24 most exciting youngsters to watch in 2024
EPL

24 most exciting youngsters to watch in 2024

Jan 5, 2024

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Over the next 12 months, a fresh crop of footballers will establish themselves atop the men’s game. Here, theScore looks at some talented youngsters – aged 21 and under – who are set to flourish in 2024, while excluding those who made our list in previous years.

Previous selections: 2019 | 2020 | 2021 | 2022 | 2023

Jobe Bellingham ๐Ÿด๓ ง๓ ข๓ ฅ๓ ฎ๓ ง๓ ฟ

Club: Sunderland | Age: 18 | Position: Midfielder

Bellingham, the younger brother of Real Madrid’s Jude, was a regular starter in the Championship before he turned 18. He’s mostly appeared in an advanced role since joining Sunderland from Birmingham City last summer, and although this season’s return of four goals and one assist is fairly modest, his maturity and physicality have helped him improve at a startling rate. Former Sunderland manager Tony Mowbray identified “his greatest asset is that he wants to learn,” and the club paying no more than ยฃ2.5 million for the midfielder is a remarkable piece of business. – Daniel Rouse

Oscar Bobb ๐Ÿ‡ณ๐Ÿ‡ด

ADRIAN DENNIS / AFP / Getty

Club: Manchester City | Age: 20 | Position: Winger

Like Phil Foden and Rico Lewis before him, Bobb has emerged from Manchester City’s academy and is immediately comfortable in Pep Guardiola’s setup. Guardiola compared Bobb to Foden, Lewis, and Bernardo Silva when he recently praised the Norwegian’s knack for playing in tight spaces. His confidence, awareness, and aggressiveness out of possession are extremely impressive for his age. It’s a great shame that Erling Haaland, Martin Odegaard, and Bobb won’t be combining in attack at Euro 2024 due to Norway’s inexplicable failure to qualify. – Rouse

Paris Brunner ๐Ÿ‡ฉ๐Ÿ‡ช

Club: Borussia Dortmund | Age: 17 | Position: Forward

The future is bright for Borussia Dortmund’s attack. Along with Youssoufa Moukoko, the Bundesliga side has another prodigy waiting in the wing in Brunner. After leading Germany to victory last summer at the Under-17 World Cup – he topped the scoring chart and was named player of the tournament – Brunner continued to display great instincts in front of goal for Dortmund’s U19 team, scoring 10 goals in nine league games. It shouldn’t be long before Brunner, who’s also renowned for his dribbling skills and capable of playing on the wing, breaks into the first team and challenges for a starting place. – Gordon Brunt

Levi Colwill ๐Ÿด๓ ง๓ ข๓ ฅ๓ ฎ๓ ง๓ ฟ

Sam Barnes – Sportsfile / UEFA / Getty

Club: Chelsea | Age: 20 | Position: Center-back

Chelsea’s loan network was previously a black hole for talented young players, but the likes of Mason Mount, Reece James, and Colwill have proved there’s now a pathway to the first team after successful temporary spells away. Stints with Huddersfield Town and Brighton helped Colwill develop his game as a ball-playing defender, and his ability to cover at left-back has helped Chelsea deal with a spate of injuries. “I think he can be one of the greatest center-backs in England,” Mauricio Pochettino declared last July after Colwill’s first appearance under him. – Rouse

Benjamin Cremaschi ๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ธ

Club: Inter Miami | Age: 18 | Position: Attacking midfielder

Born and raised in south Florida, Cremaschi graduated from Inter Miami’s academy before earning his shot in the first team alongside childhood idol Lionel Messi. He impressed at all youth levels, received call-ups to the U.S. and Argentine national teams, and jumped right into the deep end in MLS, starting 21 of his 28 matches last season. A tenacious midfielder who can cover acres of space, Cremaschi has embraced the physicality of MLS and the challenge of playing in multiple areas of midfield. But he’s at home in an attacking role, and Messi will help him develop the skills to play there. – Anthony Lopopolo

Anthony Elanga ๐Ÿ‡ธ๐Ÿ‡ช

Ami Ford / Getty Images Sport / Getty

Club: Nottingham Forest | Age: 21 | Position: Winger

Manchester United don’t need to be reminded about what they potentially missed out on when they offloaded Elanga to Nottingham Forest in 2021. Yet, despite having an abundance of wingers, the Red Devils could sorely use one with Elanga’s ability to finish. But what makes the versatile Swedish international so effective is his ability to change speeds, burst away from defenders in the blink of an eye, and cut inside from the flank. Whether or not Forest get relegated this season, Elanga is bound to attract a long lineup of suitors in the summer. – Brunt

