Some of the best players in the world, take on their respective competitions at an early age. Most players seem to burst onto the world class scene at such an early age, so tonight I have comprised a Top Eleven list of the best young soccer players on the planet, who are under the age of 23. Another small note, thank you so much for reading this article which is the first installment of my Top Eleven series on the Mixer! Huge thanks for the support on the Early Sub as well! I do this blog for my family, friends, the love of soccer and of course for you the reader, who I am very flattered to hear that you are interested in my opinion on the beautiful game and for that I also thank you. Now with that, onto the 1st Top Eleven on the Mixer!
Honorable Mentions: Timo Werner, RB Leipzig. The 20 year old striker has surely been playing his part in making Bayern’s quest for a 5th consecutive Bundesliga titles as hard as possible for the Bavarian club. Werner has 9 goals and 2 assists in 17 games this season which included a Man of the Match performance against Mainz in November.
Davy Klaassen, Ajax. Ajax is no stranger to churning out the most exciting and effective footballers in the world. Klaassen is an attacking midfielder who is next in line for Ajax to develop into a star. 14 goals and 4 assists this year in 28 games has garnered him the well earned reputation of being a finisher.
Harry Kane, Spurs. I could easily put Dele Alli here but come on, Harry Kane is practically Mr. Spurs by now and even had Real Madrid calling North London for his services. 14 goals and 2 assists in 26 games through all competitions shows that Kane is on his way to another stellar year in the world’s most difficult league.
11. Gelson Martins, Sporting CP
Only 21 years old, Martins has already created a reputation for himself as a lethal distributor from the wing, already providing 6 assists this year for Sporting. 82.5 percent pass completion rate and a 7.29 overall player rating according to Whoscored.com, makes him the next in line after Joao Mario to be a young winger to be plucked out of the Portuguese academy for a powerhouse European club.
10. Amin Younes, Ajax
Younes is the 2nd Ajax player in this article and I’m telling you right now, he isn’t the last. This is what Ajax does, this is what the Eredivisie does. Creates strong attacking players who can take their style and apply it to any other league on planet Earth. It’s skillful, it’s clever, it’s Dutch total football and Younes is becoming well versed. A creator who opens up plenty of space for his teammates, his 2 goals and 3 assists in 25 games won’t blow you away. His dribbling, and relentless attack is what will. He is a big reason why Ajax’s opponents are run ragged in Holland. Even ask Polish side Standard Liege what they think of young 23 year old Amin Younes.
9. Tonny Vilhena, Feyenoord
Like I said, it’s the Eredivisie that creates their stars, not just Ajax. Feyenoord are miraculously in 1st place in Holland (not Ajax or PSV!? Bruh I know) and someone needs to point the fingers on why Feyenoord is so successful thus far this season. Look no further then young Tonny Vilhena. The 22 year old box to box midfielder has been all over the field and it’s absolutely proven in his 80.6 percent pass completion percentage and his 7.38 overall rating according to Whoscored.com. Even netted a Man of the Match performance against 5th place AZ.
8. Paulo Dybala, Juventus
Their isn’t too much to say about this young Argentine who blew up the Serie A scene last year after coming to Turin from Palermo. This kid is an absolute beast and even with his injuries this season he is looking to turn Serie A on its head once again, this time without Paul Pogba (more on him later). 2 Man of the Match performances recently versus Dinamo Zagreb and Udinese shows that Dybala is getting closer to finding his first year Juventus form again.
7. Kenny Tete, Ajax
Indeed a right back from the Eredivisie isn’t the most attractive pick on this list (I promise he’s the last from Holland on the list), but when you have the passing ability that Tete does (86 percent passing from right back), not to mention his overall defensive stability as well. A plus 22 goal differential is 2nd in Holland behind Feyenoord and it showcases the strength of a back 4 in comparison with the offensive strength that Ajax boasts. If he can be healthy a lot more often, he could be a wonderful final piece to a very close to being completed, back line (Barcelona take note).
