Football Features

Every Premier League club’s most exciting young player

By Squawka News

Every Premier League club’s most exciting young player

Published: 19:04, 13 March 2024

There is nothing more satisfying in football than seeing a youngster or academy graduate break through into the first team.

Every season, a handful of teenagers enter the footballing psyche and have us all excited about how far they can go — especially if it’s for your team.

Fans are desperate for ‘the next x’ or insert location with famous player (‘Stockport Iniesta’, ‘Croydon De Bruyne’, etc.) to burst onto the scene and save your club a pretty penny in the transfer market.

Clubs like West Ham (known as the Academy of Football — and who sold Declan Rice for a British-record fee just last summer) pride themselves on having a talented production line. Indeed, there are already high hopes in east London that they’ve unearthed the next gem.

But, what of other clubs? The Premier League is awash with precocious stars every which way; some are already prominent fixtures in the 2023/24 season and others on the verge of making their breakthrough. Others, of course, have already experienced a big-money transfer in their short careers, but remain in the ‘wonderkid’ category.

Every club has one talented tyro, a wishful wunderkind upon whom all fans pin their hopes. Here, we look at those individual stars who could be the next to emerge. So, read on for every Premier League club’s most exciting young player…

Arsenal – Ethan Nwaneri

Ethan Nwaneri was 15 when he made his Arsenal debut last season. Let that sink in for a minute. When most of us were using school jumpers for goalposts on a concrete playground, Nwaneri was rubbing shoulders with footballing heavyweights on a pristine Premier League turf. The kid looks destined for greatness.

Indeed, he is the youngest Premier League player ever — and Arsenal, of course, have high hopes for him. After a contract dispute was finally settled last summer, with several Premier League clubs looking to turn his head, cough cough Chelsea cough cough, he is now looking to kick on in north London.

Interest reportedly remains from Manchester City — thanks largely to a season in which he’s hit 14 goals and three assists in 14 games for Arsenal’s U21s and featured again for the senior team –but it appears Nwaneri is about to receive a club-record contract offer for an Arsenal academy player.

Hale End has a formidable reputation when it comes to developing talent. Bukayo Saka, Emile Smith Rowe and Eddie Nketiah are all a tremendous advertisement. The likes of Harry Kane, Serge Gnabry, Eberechi Eze and Emiliano Martinez have all also been on the books at some point. Nwaneri is in capable hands.

Aston Villa – Jhon Duran

Jhon Duran still has a long way to go in his development and finding consistency will be key if he’s to become a true Premier League striker. However, he has shown flashes of the talent that pushed Aston Villa to pay a fee close to £18m to bring him from the Chicago Fire last year.

A purple patch toward the start of this season saw Duran net twice in both the Premier League and Europa Conference League and although they remain his only goals for the club to date, it was a glimpse into what he can do at full confidence.

Duran’s speed and physicality are already major assets, now it’s time for him to refine his game.

Bournemouth – Alex Scott

It’s not too often you see Bournemouth spending in the region of £25m for a player, but that’s just how highly they regard Alex Scott.

Already a 22-time international for England across various youth levels, Scott hasn’t looked out of place as a top-flight footballer thanks to his flawless technical proficiency and an ability to read the game that far exceeds his 20 years of age. The latter has allowed Scott to affect games from both attacking and deeper positions so far this season, with the former Bristol City youngster managing two goals and four assists across all competitions while averaging 2.1 tackles and 1.54 interceptions per 90 minutes in Premier League play.

If Scott can keep up these levels across more consistent minutes next season, that £25m fee will look increasingly more like a steal.

Brentford – Aaron Hickey

Thomas Frank has a pretty good track record of identifying unknown talents and transforming them into stars. The Bees naturally have to flourish in this department to keep up with the Premier League heavyweights who can blow them out of the water with gargantuan sums of wealth.

Aaron Hickey can’t exactly be classed as an ‘unknown’ talent given he’s well experienced in Serie A and the Scottish Premiership with Bologna and Hearts, respectively. He also cost Brentford an initial £14m.

But a current hamstring injury aside, he’s been well worth it, quickly becoming one of the most important defensive assets on the team for both Brentford and Scotland. Hickey has certainly been around the block for someone still just 21 years old.

