Mbappe, Odegaard, Donnarumma: The best U18 XI in Europe was named in 2016

In 2016, a 17-year-old Kylian Mbappe was emerging into one of Ligue 1’s biggest stars with Monaco.

The Frenchman was one of the hottest properties in world football and was named in Marca’s XI of best European players aged 18 or under.

But who else made Marca’s side? And, six years on, how are they faring?

GK: Gianluigi Donnarumma

Donnarumma became AC Milan’s starting goalkeeper at the age of just 16 years old.

He has since emerged into one of the best goalkeepers in world football.

After 251 appearances for the Italian giants, Donnarumma made the move to Paris Saint-Germain in 2021.

He has played 40 times for Italy and was named Player of the Tournament in Gli Azzurri’s Euro 2020 triumph.

RB: Cristian Manea

Manea has not hit the heights expected of him. In 2016, Maena was 18 years old and at Belgian outfit, Mouscron.

He now turns out for CFR Cluj in the Romanian top tier.

CLUJ-NAPOCA, ROMANIA – JULY 06: Cristian Manea of CFR Cluj celebrate the victory after the match between CRF Cluj v Borac Banja Luka – UEFA Champions League First Qualifying Round 1st Leg on July 6, 2021 in Cluj-Napoca, Romania. (Photo by Vasile Mihai-Antonio/Getty Images )

CB: Joe Gomez

Gomez had recently made the move from Charlton Athletic to Liverpool six years ago.

He’s still at Liverpool but injuries have curtailed his progress and he’s now on the periphery of the first-team.

Gomez has played just 14 times this campaign and a move away from the club could be on the cards this summer.

CB: Reece Oxford

Oxford made his West Ham debut at the age of 16 and, at the time of writing, is the seventh youngest player ever to appear in the Premier League.

The Englishman was highly thought of and was even compared to one of the best defenders of the 21st century, Rio Ferdinand.

But he has not had the career expected of him thus far. Oxford is now turning out for FC Augsburg in the Bundesliga.

MOENCHENGLADBACH, GERMANY – FEBRUARY 12: Reece Oxford of Augsburg during the Bundesliga match between Borussia Mönchengladbach and FC Augsburg at Borussia-Park on February 12, 2022 in Moenchengladbach, Germany. (Photo by Frederic Scheidemann/Getty Images)

LB: Kieran Tierney

In 2017, at the age of just 20, Tierney was named Celtic’s captain.

He played 170 times for the club, winning eight trophies, before joining Arsenal in 2019.

He’s suffered from a few injury problems but the Scotsman has established himself as one of the Premier League’s best left-backs.

CM: Renato Sanches

In 2016, Sanches was viewed as the most talented youngster in the world.

After starring for Portugal in their Euro 2016 triumph, where he was named Young Player of the Tournament, Sanches won the Golden Boy award.

A move from Benfica to Bayern Munich followed but he failed to live up to expectations at the German club.

After a dismal loan spell with Swansea City, Sanches is now rebuilding his career with Lille.

He has been spectacular for the French side and helped them to a shock Ligue 1 triumph in 2021. With just over a year left on his contract, a move to one of the biggest clubs in the world seems on the horizon.

LONDON, ENGLAND – FEBRUARY 22: Renato Sanches of Lille in action during the UEFA Champions League Round Of Sixteen Leg One match between Chelsea FC and Lille OSC at Stamford Bridge on February 22, 2022 in London, England. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

CM: Youri Tielemans

Tielemans established himself in Anderlecht’s first team at the age of just 16 years old.

After a successful two-year spell with Monaco, the midfielder made the £32 million move to Leicester City in 2019.

He has been brilliant for the Foxes over the past few years. He scored a brilliant winner as Leicester beat Chelsea in the FA Cup final last year.

LEICESTER, ENGLAND – MARCH 05: Youri Tielemans of Leicester City celebrates after victory in the Premier League match between Leicester City and Leeds United at The King Power Stadium on March 05, 2022 in Leicester, England. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

CM: Ruben Neves

Viewed as one of the best youngsters in the world in 2016, Neves made the surprise move to Wolverhampton Wanderers, who were in the Championship at the time, a year later.

He has been influential for Wolves ever since, scoring 23 times in 204 games for the club. The vast majority of his goals have been screamers.

LW: Kylian Mbappe

We all know how Mbappe is getting on right now. Mbappe made a blockbuster move to PSG in 2017 and he’s gone from strength-to-strength ever since.

He’s already one of the best players in world football and looks a certainty to win the Ballon d’Or in the future.

He’s hit the back of the net on 187 occasions at club level and 24 times for France.

RW: Martin Odegaard

Odegaard made his professional debut for Strømsgodset at the age of just 15 in 2014.

A move to Real Madrid followed but he never made the grade at Los Blancos.

He was sent out on loan to four different clubs and made the permanent move to Arsenal in 2021.

The Norwegian, who is captain for his country, is already a fan-favourite at the Gunners.

ST: Dominic Solanke

At the start of 2016, Solanke was on loan at Vitesse from Chelsea.

He made the move to Liverpool that summer but he did not live up to expectations at the club.

The youngster scored just once in 27 games for the Reds before making a £19 million move to Bournemouth in 2018.

He didn’t fare much better during his opening few seasons with the Cherries. The Englishman managed just four goals in 42 Premier League games.

He’s performed well in the Championship, though, and has hit the back of the net 36 times since the start of the 2020/21 season.

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