Havertz, Donnarumma, De Ligt: What happened to The Guardian's 2016 Next Generation?

Gianluigi Donnarumma

Predicting football's next group of stars is far from easy.

Each year since 2014, The Guardian has published its Next Generation list, featuring 50 to 60 of the world's best up-and-coming talents. However, not all the players included have become household names.

The 2016 list is now five years old, but where are the players now? Here, we look back at the list and see where some are now.

The List

Ezequiel Barco

Now at Atalanta United following a switch from Independiente. Was a part of Argentina's Olympic squad for Tokyo 2020.

Maximiliano Romero

Initially showed promise at Velez Sarsfield, but failed to break into PSV Eindhoven's first team, mainly playing for their B side.

Maximiliano Romero

Vahan Bichakhchyan

An 11-time Armenia international, Bichakhchyan is enjoying a fantastic start to the season with MSK Zilina, where he has nine goals and seven assists in 22 games from midfield.

Sebastian Pasquali

Back in Australia after a disappointing spell at Ajax, where he was unable to make a single first team appearance. Still without a Socceroos cap.

Mile Slivar

Svilar will be a name familiar to fans of Manchester United, against whom he made his Champions League debut in October 2017, aged just 18 years and 52 days. That made him the youngest goalkeeper in the competition's history.

Mile Svilar

Also the youngest goalkeeper to play for Benfica, he became the youngest shot-stopper to save a penalty in Europe's premier club competition in the return leg against United, but an error contributed to a 2-0 defeat. Since then, Svilar's career has stalled – in the last two campaigns, he has made just one appearance for Benfica, although he did make his Serbia debut in September this year.

Valentino Muller

Has so far forged out a relatively solid career in Austria, where he currently plays for WSG Tirol. Has three goals in 19 matches this season.

Thibaud Verlinden

Played for Stoke City and Bolton Wanderers before moving to the Netherlands. Has not scored in six outings on loan at Slovakian top-tier side Dunajska Streda.

Thibaud Verlinden

Indy Boonen

After failing to make the grade at Manchester United, Boonen returned to Belgium. Now at Oostende, but is more often on the bench than in the starting line-up.

Brahim Diaz

Diaz burst onto the scene at Manchester City, picking up a Premier League medal in 2018 as the Cityzens won the title. He scored twice in 15 matches under Pep Guardiola before moving to Real Madrid, netting the English side a cool £15m.

City included a 40% sell-on clause if Diaz were sold to “another Manchester club”, suggesting they expected him to go on to big things. However, while he has found relative success on loan at AC Milan, scoring four times in 16 games this term as the Rossoneri fight for the Serie A title, he has not yet fulfilled his clear potential.

Nedim Hadzic



Scored 35 goals in 35 matches for FK Sarajevo's U19s during the 2016/17 season. He has done okay in the professional game, although he has not matched his tally at youth level. Currently with Slaven Belupo Koprivnica in Croatia.

Luiz Fernando

Fernando's career has bombed since his inclusion on The Guardian's list. Is still in the Brazilian first division with America-MG but has not played for them yet.

Fabricio Oya

Despite his promise, he did not make a single appearance in the Brazilian top flight. Currently in Belarus with Torpedo-BelAZ Zhodino, but has not done too much so far.

Reiss Nelson

Nelson has threatened to become an Arsenal regular in recent years but has failed to so far. His most impressive spell came on loan at Hoffenheim, where he scored seven goals in 23 Bundesliga outings during the 2018/19 campaign.

Reiss Nelson

That earned him a spot in the Gunners squad for the following term. A mixture of injuries, poor form and the coronavirus pandemic thwarted his progress, though, and he featured just 17 times in the Premier League as a result. He is now on loan at Feyenoord, where he has not pulled up any trees.

Nicolas Reis Bernardo

At GD Chaves, the Portuguese second tier. Not a single appearance this season.

Vladislav Zhikov

The list helped Zhikov's career – he soon signed for AC Milan and was also watched by Chelsea. That was as good as it got for the Bulgarian, who now plays for lower-league Italian side Volterrana.

David Salazar

Three goals in 13 matches for Chilean second-tier side Magallanes CF this season on loan from O'Higgins, his best tally in a campaign to date.

Shan Huanhuan

A centre-forward for Dalian Professional, Huanhuan has not scored a single goal to date, which is the best indication of how his career has gone so far.

Dujon Sterling

While several Chelsea academy talents have fought their way into both Frank Lampard's and Thomas Tuchel's plans over the past couple of years, Sterling remains a part of the Blues' loan army.

Dujon Sterling

The wing-back featured twice for the London outfit during the 2017/18 season before moving to Coventry City, Wigan Athletic and Blackpool on short-team deals. He looks unlikely to make an impact at Stamford Bridge and must start considering a permanent switch.

Juan Camilo Hernandez

In comparison to many names on this last, Hernandez has done rather well. Has been on the books of Watford since 2017, scoring once in two Premier League games this term. Netted twice in his only Colombia cap to date.

