Best Soccer Youngsters

By Woodland Soccer Team •  Updated: 08/09/22 •  13 min read

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Playing with freedom and without fear, fighting for the place of the more experienced pro, daring to try, soccer’s youngsters are often a joy to watch, and thanks to the way the game has developed, there are now more youngsters at the top level lighting up the pitch than ever before.

Gone are the days when the odd striker would maybe break through at a young age

Whether it’s centre backs playing with a maturity beyond their years, or exciting wingers getting fans off their seats, the highest level of professional soccer now sees youngsters establishing themselves in all positions, all the time.

In this article we’re going to take a look at some of the brightest young talents in the game, look at what they’ve done so far and what could be to come.

Best Soccer Players Under 18

Once upon a time, younger players breaking through into the upper echelons of the game tended to be in their early 20’s, but such is the talent and level of early development shown by many nowadays that players of 16, 17 and 18 are making a name for themselves. Here’s some of the best youth soccer players in the world right now.

Youssoufa Moukoko

Age: 17

Club: Borussia Dortmund

Position: Forward

Born in 2004, yes, that’s right, 2004, Youssoufa Moukoko is the definition of a wonderkid. The 17-year-old plys his trade for Bundesliga giants Borussia Dortmund, and the German club have already shown plenty of faith in the Cameroon-born striker, handing him 30 appearances since 2020, the first of which came the day after his 16th birthday, making him the youngest ever debutant in Bundesliga history. Moukoko also became the youngest ever player to make an appearance in the Champions League, when he was brought on as a substitute against Zenit St. Petersburg at the age of  just 16 years and 87 days.

The powerful and direct forward has five goals in 30 games for BVB, scoring 0.81 goals per 90 minutes during the 2021/2022 campaign, a season in which he also averaged an eye-catching 0.71 expected goals per 90 minutes. A rising star, the German national has also scored six goals in just four appearances for Germany’s Under-21’s, and if he continues to progress during the 22/23 season, it probably won’t be long before the youngster dons the shirt of the full national side.

Gavi Paez

Age: 17

Club: Barcelona

Position: Midfielder

A product of La Masia, Barcelona’s famous academy, Gavi has quickly become one of the most crucial players for one of the biggest teams in world soccer. At just 17 years of age, having debuted in August 2021, the youngster has already made 35 appearances for the first team, and his performances in the middle of Barca’s midfield rapidly earned him the attention of Spain’s national team manager, who since selecting him to feature in the UEFA Nations League semi-final back in September 2021 has handed the wonderkid with nine further caps.

Integral to ensuring Barcelona remain an easy-on-the-eye, possession based team, Gavi Paez, known commonly as just Gavi, started 28 times for the Spanish giants last season, chipping in with two goals and five assists, but it was what he did week in, week out, with the ball in the middle of the park. The youngster has already made a name for himself as a player who effortlessly carried the ball, is hard to dispossess, while his eye for a pass is clear for all to see. After such a promising start to his career, the player who is the youngest ever to represent the country of Spain at international level has everything it takes to follow in the footsteps of legends such as Xavi Hernandez and Andres Iniesta, and we should be seeing him dominate games at the highest level for a long time.

Top Soccer Wonderkids

To be classed as a wonderkid you don’t have to be under 18 years of age, after all, there are plenty of players who break through at 18, 19 and 20, who are still very young, and therefore, deserving of the wonderkid tag. Here are some of football’s brightest who’ve edged past the 18 year mark in their young lives.

Pedri

Age: 19

Club: Barcelona

Position: Midfielder

Much like the slightly younger Gavi, Pedri has been a revelation at Barcelona, so much so that he starred for Spain during the delayed playing of UEFA EURO 2020.

This quick-footed, agile ball-playing midfielder began his journey in Gran Canaria, where he began to feature for Las Palmas in 2019, eventually going on to make 36 appearances in his only season for the club, and those appearances were enough for Barcelona to come knocking. Right from the word go, Pedri, who effortlessly receives the ball, scampers away from opposing players, and plays incisive passes, looked every inch a Barca midfielder, so it’s little surprise that he’s quickly amassed 49 appearances, scoring six goals for the Catalan club. Already a regular at the highest, this particular wonderkid has a very bright footballing future ahead of him.

