Nine youngsters impressing in Europe’s top leagues: Ødegaard, Greenwood…

Quick Reads

It sometimes seems hard for a young footballer to make his mark in Europe’s big five leagues, but another way of looking at it is to acknowledge those who do make the cut have to be very special.

We’ve taken a look through the Premier League, La Liga, Bundesliga, Serie A and Ligue 1 to pick out nine of the best young talents breaking through in 2019 and showing their talents.

We’ve ignored most of those who are already well established, such as Jadon Sancho, but all the individuals below are aged 21 or younger and starting to make a real splash.

Ansu Fati

Barcelona’s newest star has looked right at home at the Nou Camp despite being just six years old when Pep Guardiola won his first Champions League title with the Catalan club.

The Bissau-Guinean-born forward seems set for international recognition with Spain sooner rather than later, having done more in a Barça shirt than a number of more established players in years past.

Since becoming the youngest player to represent his club this century, Fati scored twice in his first three games and earned his first Champions League start at just 16 years of age.

READ: Five records 16-year-old Barca prodigy Ansu Fati has broken in two weeks


Victor Osimhen

When Osimhen got his first league games as a teenager at Wolfsburg, we didn’t see his rapid start to this season coming.

The Nigerian failed to find the net in more than a dozen Bundesliga appearances, but a hot season on loan at Belgian club Charleroi convinced Lille to bring him on board.

It’s paid off so far, with the 20-year-old scoring six goals in his first eight Ligue 1 appearances, including a match-winning brace on his debut.

Nicolò Zaniolo

Roma midfielder Zaniolo emerged last season but has continued to show his class in what fans will hope is a more balanced set-up.

After scoring a gem of a goal against Sassuolo last season, the 20-year-old has already opened his 2019-20 account with an effort in the Europa League victory over İstanbul Başakşehir.

He might not be as clinical as some have hoped, but that will come.


Real Madrid suffered a humbling 3-0 defeat in their first Champions League outing of the season, but things are going better at home.

An unbeaten first seven games has them top of La Liga, with the most recent of their four victories owing a bit to not one but two Brazilian teenagers.

We already knew plenty about Vinicius Júnior after watching him come through last season, but Rodrygo was making his debut from the bench against Osasuna. It took him all of 93 seconds to score, and we expect we’ll be hearing a lot more about him this year.

Martin Ødegaard

Amid all the excitement at the Bernabéu, it could be easy to forget about one of the other wonderkids working his way through the ranks at the club.

Thankfully, though, Ødegaard isn’t letting us forget. The Norwegian has followed two healthy seasons in the Netherlands with another chance to impress in La Liga on loan at Real Sociedad.

The 20-year-old is embracing his chance, too, scoring twice and producing an early candidate for assist of the season against Alavés.

Eduardo Camavinga

We’ve already written about Camavinga bossing PSG’s expensively assembled midfield, but the Angolan teenager has remained a presence at the base of Rennes midfielder.

Last year’s Coupe de France winners boast one of the best defensive records in Ligue 1, conceding just six times in eight games, and the 16-year-old has started all eight.

He was also given his Europa League debut this season, coming off the bench in the group stage draw with Celtic.

Gabriel Martinelli

When Arsenal signed 18-year-old Martinelli from Ituano, not one of Brazilian football’s traditional powerhouses, you could be forgiven for thinking he wasn’t recruited with this season in mind.

He has already made his Premier League bow, though – on the opening weekend of the season, no less – and scored his first competitive goals in the League Cup win over Nottingham Forest.

Martinelli has already shown signs he can rise to the responsibility of playing for a top-six team, perhaps earlier than many expected him to. His next job is doing it consistently in the league, but there’s no rush.

Mason Greenwood

Greenwood was thrown in at the deepest of deep ends last season, entering the fray at the Parc des Princes with Manchester United needing a goal to secure a famous Champions League victory.

After a few more substitute run-outs, plus a start on the final day of last season, he has shown the benefits of being made aware he’s a part of the first-team set-up.

The striker, who turns 18 this week, has scored on both of his United starts in 2019-20: a go-ahead goal against Rochdale and a crucial winner against Astana in the Europa League.

Josh Sargent

While Christian Pulisic has struggled to make the impact he’d have liked at Chelsea, another American is already off the mark for the 2019-20 season.

The 19-year-old Missourian had already played international football before making his Werder Bremen debut last season, and he wasted no time after being given a chance to impress for his club.

After scoring twice last season, he has already opened his account this time around with a goal in the 3-2 win over Augsburg. In that same game, he was replaced by Claudio Pizarro, a man who made his Werder Bremen debut before Sargent was even born.

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