Teenacious and making it count in Europe
They are just 19, some even younger but have already got noticed at Europe’s top clubs this summer. At the international break, we take a look at some young stars.Updated: Oct 10, 2019 09:37 IST
Erling Brut Halaand
Club: Red Bull Salzburg
Be it in the Norwegian Eliteserien, the Austrian Bundesliga or the Champions League, he has a thing for making an immediate impact, having scored on debut in all three and hattricks in the last two. Even at Anfield, he scored within minutes of coming on as a sub. He is tall, strong and speaking to this newspaper recently, John Arne Riise, Norway’s most capped international, said choosing Salzburg would help him develop gradually. Riise said he has seen a lot of Halaand --- whose father Alf-Inge also played for Norway --- but added that even he was surprised at him beginning the Champions League with a hattrick. “I know he will keep scoring goals,” said Riise. We have no reason to disbelieve him.
Club: Borussia Dortmund
Inside nine minutes at the Salt Lake stadium, 46,152 people understood why Borussia Dortmund were keen on not releasing him for all England’s games in the 2017 U17 World Cup. Sancho had scored twice, his performance encapsulating a slick England show against Chile. With three goals and two assists Sancho helped England top the group. “People enjoyed seeing Jadon play,” said England U17 coach Steve Cooper. Less than one year after the U17 World Cup, Sancho made his senior England debut. He began this term with an assist and a goal against Bayern and last month, scored a brace for England in a Euro 2020 qualifier. The first of many, they hope.
Club: Manchester City
What Sancho started, Foden finished. His brace in the final of the U17 World Cup helped England win and this City player took the Golden Ball for his ability to combine artistry with industry. It is difficult to get a look-in in this star-studded City line-up and Pep Guardiola keeps apologising for keeping this small-sized midfielder out, but give him a minute and see him score. Ask Dinamo Zagreb. Foden is the “most, most, most talented player he has worked with,” Guardiola has said. This from a man who coached a certain Lionel Messi! England coach Gareth Southgate too can’t have enough of Foden but lack of game time at City is perhaps hurting chances of a senior England debut. Which, in turn, means talk about Foden leaving England like Sancho continues to grow.
Just one game old, he shouldn’t have been on the list. But consider this: he is a Newcastle boy who grew up supporting The Magpies, trained at their academy and last Sunday, on being slotted in by Steve Bruce alongside his brother Sean, nailed Manchester United down with a long-ranger. It is a story no one could have made up. Michael Owen, who knows a few things about being a teen star, said on television Longstaff’s life will change now with Bruce sure to slot him in when they travel to Chelsea. “It is quite ironic, Matty Longstaff beats them in his first game and I have been waiting for it for 20 years. Fantastic to see, isn’t it, a local boy playing alongside his brother and to score a goal like that,” said Bruce referring to the 1-0 win, his first against his former team. Sweet dreams are made of these.
Another one from England’s U17 World Cup winning squad, these past few months have been one roller-coaster ride. He made his senior England debut at 18 years and 135 days breaking Duncan Edwards’ 1955 record, was ruled out for five months due to an Achilles injury and made the most of his first start against Southampton which the Blues won 4-1. This came after his assist was converted by Willian against Lille. From almost leaving the Chelsea of Maurizio Sarri to being given a new five-year deal as Frank Lampard reposes faith in young ones, Hudson-Odoi is proof that life is what happens when you are busy making other plans. “When people are in good form, things happen for them,” said Lampard after the win against the Saints. He wasn’t speaking about Hudson-Odoi but he could well have been.
Here’s another one of a boy born in a Valencian community who joins Valencia at age six, goes on to play for the senior team and scores his first La Liga goal in January 2019. Torres has been linked to Barcelona and Real Madrid but has stayed on at the club whose academy he joined in 2006. The right-side midfielder likes to play short passes and is good in the air. In 10 games this season, Torres has two goals, one assist and a pass completion rate of 78%. Reason enough for the top guns in Europe to come calling again soon.
Club: Atletico Madrid
Position: Forward/attacking midfielder
The Portuguese lit up the Primeira Liga in his debut season for Benfica’s senior team in 2018/19, scoring 20 goals across all competitions. No wonder Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid came calling last summer, signing him for a gargantuan sum of €126 million, a record figure for a teenager. Already being touted as the next big thing in world football, Felix, however, hasn’t had it easy rising through the ranks in Portugal’s domestic game. Released by Porto before he turned 15, the slender-framed footballer spent a year at lower league side Padroense before being picked up by Benfica. It is with the Lisbon giants that Felix finally made his breakthrough.
Club: Real Madrid
A few Indian football fans may recall this youngster from the 2016 U17 BRICS Cup in Goa, where he helped a Brazilian side cruise to the title. A year later, he would miss out on participating at the U17 World Cup in India due to club commitments with Flamengo, for whom he was already a first-team regular at the time. By then, European super-rich clubs were circling around Vinicius Jr., and immediately upon him completing his 18th birthday in July, 2018, which made him eligible for an international transfer, Spanish heavyweights Real Madrid swooped on him. Now a regular in Zinedine Zidane’s side, he helped Real script a comeback against Club Brugge in the Champions League.
Born in Guinea-Bissau, Fati moved with his family to Spain when he was six. After spending two years in the youth ranks of Sevilla, he joined the famed La Masia in 2012. The 16-year-old winger surprised pundits and fans when he was introduced as a late substitute for Barcelona in a league game against Real Betis at Camp Nou in August. Fati hadn’t even played for the Catalans’ reserve side at the time. However, his talent became evident six days later when he scored against Osasuna in the league. Two weeks later, he scored and assisted against Valencia.
One of the most highly-rated youngsters in French football, Camavinga, 16, features week-in, week-out for Rennes at the heart of its midfield. When PSG visited in August, Camavinga ran the show from the centre of the park, overwhelming his fancied counterparts as Rennes stunned their Parisian opponents 2-1. He has continued his rich vein of form, winning the league’s best player accolade in August and cementing his reputation as one of the brightest prospects in the game. Still in school, Camavinga is reportedly the subject of interest among some of the continent’s biggest clubs.
For a country that gave the world the likes of Ferenc Puskas, Sandos Kocsis, among others, the once famous ‘Mighty Magyars’ haven’t been able to produce a football superstar in recent decades.
Yet, there is hope in Hungary that Dominik Szoboszlai could finally be the kind of player the country has long been yearning for. In just over one season with RB Salzburg’s senior squad, Szoboszlai has shown more than just flashes of brilliance in central midfield; he even scored a goal when they returned to the Champions League after seasons of heartburn. While the player is reported to have attracted interest from the likes of Arsenal and Liverpool, it remains to be seen how he handles the huge expectations from his fellow Hungarians.
The Arsenal academy product made his senior debut for the Gunners at the age of 17 last season. He has gone on to bag a few more appearances for the team since.
The ongoing season is proving to be his breakthrough campaign and, following his impressive showing in the Europa League against Eintracht Frankfurt where he scored once and assisted twice, Saka is being seen as an effective option on the left wing of Unai Emery’s team. In recent weeks, Emery hasn’t hesitated from handing Saka a regular place in the starting line-up. A England youth international, the 18-year-old will hope to continue his current run of form.
First Published: Oct 10, 2019 09:23 IST