Brighton – Evan Ferguson

The Seagulls have established themselves as the real-life ‘Football Managers’ in recent seasons, mopping up unheralded gems from across the globe, blooding them in and making them household names. With six Premier League goals to his name this season — including a hat-trick against Newcastle — Evan Ferguson is well on his way down that path. Things have slowed up a little after an explosive start, but 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.

Burnley – James Trafford

When England conceded a penalty in the dying embers of the U21 Euros final against Spain last summer, it looked as though they would concede their first tournament goal and head into extra time. Instead, James Trafford denied Abel Ruiz from 12 yards, and won England a first trophy since 1984. Trafford, for his part, kept a clean sheet in every game. Having spent the last two seasons on loan at Bolton, where he won the club’s ‘Young Player of the Year’ award last term, the 6ft 6in 21-year-old moved to Burnley from Man City for £15m in the summer. That was a hefty fee, but he ranks second in the Premier League for saves (107) this season and has made just one error leading to a goal in a Burnley side that has been quite frankly awful, keeping him very busy indeed.

Chelsea – Cole Palmer

Cole Palmer spent the start of this season scoring in both the Community Shield and Uefa Super Cup for Manchester City. Very shortly after, he turned heads by completing a shock £42.5m move to Chelsea. Despite the Blues’ struggles, the switch has paid off on a personal level with Palmer notching 13 goals and 11 assists in 33 appearances for the club across all competitions so far. He’s been one of the bright sparks in a dismal season at Stamford Bridge and has surely caught the attention of England manager Gareth Southgate ahead of the European Championships this summer.

Crystal Palace – Matheus Franca

Crystal Palace aren’t usually the club you associate with getting in on the Brazilian emerging talent market, but they made waves when spending £26m to bring Matheus Franca from Flamengo in the summer. Still just 19, Franca has had to remain patient when waiting for his chances with the Eagles this season, but the attacking midfielder’s time will surely come soon. He certainly showed enough in his formative years with the Flamengo powerhouse to suggest he’ll become a star.

Everton – Jarrad Branthwaite

Jarrad Branthwaite very nearly broke into the Everton team a couple of years ago under Frank Lampard, but it was decided that he needed one more loan with Dutch giants PSV last year to toughen him up. That stay in the Netherlands has worked a treat, with Branthwaite now a mainstay under Sean Dyche and arguably Everton’s best player.

The European Championships may come just a little too early for Branthwaite this summer; a summer which might well see Everton battling to keep hold of their latest wunderkind.

The next John Stones?

Fulham – Luke Harris

Harvey Elliott, Fabio Carvalho, Eberechi Eze, Ryan Sessegnon, Moussa Dembele, Fulham’s talent factory has been very productive in recent years, and Luke Harris looks like the latest sensation off that conveyor belt. The Jersey-born midfielder was handed three Premier League appearances by Marco Silva last term and featured extensively this pre-season.

A delicate and balanced midfielder, the 19-year-old has all the technical and stylistic qualities of an archetypal Silva player and was given further Premier League minutes at the start of the campaign before going on loan to Exeter in January.

Liverpool – Harvey Elliott

Whether or not Jurgen Klopp meant for Harvey Elliott to play such a prominent role this season — starting 21 games across all competitions — is unclear, but injuries and fixture congestion have left him no choice. In turn, however, the 20-year-old’s development has accelerated at an exceptional rate.

Whether on the wing or in midfield, Elliott has displayed incredible ability with the ball, while he’s coping much better with the elite levels Liverpool demand when it comes to the physical side of the game.

Elliott will be another with half an eye on Southgate’s England squad, especially if he can help Liverpool add to their EFL Cup success earlier this season.

Luton – Teden Mengi

After a number of loan spells, Teden Mengi decided to leave Manchester United in the summer and test himself in the top flight. The England youth international certainly picked one of the hardest possible tests, joining newly-promoted Luton Town, but he’s been a regular under Rob Edwards and that exposure to elite strikers will be priceless for his development.

It’s crucial that Luton load up on profitable assets and Mengi is certainly one of those.

Man City – Jeremy Doku

Clearly, Jeremy Doku doesn’t fall into the ‘unknown talent’ category. However, nobody could have foreseen just how quickly he’d adjust to the pressures of playing for a treble-winning side and English football.

