Mount, Foden, Pedri: Ranking the 16 best U23 playmakers in world football

Florian Wirtz celebrates for Bayer Leverkusen

Mason Mount’s exceptional rise to stardom continued on Tuesday night during Chelsea‘s 1-1 draw with Real Madrid in the first leg of their Champions League semi-final. 

The prodigious English playmaker has been something of a divisive figure during the 2020/21 season, often evading the type of effusive praise that his stylistically comparable compatriots have earned. 

Jack Grealish, Phil Foden and James Maddison haven’t endured too many issues in convincing the wider footballing audience of their abilities, but the journey to universal appreciation has been less straightforward for Mount. 

However, attitudes towards the Chelsea academy graduate have shifted during the course of the season, and his newfound popularity reached a crescendo against Los Blancos this week. 

Pitted against Luka Modric and Toni Kroos, two of the most revered deep-lying playmakers of the modern era, Mount performed on a level with his midfield opponents.

The magnitude of the occasion clearly didn’t faze him; if anything, he seemed to revel in the grandeur of such a high-profile fixture. 

Is it time for Chelsea to cash-in on one major 2020 signing ALREADY? Find out more on The Football Terrace…

And his performance got the GIVEMESPORT team thinking about where Mount ranks amongst the best young playmakers on the planet. 

With that in mind, we’ve constructed a ranking of the 16 best playmakers aged 22 or under in world football. 

Take a look at the list in full below: 

16. Lee Kang-in (Valencia)

Dubbed the South Korean David Silva due to their uncanny stylistic similarities, Lee’s career is yet to fully take flight in La Liga. One to watch.

15. Christoph Baumgartner (Hoffenheim)

The six-cap Austria international, 21, has eight goals and seven assists in 40 games for Hoffenheim this season. 

14. Sofiane Diop (AS Monaco)

A well-rounded playmaker with the ability to slot deeper and operate closer to the striker, Sofiane Diop has scored seven goals in 32 Ligue 1 games for Monaco this season. 

13. Michael Olise (Reading)

Reading Michael Olise

Reading have fallen short of the Championship playoffs this season but they wouldn’t have gone so close without 19-year-old Michael Olise, who has provided ten assists and six goals thus far. 

12. Reinier (Borussia Dortmund – on loan from Real Madrid)

Reinier is a Brazilian sensation with the world at his feet. He’s endured a slow start to his temporary two-year stint with Dortmund but big things are expected.

11. Thiago Almada (Velez)

The only player from outside Europe on this list, Argentine sensation Thiago Almada has been compared to Lionel Messi and Eden Hazard.

10. Mohamed Ihattaren (PSV Eindhoven)

One of the most exciting young talents to emerge from The Netherlands in recent years.

Mohamed Ihattaren is a product of PSV’s academy and has three goals and two assists in 22 games. 

9. Rayan Cherki (Lyon)

Rayan Cherki is Hatem Ben Arfa-esque, the youngest ever goal scorer in Lyon’s esteemed history and the third-highest valued player born in the year 2003.

The hope is that he’ll channel his ability better than Ben Arfa ever did.

8. Jamal Musiala (Bayern Munich)

Jamal Musiala

Don’t let Jamal Musiala’s gangly frame mistake you: his balance, poise and agility in possession of the ball will take him to the top. 

His recent decision to pledge his international allegiance to Germany rather than England was perceived as a huge blow for the Three Lions.

7. Kai Havertz (Chelsea)

Kai Havertz hasn’t enjoyed a smooth transition to life in the Premier League but there have been enough glimpses of class to showcase his enormous ability. 

Expect him to thrive under Tuchel’s tutelage.

6. Martin Odegaard (Arsenal – on loan from Real Madrid)

That Martin Odegaard is even on this list underlines just how young he was when he broke onto the scene. 

The Norwegian has immense talent but looks like he’ll need a permanent move away from Real Madrid to realise his potential.

5. Giovanni Reyna (Borussia Dortmund)

Giovanni Reyna dribbles for Borussia Dortmund

Another on Dortmund’s roster of generational youngster, Giovanni Reyna has a dangerous combination of pace, quick-feet and close control sufficient to frighten world-class defenders. 

The USA international looks set to follow in Christian Pulisic’s footsteps and inspire a generation of youngsters back in his home country. 

4. Florian Wirtz (Bayer Leverkusen)

Florian Wirtz is the highest valued 17 year old in world football and the most valuable Bayer Leverkusen player, according to Transfermarkt.

The German sensation has six goals and seven assists in 33 games this season, emerging as one of the most potent players in the Bundesliga despite his incredibly tender age.

3. Pedri (Barcelona) 

Pedri joins Ansu Fati as the two golden boys of Barcelona’s next generation. 

The young Spaniard has already formed quite the intuitive connection with Lionel Messi and established himself as a regular under Ronald Koeman at 18 years of age. 

2. Mason Mount (Chelsea)

Growing in stature with every passing fixture, Mount appears to be the full package and destined to become one of world football’s most devastating creative talents.

1. Phil Foden (Manchester City) 

Phil Foden Manchester City

Has there ever been an English player quite like Phil Foden?

Whisper it quietly but there is a distinct Messi vibe about his graceful, slippery style of dribbling, while his tendency to pop up with goals at pivotal moments is a trait that is generally reserved for the truly elite. 

Something special is taking shape at the Etihad Stadium. 

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