With Euro 2020 scheduled to finally go ahead this summer, and clubs eagerly anticipating the return of fans after more than a year away, 2021 will be one of the most memorable football years in recent history. With those targets in mind, a whole wave of young ballers have worked hard to get their chance to shine on the biggest stages.
Here’s the list of 10 young ballers who are going to take over in 2021:
Ansu Fati – Barcelona
Records are there to be broken, and Ansu Fati has made a habit of smashing a whole host of them during the first 18 months of his senior career. One of only a handful of players to make the leap into the Barca first team without ever having represented their ‘B’ team, Fati has been a revelation for the Blaugrana ever since making his debut at the age of 16 years and 298 days. Electric pace, supreme confidence and the skills to match make Fati the ideal modern winger, and with his killer instinct in front of goal ever improving, it is no surprise that the 18-year-old is being earmarked by many to lead Barca into a new era.
Eduardo Camavinga – Rennes
It is now over 18 months since Eduardo Camavinga first came to worldwide prominence following his all-action display against Paris Saint-Germain in August 2019, but still the teenager continues to leave supporters and opposition players in awe. Whether he is utilised as a defensive midfielder or slightly further forward as a box-to-box player, Camavinga continues to thrive for Rennes while also making his mark on the international game. The 18-year-old became the third-youngest player ever to be capped by France in September, before a month later becoming the second-youngest goalscorer for Les Bleus, propelling him into contention for a place at this summer’s European Championship.
Gio Reyna – Borussia Dortmund
U.S. soccer has been crying out for a world-class star to thrive in Europe and raise the profile of the game back home. Within the space of five years, two have come along. If Christian Pulisic was the original poster boy of the USMNT, then Gio Reyna is not far behind him having arguably made an even better start to life at Borussia Dortmund than his compatriot did. Having last season become the youngest goalscorer in DFB-Pokal history, Reyna has taken things up a notch in 2020-21, with his performances matching those of fellow forwards Erling Haaland and Jadon Sancho at Signal-Iduna Park despite playing a number of different roles. Nicknamed ‘The American Dream’ by Haaland, the son of former United States captain Claudio Reyna is already a full international after making his long-awaited debut in November. There is a school of thought that states Reyna will even usurp Pulisic at some stage over the next few years. The potential is certainly there for a player who can seemingly do it all.
Pedri – Barcelona
Barca fans have been blown away by the speed in which the midfielder, once dubbed ‘the new Iniesta’, has taken to life in the Camp Nou spotlight following his €5m move from the Segunda Division. The Blaugrana needed to see Pedri play just three games of senior football before making their move for a player who was previously told by Real Madrid that he was not good enough to make the grade at Santiago Bernabeu, and he has already been dubbed “the signing of the decade” by Spanish newspaper Marca. Pedri’s relationship with Lionel Messi has been particularly eye-catching, with the teenager seemingly already on the same wavelength as the greatest player in Barcelona history. There even remains a sense that Pedri’s presence, and the hope he offers for the future, could be enough to convince Messi to stay past the end of the season.
Ryan Gravenberch – Ajax
Gravenberch has taken his game to the next level during the course of the 2020-21 campaign, with the 18-year-old now being tipped to earn a place in the Netherlands squad for this summer’s European Championship. After establishing himself in Erik ten Hag’s side last season, Gravenberch’s output, particularly in the final third, has increased this term, with his stunning, long-range strike against Midtjylland one of the goals of the season in the Champions League. Having followed in the footsteps of Clarence Seedorf to become the youngest debutant in Ajax history back in 2018, the likes of Manchester United, Barcelona and Juventus have all been tipped to make a move for the elegant midfielder.
Jamal Musiala – Bayern Munich
Back in the January transfer window of 2019, Chelsea and Bayern Munich were locked in a battle over the future of Callum Hudson-Odoi that culminated eight months later with the forward signing a new deal with the Blues. In the background, though, another Chelsea youngster was in talks with the German giants, and Jamal Musiala certainly seems to have made the right call in switching clubs after making a rapid rise through the ranks in Bavaria. The midfielder went from being part of the club’s Under-17s on the opening day of the 2019-20 season to holding the record as both Bayern’s youngest debutant and youngest goalscorer in Bundesliga history in the space of 12 months, with his displays ensuring he is firmly part of the first-team picture at the Allianz Arena.
Ryan Cherki – Lyon
“He is undoubtedly a player who will go to the highest level,” Lyon president Jean-Michel Aulas said of Rayan Cherki, before going on to reveal that Real Madrid and Manchester United have both shown an interest in signing the 17-year-old. That illustrates just how highly the playmaker is thought of, with Kylian Mbappe among those to have publicly praised the teenage Frenchman for the way he has taken to senior football so quickly. The youngest goalscorer in Lyon history and youngest anywhere to ever appear in a Champions League knockout match, it is expected that the next 12 months will see Cherki truly emerge into the consciousness of football fans outside of his homeland.
Jeremy Doku – Anderlecht
When Jeremy Doku visited the Liverpool training ground back in 2018, Jurgen Klopp told the then-16-year-old winger that he believed he could become the heir to Sadio Mane’s throne at Anfield, so highly was he thought of on Merseyside. Only a video message from Romelu Lukaku convinced Doku to remain with Anderlecht, where he impressed during his 18 months in the first team before joining Rennes in a €26m deal in October. A full Belgium international who scored on his first start for Roberto Martinez’s side, Doku’s pacey, direct running style makes him a handful for any opposing full-back to deal with.
Fabio Silva – Wolves
Fabio Silva may still only be 18, but he has already packed a lot into his short career. The youngest player and goalscorer in Porto history, Silva swapped his homeland for England in the summer of 2020 as Wolves paid a club-record £35m to bring the striker to Molineux. He has since become the youngest player to find the net for the club in their Premier League history, and having earned comparisons to Cristiano Ronaldo back in Portugal, it is clear that Silva has all the attributes to become a potent goalscorer at the highest level.
Amad Diallo – Manchester United
Eyebrows were raised when Manchester United agreed to pay up to £37m for a teenager who had played just 24 minutes of first-team football back in October, but Amad Diallo certainly has all the tools required to ensure it was a smart investment. “To stop him in training, we have to kick him,” admitted former Atalanta captain Papu Gomez during Diallo’s time in Italy, with the 18-year-old having also earned comparisons to Lionel Messi due to his quick feet and dribbling ability. The youngest player ever to score on their Serie A debut, the Ivorian has already been integrated into Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s first-team squad at Old Trafford as he aims to become the next teenage talent to thrive at the Theatre of Dreams.