There’s something special about watching a young player come through the ranks and make his way in the game. Football fans often love the injection of enthusiasm that young players bring to the game, which it’s always great to see them succeed. We live in an era where some amazing young players exist, but who are the best in the world? We’ve taken a look at the best players aged 21 and under in the world and ranked them to find out!
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50. Rayan Cherki
Lyon have a very good history of player development and in Rayan Cherki, who starts our countdown at number 50, they could have another future superstar. Aged 16, he’s already playing in the first-team, and in January, he became youngest ever player to score a senior goal for Lyon.
49. Harvey Elliott
17-year-old Harvey Elliott joined the Reds in the summer when he was just 16. He’s already done enough become part of the first-team setup, and he’s looked like a real talent when given a chance to play.
18-year-old Reinier broke through at Flamengo and impressed almost immediately, which is why Real Madrid swooped in to take him to Spain.
47. Curtis Jones
Another Liverpool youngster comes in at 47. Curtis Jones scored a winning goal in a Merseyside derby earlier this season and the 20-year-old is very highly thought of at Melwood.
46. Max Aarons
Norwich full-back Max Aarons has impressed many observers this season and even if the Canaries are relegated, he should be a Premier League player next season. The 20-year-old full-back offers versatility and a huge attacking threat.
45. Myron Boadu
Striker Myron Boadu’s form for AZ this season, where he’s already scored 20 goals, earned the 19-year-old a call up to the Dutch national team.
44. Billy Gilmour
The current break in play came at the wrong time for Billy Gilmour, who had looked excellent at the heart of Chelsea’s midfield. The 18-year-old Scottish star looks like he will be a great player at Stamford Bridge.
43. Alexander Isak
Things didn’t go too well for Alexander Isak after he moved to Borussia Dortmund, but he’s now at Real Sociedad and it looks like he has got himself back on track.
42. Mohamed Ihattaren
Mohamed Ihattaren, 18, has become a regular player for PSV and whether it’s coming from out wide or playing centrally, he has been a constant nuisance for opposition defenders.
41. Ferran Torres
Valencia’s Ferran Torres, 20, is on the radar of a lot of clubs and it’s easy to see why as he’s taken a big step this year by improving his finishing ability.
40. Dominik Szoboszlai
Red Bull Salzburg star Dominik Szoboszlai stood out in the Champions League and big things are expected from the 19-year-old Hungarian.
39. Jean-Clair Todibo
Jean-Clair Todibo is currently on loan at Schalke from Barcelona and if he continues to impress, the Germans will almost certainly take up the option to buy the 20-year-old.
38. Dejan Kulusevski
Juventus saw enough from Dejan Kulusevski to snap him up. They’ve decided to loan the midfielder back to Parma, where the Swede has continued to impress.
37. Joshua Zirkzee
You know what Bayern Munich need? Another goalscorer! Joshua Zirkzee has taken to life in the Bundesliga so well, scoring three goals in eight games so far.
36. Mason Greenwood
People in Manchester have been talking up young Mason Greenwood for a long time and the striker has now been given the chance to shine. Aged 18, he’s now part of Man United’s first-team setup and there are already calls for him to be picked by England.
35. Fabio Silva
17-year-old striker Fabio Silva is Porto’s youngest ever starter and youngest ever goalscorer. He’s forced himself into the first-team reckoning this season and has added a new dimension to the Porto attack when called upon.
34. Christian Pulisic
Christian Pulisic moved to Chelsea in the summer and after a slow start, the 21-year-old has seemingly hit his stride.
33. Declan Rice
West Ham and England star Declan Rice has emerged for both club and country as a reliable midfielder who can attack as well as he defends.
32. Victor Osimhen
21-year-old striker Victor Osimhen has certainly made a name for himself at Lille and his performances have caught the eye of Chelsea, who apparently want to sign him.
31. Nicolo Zaniolo
Box-to-box midfielder Nicolo Zaniolo has been capped five times by Italy already. The Roma star should be regular for club and country in the coming years and beyond.
30. Justin Kluivert
Like father, like son. Justin Kluivert is following the path of his Dad, Patrick, by scoring goals regularly. The Roma and Netherlands striker looks like a chip off the old block.
29. Donyell Malen
After leaving Arsenal as a youngster, Donyell Malen has found himself a place back home in the Netherlands with PSV.
28. Yari Verschaeren
One of the next players off the Belgium production line, Yari Verschaeren is already a regular at Anderlecht and he’s been capped at international level too. Some have likened the 18-year-old to Eden Hazard, who is not a bad player to be compared to!
27. Dani Olmo
21-year-old Dani Olmo is already a full Spanish international. His form at Dinamo Zagreb earned him a move to RB Leipzig in January.
26. Ibrahima Konate
One of RB Leipzig’s young centre-backs (spoiler, you might see the other one later on!), Ibrahima Konate stands at 6ft 4 and looks to have all the tools to develop into a top-class defender.
25. Gabriel Martinelli
Arsenal have a fine tradition of having great strikers in the modern era and in 18-year-old Gabriel Martinelli, it looks like they’ve found another.
24. Mason Mount
After his impressive spell at Derby, Frank Lampard gave Mason Mount a chance at Chelsea and he’s grasped it with both hands.
