Ta’s Timeout: Best Teenagers in Soccer

A drawing of the three players mentioned in the article chasing after a soccer ball, but all depicted as little kids instead of teenagers.
Graphic by Nina Potischman

Exciting young superstars emerge on the biggest stage every year in soccer, breaking long-established records and catching the eyes of the world’s biggest clubs in the process.

Global hype slowly surrounds these players as their maturity and mental strength is tested both on and off the pitch each day.

For some wonderkids, the pressure becomes overwhelming, causing them to make mistakes on the pitch and subsequently lose their place on their respective teams. But for others, pressure is a welcome companion on their trip to becoming a household name in the world of football.

These are the teenagers who make football worth watching; these are the players whose names you should remember.

Here are the three most exciting teenagers in football right now.

3. Moise Kean

Giving Kean a spot on this list was a bold take on my part, I admit. But considering the way he has stepped up for Juventus in recent weeks, surely he deserves some recognition.

The Italian striker rose through the ranks of the Juventus Academy before making his professional debut at the age of 16 two seasons ago, becoming the first player born in this century to appear in one of Europe’s top five leagues.

However, Kean did not have his breakthrough until this season, when he had five goals through seven Serie A appearances.

Kean prefers playing as a lone center-forward and is known for his quick pace, tenacity, physical strength and good finishing. Due to Cristiano Ronaldo’s hamstring injury in late March, Kean was given more playing time, and, needless to say, he has made the most of it.

In these recent games Kean scored some massively important goals, including a winner against Empoli, the second of a 2-0 victory over Cagliari, and a late winner against AC Milan.

Success for the Italian teenager has not been limited to club football. In March, Kean was given his first start for the Italian national team during its opening UEFA Euro 2020 qualifying match against Finland, becoming the youngest striker to start a match for Italy since 1912.

Kean clearly has the talent to succeed, but it would be wrong to say that he has fully blossomed as a player. The next few months will continue to shape the rest of his career.

Will he stay with Juventus and learn under Ronaldo, or will he leave to a club that will guarantee him a regular starting position? Regardless of his decision, the future is bright for the Italian sensation and the footballing world cannot wait to see what he can do.

2. Matthijs De Ligt

Defenders normally don’t get a lot of attention, but this Dutch teenager has quickly established himself as Europe’s most-wanted young defender.

Matthijs De Ligt joined the world-famous Ajax Youth Academy at the age of nine, and eventually earned promotion to the senior squad in the 2016-17 season when he was just 17.

De Ligt is widely praised for his physical strength, composure in defense, perfectly timed interceptions and ability to win aerial duels. The young center back is also comfortable on the ball, a skill that makes him perfect for Europe’s best clubs that play out the back frequently.

During Ajax’s 2017-18 campaign, De Ligt became a regular starter and their youngest-ever captain.

In the current season, De Ligt has continued to impress as Ajax’s captain, playing an instrumental role in both their Champions League campaign and their quest to win their first Dutch title in five years.

De Ligt is also already a regular starter on the Dutch national team. Playing alongside Liverpool’s Virgil Van Dijk at the back, the two form one of the best center back pairings in international football.

1. Jadon Sancho

Jadon Sancho was by far the easiest choice for this list. The English teenager is undoubtedly the most exciting young talent in football right now.

Sancho started at the Watford Academy at the age of 7 before moving on to Manchester City’s academy when he was 14. The youngster impressed Manchester City, but the club was unable to guarantee him playing time.

Because of this, Sancho made a bold move: he signed for Bundesliga giants Borussia Dortmund at the age of 17. Very few notable Englishmen have gone abroad to play football and done well, especially at such a young age.

But Sancho is a different breed; he’s a confident player who believes in himself, and this has made all the difference.

Sancho can play on both the left and right wing. His explosive speed, top dribbling ability and passing skills have been valuable to Borussia Dortmund’s 2018-19 title campaign.

In just 28 appearances, Sancho has scored an impressive eight goals. He is also currently the Bundesliga assist leader with 13 assists to his name.

The sky’s the limit for Jadon Sancho for as long as he can keep up his brilliant form.

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