One of the big hopes of Belgian football, Doku already has 10 direct goal involvements (4g/6a) across all competitions for the Cityzens, while his raw speed has offered a different flavour Manchester City haven’t really tasted since Leroy Sane’s departure.

Doku is, quite simply, one of the most exciting talents in the Premier League right now.

Man Utd – Kobbie Mainoo

Kobbie Mainoo made three appearances under Erik ten Hag last term and one in the Premier League, but that was just the opening act. This season, Mainoo has become a regular in the Man Utd midfield, playing 19 times across all competitions and, to be honest, often putting some of his more senior colleagues to shame.

Mainoo has composure, ability and tenacity in buckets and may well be the surprise solution the Red Devils have long been searching for in the middle.

Former Man Utd defender Wes Brown has even compared Mainoo to Real Madrid, AC Milan and Netherlands legend Clarence Seedorf.

“Do you know what? He does. I watched him, obviously at the youth team, but I have been watching him. [He’s] very calm and I know there’s a lot talked about him. But to me, I think he plays like Clarence Seedorf,” he told Squawka in an exclusive interview.

“Even the way he runs, the way he takes the ball, shields the ball. I played against Clarence a few times and he was absolutely quality, big, strong, did his job perfectly and had the calmness as well to play for a big team, in big games. I would say Clarence Seedorf.”

Newcastle – Lewis Miley

Lewis Miley was set to go with England to the U17 Euros in May, but Eddie Howe blocked the move so he could feature in Newcastle’s final three matchday squads. He duly did, even appearing off the bench against Chelsea on the final day of the campaign. This season, through a combination of sheer talent and rotten injury luck in the north east, Miley has played 25 times across all competitions, finding himself lining up against the likes of AC Milan, Borussia Dortmund and PSG in the Champions League before he’d even passed his driving test.

The 17-year-old is the most exciting prospect we’ve seen come through at Newcastle in quite some time.

Nottingham Forest – Dale Taylor

Not one for next season, as the 19-year-old has been loaned out to Wycombe Wanderers for the campaign, but keep an eye out for Dale Taylor in the future. The teenage forward impressed during a loan spell with Burton Albion last term and already has two senior caps for Northern Ireland. He’s not been prolific for Wycombe, but has provided a good focal point and is quickly learning what it’s like to come up against experienced defenders.

Sheffield United – Oliver Arblaster

Almost nothing has gone right for Sheffield United this season, but one thing that certainly has is signing Oliver Arblaster to a new contract. The 19-year-old — capped already across England youth teams — started the season on loan at League One side Port Vale but impressed so much that Chris Wilder recalled him back to Bramhall Lane, where he’s already featured twice in the Premier League since the start of March, including playing 80 minutes in a recent 2-2 draw with Bournemouth.

Liverpool were reportedly very keen on adding Arblaster to their enviable stockpile of young talents, so this really was a great move from Sheffield United.

Tottenham – Destiny Udogie

Alfie Devine, Ashley Phillips and Alejo Veliz figure among the exciting prospects out on loan from Tottenham this season but right now, Destiny Udogie is the young name on the lips of supporters. The Italian has been a mainstay at left-back under Ange Postecoglou since arriving back from his Udinese loan and has notched two goals and three assists in 23 Premier League appearances.

Udogie’s form has already seen him start to make inroads into the Italian national team and he can now firmly place himself among the most promising full-backs in Europe right now.

West Ham – Callum Marshall

Callum Marshall is yet to score in three appearances since joining West Brom on loan in January. However, he only made that move off the back of scoring 19 goals in 14 Premier League 2 games for West Ham. Already a senior international for Northern Ireland, it’s little wonder many fans see Marshall as the next teenage tyro to make the step up for the Hammers.

Wolves – Hugo Bueno

Wolves have a mixed record when it comes to young players, with more foreign talents tasting success over domestic ones. Hugo Bueno is another who falls into that category, with the Spain youth international left-back rising through the ranks and becoming a regular since the start of last season.

Bueno hasn’t quite set his position alight in the same manner as Udogie at Spurs, but he’s steadily developing and has been highly rated by multiple managers at Molineux.