Most exciting teenagers
All the best players start somewhere, but some seem to begin earlier than others. Here, in association with our pals at YouthHawk, we’ve put together the 50 hottest prospects in English football today.
Our parameters are simple: we looked for teenagers who are quite fine at football and contracted to English clubs right now. That’s it (sorry, Jadon).
50. Amadou Diallo (West Ham)
Image: West Ham United
The second-youngest player on our list checks in at number 50, but despite only just having turned 16 he’s already well on his way to the top.
While preparing to sit his GCSEs this summer, the talented attacking midfielder has been impressing for West Ham’s under-23s, and is hopeful of being the next youngster to earn first-team minutes under Manuel Pellegrini. A two-footed dribbler with a dangerous shot, it’s surely only a matter of time before Diallo makes the breakthrough in east London.
49. Jude Bellingham (Birmingham)
Bellingham is the only player younger than Diallo on this list but, like his fellow schoolboy, has also taken to under-23 football far better than your average 15-year-old has any right to.
A regular captain of England at U15 and U16 level, the Blues youngster profiles as a modern-day midfield schemer with lovely balance, tons of creativity and an eye for goal.
48. Dru Yearwood (Southend)
While teenagers up and down the country struggle for playing time at the highest level, the Football League continues to offer a platform to impress early and often – and that has particularly been the case at Southend.
All-action midfielder Yearwood has asserted himself as a crucial part of Chris Powell’s team since breaking into the Shrimpers’ first-team squad at the start of last season, standing out for his ability to win back possession and then thrillingly transition into attack. Big clubs are beginning to take notice.
47. Michael Obafemi (Southampton)
Once eligible for Ireland, England or Nigeria, the squat, muscular Obafemi was brought to attention in December when he became Southampton’s youngest-ever Premier League goalscorer at Huddersfield.
It came a month after the Dublin-born striker committed his international future to Ireland, and his star will surely continue to ascend throughout 2019 and beyond now that he’s working under Ralph Hasenhuttl – a manager who’s already shown his willingness to give young players a chance on the south coast.
46. Stephen Walker (Middlesbrough)
In the space of five days late last month, Walker scored a hat-trick for Middlesbrough’s under-18s to kill off Everton in the Premier League Cup, then joined MK Dons on loan until the end of the season.
The move provides a chance for the prolific forward to build on a fine first half of the campaign in which he made his Boro first-team debut and continued to earn England recognition. Walker is a natural finisher with fluid movement, and helping MK to promotion from League Two could be just the start for him.
45. Arvin Appiah (Nottingham Forest)
An ever-uncertain managerial situation at the City Ground has done little to halt Appiah’s trajectory into Forest’s first-team squad. The 18-year-old scored on his debut in the League Cup against Burton Albion in October, before signing a new long-term contract in January.
With Forest trying to reclaim an identity under Martin O’Neill and Roy Keane, the East Midlanders began to utilise Appiah’s exciting raw, attacking talent towards the end of 2018/19.
44. Adam Idah (Norwich)
And on the Daniel Farke revolution goes at Carrow Road. The opportunities handed out to the likes of Jamal Lewis, Max Aarons, Ben Godfrey and Todd Cantwell make this a very exciting time to be a member of Norwich’s academy.
Idah is yet to join the aforementioned quartet in making a senior appearance, but the Irish forward’s goalscoring form over the last two years has earned him fluttering eyelashes from some of England’s biggest clubs. He’ll surely get his chance under Farke before too long.
43. Matt O’Riley (Fulham)
One of the jewels in Fulham’s impressive youth setup, this tall and elegant central midfielder made his senior debut in August 2017 but, owing to injury, has managed just two further appearances since. As a result, he has an interesting decision to make this summer as he approaches the end of his first professional contract.
Like so many English youngsters, the lure of the Bundesliga looms large. O’Riley may take some convincing to remain in SW6 regardless of the increased prospects of football in the Championship with Fulham next season.
42. Ethan Laird (Manchester United)
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has a lot on his plate at Manchester United this summer – not least in trying to rid his squad of high-earning, underperforming players who are standing in his way of success at Old Trafford.
If he’s successful, the Norwegian may be forced to turn to some of the club’s academy prospects. Chief among those is Laird, a versatile defender who plays best at right-back but is also a capable central defender with size, speed and top-class decision-making.
41. Faustino Anjorin (Chelsea)
While their kids might not get the chance to shine at Stamford Bridge, Chelsea’s academy production line shows no sign of slowing down and former Blues are frequently turning up in matches across the country.