Christian Frydek

Frydek has enjoyed a solid, unspectacular career in the Czech Republic and Slovak top flights with several clubs. Two goals and two assists in 11 league games for Slovan Liberec this season.

Jens Odgaard

Already featured for seven clubs. His best spells have come in the Eredivisie with Heerenveen and now RKC Waalwijk. May never play at the highest, but has the quality to forge out a respectable career.

Sergei Eremenko

Eremenko is the younger brother of Roman and Alexei, who are both Finland internationals. Given he is already in his fourth loan spell in as many years, he is unlikely to join them any time soon.

Arne Maier

Once regarded as one of Germany's most promising youngsters, Maier has failed to live up to the hype. Despite Hertha Berlin's struggles in the Bundesliga in recent seasons, the midfielder was unable to stake a claim for a regular first-team spot and has instead embarked on loan spells with Arminia Bielefeld and Augsburg.

Arne Maier

He has enjoyed more success on the international stage, helping Germany win this summer's U21 European championships, while he was also included in his country's Olympic squad. In Tokyo, though, Germany crashed out in the group stage, with Maier featuring in all three matches.

Samuel Atta Mensah

Previously called the Ghanaian Luka Modric, Mensah has made no impact anywhere outside his home country.

Antonis Stergiakis

Currently with Blackburn Rovers after leaving Slavia Sofa, but has not played a game for the Lancashire outfit.

Kolbeinn Finnsson

He made eight appearances for Borussia Dortmund's second team this season before suffering a shin injury. Also an 18-time Iceland youth international.

Alban Lafont

Lafont has enjoyed steady progress since becoming Ligue 1's youngest goalkeeper in 2015, aged 16 years and 310 days. Three years with Toulouse were followed by a move to Fiorentina, although a number of high-profile errors matched his shot-stopping ability in Italy.

Alban Lafont

After just one season with La Viola, Lafont returned to France with Nantes in 2019, initially on loan before he was captured permanently. The shot-stopper has worked his way through the age groups with Les Bleus, although he is yet to make his senior debut.

Mohammad Soltani Mehr

Has no Iran caps to his name and is a bit-part player at Zob Ahan Esfahan.

Gianluca Scamacca

Scamacca's stock has risen in recent months, especially after being given his Italy debut by Roberto Mancini in September. Has five goals in 16 Serie A matches this season for Sassuolo, where he looks settled.

Gianluigi Donnarumma

Arguably the most successful player on this list, Donnarumma has grown into one of the world's leading goalkeepers. The best, actually, if you go by the latest Ballon d'Or rankings, in which the Italian finished tenth.

Gianluigi Donnarumma

Donnarumma was AC Milan's number one from 16, playing 251 times in all competitions before moving to Paris Saint-Germain in the summer. That came after his performances between the sticks for Italy helped the Azzurri to the Euro 2020 trophy – he saved two penalties in the final shoot-out with England.

Gaoussou Nilmar Sow

Has fallen off the radar after his inclusion on the list. According to Transfermarkt, he has been without a club for three years.

Shunta Nakamura

Two goals in 25 matches in Japan's third tier this season. Yet to play in the top flight.

Sekou Koita

Koita is perhaps the next promising striker to come from Red Bull Salzburg, following in the footsteps of Erling Braut Haaland and Patson Daka.

Sekou Koita

The Mali international has 14 goals in 20 Austrian Bundesliga outings this season and has struck three times in four Austrian Cup games. He has not yet scored in the Champions League, but he will have more chances if Salzburg make it out of the group this season.

Paolo Medina

Has already played in four countries. He is currently playing for UD Logrones in the Spanish lower leagues.

Edwin Lara

Featured briefly in the Mexican top flight, but Lara is now without a club after leaving San Diego 1904 FC in the summer.

Lazar Carevic

Moved from the Montenegrin top flight to Barcelona B in 2017, where he is now a back-up goalkeeper.

Matthijs de Ligt

Given the way de Ligt performed early on at Ajax, it was always going to be hard for him to remain at that level. The central defender was a key figure of the Dutch side's journey to the Champions League semi-finals in 2019, which ultimately ended in heartbreak following an away goals defeat to Tottenham.

Matthijs de Ligt

Juventus were convinced to part with €75m to capture his services that summer. Although he has been a first-team regular for the Old Lady, his arrival has coincided with their downturn in form – they only finished fourth last year in Serie A after nine straight titles, and are currently fifth this term. De Ligt played for the Netherlands at Euro 2020, but was sent off in the round of 16 as his side lost to the Czech Republic.

Tahith Chong

Chong has shown flashes of his ability at Werder Bremen, Club Brugge and Birmingham City, but time is running out if he wants to break into the Manchester United starting XI.

Kingsley Michael

Has one cap for Nigeria and has featured in Serie A twice for Bologna this season.

Marcelino Namandu

Seems to have played just twice for Club Cerro, the only side of his career.

