Five of the best: Young forwards in Europe

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To many people's surprise, AC Milan out-played Champions League favourites Barcelona to take a 2-0 lead in their first-leg on Wednesday evening.

And while the two goalscorers that stole the headlines may have spent time on the south coast of England with Portsmouth, of equal note was the performances of AC Milan's young strike-force.

Most people know about Stephan El Shaarawy. The Italy international is Milan's top scorer this season, and following the departure of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, he's established himself as one of the game's premier talents.

But he's not the only highly-rated striker knocking about the San Siro. 18-year-old M'Baye Niang was linked with Arsenal, Manchester City, Spurs and Everton after breaking into the Caen first-team aged just 16. Spurs even reportedly bid €8m for the teenager.

In the end, after trials with Arsenal, Everton, and Spurs, AC Milan got him.

The youngster is Milan's second youngest ever scorer, and featured towards the end of the club's victory over Barcelona on Wednesday. 

Even in such a brief cameo, his pace and technique impressed - the France under-21 international is certainly one for the future.

Add to the mix a 22-year-old Mario Balotelli and you've got one of the most exciting young forward lines in world football.

Anyway, all this got us thinking - who are five of the best forwards currently playing in one of Europe's top five leagues?

All players on this list are 20 years or younger, and yes, we know we've missed out some gems. Feel free to add your favourites in the comment box at the bottom...

Alvaro Morata | Real Madrid

Jose Mourinho gave Morata his first Real Madrid start last week against Rayo Vallecano, and he promptly scored within three minutes.

Although Sergio Ramos's red card led to a tactical shuffle - which saw Morata sacrificed - it's clear Mourinho now thinks the young forward is ready to lead the line at the Bernabeu.

His record for the Castilla - the Real Madrid B team - was sensational, and he notched 14 goals during last season's promotion winning campaign.

11 goals in 13 Spain under-19 appearances isn't too bad either, and the 6ft 3in forward has been compared with former-Madrid striker Fernando Morientes.

Stephan El Shaarawy | AC Milan

The 'little pharaoh' has already played, and scored, for Italy. And he's widely regarded as one of the players of the season in Serie 'A' so far.

With 15 league strikes to his name, El Shaarawy has scored 34% of AC Milan's goals this season, and he's second only to Edinson Cavani in the top scorer stakes.

Against Barcelona, his class was evident, not least in the neat line-up play with Niang for Sulley Muntari's goal in the 2-0 win.

Angelo Henriquez | Manchester United (Wigan on loan)

The Chilean international is another to have played and scored for his country. The 18-year-old moved to United from Universidad de Chile last year, before Sir Alex Ferguson quickly shipped him out to Wigan on loan.

He certainly knows where the goal is - he's already found the net for Roberto Martinez's side, and his record for Chile under 20s - 14 goals in 10 appearances - is incredible.

Ferguson was keen enough to shell out €4m for the teenager, while Martinez has been full of praise since his arrival - hailing his movement as "fantastic" and his all-round play as having "the profile of a goalscorer".

Romelu Lukaku | Chelsea (West Brom on loan)

If Stamford Bridge has been wracked by internal turmoil, at least Romelu Lukaku has not been affected. The 19-year-old was deemed surplus to requirements this season, but he's flourished at the Hawthorns.

The powerful striker offers something Chelsea lack, and assuming they don't panic spend on Radamel Falcao or Edinson Cavani, he should return to play a big role for the Blues next season.

He's certainly demonstrated his aptitude for the Premier League under Steve Clarke. A full Belgian international already, Lukaku is already a Premier League player. Expect him to be a Premier League star before long.

Son Heung-Min | Hamburg

Wanted by Chelsea, Manchester United and Spurs, Son Heung-Min has taken the Bundesliga by storm this season. He's currently Hamburg's top scorer with nine goals, but it's penchant for the spectacular that's really caught the eye this term.

A scorer of all types of goals, the 20-year-old attacker has bagged some absolute wonder-strikes this year.

Spurs were thought to be leading the chase to bring him to the Premier League, but Chelsea and United have now joined the race.

Known as the "Korean Muller" in Germany, watch out for Heung-Min at next year's World Cup - if not before in the Premier League.


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