England Under-18 midfielder Anjorin, reminiscent of Michael Ballack when he’s at his dominant best, scored in six different youth competitions this season as well as for his country, and seems on course for a breakthrough into senior football before his teenage years are out.
40. Luca Connell (Bolton)
“Passes and moves like a Premier League player.”
Bolton fans’ heady praise for a player who only made his first-team bow at the start of January may surprise some, but for anyone who’s had the chance to watch the versatile, shaggy-haired midfielder in action, it will be simple affirmation of what they already suspected.
His decent record in front of goal for the Trotters’ U18s caps an impressive attacking skill set, and the Liverpool-born Ireland international has just received his first senior call-up under Mick McCarthy. No wonder he’s already been the subject of bids from Premier League clubs.
39. Andre Dozzell (Ipswich)
Things haven’t quite gone to plan for Dozzell since he scored on his Ipswich debut as a tender 16-year-old in 2016; it’s been injuries and his club’s tumultuous slide down the table which have blighted his progress.
The son of ex-Tractor Boy Jason has a wand of a left foot and the ability to control a game’s tempo from his favourite position in the middle of the park. Put together, it makes him an easy watch. Dozzell might well end up taking a longer road to the top, but anyone willing to put their faith in him right now could end up snagging themselves a bargain.
38. Nathan Wood-Gordon (Middlesbrough)
Image: Middlesbrough FC
Part of Wood-Gordon’s rapid ascent to making first-team appearances while still only 16 can be attributed to his size. But he’s far from merely an impressive physical specimen.
The son of former Boro defender Dean Gordon is mature beyond his years, looks like the consummate modern-day defender with good feet, and is a regular captain of his England youth teams.
37. Troy Parrott (Tottenham)
Calls from some quarters for the Dublin-born forward to lead Tottenham’s line in the absence of Harry Kane were highly optimistic, but they showed the esteem in which Parrott is held at Hotspur Way.
He only turned 17 in February but has hit the ground running since moving to London from Belvedere last season, and has already made an impact at under-23 level too. Mauricio Pochettino is never shy when it comes to blooding youngsters in the first team, so we could see more of Parrott in 2019/20.
36. Joe Gelhardt (Wigan)
Image: Wigan Athletic/Bernard Platt
Wigan’s youth system doesn’t immediately come to mind when you think of the country’s more underrated setups, but good work is being done in this corner of the northwest.
That’s underlined by the presence of two of their products featuring regularly England U17 squads this season (see also: Jensen Weir). A throwback centre-forward who knows where the goal is, Gelhardt has regularly donned a Three Lions shirt since he was 14.
35. James Garner (Manchester United)
There are spectacular, flashy and eye-catching prospects, but Garner isn’t one of them. That’s not a negative, though: the 18-year-old is rock solid with the composure of a grizzled veteran, and it seems inevitable that he will join the glittering, growing list of successful midfield graduates at Old Trafford.
He’s been mentioned in passing by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as a player of interest, and got a brief first-team debut against Crystal Palace in February.
34. Harvey Elliott (Fulham)
Fulham’s desperation to keep another of their special talents forced them to accelerate Elliott’s development through their academy ranks – culminating in the 2003-born midfielder becoming the Premier League’s youngest-ever player aged 16 years and 30 days in May.
Bigger clubs will continue to circle as he can’t sign a professional contract until April 2020, but Elliott can be reassured that there is a proven pathway into senior football at Craven Cottage… even if he might have to take his GCSEs first.
33. Angel Gomes (Manchester United)
It’s fair to say that Gomes isn’t your typical English footballer. His laid-back, languid and laconic style often makes it look as if a game has passed him by but, trusted by the right manager, he can make a midfield tick in a way that few others can’t.
He became the Premier League’s first 2000-born player on the final day of 2016/17, and although still short of stature, he’s continuing to develop well.
32. Rhian Brewster (Liverpool)
Born in London in the year 2000, Brewster spent six years on Chelsea’s books before heading north to Liverpool at the age of 15. Jurgen Klopp included the forward in his matchday squad for the clash with Crystal Palace in April 2017, but he remained on the bench and is still awaiting his first-team debut.
An England Under-18 international who’s also eligible for Turkey and Cyprus, Brewster top-scored in the Young Lions’ triumphant Under-17 World Cup campaign in 2017.
