2026, there’s more room for youngsters to continue breaking through into his side.

Iago is only 16, but the 2007-born midfielder is absolutely tearing it up for their Juvenil A side and ought to be a household name by the end of the year.

An advanced midfielder, his passing is what stands out. The way he can manipulate the ball in extremely tight spaces is frightening.

Francesco Camarda

Born in Milan, everything points to a hall of fame career for Camarda, who recently made his debut for the Rossoneri at 15 years old. Fifteen.

The striker has bagged 485 goals at youth level for the club and has already earned the manager’s trust. The sky is the limit in 2024.

Claudio Echeverri

Recently snapped up by Manchester City off the back of a breakout showing at the under-17 World Cup, Echeverri is already attracting Lionel Messi comparisons.

It’s not difficult to see why.

Argentina's Claudio Echeverri celebrates after scoring the second goal for his team during their FIFA U-17 World Cup quarterfinal soccer match against Brazil at Jakarta international Stadium in Jakarta, Indonesia, Friday, Nov. 24, 2023.

READ: All you need to know about Claudio Echeverri, Man City’s ‘new Messi’

Finley Gorman

Before the hype surrounded Echeverri, City were already at it snapping up the next generation’s very best prospects by signing Gorman from Leeds United.

In a record-breaking deal for a 15-year-old worth up to £1.2million, Gorman must have the tools to become an all-time great if City of all clubs are prepared to part with such a fee for a teenage midfielder.

The early signs are exceptionally promising. Keep an eye on this one.

Ethan Mbappe

Yep, there’s another one.

He’s a 17-year-old midfield destroyer in the Jude Bellingham mould and he breezes his way from box to box with an acceleration akin to his brother’s.

We’re in trouble.

Roony Bardghji

Scoring against Manchester United in the Champions League at 17 years old is genuinely the stuff we all dream of.

Copenhagen’s starboy has lived that dream and, now 18, is turning a breakout 2023 into a superstar 2024. The attacking midfielder already looks wise beyond his years and is attracting interest from Europe’s top clubs.

Big things are coming for Roony – again.

Lamine Yamal

It’s not a complete list of young ballers without this absolute freak included.

Yamal’s minutes must be managed carefully, but we’ve already seen more than once what he’s capable of in senior football. He’s shouldered the weight of expectation that comes with being a Barcelona player effortlessly and has made the right flank his own at just 16.

Time for him to take it to scary new heights in 2024.

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