Ten under-21 players with a big future ahead of them


The footballing community has witnessed some truly astonishing transfers over the past 12 months.

First, we had Raheem Sterling transferring to Manchester City for a fee of £49 million. Then came Anthony Martial to Manchester United for a potential £58 million. And now we've seen Bayern Munich spend a potential £62 million on Renato Sanches - a player who'd only made 68 professional appearances prior to his move.

What do all these deals have in common? All of the players in those deals were yet to turn 21. Martial and Sanches were actually still teenagers at the time of their transfers, being only 19 and 18-years-old respectively.


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With the ever-increasing money in football, teams are now more willing than ever to take a gamble on securing the best young talent, and potentially beating their rivals to the next big thing.

With this in mind, we take a look at ten of world football's most promising players under the age of 21, who just might find themselves the subject of a similar deal over the next 12 months.

Gabriel Barbosa

A name already familiar to Football Manager players all over the land and heir apparent to Neymar's throne of the most exciting young Brazilian player, Gabriel Barbosa certainly seems to have a very bright future ahead of him indeed.

Having broken through into Santos' team in 2013 aged just 16, Barbosa has since gone on to make 144 appearances for the famed Brazilian side, scoring a very impressive 51 goals along the way. All before his 20th birthday.


Most commonly referred to as either Gabigol, or simply Gabriel, Barbosa has also accumulated almost 30 appearances for Brazil's various youth sides - scoring a combined 16 goals - as well as earning a call-up to the senior side ahead of this summer's Copa America Centenario.

Viewed by many as a potential superstar, and key player for Brazil in the years to come, Barbosa has certainly gone about things the right way so far.

Mahmoud Dahoud

A complete unknown quantity to almost all before the start of this season, Dahoud's breakthrough and consequent development at Borussia Monchengladbach has been one of the standout stories from this year's Bundesliga.

Having only made three appearances for the club prior to the start of this season, Dahoud quickly established himself as a key component of new manager Andre Schubert's midfield this season, going on to make a further 41 appearances in all competitions.

U20 Poland v U20 Germany - International Friendly

Possessing a keen ability to pick out the right pass at the right time, Dahoud ended the season with nine league assists, as well as a further five goals - goals that ultimately proved crucial in helping Gladbach secure the fourth and final spot in next year's UEFA Champions League.

A player who will be looking to prove that his form this season wasn't just a one-off, 20-year-old Dahoud will certainly have a lot of eyes on him from the start of next season.

Breel Embolo

A full Switzerland International at the age of 18, and a player looking to make a big impact at Euro 2016, Breel Embolo is already reportedly attracting interest from some of Europe's elite clubs.

A product of FC Basel's academy, 19-year-old Embolo has already racked up 86 appearances for the Swiss club, scoring an impressive 30 goals.

This form led to a full call up from Switzerland at the start of last year, with Embolo since amassing nine caps for his national side as well as scoring his first goal - a penalty in a 7-0 win over San Marino.


Standing an inch over six foot and possessing pace in abundance, Embolo certainly already offers defenders a handful in terms of his sheer physicality and speed. If he can continue to hone his technical ability and prowess when in and around the area, expect to see his name in the headlines before long.

Ianis Hagi

Son of the legendary Romanian attacking midfielder Gheorghe Hagi - who scored an unbelievable 257 goals in 516 career league appearances - Ianis Hagi is already forming somewhat of a reputation for himself across Europe.

Having made his debut for FC Viitorul Constanta at the age of 16, Hagi has since gone on to be handed the club captaincy at the age of just 17 - albeit by his father who is the current manager of the club.

A tricky and pacey winger, capable of also playing through the middle like his father, Hagi has already made 38 senior appearances for the Romanian top flight outfit, as well as making 18 youth appearances for the national team.

Italy U18 v Romania U18 - International Friendly

Hagi's vast potential and the inescapable comparisons drawn between both himself and his illustrious father, are sure to be tempting more than one club around Europe's top leagues.

Youri Tielemans

Another player who will no doubt already be a familiar name to FIFA and Football Manager fans across the world, Youri Tielemans is hot property indeed.