31. Dwight McNeil (Burnley)
A young footballer’s journey rarely follows a straight line, and McNeil has certainly experienced the twists and turns that most youngsters endure. Released by Manchester United as a 15-year-old, he earned a scholarship down the road at Burnley and settled into a regular starting role under Sean Dyche this term – no mean feat at a club which isn’t exactly noted for its use of young talent.
Deceptively quick, decisive and confident, the 19-year-old scored three goals and added five more assists in his first Premier League season.
30. Trevoh Chalobah (Chelsea)
There was little reason for optimism at Portman Road this season as Ipswich hurtled towards League One – but Chalobah stood out as a rare functioning cog in the Tractor Boys’ machinery.
While relegation is never a desirable addition to one’s CV, the physical tests and mental challenges of a difficult season in the Championship are sure to stand the 19-year-old in good stead for his next step.
29. Ben Brereton (Blackburn)
Another youngster showing that an exit from Old Trafford can open more doors than close them, Brereton spent his formative years in the Manchester United academy before moving on to Stoke and then Nottingham Forest.
It was at the City Ground where the clever striker really made his mark, scoring 20 goals in 15 games to break into Philippe Montanier first team at the age of 17. His subsequent £7m transfer to Lancashire hasn’t yet lived up to expectations – just the three league starts in 2018/19 – but time is very much on his side.
28. Taylor Harwood-Bellis (Manchester City)
Eight days shy of his 17th birthday, Harwood-Bellis lined up in front of nearly 15,000 fans at the Stadium of Light as Manchester City’s under-23s took on Sunderland in the Checkatrade Trophy.
The occasion hardly seemed to faze the Stockport-born defender, however, and such experience playing up in senior competitions will provide a perfect platform for one of the most highly regarded players in his age group.
27. Morgan Rogers (West Brom)
The Baggies consistently punch above their weight when it comes to producing elite talent, demonstrated in their FA Cup clash against Brighton, when they ended extra time with four academy graduates on the field.
One of those was Rogers, who came off the bench five days after netting four goals in an under-23s game. A striker with electric pace and versatility across the attacking line, his name will become more and more familiar – particularly if he stars in this summer’s U17 European Championship finals for England.
26. Joe Willock (Arsenal)
A goalscoring midfielder who’s drawn stylistic comparisons with Paul Pogba, Willock made headlines with a brace against Blackpool in the FA Cup third round but has only been handed one senior start since.
If Arsenal have been trying to convince him not to follow older brother Chris – now at Benfica – through the exit, they’ve hitherto failed to present a compelling case. Wherever he ends up, the England Under-20 international won’t stay quiet for long.
25. Oliver Skipp (Tottenham)
Fans of Spurs and beyond laughed at Tottenham’s failure to sign anybody summer, but such hysteria underestimated both Mauricio Pochettino’s willingness to trust young players and his ability to improve them.
Skipp took advantage by establishing himself as a reliable midfield understudy for one of the best sides in the country – so much that Pochettino likened him to “a 30-year-old man” after his first Premier League start in December.
24. Bukayo Saka (Arsenal)
The first 2001-born player to feature in the Premier League, Saka is in as much of a hurry to the top as he is to make an impact when crossing the white lines into battle.
The 17-year-old Londoner is comfortable at full-back or on the wing – like so many of today’s teenage wide men – and Unai Emery has already found ways to use his youthful exuberance. Saka is the latest in a long line of very promising players produced at Hale End.
23. Eric Garcia (Manchester City)
Pep Guardiola hailed the personality, intelligence and vision of fellow La Masia alumnus Garcia after he made his Manchester City debut in December, then picked him again for both legs of the League Cup semi-final last month.
The Catalan centre-back represents everything City’s manager looks for in a modern defender; confidence and bravery in possession, pace in recovery and quick adaptation to the physical demands of English football.
22. Rekeem Harper (West Brom)
A Premier League debutant just five months after turning 17, Harper continues to wait for his second top-flight appearance 18 months on – but West Brom’s relegation provided the prospect of more regular opportunities in the Championship.
The England U19 international featured in 17 league games for the Baggies as they missed out on promotion in the play-offs, and looks set to be a pivotal part of their engine room when they try again next term.
21. Marcus Tavernier (Middlesbrough)
Tavernier netted three goals in the Championship last season, playing a bit-part role in Tony Pulis’s goal-shy team which ultimately missed out on the play-offs. With the Welshman now gone, the young forward will hope for brighter prospects in 2019/20.
The Leeds-born winger’s composure and movement have really caught the eye on Teesside, and Tavernier promises an exciting career ahead at the Riverside.