Kamil Grabara

Grabara could not make an impression at Liverpool, although he is FC Copenhagen's number one goalkeeper as they look to win the Danish top-flight title.

Malang Sarr

Sarr is currently on the books of Chelsea, signing on a free transfer last season. He started the Blues' clash with Brentford earlier this term, helping to keep a clean sheet as Tuchel's side won 1-0.

Malang Sarr

He spent last year on loan at Porto, although he played just 19 times for the Portuguese outfit. At Nice, he originally made his name, appearing 119 times before seeking new pastures. Even if he has plenty of competition for a starting spot at the Bridge, a promising future awaits.

Jose Gomes

Benfica have produced plenty of world-class talents down the years, but Gomes isn't one of them. Has two goals in 16 games for Bulgarian side Cherno More this season.

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Domingos Quina

Chelsea, West Ham, Watford and Fulham have all signed Quina at different times but, although he did score twice in eight La Liga games for Granada last season, he has been unable to make an impact at any.

Diogo Dalot

Dalot has started Manchester United's last two games, one of which came under new boss Ralf Rangnick, as the Red Devils picked up a maximum six points.

Diogo Dalot

It has taken a while for the five-time Portugal international to receive the recognition he deserves. He played 16 times in the Premier League during the 2018/19 season, but featured on just four occasions across the subsequent two campaigns. A solid spell at AC Milan last year, where he played 33 times in all competitions as the Italian side qualified for the Champions League, has helped his United cause.

Vlad Dragomir

Plays in the Cypriot top tier for Pafos FC. Didn't do too badly at Perugia after leaving Arsenal.

Daniil Utkin

Akhmat Grozny are going well in seventh place in the Russian Premier League, and Utkin has contributed heavily, scoring six goals in 16 matches from midfield.

Dejan Joveljic

14 goals in 28 Red Star Belgrade matches earned Joveljic a move to Eintracht Frankfurt. Managed just one goal for the German side, but did score 17 times in 32 matches for Wolfsberger AC last season in Austria before moving to LA Galaxy.

Shungo Dutiro

Very little can be found on Dutiro, who most recently played for Mamelodi Sundowns' reserve side in South Africa.

Kim Jung-Min

Played for Red Bull Salzburg's feeder side FC Liefering but is now back in his homeland of South Korea. Does have one international cap to his name.

Kai Havertz

Havertz has been tipped for stardom ever since he made his debut for Bayer Leverkusen in 2016, with him regularly compared to Michael Ballack.

Kai Havertz

He has a fair way to go to emulate the Germany legend, but he has done well so far. At Leverkusen, he scored 29 goals in his last two Bundesliga seasons, displaying versatility by playing in midfield and, occasionally, up front. A move to Chelsea followed and, although just nine goals came in his first season, one of them was the winner in the Champions League final against Manchester City. There have been flashes of his vast ability at Stamford Bridge, although the Blues supporters may have expected more.

Alejandro Pozo

Pozo has appeared for Sevilla, RCD Mallorca, Eibar, Granada and now UD Almeria. Has one Spain cap to his name.

Manu Morlanes

A regular for Espanyol in La Liga. On loan from Villarreal, for whom he has played 31 times.

Joel Asoro

Asoro was at Sunderland as they slipped through the leagues to the English third tier. Currently plays for Djugardens in Sweden, bagging three goals in 26 matches this season.

Andi Zeqiri

Zeqiri is on loan at Augsburg from Brighton and has impressed, scoring twice and providing two assists in 11 matches. Scored 17 goals in 32 matches for Lausanne in 2019/20.

Alexander Isak

Although Zlatan Ibrahimovic is still in the Sweden squad, at 39 he surely does not have too long left in the game. Fortunately for the Scandinavian country, Isak already looks like a star striker in the making.

Alexander Isak

He first made an impact at AIK in his homeland before switching to Borussia Dortmund, who are known for their ability to develop youngsters. It didn't work out for him in Germany, but a loan move to Willem II showed his potential, and Real Sociedad took notice to sign him.

He now has 39 goals in 107 games for the Spanish side, including 17 in La Liga last season. For Sweden, he has eight strikes in 31 games and should lead the line for the foreseeable future.

Sittichok Paso

Struggled to make an impact in the Thai top tier and is now playing in Japan's second division.

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Abdulkadir Omur

Trabzonspor currently top the Turkish Super Lig by 12 points from Fenerbahce, and Omur has played in all but one match. Has 10 caps for Turkey, too.

Nick Taitague

Unfortunately, Taitague has had to call time on his career, with a series of injuries preventing him from fulfilling his dream.

Nick Taitague

He was signed by Schalke 04 in 2017, but never played for their first team. Instead, he appeared for their II side before retiring earlier this year. Although he never transitioned to the senior squad, he represented the USA at several youth levels. It remains to be seen whether he returns to football in a different role.

Nicolas Schiappacase

On the books of Sassuolo, but has not played a minute this season. Has a huge 21 goals in 47 matches for Uruguay's U20s.

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