Odegaard, Van de Beek, Dembele: Where are 50 wonderkids from 2016 now?

With Kylian Mbappe and Erling Haaland around, football will be okay in the post-Messi and Ronaldo era.

Football is blessed with a number of rising stars in the biggest leagues, not least the young Paris Saint-Germain and Borussia Dortmund strikers.

We’ve seen enough of both players now to realise they are the real deal; they’ve shattered any concerns about being hyped up too soon.

Through natural talent and hard work, there’s no danger of Mbappe and Haaland flaming out before they fulfil their potential. There will likely be a day where both are the highest-paid players in the game.

But that’s not always the case when the stars of tomorrow are explored. Unfortunately, not ever wonderkid turns into a superstar.

With that in mind, GOAL have taken a look at the 50 players they included in their 2016 ‘NXGN’ list, which profiled the best youngsters from around the world at the time.

Some have been hits, others haven’t. Let’s take a look at the 50 players.

50. Rafik Zekhnini 

Where are they now? Zekhnini, 24, joined Molde in 2021 after struggling for games at Fiorentina.

49. Niklas Dorsch 

Where are they now? Regarded as the best player in Bayern’s academy in 2016, Dorsch didn’t make the grade at the Allianz Arena.

He left the club in 2018 and is currently with Augsburg.

48. Ismail Azzaoui 

Where are they now? Injuries have impacted Azzaoui’s career and he was released by Wolfsburg in the summer of 2020. Dutch side Heracles signed him three months later.

47. Nicolas Delgadillo 

Where are they now? Velez Sarsfield have regularly loaned Delgadillo out. He’s spending the 2022 season at Atletico Platense.

46. Thiago Maia 

Where are they now? Flamengo paid €4 million to sign Maia from Lille in January 2022.

45. Steven Bergwijn

Where are they now? Tottenham paid PSV £25m for Bergwijn in 2020 and he’s now a rotational player under Antonio Conte.

44. Bilal Ould-Chikh

Where are they now? Chikh has bounced around Europe since rising through the ranks at FC Twente.

Dutch second-division side Volendam signed him in January.

43. Lincoln

Where are they now? Lincoln is making an impact for Portuguese side Santa Clara, helping the club qualify for this season’s Europa Conference League.

42. Aaron Leya Iseka

Where are they now? Michy Batshuayi’s younger brother is currently fighting a relegation battle with Championship side Barnsley.

41. Dominic Solanke

Where are they now? Many fans laughed when Bournemouth paid £19m to sign Solanke in 2019, but his goals have left the Cherries finely poised to return to the Premier League.

40. Leandrinho 

Where are they now? Leandrinho signed for Napoli in 2017 but failed to make a single first-team appearance for the Serie A outfit.

He signed for Bragantino in 2020.

39. Lee Seung-woo 

Where are they now? Barcelona’s transfer ban in the mid-2010s affected Lee’s progress. He was sold to Hellas Verona in 2017 and now, five years later, is playing in Korea with Suwon FC.

38. Krystian Bielik 

Where are they now? Bielik’s career since joining Arsenal in 2015 has been blighted by injuries, but he’s a key figure in Derby County’s bid to avoid Championship relegation.

37. Ousmane Dembele

Where are they now? Dembele hasn’t been a consistent performer for Barcelona, having suffered a wave of injuries, but he looks revived under Xavi.

36. Alban Lafont

Where are they now? Lafont became the youngster goalkeeper in Ligue 1 history when he played for Toulouse at the age of 16.

He’s now turning heads at Nantes, having received a 10/10 rating by the notoriously harsh L’Equipe after starring against PSG in February.

35. Adalberto Penaranda

Where are they now? Penaranda is on Watford’s books but he’s been loaned out to several clubs since joining the Hornets in 2016. Las Palmas is his current location.

34. Nikola Vlasic

Where are they now? West Ham paid more than £25m to sign Vlasic in 2021, and he’s been used as a rotational player by David Moyes.

33. Cameron Borthwick-Jackson

Where are they now? Borthwick-Jackson earned a four-year contract at Man United after becoming a regular part of Louis van Gaal’s squad in 2015/16.

A series of loan spells followed before the left-back settled at Burton Albion.

32. Rey Manaj

Where are they now? Barcelona whacked a €50m release clause in Manaj’s contract when he joined their B team in 2020. 

He’s currently on loan at Spezia.

31. Bartlomiej Dragowski 

Where are they now? Likened to Manuel Neuer, Dragowski joined Fiorentina in 2016 and he remains at the Italian side.

30. Pedro Pereira

Where are they now? Serie B side Monza have an obligation to buy Pereira from Benfica at the end of the season.

29. Borja Mayoral 

Where are they now? Mayoral was never more than a fringe player at Real Madrid and he signed for Roma in 2020. He’s currently on loan at Getafe.

28. Luka Jovic 

Where are they now? Jovic is proving to be one expensive backup as he occupies the bench at Real Madrid.