20. Danny Loader (Reading)
The fact that Loader made just two appearances in India at the Under-17 World Cup probably says more about the sheer depth in quality of England’s 2000-born age group than any slight on the Reading striker, who scored twice in his only 90 minutes at that tournament against Iraq.
The Royals’ struggles have opened a door for the forward, who now has to take his chance with performances and goals on the senior stage.
19. Eddie Nketiah (Arsenal)
Goals invariably follow Nketiah wherever he goes. He netted nine in 10 Premier League 2 games this term, managed a brace in his first meaningful run-out for Arsenal in October 2017, and scored the last goal of their season against Burnley.
However, he’ll celebrate his 20th birthday before the end of May and must face up the fact that he has little prospect of ousting Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in the near future. Given that, the Lewisham native may be the next English teenager looking for a foreign loan to springboard his career.
18. Jayden Bogle (Derby)
Frank Lampard’s third-most-used player this season has enjoyed a terrific breakthrough campaign at Pride Park under the stewardship of the former Chelsea and England midfielder.
Full-back Bogle hasn’t looked back since being promoted to the Rams’ first team in September, and even caught the attention of a handful of Premier League clubs in January. Whether or not the Rams go up, the emergence of their dynamic young defender – eight assists and counting before the play-off final – is one significant plus point of 2018/19.
17. Ben Wilmot (Watford)
While most of his contemporaries on this list were cutting their teeth in academy football, Wilmot was starting for Stevenage Town in League Two as a 17-year-old centre-back.
A solid defender with natural maturity and an ability to read the game, his promise convinced Watford to part with almost £2m last summer, and the Hornets demonstrated their conviction in his quality with League Cup starts at Reading and Tottenham. An intriguing loan move to Udinese in January will only accelerate the development of a player Javi Gracia believes could end up in midfield.
16. Max Aarons (Norwich)
Aarons is another defender who has grabbed his chance to shine this campaign, and his performances for the table-topping Canaries have earned him links with Tottenham, Chelsea and Arsenal since establishing himself in Daniel Farke’s starting XI.
Strong, athletic and attack-minded, he didn’t miss a league game since August as Norwich stormed to the Championship title.
15. Reece James (Chelsea)
So good was his loan at Wigan that the Chelsea youngster – who’s played at right-back and in midfield as Paul Cook’s side look secured safety – that James made the Championship’s official team of the year.
He flew under the radar during his formative years in the excellent academy at Cobham, but the 19-year-old’s combination of physicality and technique have boosted his stock in the last two years. Now he’s one of the Blues’ brightest prospects.
14. Jack Clarke (Leeds)
Clarke’s direct and effective play on the wing has made him one of the teenage stars of this Championship season, and he is now a trusted member of Marcelo Bielsa’s promotion-chasing Leeds side.
Two goals in 11 substitute appearance by New Year’s Day marked positive steps in his maiden senior campaign, and that string of impressive cameos off the bench were enough for him to start five of the Whites’ following six games before an untimely health scare. The York-born 18-year-old has most recently been linked with Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool.
13. Domingos Quina (Watford)
Born in Guinea-Bissau, raised in Portugal and developed by the academies of Benfica, Chelsea and West Ham before his move to Watford in August 2018, Quina’s journey to a Premier League first team has been eclectic.
A European Championship winner with Portugal at U17 and U19 level, the 19-year-old’s neat passing, evasive movement and bravery in possession have seen him become a regular member of Javi Gracia’s matchday squads.
12. Ben Woodburn (Liverpool)
Born in Nottingham, Woodburn was snapped up by Liverpool at the age of seven after moving to Cheshire with his family. Prodigiously talented from a young age, the gifted forward was included in the club’s “Futures Group”, a subset of academy starlets who were afforded the chance to train with first-team coach Pep Lijnders once a week.
Woodburn made the step up to the senior squad in 2016, making his debut in Liverpool’s 2-0 victory over Sunderland. He’s already won nine full caps for Wales and looks to have a big future ahead of him for both club and country.
11. Ruben Vinagre (Wolves)
Nuno Espirito Santo tended to stick with a settled starting XI, making very few chances to a Wolves side which qualified for Europe. Vinagre began to challenge Jonny Castro for the left wing-back berth at Molineux, though, and looks to have a bright future indeed.
The 19-year-old provides speed and thrust down the left flank, while he’s also assured defensively despite having little senior experience before this season.
