We all love a good young prospect, whether we’re signing them up on Fifa or Football Manager, the thought of having a player that could become one of the world’s best is always attractive. However, in real life, it does not always work out that way and there are many young hopefuls who fail to make the transition from youth level to senior professional football.
Although the risk of failure is incredibly high, every now and then there emerges a player that looks ready to compete at professional level no matter how young they appear to be. Scouts from Premier League clubs are always on the lookout for prodigies that can become future first team stars. The phrase ‘if you’re good enough, you’re old enough’ certainly applies to the selected crop of players that are part of this list.
Another Brazilian wonderkid that is set to take European football by storm, Barbosa is hailed as the ‘new Neymar’ and already has a release clause of around £40 million despite being just 18-years-old. The striker currently has 9 goals in 42 appearances for Santos and has been linked with the likes of Arsenal, Manchester United and Chelsea by the Express in recent months.
Discovered by Brazilian legend Zico, it was Barbosa’s futsal skills that encouraged Santos to offer the then 8-year-old a place in the Brazilian club’s youth academy. There is no doubt that the young forward possesses a lot of promise and he will be hoping to follow the similar path Neymar has taken in becoming one of the best footballers in Europe.
The 18-year-old is one of Barcelona’s hottest prospects and due to his rather slender 5’7 build and his centre-forward playing position; he has already been compared to Lionel Messi. He recently signed for Barcelona in 2014 from Croatian side Dynamo Zagreb where he had already notched up 44 senior appearances for the team, scoring seven goals.
Recent reports have suggested that Halilovic is actually unhappy at Barcelona due to the fact that he is not playing in the first team. However, he recently made his debut against Elche and nearly scored, hitting the post after appearing as a substitute in the 60th minute. The silky midfielder already has 7 senior international caps to his name and is sure to be a star for the future. Although interest from Sunderland emerged in late 2014 according to the Daily Mail, it appears that Halilovic is staying at Barcelona for now, but a potential loan move to the Premier League should not be ruled out.
One of the most renowned young prospects in European football, Youri Tielemans is already a regular starter for Belgian side Anderlecht. He displays an incredible sense of maturity to his play and has been tipped as the future captain of Belgium. A playmaker with close ball control and excellent vision, Tielemans is also solid in the tackle, meaning he has the foundations to become the complete midfielder.
At just 17 years of age, the teenager has played 49 games for Anderlecht’s senior side already, a remarkable achievement considering the age of the player. Tielemans has attracted interest from a host of clubs, including the likes of Liverpool, if reports in the Metro turn out to be accurate. However, the likelihood of him departing the club any time soon is a unlikely due to his age and further seasons at Anderlecht will allow the player to realise his full potential before moving elsewhere.
There is no doubting the talent of England and Fulham wonderkid Patrick Roberts. Blessed with lightning pace and an excellent strike, the left-footed attacker has featured 16 times for Fulham already, despite being just 17-years-old.
He has an exceptionally low centre of gravity and is capable of carrying the ball long distances due to his speed and close control. He has received no shortage of interest from Premier League sides, with Liverpool believed to be leading the chase according to the Mirror Sport. He has enjoyed prolific goalscoring stats at youth level with England, bagging seven goals in 14 for the U-17s before scoring four goals in five appearances at U-19 level. He is clearly one for the future and resembles an excellent English talent, hopefully he can continue to flourish at Fulham and fulfil his huge potential.
When Bazoer was just 15 years old, he was attracting interest from the likes of Newcastle United, Manchester City and Arsenal according to the Daily Mail. Instead of opting to move to England, the midfielder, now 18, plays for Dutch giants Ajax. He has only made one senior appearance for Ajax but he has been identified as one of the hottest prospects in a very successful Ajax academy.
Bazoer has the ability to play in both defence and midfield. He has excellent vision as well as a defensive solidarity that could turn into a very successful deep-lying playmaker. There is no doubt that Bazoer will be given further opportunities in Ajax’s first eleven, playing for a club that provides an excellent foundation for young players to develop, before eventually moving on to one of Europe’s top clubs.