Football Features

From Man Utd’s ‘jewel’ to the Luke Littler of football: The most exciting teenagers in Europe right now

By J Smith

From Man Utd's 'jewel' to the Luke Littler of football: The most exciting teenagers in Europe right now

Published: 8:00, 15 March 2024

There are few more satisfying things in football than a teenage talent bursting onto the scene and racing for stardom. 

Right now, Europe is flooded with such prospects. From flying wingers scoring stunning goals to defenders showing an incredible reading of the game for one so young, the kids are tearing it up.

So, who are the most exciting teenage talents in Europe right now? In no particular order, here’s a selection of the very best.

Alejandro Garnacho

Club: Manchester United
Age: 19
Position: Winger

With seven goals and three assists across all competitions so far this season, there’s a very strong argument to suggest Alejandro Garnacho is among Manchester United’s most important players now, let alone one for the future. His overhead kick against Everton earlier this campaign is among the greatest goals in Premier League history, perhaps the very best of them all. But more than that, Garnacho’s speed and skill make him a nightmare for defenders and should see him become a household name for years to come.

“It’s like a dream, with my age. A full Old Trafford singing my name – I’m very proud,” Garnacho — who was labelled a ‘jewel’ by Atletico Madrid’s coaching staff during his formative years at the club — said recently in response to his ‘Viva Garnacho’ song from the Man Utd fans.

Jorrel Hato

Club: Ajax
Age: 18
Position: Centre-back

He’s just 18 years old and has only recently surpassed the 50-game mark at senior level, but already Jorrel Hato looks like the latest big name to come through at Ajax. A collected customer on the ball and already displaying strong defensive instincts, Hato is drawing plenty of comparisons to Virgil van Dijk, with Liverpool predictably among those heavily linked with him at this early stage. It’s probably going to take a Van Dijk-esque fee to secure his services, too.

Warren Zaire-Emery

Club: Paris Saint-Germain
Age: 18
Position: Central midfield

Warren Zaire-Emery made his breakthrough at PSG last season, but it’s this campaign where he’s really established himself as a nailed-on starter and driving force for this team. The 18-year-old has the perfect engine and physical profile for a modern central midfielder, not to mention his squeaky-clean technical ability. Zaire-Emery’s performances so far in this season’s Champions League are proof enough that PSG can start to build a team around him for years to come.

Patrick Dorgu

Club: Lecce
Age: 19
Position: Left-back

It’s very early days for Patrick Dorgu, who has only just broken through at Serie A side Lecce this season. But the Denmark youth international has already proven himself a very capable defender, while he’s fifth among his teammates when it comes to big chances created per 90 minutes this season (0.21), so there’s clearly technical ability there despite notching just one goal and no assists so far.

Lamine Yamal 

Club: Barcelona
Age: 16
Position: Winger

16 years old. Six goals and seven assists across all competitions for Barcelona this season. Two goals in his first four senior caps for Spain. Doesn’t turn 17 until July.

Lamine Yamal is quite simply the Luke Littler of football. No further explanation required.

Leny Yoro

Club: Lille
Age: 18
Position: Centre-back

Like Hato, Lille’s Leny Yoro is also regarded as one of the next defensive giants of the game. After putting his name on the map last season, the 18-year-old has become one of the first names on the teamsheet for Paulo Fonseca this season, exuding class with the ball and displaying an understanding of the game that belies his age.

Joao Neves

Club: Benfica
Age: 19
Position: Central midfield

The Benfica talent factory never stops. The latest tyro making his name is Joao Neves, who has expertly conducted things at the base of midfield for Roger Schmidt this season, so much so that he’s already a regular with the senior Portugal national team. Manchester United are reportedly very keen admirers.

Kobbie Mainoo

Club: Manchester United
Age: 18
Position: Central midfield

If the Red Devils did sign Neves, they’d have quite possibly the most exciting teenage double-pivot of all time, given the emergence of Kobbie Mainoo this season. At just 18, Mainoo is already making a mockery of his teammates with his robust defending and pinpoint precision on the ball.

They may be struggling now, but are the Red Devils preparing for better days by building a new class of generational talents?

Michael Kayode

Club: Michael Kayode
Age: 19
Position: Right-back

Another exciting full-back making his way in Italy, Michael Kayode has become Fiorentina’s go-to option at right-back this season with 16 starts in Serie A alone. Kayode looks composed on the ball and more than willing to get stuck in defensively. The Italian national team might have another gem on their hands here.

Mathys Tel

Club: Bayern Munich
Age: 18
Position: Striker

Playing behind Harry Kane is going to result in limited chances for any player, regardless of age. However, Mathys Tel has taken full advantage of the opportunities he’s been given so far, hitting seven goals and four assists across all competitions so far this season; adding nicely to the six goals he scored for Die Roten upon joining from Rennes last campaign. It’s only a matter of time until Tel establishes himself as an elite force and links up with Kylian Mbappe in a terrifying French national team attack.

Jeanuël Belocian

Club: Rennes
Age: 19
Position: Centre-back

Rennes is a hotbed for talent right now and hoping to impress in a similar manner to Tel — albeit in a different position — is Jeanuël Belocian. The centre-back put in a few eye-catching performances toward the end of last season and picked up where he left off at the start of this campaign. Belocian has been rotated a little more of late but there’s no doubt he’s destined for greatness if he continues on his current trajectory.

Yankubah Minteh

Club: Feyenoord (on loan from Newcastle)
Age: 19
Position: Winger

Yankubah Minteh was loaned to Feyenoord just a day after joining Newcastle United from Danish side Odense and that now looks to be an inspired move from the Magpies. The Gambia international has terrorised Eredivisie defences, hitting seven goals and three assists in 19 league appearances so far, while also grabbing a goal against Celtic in the Champions League groupp stages. Minteh’s form has been a real dirivng force behind Feyenoord being comfortably the second-best team in the Ntherladns this season — PSV are in a different class right now — and he’ll already be eyeing up his spot when he returns to St. James’ Park.

Evan Ferguson

Club: Brighton
Age: 19
Position: Striker

Things have slowed up a little after an explosive start, but Evan Ferguson is still regularly showing the hallmarks of a future star, so much so that the likes of Manchester United and Chelsea are now regularly linked with him. That hat-trick against Newcastle United remains strong in the memory and was the perfect showcase of his talents.

Lewis Miley

Club: Newcastle
Age: 17
Position: Central midfielder

It was only due to injuries that Lewis Miley found himself thrust into this Newcastle team as a regular starter, but he’s made the very best of his unexpected opportunity. Just 17 years old, the midfielder has rubbed shoulders with the likes of PSG, AC Milan and Dortmund in the Champions League this season and has exuded class at times. There’s still a rawness to his game, but there’s no doubting Miley is the most exciting talent to come through at Newcastle in quite some time.

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