Julio Enciso ๐Ÿ‡ต๐Ÿ‡พ

Club: Brighton & Hove Albion | Age: 19 | Position: Forward

Enciso might not return from his nagging knee injury until February. Still, his potential is obvious after he notched four goals and four assists in his last 14 Premier League appearances, with one venomous strike against Manchester City earning him a place on the three-man shortlist for FIFA’s Puskas Award. Amid all the hype, Roberto De Zerbi has warned that Enciso needs to improve his mentality. “Enciso played a fantastic game until the goal, and then he finished the game,” the Brighton boss said when the attacker seemed to switch off after a long-range stunner against Chelsea last April. – Rouse

Evan Ferguson ๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡ช

Steven Paston – PA Images / PA Images / Getty

Club: Brighton & Hove Albion | Age: 19 | Position: Striker

The combination of power, finesse, and agility should help Ferguson develop into one of the world’s elite strikers. The towering Irish teenager has shown he’s more than capable of dealing with the physical demands of the Premier League while earning a reputation as one of the best finishers in England. But his pace and clever movement without the ball separate Ferguson from his peers. While consistency has been an issue this season, look for Ferguson to score in bunches and continue to blossom. – Brunt

Arda Guler ๐Ÿ‡น๐Ÿ‡ท

Club: Real Madrid | Age: 18 | Position: Attacking midfielder

It took a little longer than expected, but Guler is about to get his chance to shine at Real Madrid. Signed from Fenerbahce in the summer in a deal that could ultimately be worth โ‚ฌ30 million, the Turkish teenager has yet to make his debut due to injuries; he had arthroscopic knee surgery in August. As an undersized, left-footed playmaker, he’s inevitably been compared to Lionel Messi. While that’s an impossible label to live up to, Guler, who nearly joined Barcelona before Real Madrid snatched him away from their rivals, has flashed some sensational skills in training that have his teammates and manager raving. – Gianluca Nesci

Rasmus Hojlund ๐Ÿ‡ฉ๐Ÿ‡ฐ

OLI SCARFF / AFP / Getty

Club: Manchester United | Age: 20 | Position: Striker

It’s been a rough start to life at Manchester United for Hojlund. He wasn’t to blame for his new side’s miserable early Champions League exit after logging five goals over six group-stage outings. And while his return of just one Premier League goal is pitiful, the fact that he’s attempted fewer shots than Brighton’s Lewis Dunk and Everton’s Arnaut Danjuma (who’s started three matches) hints that he’s primarily suffering due to team-wide issues. Hojlund, Alejandro Garnacho (who made our 2023 list), and midfielder Kobbie Mainoo give United hope for the future. – Rouse

Karim Konate ๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ฎ

Club: Red Bull Salzburg | Age: 19 | Position: Striker

Nobody has scored more goals in the Austrian Bundesliga this season than Konate, who looks like the latest burgeoning star to come out of the vaunted pipeline at Red Bull’s conglomerate of clubs. Despite his age, the Ivorian has already become a permanent fixture of his senior national team and will be one of the most intriguing young players to watch at the upcoming Africa Cup of Nations. It won’t be long before he makes the jump to one of Europe’s top leagues, perhaps even following in the footsteps of compatriot Simon Adingra, the electrifying winger turning heads at Brighton. – Nesci

Ethan Mbappe ๐Ÿ‡ซ๐Ÿ‡ท

Jean Catuffe / Getty Images Sport / Getty

Club: Paris Saint-Germain | Age: 17 | Position: Midfielder

With the future of his elder brother shrouded in uncertainty, Ethan Mbappe could soon be carrying the entire weight of his esteemed family name at Paris Saint-Germain. Living up to that standard could be an overwhelming burden; Kylian, a larger-than-life figure in France, is the club’s all-time leading scorer. But Ethan, who made his Ligue 1 debut last month prior to his 17th birthday, has the backing of manager Luis Enrique, who hailed the precocious midfielder’s quality after his brief cameo against Metz. PSG’s change in tack and focus on promoting young players bodes well for Mbappe. – Nesci

