Stars of the future: Fabrice Olinga & Alen Halilović
A look at some of European football's most talented 16-year-olds
Most 16-year-olds are not preoccupied with trying to break into the first teams of clubs playing in some of the best leagues in the world, but this talented trio are.
Neal Maupay | Nice
Neal Maupay will turn 17 in August and by then he could well have made an impressive number of appearances for his side, Nice.
The talented young forward has been at the club since 2007 and his progress has been superbly guided by veteran coach Claude Puel. The former Lille boss is no stranger to developing future world beaters, having given a 16-year-old Eden Hazard his debut five years ago and so far it looks like he could have unearthed another gem in Maupay.
The nimble attacker is the definition of a poacher: he will rarely get involved in the team’s approach play but he already possesses some key skills to help flourish in his role. He is extremely quick, has good movement and so far has been fairly clinical in front of goal for one so young.
With Italian giants AC Milan thought to be interested in this prestigious talent it will be interesting to see how his career develops.
Fabrice Olinga | Malaga
Another striker, this time from Spain, Fabrice Olinga has been hitting the headlines recently as he became Cameroon’s youngest ever scorer.
Olinga started his footballing career with the Samuel Eto’o - a comparison he will probably never be able to shake off - foundation and then moved to Mallorca’s academy in Spain. He was then snapped up by Malaga and this season, following a number of high-profile departures, coach Manuel Pellegrini has had to bring the youngster in his first-team squad.
A strong forward, equally capable of running at defenders or into the channels, Olinga looks a raw but extremely talented young player. With correct coaching and regular game-time he could well emulate the man many think he could.
Alen Halilović | Dinamo Zagreb
The young Croatian attacking midfielder shot to the attention of the European media in the autumn when he made his Champions League debut, aged just 16, against PSG.
As Dinamo’s youngest ever player and the Croatian league’s youngest ever scorer it is easy to see why there are a number of big European teams chasing the youngster dubbed "the next Luka Modrić". Both Manchester clubs are said to have already lined up potential moves for the playmaker when he turns 18.
With fellow attacking midfielders Modrić and more recently Mateo Kovacić moving onto play for some of the biggest sides in Europe it now seems that it will only be a matter of time before Halilović makes the next step on his career.
Three wonderfully gifted players and it is frightening to see such talent in players so young. Of course, with players this young, burnout is always likely to be a problem so it is up to the respective clubs and coaches to ensure they are developed properly.
Playing time is also a key factor and I would like to see these three establish themselves fully at their current clubs before considering lucrative moves away.
One final mention should go to a starlet who is too young to even make it onto this list. Fifteen-year-old Hachim Mastour moved from Reggiana to AC Milan in the summer and is showing all the signs of a future world-class player. He is has been dubbed "the Moroccan Messi" and looks set to have a bright future in the game.
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