27. Reece Oxford

Where are they now? Oxford was just 16 when he made his Premier League debut for West Ham.

He left the Hammers for Augsburg in 2019 and is now considered one of the best up-and-coming centre-backs in the Bundesliga.

26. Jeff Reine-Adelaide

Where are they now? The former Arsenal midfielder has just returned to action for Lyon after a serious knee injury left him sidelined for more than a year.

25. Hachim Mastour

Where are they now? The YouTube sensation didn’t cut it at AC Milan, leaving the Serie A giants in 2018, and he’s now without a club after Reggina released him in 2021.

24. Rolando Mandragora

Where are they now? Mandragora has established himself as a regular starter at Torino, where he’s on loan from Juventus.

23. Enes Unal 

Where are they now? A Turkey international by the age of 17, Unal signed for Man City in 2015.

Loan spells followed before his permanent departure in 2017. Unal has reached double figures for goals for Getafe this season.

22. Sergio Diaz

Where are they now? Real Madrid released Diaz in 2021, five years after he joined the club, and he was offered a contract at his boyhood club Cerro Porteno.

21. Abdelhak Nouri

Where are they now? Regarded as one of the best young players in Ajax’s academy, Nouri’s career was tragically cut short when he suffered permanent brain damage after collapsing in 2017.

20. Jean-Kevin Augustin 

Where are they now? Augustin hasn’t fulfilled his potential after being named Player of the Tournament at the 2019 Under-19 European Championship with France.

He’s way down the pecking order at Nantes.

19. Andrija Balic 

Where are they now? Balic’s career has stalled after he started to make a name for himself with Hajduk Split. He’s now with Slovakian side Dunajska Streda. 

18. Manu Garcia

Where are they now? Sporting Gijon paid a club-record €4m to sign Garcia from Man City in 2019, but he was loaned out to Alaves for the 21/22 campaign.

17. Victor Osimhen 

Where are they now? Osimhen, 23, is currently spearheading Napoli’s Serie A title charge and has been linked with a move to the Premier League.

16. Patrick Roberts

Where are they now? After loan spells in Scotland, Spain and France, Roberts finally left Man City permanently in January, signing a contract with Sunderland. 

15. Umar Sadiq

Where are they now? Sadiq signed for Almeria in 2020 and he’s been great for the Segunda Division side, scoring 20 goals in the league last season.

14. Amadou Diawara 

Where are they now? Roma paid €21m for Diawara in 2019 but he’s fallen out with Jose Mourinho.

13. Donny van de Beek

Where are they now? Van de Beek is trying to revive his career at Everton after a hugely disappointing spell at Man United.

12. Gabriel Jesus

Where are they now? Jesus hasn’t been a consistent goalscorer for Man City but he’s enjoyed some trophy-laden years with the club.

11. Vaclav Cerny

Where are they now? Cerny’s dribbling skills drew comparisons to Arjen Robben, but he’s struggled for minutes at Twente this season.

10. Joe Gomez

Where are they now? Gomez has enjoyed some highs at Liverpool but the presence of Virgil van Dijk, Ibrahima Konate and Joel Matip have meant the English defender has found game time hard to come by.

9. Malcom 

Where are they now? Signed by Barcelona for €40m in 2018 and sold to Zenit St Petersburg for roughly the same fee a year later, Malcom is still with the Russian club but fitness issues have hurt him.

8. Renato Sanches

Where are they now? Sanches hasn’t quite built upon his phenomenal 2016, when he joined Bayern Munich and won the Euros with Portugal, but he’s impressed at Lille and could earn a big move in the summer.

7. Ante Coric 

Where are they now? Roma signed Coric in 2018 but he’s had loan spells at Almeria, VVV-Venlo and current side Olimpija Ljubljana.

6. Gerson 

Where are they now? Marseille paid €25m to sign Gerson last year and he’s turned into a consistent player for the French side.

5. Martin Odegaard

Where are they now? Odegaard’s performances for Arsenal suggest he wasn’t given a fair opportunity by Real Madrid. He’s been brilliant under Mikel Arteta.

4. Ruben Neves 

Where are they now? Neves has been pivotal for Wolves since joining them in 2017.

The midfielder has made more than 200 appearances for the club and wouldn’t look out of place at a Champions League side.

3. Gianluigi Donnarumma

Where are they now? Donnarumma was crowned Player of the Tournament after helping Italy win Euro 2020.

He left AC Milan that summer, joining PSG on a free transfer.

2. Breel Embolo

Where are they now? Breel tormented defenders with his speed and power at Basel, but injuries have affected him since he joined Schalke in 2016.

He now plays for Borussia Monchengladbach.

1. Youri Tielemans 

Where are they now? Leicester have no regrets about paying a club-record £40m on Tielemans in 2019. 

The Belgian midfielder has been a standout performer for the Foxes and looks set for a big move in the summer.

Tielemans celebrates
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