Murillo ๐Ÿ‡ง๐Ÿ‡ท

Club: Nottingham Forest | Age: 21 | Position: Center-back

Forest bought over 40 players across three transfer windows before business reopened in January, and Murillo might be the best value of them all. Signed for ยฃ10.3 million from Corinthians last August, Murillo has all the physical traits you’d expect from an uncompromising South American defender – the kind that Diego Simeone loves in his Atletico Madrid backline – but he also boasts explosive pace, a willingness to carry the ball upfield, and the ability to ping accurate, long-range passes toward the attackers. Incredibly, Murillo only made his senior club debut in April 2023. – Rouse

Vitor Roque ๐Ÿ‡ง๐Ÿ‡ท

David Ramos / Getty Images Sport / Getty

Club: Barcelona | Age: 18 | Position: Forward

Barcelona are following Real Madrid’s blueprint with the signing of one of Brazil’s most promising teenagers. Madrid struck gold with Vinicius Junior and Rodrygo and hope to do the same with Endrick. Barca, meanwhile, see the future in Vitor Roque, who has considerable technique despite being a bully in the penalty area. He has experience, too. He played in the Copa Libertadores final with Athletico Paranaense and ended the most recent Brazilian Serie A season as one of the top scorers. Cash-strapped Barca need all the help they can get up front, with Robert Lewandowski in and out of the lineup, Ferran Torres struggling for consistency, and Joao Felix prone to cold spells. – Lopopolo

Giorgio Scalvini ๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡น

Club: Atalanta | Age: 20 | Position: Center-back

Scalvini is an old-school defender with incredible aerial ability. But he isn’t as static as his 6-foot-4 frame makes him seem. Scalvini, named Italy’s best Under-21 player in November, plays like Giorgio Chiellini but with the feet of Leonardo Bonucci. He likes to dribble but also enjoys a good tackle. You’re just as likely to see Scalvini heading a ball clear as you are to see him carrying the ball forward. What’s most impressive is his experience. He’s already made seven appearances for the Italian national team and 75 in all competitions for Atalanta since making his senior debut in October 2021. – Lopopolo

Alex Scott ๐Ÿด๓ ง๓ ข๓ ฅ๓ ฎ๓ ง๓ ฟ

Robin Jones – AFC Bournemouth / AFC Bournemouth / Getty

Club: Bournemouth | Age: 20 | Position: Midfielder

Scott’s impact in the Premier League was hindered by a troublesome knee injury, but he’s ready to kick on in 2024. He built his reputation with second-tier Bristol City mostly through his brilliance on the ball – his meticulous dribbling and knack for finding space earned him the “Guernsey Grealish” nickname – but his maturity and intelligence allow him to flourish in roles that aren’t natural to him. “He understands the pressure. He understands everything,” Bournemouth boss Andoni Iraola said after Scott anchored the midfield in October for his first full competitive outing in almost six months. – Rouse

Antonio Silva ๐Ÿ‡ต๐Ÿ‡น

Club: Benfica | Age: 21 | Position: Center-back

There’ll be no shortage of interest if Benfica’s talented crop of youngsters live up to expectations. There’s already a ton of hype surrounding midfielder Joao Neves, 19, but Silva may be the safest bet to succeed out of the two Benfica starlets. The center-back has firmly established himself in the first team, partnering with Nicolas Otamendi to limit opponents to seven goals in 13 Liga NOS games together. Along with his reputation as one of Portugal’s best tacklers, Silva’s discipline with the ball and ability to score separate him from his peers. – Brunt

Xavi Simons ๐Ÿ‡ณ๐Ÿ‡ฑ

picture alliance / picture alliance / Getty

Club: RB Leipzig | Age: 20 | Position: Attacking midfielder

Simons has always bet on himself. After making a name for himself at Barcelona’s La Masia academy, the Amsterdam-born midfielder left for Paris Saint-Germain, but minutes were sparse, and a move to PSV Eindhoven soon followed. His playmaking ability wowed the Eredivisie – he finished as joint-top scorer with 19 goals and nine assists in 34 matches last season – and it convinced PSG to buy him back. Now 20 years old and on loan at RB Leipzig, Simons is again shining bright. He draws fouls often, takes on defenders with reckless abandon, and combines incredibly well with teammates, making him one of the most entertaining watches in Europe. – Lopopolo