23. Federico Valverde
After impressing whilst on loan with Deportivo, Federico Valverde has come back to Madrid this season and has fitted right in. Aged 21, he already has 20 international caps for Uruguay.
22. Eduardo Camavinga
17-year-old Eduardo Camavinga is already a regular in the Rennes first-team and is the club’s youngest ever player. Despite his young age, the central midfielder has proven to be a tackling machine in Ligue 1. He is being linked with moves to the likes of Arsenal and Liverpool this summer.
21. Callum Hudson-Odoi
Callum Hudson-Odoi’s progress at Chelsea was halted by a bad knee injury, but there’s no doubting his talent and aged 19, it looks like he’ll be a mainstay of the Blues’ attack for years to come.
20. Dayot Upamecano
If rumours are to be believed, we could soon see Dayot Upamecano playing in the Premier League as numerous clubs, including Arsenal, apparently want to sign the RB Leipzig defender.
19. Sebastiano Esposito
17-year-old Sebastiano Esposito has recently broken into the first-team set up at Inter Milan and he already looks right at home. There’s talk that Inter might loan the striker out next season and if they do, there’ll likely be a huge queue forming to take him!
18. Sandro Tonali
19-year-old Sandro Tonali has already been capped at international level by Italy and has been likened to Andrea Pirlo, which is probably why he’s being linked with a summer move to Barcelona!
17. Gianluigi Donnarumma
It’s almost crazy to think that a 21-year-old goalkeeper could have already played over 200 professional games for his club, but that’s exactly what Gianluigi Donnarumma has done for AC Milan.
16. Achraf Hakimi
Achraf Hakimi has done very well during his loan spell from Real Madrid to Borussia Dortmund, which is why they want to keep him on a permanent basis. The Morrocan is apparently a man in demand though, with numerous clubs around Europe seemingly keen to sign him.
15. Phil Foden
Phil Foden has found it hard to get regular minutes for Man City but there’s no denying his talent. The 19-year-old will be hoping to finally play more next season when David Silva leaves the Etihad.
14. Martin Odegaard
Real Madrid signed Martin Odegaard when he was just 16-years-old. Five years later, the Norway international is on loan with Real Sociedad and all being well, he should be a big part of Madrid’s squad next season.
Rodrygo has broken into Real Madrid’s first-team set up this season, and he’s been capped by Brazil too, all at the age of 19!
Benfica have a proud tradition of bringing through young players and they’ve seemingly done it again with Florentino, who looks like he will soon establish himself as one of the best defensive midfielders in the world.
11. Alphonso Davies
Alphonso Davies is one of the most exciting young players on the planet. He has so much pace, but it’s his ability to dribble so well at such high speeds that makes him the frightening prospect that he is.
10. Vinicius Junior
Vinicius Junior made the move from Flamengo to Real Madrid in 2018. He’s already racked up over 50 appearances for Madrid and looks to be a player who’ll have a lot of success in the Spanish capital.
9. Ansu Fati
It looks like Barcelona’s academy has produced another gem. At the age of 16, Ansu Fati became the youngest ever goalscorer in the club’s history and the youngest player ever to score in a Champions League game. The teenager has already proven himself to be a match-winner at the Nou Camp.
8. Houssem Aouar
Houssem Aouar has been with Lyon since the age of 11 and aged 21, he’s already made over 130 appearances for his boyhood club. He’s being linked with moves to the likes of Juventus and Man City.
7. Joao Felix
Joao Felix, now 20, made a £113m move to Atletico Madrid last summer, which goes to show how much faith the Spanish club have him in. They’ll hope that Felix can follow in the footsteps of his Portuguese teammate Cristiano Ronaldo and become one of the world’s very best players. He certainly has the talent to do so.
6. Matthijs de Ligt
Matthijs de Ligt, 20, made a big-money move to Juventus last summer after his amazing displays at Ajax led to a transfer battle involving what seemed like every big team in Europe! He’s not had the best of times in Italy but there’s no denying how talented the Dutch star is.
5. Kai Havertz
Aged 20, Kai Havertz has already broken into the German national team and has been a major player in the recent revival of Bayer Leverkusen. It looks like he’ll be making a big-money move this summer. He starts our countdown of the top five.
4. Trent Alexander-Arnold
At the age of 21, Trent Alexander-Arnold has already established himself as one of the best full-backs in the world. He’s the only defender in Premier League history to register 12 assists in a season, and he’s done that twice already!
3. Jadon Sancho
Coming in at third on our countdown is Alexander-Arnold’s international teammate Jadon Sancho. The 20-year-old made the decision to leave Man City to join Borussia Dortmund and it paid off big time. He’s made himself into a world-class forward and there’s still plenty more to come. He could be playing in the Premier League next season, with reports suggesting that he is close to agreeing a deal to sign for Man United.
2. Erling Haaland
Cast your mind back about 12 months and you probably hadn’t even heard of Erling Haaland, but now he finds himself in second place on our countdown! The 19-year-old Norwegian is an absolute goal machine and he’s taken to life in Germany with Borussia Dortmund like a duck to water.
1. Kylian Mbappe
No surprises here! Given the success he’s already had, it’s sometimes easy to forget how young Kylian Mbappe is. The 21-year-old French superstar rightly takes his place at the top of our list as he’s not only the best youngster in the world, but he’s also one of the best footballers on the planet.