10. Emile Smith Rowe (Arsenal)
It’s been a breakout season for a player likened to a young Kevin De Bruyne. Smith Rowe seized upon his Europa League opportunities at Arsenal – enough to convince Bundesliga side RB Leipzig of a loan spell for the rest of the campaign.
In joining Germany’s Anglo-youth gravy train, the 18-year-old Croydon native now has the perfect stage upon which to impress and earn a regular place in Unai Emery’s plans at the Emirates.
9. Diogo Dalot (Manchester United)
Dalot only made eight appearances for Porto’s first team before Manchester United whisked him away from the Estadio do Dragao, parting with £19m to land the teenager last summer.
Game time proved hard to come by early on in the campaign, but the Portuguese started 12 games in the Premier League by the season’s end. Positionally astute and a powerful runner, Dalot can contribute in both attacking and defensive phases of play.
8. Ethan Ampadu (Chelsea)
A transfer ban may instinctively sound like bad news for Chelsea, but there’s an argument that the Blues might actually be better off if they’re forced to take a longer-term view and promote some of the talented youngsters in their academy setup.
Ampadu is among those who will be hoping to take advantage of such a situation, with the ex-Exeter man having already made 12 senior appearances for the west Londoners. Able to play in midfield or at the back, the composed 19-year-old has already won six caps for Wales.
7. Matteo Guendouzi (Arsenal)
Not many Arsenal fans would have been expecting to see much of Guendouzi this season, with the 18-year-old marked down as one for the future when he moved to north London from Lorient last summer.
The midfielder has been a prominent member of Unai Emery’s first-team squad this season, though, playing 47 games in all competitions and catching the eye with his box-to-box running and all-action style.
6. Morgan Gibbs-White (Wolves)
A fearless attacking midfielder who has been utterly unfazed by the Premier League’s bright lights, Gibbs-White is a tremendously exciting prospect who looks ready to start for Wolves weekly.
A superb cameo performance against Tottenham in what was only his fifth top-flight appearance in November was followed by a man-of-the-match display in the 2-1 defeat of Chelsea a month later. A silky dribbler with an eye for a pass, Gibbs-White has a bright future ahead of him.
5. Mason Greenwood (Manchester United)
Another talented youngster fresh off the Manchester United production line, Greenwood made four appearances for Manchester United in 2018/19 – including at PSG, and a start against Cardiff on the final day of the season.
Two-footed and razor sharp inside the penalty area, Greenwood looks set for plenty more opportunities under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer next term.
4. Ryan Sessegnon (Fulham)
Fulham were utterly dreadful in 2018/19 and will go down as one of the Premier League’s worst-ever sides. As a result, Sessegnon didn’t much enjoy his first experience in the top flight.
But it’s easily forgotten that he’s still only 19. Sessegnong was a regular starter in 2016/17’s promotion-winning campaign, starring at left-back or in a more advanced role on the flank. Quick, clever and technically gifted, he’ll likely be a Spurs player before the summer is out.
3. Reiss Nelson (Arsenal)
Jadon Sancho hasn’t been the only English youngster pulling up trees in the Bundesliga. But whereas the London-born 19-year-old swapped Manchester City for Borussia Dortmund on a permanent basis, Nelson was only on loan at Hoffenheim from Arsenal.
Unai Emery will have been delighted with the progress he’s made in Germany this term, with Nelson scoring seven goals in 23 top-flight outings. Versatile and dynamic, the 19-year-old could be a first-team regular back in north London in 2019/20.
2. Phil Foden (Manchester City)
With Jadon Sancho having emphatically justified his decision to join Borussia Dortmund, Manchester City fans were relieved when Foden committed his future to the Premier League champions by signing a new long-term contract in December 2018.
He was a star of England Under-17s’ World Cup victory in 2017, has earned comparisons with Andres Iniesta for his velvet touch, probing passing and all-round creativity, and Pep Guardiola adores him. England’s future in central midfield is safe.
1. Callum Hudson-Odoi (Chelsea)
Deeming Bayern Munich to be a better place for a young player to develop than Chelsea, Hudson-Odoi handed in a transfer request in a bid to push through a move to the Bavarians in January. The Blues dug their heels in and refused to sell, but it’s surely a case of “play him or lose him” given the winger’s incredible talent.
A powerful and skilful dribbler, Hudson-Odoi scored six times in 2018/19 before a mid-March Achilles tendon injury ended his season. “He can be the best player in Europe in two or three years,” was Maurizio Sarri’s verdict in November.