Jamal Musiala

Age: 19

Club: Bayern Munich

Position: Winger/Midfielder

Another youngster who has already imposed himself on the game is Jamal Musiala, who at 19 has 57 appearances for German giants Bayern Munich under his belt. Tall and skinny, the winger/attacking midfielder has made a name for himself as a player who takes opposing defenders on and often leaves them in his wake, while he has an eye for goal too, notching 11 times since first appearing for Bayern in 2020.

In 2021, the German national team came calling. Musiala, who represented England at youth level thanks to spending much of his childhood in London, has played for Die Mannschaft 15 times so far and if he continues progressing at the same rate, we’ll see him in the white jersey of Germany at major tournaments for years to come.

Florian Wirtz

Age: 19

Club: Bayer Leverkusen

Position: Midfielder

The Bundesliga has always been a league that gives youth a chance, and with players like the hugely exciting Florian Wirtz, it’s easy to see why. In 2020, Bayer Leverkusen snapped up a youngster who had been showing great promise whilst with the youth teams of FC Koln, and such was his impact upon arrival, the 17-year-old was thrown straight into the action.

Comfortable on the ball, creative, dynamic, a clever passer, Wirtz possesses almost all the qualities of a top attacking midfielder, which is why he has already made 60 appearances for the North Rhine-Westphalia club, scoring 13 goals. His efforts in the Bundesliga have also earned him four appearances for the German national side, appearances that should start to grow at a rapid rate. For now, the 19-year-old dons the black and red of Leverkusen, but as one of the most highly rated players under the age of 20, it probably won’t be long before the truly gargantuan clubs go after him.

Caden Clark

Age:

Club: New York Red Bulls

Position: Winger/Midfielder

MLS wonderkid Caden Clark took America’s top division by storm in 2020, scoring three goals in 12 appearances for the New York Red Bulls as a 17-year-old, before scoring six in 15 appearances the following campaign, and his performances were so impressive that the youngster followed in the footsteps of former Red Bulls youth product Tyler Adams by joining German club RB Leipzig. On loan from his new club, the teenager continues to star in Major League Soccer, and it shouldn’t be long before he’s making appearances in the German top flight, where we’ll find it out if he really has what it takes to make it at the top level. So far it looks as though the USA have an impressive talent on their hands.

Eduardo Camavinga

Age: 19

Club: Real Madrid

Position: Midfielder

Undoubtedly one of the fastest developing players of his generation, Eduardo Camavinga was bossing Ligue 1 games as a mere 16-year-old. Signing for French club Rennes, becoming their youngest ever first team player, the all-action midfielder, who is just as comfortable carrying the ball into the opposition half as he is winning it back deep in his own, made 71 appearances in France’s top flight before the age of 19.

Now with a first full season in the all-white of Real Madrid under his belt, the teenager has become known to football fans across the globe, and after being an important part of Real’s recent Champions League win, it looks as though the Frenchman is at the top to stay.

Giovanni Reyna

Age: 19

Club: Borussia Dortmund

Position: Winger/Midfielder

Something of a versatile and all-round attacking threat, Giovannia Reyna has been gracing Bundesliga turfs with his creative play since making his first appearance in 2020, only a few months after his 17th birthday, and the United States national team player quickly became a regular.

The 19-year-old has already racked up 57 appearances in the yellow of BVB, scoring six goals, while he also has seven assists. Plenty of watchful eyes will be keeping tabs on this sought-after wonderkid, and it will be interesting to see if he follows the route of so many promising Dortmund talents before him securing a big-money move.

Valentino Livramento

Age: 19

Club: Southampton

Position: Defender

When you think of a wonderkid, you generally think of a young Neymar or Messi type player. A youngster who’s lighting it up by taking players on and exciting crowds with their final-third play, but it’s not always that way. In the case of Valentino Livramento, it’s more about defensive play and physicality, and those qualities have allowed the 19-year-old to excel at the highest level.

Few people knew of the teenager prior to the 2021/2022 Premier League season, but after Southampton took the plunge and took him to St Mary’s from Chelsea, everyone took notice. The youngster was given a chance at right back, and boy did he take it. Playing at right back, the Croydon born defender offers both defensive security and an attacking threat, as he’s shown both the confidence and ability to thunder forward and deliver crosses. Certainly one to watch over the next couple of seasons.

