The past football season was memorable for many reasons. Real Madrid captured their first La Liga title in five years, and became the first team to retain the UEFA Champions League. Monaco dethroned PSG as they stormed to the Ligue1 crown spearheaded by their red-hot attack. Antonio Conte masterminded Chelsea’s methodical march to recapture the Premier League trophy. Juventus won the Serie A for the 6th time in a row. Not too far behind was Bayern Munich who retained their stranglehold on the Bundesliga with a 5th title in as many years. Arsenal finally finished outside the top 4. Barcelona overcame a 4-goal deficit to usher PSG out of the Champions League in sensational fashion. Celtic produced an unbeaten season under the guidance of Rafa Benítez. Last and ironically least, David Moyes dragged Sunderland down to the Championship after one of the most underwhelming Premier League seasons in recent memory. And how can we forget golden moments during the El Clasico when Messi waved his flag on the enemy’s territory? Amidst all this and the performances of the greats we have come to know and love, it was some of the game’s youngest stars that captured the imagination of fans around the world. They set stadiums and opposing defenses alight, and reminded us that we are in capable hands for the foreseeable future. Here are some of the best young stars the beautiful game has to offer.
The Monaco hit-man burst onto the scene this season as a member of Monaco’s free scoring attack. This 18 year old French player is blessed with frightening pace which he uses to great effect to coast past defenders. When you factor in his ruthless finishing and ample bag of skills, he is a nightmarish proposition for defenders. Mbappe plays with maturity and composure far beyond his years, and looks primed to dominate world football for years. It’s no wonder he is being stalked like prey during this transfer window. He has a long career ahead of him and the likes of Real Madrid know what an asset he would be should he join their side.
Only the football gods knows how Borussia Dortmund managed to pry Ousmane Dembele away from Rennes for a paltry £13 million. Dembele represents an unfair combination of speed, skill, and flair. He has stated that he enjoys nutmegging defenders, and this is just one of the many tricks Dembele uses to humiliate those who dare mark him. Dembele is far from all flash. His numbers speak for themselves, and he is very much all about end product. We expect it’s only a matter of time before Dortmund has suitors lining up for Dembele’s services. Should they choose to cash in, they should be in for a substantial windfall.
Dele Alli may be the best English product since Wayne Rooney. He may not get the fanfare Mbappe and Dembele do, but his game speaks louder than anyone could. Tottenham took a gamble on Alli when they signed him from MK Dons and he has more than repaid their faith in him. Alli is best when operating as a second striker due to his eye for goal and phenomenal movement off the ball. However, he contributes to all phases of the game with his defensive contributions and link up play. England has a gem in this one.
Real Madrid’s golden boy enjoyed a stellar breakout campaign capped off with a goal in the Champions League Final. Asensio is a versatile midfielder capable of playing through the middle or out wide. He is a fluid dribbler, and rarely seems to lose the ball. He couples this with great vision and the eye for goal making him a dual threat to opposing teams. For now, he has largely been limited to opportunities off the bench for Madrid, but as he improves Zidane may have no choice but to give him a larger role.
He’s only 18 but it seems like Donnarumma has been around for years. When you lock up the starting keeper’s job at 16, you must be something special. Donnarumma is just that. Standing 6’5”, Donnarumma makes for an intimidating figure between the posts, and uses his large frame to regularly frustrate opposing forwards. However, despite being so large, he is cat quick with sharp reflexes and makes incredible saves form all distances. He recently caused uproar after casting doubt on his future at AC Milan but fans only agonize over great players. Donnarumma has the chance to be a legend.
At a mere 18 years of age, Christian Pulisic has had the fate of American soccer placed on his shoulders. For the first time, America has a legitimate budding star to follow. And as we all know, America loves its stars. Pulisic’s rapid rise through the ranks both for Borussia Dortmund and the US Men’s National team shows he is more than hype. He is a gifted dribbler with burgeoning playmaking ability. His pace allows him to burst past defenders with relative ease, and he keeps a cool head in and around the box. In 41 appearances for Dortmund last season, he registered 5 goals and 8 assists. Dortmund has always nurtured young players, so it’s safe to assume Pulisic will only get better. If Pulisic can fulfil a his evident potential, it may be the dawn of a new era for American soccer.