Mathys Tel ๐Ÿ‡ซ๐Ÿ‡ท

Club: Bayern Munich | Age: 18 | Position: Forward

Starting opportunities will always be scant when you’re competing for playing time with Harry Kane, but luckily for Tel, he’s proved capable of thriving in a variety of attacking positions early in his career. The Frenchman is making the most of his opportunities, too. Among those with at least 10 Bundesliga appearances on the season, his strike rate of 1.27 goals per 90 minutes is third behind only Serhou Guirassy and Kane. Former Bayern manager Julian Nagelsmann said he envisions Tel bagging 40 goals in a campaign at some point, a feat only Robert Lewandowski and Gerd Muller have ever accomplished in Germany’s top flight. – Nesci

Destiny Udogie ๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡น

NurPhoto / NurPhoto / Getty

Club: Tottenham Hotspur | Age: 21 | Position: Left-back

The hype surrounding Udogie reached another stratosphere after September’s north London derby. The Italian full-back picked up an early yellow card and Bukayo Saka was relishing the heated atmosphere, but Udogie grew into the game, waiting for the Arsenal winger to take a touch before engaging with him, and was arguably the winner of their thrilling duel once the final whistle sounded. He dealt with the occasion with the composure of an experienced Premier League campaigner while showcasing the explosiveness and strength that’s endeared him to so many fans. – Rouse

Arthur Vermeeren ๐Ÿ‡ง๐Ÿ‡ช

Club: Royal Antwerp | Age: 18 | Position: Midfielder

It’s safe to say Royal Antwerp trust Vermeeren. The midfielder had more game time than any other outfield player in Belgium’s top flight (3,755 minutes) in 2023, and he was ever-present during Antwerp’s six Champions League group-stage outings this season. He was even named captain against FC Porto. Although some have expressed reservations about his supposed lack of strength, his eagerness to collect the ball from the base of the lineup and produce line-breaking passes has led to links to numerous European clubs in recent months. – Rouse

Lamine Yamal ๐Ÿ‡ช๐Ÿ‡ธ

Anadolu Agency / Anadolu Agency / Getty

Club: Barcelona | Age: 16 | Position: Winger

The latest gem from Barcelona’s La Masia may end up being the brightest to emerge from the revered youth academy in some time. Hailed by coach Xavi as a player with the potential to “define an era,” the hype around Yamal has eclipsed the buzz around other recent distinguished graduates, like Pedri and Gavi, and with good reason, as the teenager has passed every test since making his historic senior debut at the age of 15. While it’s far too soon to compare Yamal, still just 16, to a certain La Masia graduate of Argentine descent, the skillful Spanish winger is well on his way to enjoying a distinguished Barcelona career. – Brunt

Kenan Yildiz ๐Ÿ‡น๐Ÿ‡ท

Club: Juventus | Age: 18 | Position: Forward, attacking midfielder

Juventus moved quickly in 2022 when it became apparent that Yildiz wouldn’t renew his contract with Bayern Munich. The Italian club sensed that being proactive would pay dividends in the future. As it turns out, they didn’t have to wait very long. Yildiz, 18, became the youngest foreign scorer in Juve history last month, finding the net in his first start for the club. Surrounded by three defenders and with seemingly nowhere to go, he cut through them and unleashed a wicked low shot into the bottom corner, showcasing the inventiveness, skill, and confidence that have so many, including Max Allegri, touting the prodigious Turkish international as a future star. – Nesci

Warren Zaire-Emery ๐Ÿ‡ซ๐Ÿ‡ท

FRANCK FIFE / AFP / Getty

Club: Paris Saint-Germain | Age: 17 | Position: Midfielder

Zaire-Emery’s composure and ability to control games should help soften the blow if Mbappe leaves PSG. At just 17, the midfielder has already proved he’s worthy of a spot in PSG’s first team, scoring twice in 14 Ligue 1 appearances this season, while catching the eye of France head coach Didier Deschamps. Although an injury while scoring his first goal for France briefly disrupted his breakout campaign, Zaire-Emery continued to dominate from the middle of the pitch upon his return, giving PSG fans hope for the future regardless of what happens with Mbappe. – Brunt

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