Some say the greatest wealth a footballer can have is experience. However, this adage seems to be getting less and less important as more and more exciting young stars appear as every season goes on.
Such has been the emergence of the power of youth in today's footballing world that it now proves a difficult task to chose a best XI of players under the age of 21. However, here is an attempt to make a team out of the most promising young talents in world football.
Goalkeeper: Thibaut Courtois
Belgian shot stopper Thibaut Courtois has been a solid wall in front of the goal for Atletico Madrid this season, and his performances have helped the Madrid outfit keep the best defensive record in the league. Having only conceded 30 goals with 19 clean sheets, Courtois has confirmed his status as one of the best young players on the planet.
Right-back: Daniel Carvajal
When Real Madrid sold promising young right-back Daniel Carvajal to Bayer Leverkusen last summer, few would have predicted the impact that he would have in his first season in German football. Primarily an attacking wing-back, Carvajal has combined exemplary discipline in defence with astute attacking prowess to excel with the German club. In fact, he had the most number of successful crosses for any defender in the German league, and is fourth in the league for number of interceptions made. With Real Madrid having kept a buy-back clause in his contract, Carvajal could well be on his way back to the Spanish capital - and this time he could be there to stay.
Centre-back: Phil Jones
Some critics were cynical when Sir Alex Ferguson bought Phil Jones for a whopping £16.5 million. However, the former Blackburn man has repaid the faith and money invested in him by the outgoing United boss, giving some quality performances for the Red Devils. Perhaps the most amazing quality of the 21-year-old is his ability to slot seamlessly into any position, having already having played at centre-back, right-back and central midfield. Even though his time in a red shirt has been limited due to injury, Jones' outstanding performances have shown he more than merits a place in this list.
Centre-back: Raphael Varane
Two summers ago, an unheard-of player named Raphael Varane found himself in the middle of a transfer battle between Real Madrid and Manchester United. Varane eventually joined Madrid and had a fairly quiet first season in the Spanish capital. However, an injury to Pepe last season opened the door for Varane to shine - and the young Frenchman has never looked back. Consistent showings ensured he ousted Pepe from Madrid's starting line-up, and Varane has shown he has an amazing head on his shoulders. If this season is any indication, this could well be the birth of a defender who can rule the footballing world for years to come.
Left-back: David Alaba
The versatile young defender has been in amazing form throughout the last two seasons, cementing the left-back position as his own in the Bayern Munich line-up. The Austrian has been a vital cog in Bayern's defence which conceded a record low 18 goals all season. A ball-playing left-back, the youngster has often initiated counter attacks from deep within his own territory. His displays with both club and country have earned him the Austrian Player of the Year Award twice, with the player still not 21 years of age.
Defensive midfield: Paul Pogba
Paul Pogba's maiden season at Juventus has seen him recognised as one of the brightest young talents in the game. Breaking into a central midfield consisting of Andrea Pirlo, Arturo Vidal and Claudio Marchisio was considered unlikely, but Pogba achieved it with relative ease. Such was his impact that Antonio Conte often changed his preferred formation of 3-4-3 to 3-5-1-1 just so Pogba could be accommodated. A player with both brute strength as well as delicate touches, the Frenchman has scored five league goals this season, most of them from long range. His stellar performances for the Old Lady also prompted a call-up to the France senior squad.
Attacking midfield: Mario Gotze
Mario Gotze is one of the best complete midfielders in the world today. Having already played more than 20 matches for Germany at the tender age of 20, Gotze is one of the best playmakers on the planet. His dazzling array of skills and breathtaking dribbling ability enables him to skip past defenders with ease. Gotze's form and his link-up play with Marco Reus and Robert Lewandowski has been instrumental in Borussia Dortmund's run to the Champions League final this season. His amazing displays with the Dortmund team prompted Bayern Munich to acquire the services of the youngster, shelling out the highest price ever paid for a German player.
Attacking midfield: Jack Wilshere
Jack Wilshere is probably the most complete midfielder Arsenal have in their roster. Even though his time at the north London club has been seriously hampered by injuries, his performances have been top-drawer. Comfortable both in a deep lying role as well as further up the field, Wilshere has shown an amazing capacity to dictate the course of the game from the middle. A classical schemer - the likes of Wilshere are a rare commodity in the modern game.
Few players are more famous in world football than Brazilian winger Neymar. A player with electric pace and astounding skill-set, Neymar has been compared to the likes of Pele. Neymar leads the way among the new generation of Brazilian forwards and is one of the hottest properties in the world. Even though he plays out wide, he also has an amazing scoring record, having scored 20 goals in 32 games for the Seleccao.
Right-wing: Erik Lamela
Probably Roma's best player this season, Erik Lamela has enjoyed an amazing few months in a maroon shirt. He has been the focal point of everything Roma have produced this season in attack, scoring 25 goals this season. The young Argentine has been, along with fellow youngster Marquinhos, one of the very few consistent players for Roma, with his forays down the left-hand causing havoc for opposing defenders.
Striker: Stephan El Shaarawy
Fielded here in a more central role than his preferred position down the left, Stephan El Shaarawy has been Milan's best player. With a style reminiscent of Alessandro Del Piero, his goals cutting in from the left have been an absolute joy to watch. For long stretches during the season, it was El Shaarawy's amazing form that dragged a limping Milan through tough times.
Marc Andre Ter Stegen, Matija Nastasic, Marquinhos, Lucas Moura, Oscar, Isco, Romelu Lukaku.
Do you agree with the Under-21 XI? What players do you think are deserving of a place in this star-studded line-up? Have your say below!
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