Best Young Soccer Player in the World?

As we can see from the above, there’s no shortage of highly talented young soccer players in the game right now, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg, but there’s one youngster who really stands out. A player who has been cutting it with the big boys for a lengthy period already, a player who looks every inch a generational talent, and a player who despite being just 19 years old has been dazzling crowds with his ability since 2019.

That player? Jude Bellingham.

Jude Bellingham

Age: 19

Club: Borussia Dortmund

Position: Midfielder

There are lots of young players around the ages of 17, 18 and 19 who are fully deserving of the title of wonderkid, though Jude Bellingham may just be the best young soccer player in the world.

Having come through the youth system at Birmingham City, it was clear from a young age that Bellingham was going places, and it didn’t take his club long to realise he had what it took to be part of the first team, as they handed him his debut just 38 days after his 16th birthday. The youngster quickly became a central figure for the Championship side, playing 41 times between 2019 and 2020, before making the inevitable move away from his boyhood club.

Like many of the most promising teenagers in the game before him, Bellingham joined Borussia Dortmund, and he was thrown in at the deep end, such was the combination and maturity shown by the teenager. In the yellow of BVB, the Englishman has held down a regular spot in midfield, where his dynamism, composure in possession and all-round accomplished play has become incredibly important. The midfielder is quickly becoming a big player for England too, featuring 15 times for the Three Lions since debuting in 2020.

It won’t be long before Dortmund are either fighting off the biggest clubs in the game or demanding an astronomical transfer fee, and who could blame them? Bellingham’s combination of athleticism and all-round footballing ability makes him a rare commodity, one that commands the highest price, so don’t be surprised if his name is attached to some sort of transfer record in the near future.

The Next Generation of Wonderkids

Such is the ability of some youth players that even 15 and 16 year olds earn great attention. Here are a few such players who already look destined for big things in the future.

Endrick

Age: 16

Club: Palmeiras

Position: Forward

There’s a long tradition of exciting Brazilian talent that emerges at a very young age, and Palmeiras youth player Endrick slots nicely into the category. The word coming out of Brazil is that this youngster is the real deal, and it would certainly seem so as he’s scored no fewer than 165 goals in 169 games for Palmeiras’ various youth teams. That’s one hell of a record. The talented young forward has also notched five goals in four appearances for Brazil’s under-16 team. It would seem that he has the world at his feet. Let’s just hope he doesn’t go the wrong way like some before him, as it’s well known how heavy the pressure of being a samba saviour can weigh on young shoulders.

Warren Zaïre-Emery

Age: 16

Club: Paris Saint-Germain

Position: Midfielder

A young player with not only talent but maturity above his years, Warren Zaïre-Emery regularly played up an age group for Paris Saint-Germain, and he’s now one of the most touted 16-year-olds in Europe after starring in last season’s UEFA Youth League, despite playing against many older players. The teenager was rewarded for his performances in that competition by being offered a three-year deal with the French giants, which he duly signed, though if the Parisian club is serious about keeping the versatile midfield man, who shows great composure and who can be deployed in a variety of ways, then they’ll have to find a way to get him some minutes, because he’s already shown the ability to be playing regular first team football.

Roony Bardghji

Age: 16

Club: FC Copenhagen

Position: Winger/Midfielder

Born in Kuwait in 2005, Rooney Bardghji moved to Sweden at the age of seven, and his ability was quickly released by several clubs, one of which was Malmo, where between 2019 and 2020 the teenager really started to make a name for himself, so much so that Danish superclub FC Copenhagen came calling. It hasn’t taken Bardghji long to establish himself in Denmark either. Scoring with a long-range stunner, he became the youngest ever scorer in Danish Superliga history, and he’s made 13 appearances for the first team already, while his time in the Sweden under-17’s was short lived. After scoring five goals in six appearances, the 16-year-old is now a regular for the under-21’s. Unsurprisingly, there’s a host of Europe’ big clubs keeping tabs on the winger/midfielder, and it may not be long before he’s playing in front of fans in one of the top leagues.

Woodland Soccer Team

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