Regarded by many as one of the brightest young prospects in world football, Tielemans has already appeared in over 120 competitive fixtures for Belgian heavyweights Anderlecht - a stat made all the more impressive by the fact he is yet to turn 20-years-old.

A central midfielder, capable of playing in a number of different roles and formations, Tielemans has reportedly already been scouted by a host of Premier League and La Liga sides, including both Manchester United and Manchester City.


With sides reportedly queueing up to secure his signature, Tielemans is unlikely to come cheap. Although, as teams are more and more willing to spend big in order to secure the best young talent, expect to see Tielemans on the move over the next 24 months.

Renato Sanches

Very big things are expected of young Renato Sanches. Very big things indeed.

Having recently tempted Bayern Munich into splashing out a potential £62 million in order to wrestle his signature away from long-term admirers Manchester United, Sanches' extraordinary breakthrough- as well as his raw potential and ability - have drawn inevitable comparisons with former Portuguese golden boy Cristiano Ronaldo.

Although comparisons to one of the sport's greatest ever players may seem a little premature, Sanches recently broke the record for the youngest Portuguese player ever to be called up for a major international tournament, at the age of 18, a record previously held by - you guessed it - Cristiano Ronaldo.


The comparisons don't stop there either. Having caught the eye of many around Europe earlier in the season after scoring a spectacular 35-yard goal against Academica, Sanches quickly established himself within the already impressive Benfica starting 11, helping the club win their third consecutive title and the 35th in the club's history.

A player who looks as if he has the world at his feet, don't be surprised if Renato Sanches' name is being mentioned in the same breath as Paul Pogba and Toni Kroos within the next two or three seasons.

Ante Coric

One of the brightest prospects to come out of Croatia since a certain Luka Modric, Ante Coric appears to have a very bright future ahead of him.

After previously being part of both the NK Zagreb youth set up, and Red Bull Salzburg academy, Coric signed for current club Dinamo Zagreb in 2014 for a fee of £700,000.

Dinamo Zagreb v KF Skenderbeu - UEFA Champions League: Qualifying Round Play Off Second Leg

After making his debut aged just 17, Coric has gone on to make almost 70 first team appearances in the two years that have followed, quickly establishing himself as a key player both within his team and within the league as a whole.

A diminutive playmaker with an excellent eye for a pass, at just 19, Coric will certainly present a tempting option to a host of teams around Europe seeking to add both youth and creativity to their side.

Goncalo Guedes

The second graduate of Benfica's academy to feature on this list, Goncalo Guedes is another bright young prospect to emerge from the Portuguese division.

Having established himself as a key player for Benfica's B side in the 2014/2015 season - with eight goals in 32 appearances from the wing - Guedes' form quickly won him a position within the senior team.


Going on to participate in 27 games for Benfica in the 2015/2016 season, Guedes offers pace, trickery, and the ability to score from either wing, a feature not lost on Portugal manager Fernando Santos, who has already given young Guedes two appearances within the senior national side.

Another player who might yet still benefit from more game time before a big money move, Guedes certainly has bags of potential, and with many years of development still ahead of him, Guedes certainly has time on his side.

Julian Brandt

Tall, fast, powerful, skilful. There's not a lot of things Julian Brandt can't do.

A graduate of Bayer Leverkusen's academy in the Bundesliga, Brandt has been a key player for the Champions League side over the past few seasons, contributing an impressive 15 goals in his 65 senior appearances.

With 52 appearances for Germany's various youth sides, Brandt is also hardly short of international experience, having been a key member of the side that won the UEFA European Under-19 Championship in 2014.


Brandt's form for both Leverkusen as well as Germany's youth set-up was also enough to persuade Joachim Low to include him in Germany's preliminary 27-man squad ahead of Euro 2016.

Leroy Sane

The final player on this list, and another young German of whom very big things are expected. Step forward Schalke's Leroy Sane.


A lightening fast midfielder capable of playing on either wing, as well as through the middle, Sane has been another standout player in the Bundesliga - scoring eight and assisting a further six in his 33 appearances.

Also already a full member of the Germany national side, having made his debut in a 0-2 defeat to France in November of last year, he has done enough to persuade coach Joachim Low that he deserves a place in the world champions' squad for Euro 2016 and he has the talent to set the tournament alight .

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