Twenty 20-year-olds set to impress in 2020 (Part IV)
The final installment (of four) as we look ahead and single out twenty talented 20-year-olds that we feel will make their mark on the game in the 2020s.
Our top 20 countdown concludes with the final instalment in our four part series as we take a look at twenty exciting prospects from around the world, with each player being 20 years-old or celebrating their twentieth birthday during 2020. All, we feel are solid candidates to stake a future place in the global footballing elite.
Part IV (Players 5 through to 1)
5) Phil Foden (19) England/Manchester City
The Stockport born Foden hit the headlines in 2017 when he was awarded the FIFA World Cup U-17 Golden Ball award as his England side claimed the World Cup title in India.
Already linked with Manchester City since the age of eight, the player was included in City’s first team squad for the 2017/18 campaign with City manager Pep Guardiola famously claiming after a game on the US Tour:
"It’s a long time since I saw something like this. His performance was another level. He’s 17 years old, he’s a City player, he grew up in the academy, he loves the club, he’s a City fan and for us he’s a gift”.
One of Foden’s strengths is his versatility as a player and can play as a wing-back, or a winger on the right although Guardiola has described him as "more of a midfielder”. Already capped at U-21 level for England, a full senior international call-up from Gareth Southgate is surely only a question of time for the exciting prospect.
4) Ferran Torres (19) Spain/Valencia
Ferran Torres’ explosion this season with Valencia has led to the inevitable interest from Spain’s ‘big two’ with Real Madrid and Barcelona following the 19-year-old’s progression with diligence.
Interest in the player is nothing new for the side from the capital who first started monitoring Torres at alevín’ (U-12) age.
Valencia have reacted to this recent interest and have increased the player’s release clause from €25 million to €100 million. Now the LaLiga side are trying to renew his deal again with his current term expiring in 2021.
Torres, with four goals and two assists in the last seven games, was chosen as the best player of recent U-19 European Championships and has already accumulated more than 70 games for Valencia’s first team, quite a significant feat for a 19-year-old. Never in the club’s 100-year history has someone so young played so many times for “Los Che”.
Torres is today one of the group of emerging local talents at a club that prides itself with the ability to develop and bring through home-grown players along side the likes of Jaume Domenech, José Luis Gayà and Carlos Soler.
3) Matthijs De Ligt (20) Netherlands/Juventus (Italy)
The Ajax Champions League side of 2018/19 endeared themselves to millions of football fans around the world as Erik Ten Hag’s side progressed to the semi-final of the competition despatching the likes of heavyweights of Juventus and Real Madrid along the way.
Key players such as Frenkie De Jong, Donny Van de Beek, Hakim Ziyech and Matthijs De Ligt found themselves thrust onto a global platform and it was only a question of time before the overtures of European giants would see key Ajax talents depart.
Matthijs De Ligt was in high demand over the summer months with the defender ultimately moving to Serie A champions Juve for a fee of 75 million euro on a five-year deal.
The Dutch player is famed for his tackling ability, vision in and distribution with the player also posing a threat from set pieces. After a rocky start with the Turin based side, De Ligt is now a regular in the Juve team and will be a firm fixture at the heart of the Netherlands defence alongside Virgil Van Dijk at Euro 2020.
2) João Félix (20) Portugal/Atlético Madrid (Spain)
Following an excellent 2018/19 season with Lisbon based Benfica, João Felix found himself thrust into the global spotlight following a big summer move with LaLiga side Atletico Madrid paying 126 million euro for his signature in July, making the Portuguese striker the fourth most expensive player of all time.
His brief time in LaLiga has seen the striker shown glimmers of his natural talent but injury has hampered his progression and to date Felix has seen the net just four times in sixteen games for Diego Simeone’s side with optimism still high that the player can reproduce his 18/19 Liga Nos form in the Spanish top flight.
The striker’s progression at international level saw Fernando Santos give the forward his debut cap as Portugal faced Switzerland in the inaugural UEFA Nations League competition.
1) Erling Braut Haaland (19) Norway/Borussia Dortmund (Germany)
The hottest young striker currently in European football Erling Braut Haaland is the son of former Leeds United and Manchester City defender Alf-Inge Haaland with Erling making the move from Norway's Molde to the Austrian Bundesliga with RB Salzburg in January 2019.
After breaking all sorts of goal scoring records in the domestic Austrian championship, early season detractors had to eat their words as the Norwegian showed that he could deliver on a bigger stage as he became the first teenager in history to score in five consecutive Champions League games.
There was no shortage of suitors for the striker’s signature and despite strong links with a move to Manchester united or RB Leipzig, it was Borussia Dortmund who snapped up the teenage goal machine who paid a reported 20 million euro for his services in December 2019 as part of a five-year deal.
Looking back on the move, Haaland stated: "For me the journey continues at Borussia Dortmund, but I will always look back to Salzburg with joy.”
Hot-shot Haaland will join up with his new team-mates at Dortmund on January 3, during the mid-season break in Germany.
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