6. Jose Maria Gimenez, Atletico Madrid
Suarez, Cavani, and Godin are usually the names that Uruguay loves to boast but there is an up and comer waiting in the wings that has the potential to be even more dominant then all 3 of them. Gimenez is 21 and already a huge staple in the middle of the Atleti back 4. The same Atleti back 4 that has taken Atletico to the Final of the Champions League 2 of the last 3 years. It’s been Gimenez and Godin who have been lifting the impenetrable wall that Diego Simeone has built at the Vicente Calderon. Just 2 days ago, Gimenez put in a Man of the Match performance against Eibar in case you think this is all ancient history.
5. Ricardo Pereira, OGC Nice
I’m putting in one more fullback on this list over the exciting attacking midfielders and strikers of the world to bring awareness to a fantastic epidemic hitting top leagues and that’s pacey, skillful fullbacks. Pereira may be a stranger to most, but he is the absolute best example of this new breed of defender in world football. 21 games, a goal, and 3 assists for Pereira along with an 86 percent pass completion percentage and a 7.52 overall rating makes him a stone cold threat offensively for Nice just as much as Mario Balotelli.
4. Naby Keita, RB Leipzig
A Leipzig player had to make this list. The world’s most unpopular fairytale has boasted some of the best young talent in Germany but Keita is my favorite. A N’Golo Kante type player from the midfield for Leipzig, he is the driving machine that keeps this Leipzig vehicle moving. 15 games with 4 goals, 2 assists and an 80 percent pass completion is eye catching numbers for a 21 year old but a midfield engine with a 7.52 overall rating is stellar, especially for a 21 year old and his good form is what is going to keep Leipzig in this race.
3. Fabinho, AS Monaco
One of the most underrated players in France and on Monaco, Fabinho supports the back 4 of Monaco while pushing the ball forward with his knifing through passes that throws this explosive Monaco offense forward. One goal every 5 games makes Fabinho a threat to land on the score sheet as well. 86 percent passing and a 7.54 overall rating makes Fabinho one of the best players under 23 on the planet.
2. Paul Pogba, Manchester Utd
I absolutely never believed the hate that was given to Pogba when he first arrived at Old Trafford. Pogba is not meant to score 20 goals and he is not meant to be an offensive minded midfielder as if he’s Andres Iniesta. In fact, Pogba is more then a 20 goals scorer like Benzema and he’s more then Iniesta, he is a complete, box to box midfielder who’s job is to control the ball, thus resulting in him controlling the game. To create enough space and to stifle defenders enough to find the next pass that will send United off to the races. His dribbling most absolutely stifles defenders and his lethal long shots makes defenders run at him, which where he uses his dribbling to start the cycle all over again. 7 goals while being tasked to control the midfield and 4 assists while being tasked to not get greedy and to stay with Ander Herrera is wonderful. His 86 percent pass completion success is wonderful and his 7.75 overall rating is wonderful. 4 Man of the Matches and not to mention his previous track record with Juventus makes him one of the best on the planet.
1. Felipe Anderson, Lazio
Definitely not the name you probably expected to finish out my list but hear me out. A huge reason why Anderson is number one quite frankly is Pogba’s contract because no footballer not named Messi or Ronaldo could live up to that much coin. Anderson is cheap, still developing, pacey, threatening, lethal, clever and the future. I don’t believe we’ve seen the best Paul Pogba but I do sort of believe that he is getting close to his ceiling, but I do believe that we aren’t even close to seeing the best Felipe Anderson. The kid is only 23 and has plenty of ball left in him. 7 assists in 17 games and FIVE Man of the Matches in (I say again) 17 games shows just how dangerous he is, and with how horrifyingly bad Lazio is playing against Italy’s best, Anderson may be the sole reason that Lazio is in the top 4. Notable performances are against Sampdoria, Genoa and Torino.