Sterling, Pogba, Verratti: The 25 best teenagers from 2012 - where are they now?

A decade ago, Bleacher Report tried their hand at ranking the 25 best and most exciting teenagers in world football.

But how have their careers aged? Well, predicting the future in football is a tricky business and it goes without saying they were very, very wide of the mark when it comes to a few of their selections.

However, it wasn’t a total disaster, with some of their picks representing amongst the game’s elite ten years on and now find themselves in the prime of their careers.

The 25 best teenagers from 2012 – where are they now?

25. Candido Ramirez

Ramirez raised a few eyebrows with his impressive performances as a youngster in the Mexican youth teams.

Many anticipated a European switch for the young star but a move never materialised. Instead, he spent his career in the Liga MX and recently joined FC Juarez.

24. Matthias Ginter

A decent Bundesliga player nowadays but way off what Bleacher Football expected from him.

Ginter couldn’t quite make the step up when he got his chance at Borussia Dortmund and now plays for SC Freiburg.

Ginter Borussia Dortmund

23. Lucas Piazon

A prime example – or victim – of Chelsea’s loan model, Piazon never quite made it with the Blues and was sent on loan an incredible seven times during his time contracted by the London club.

He was playing for Braga last campaign after eventually leaving his parent club permanently, however has now been sent out on loan again to Botafogo – no surprise there, then.

22. Leandro

Any idea who this guy is? No, me neither.

It turns out he plays in Japan’s J-League with FC Tokyo.

21. Gerard Deulofeu

A talented lad, there can be no doubting that. However, Deulofeu’s career has taken a rather strange trajectory going from Barcelona, to Everton and Watford.

Nowadays you can find him playing for Udinese.

20. Paul Pogba

Easily the most notorious player on this list, Pogba is never far from the lime light.

He recently drew the curtains on his Man Utd career, which is fitting because it was quite literally a pantomime at times, and now embarks on a new journey with Juventus.

Maybe there we’ll see the best of Pogba once again.

Paul Pogba Juventus

19. Jetro Willems

It was surprising to see that Willems now plies his trade in the Bundesliga 2 for Greuther Furth.

Whilst he arguably flattered to deceive in his career as a whole, Willems has been a pretty solid left-back and enjoyed plenty of success for PSV Eindhoven and Frankfurt.

18. Timo Horn

Horn has spent his entire career at FC Koln to date and gives off serious ‘one club man’ vibes.

Nothing too flashy about him, but us football fans love a loyal gladiator.

17. Manuel Lanzini

A player well appreciated amongst the Hammers fan base, Lanzini has been at the east London club since signing from Al Jazira in 2016.

His tally of 26 Premier League goals and 20 assists is arguably a pretty disappointing one, though, given he was tipped for greatness and all.

16. Romelu Lukaku

He might have had a disastrous return to Stamford Bridge but all things considered, you would have to say Lukaku is a big green tick for Bleacher Report.

Lukaku Inter

15. Juan Fernando Quintero

If you’re a particularly studious or avid World Cup watcher, you’ll no doubt remember Quintero from his inclusion in Colombia’s 2018 squad.

His country were knocked out by England in the quarter-finals after a closely fought affair which probably proved to be the highlight of Quintero’s career, bar a lone Super Cup win with Porto and a couple of honours in South America.

Nowadays he plays for River Plate.

14. Kurt Zouma

Zouma is almost certainly the most disliked player of the 25 after the controversial incident involving the abuse of his cat last season.

In terms of his career, you could now class him as a good Premier League centre-back and a star in the West Ham backline.

13. Adryan

No, no, not Rocky Balboa’s wife. We’re talking about the Brazilian that was dubbed to be ‘the next Pele’.

It’s a bold assertion that is launched frequently in the direction of any young Brazilian teenager with high potential, but, unsurprisingly, rarely ever turns out well.

In the case of Adryan, he now plays for Swiss side Sion. And his dramatics against Derby County in 2014 earnt him the accolade for ‘worst dive of the year’ on Reddit.

12. Stefanos Kapino

A goalkeeper by trade, Kapino was a wildly exciting youngster in 2011 after he became the youngest player to appear for the Greek national team.

His career never really continued on the same trajectory, though, and after a few disappointing spells at clubs in Greece, Germany, and even Nottingham Forest, he’s now contracted to Arminia Bielefeld in the Bundesliga.

11. Raheem Sterling

Much need saying here? It goes without saying that Sterling was an enormous success for Bleacher Report’s predictions.

He’s won countless major honours in England, everything there is to win even. After recently moving to Chelsea, he’ll be hoping that with the Blues he can get his hands on the one piece of club silverware that has evaded him – the Champions League.

10. Zakaria Labyad

A teenage sensation that came through at PSV but never reached his potential outside the Netherlands.

He returned to the country after his failed European stint and has since played for Utrecht and Ajax.

9. Adam Maher

Another talent to emerge from the Eredivisie, if you’d have suggested that Maher would have been playing for Damac FC in the Saudi Professional League whilst in the prime of his career, well, you’d probably have been laughed at.

But alas, that happened…

Man United SIGN Martinezโœ๏ธ Paqueta to Arsenal ADVANCEโœ… De Jong Twist! Nunes to Chelsea! (The Football Terrace)

8. Matija Nastasic

Remember this lad? He was set to become the next Vincent Kompany at Man City, however after a promising start to his time in sky blue his career prospects seemingly derailed.

He moved to Schalke and now plays for Fiorentina. So, a decent player no doubt, but nothing like what was expected.

7. Julian Draxler

Draxler at one time was potentially the most talked about young player in the world and many expected his career to sky-rocket after signing for PSG in 2016.

Six-years on though, and well, whilst he’s still there, it’s very much in a ‘squad player’ capacity.

Sure, he’s won plenty of titles and even became a World Cup winner in 2014, but was he really all he was cracked up to be? Most certainly not.

Julian Draxler Champions League final
Julian Draxler Champions League final

6. Mateo Kovacic

Another big tick for Bleacher Report. Kovacic isn’t the most fashionable player in the world, yet the effect he’s had on every team he’s played in has been profound.

Now playing at Chelsea, Kovacic will join Sterling in the hunt for what would be his FIFTH Champions League title.

5. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain

One of the most injury-prone players about currently, it really has been no easy ride for ‘The Ox’.

However, he’s still enjoyed a great career for Arsenal and Liverpool, performing well when fit and in the team as well as winning his fair share of honours.

He finds himself at a crossroads now with him featuring less and less in Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool set-up.

4. Raphael Varane

It would be fair to say Varane’s Man United move hasn’t gone to plan yet, and in that sense, it’s probably just about the only thing in his career that hasn’t turned out well.

After moving to Real Madrid young and becoming a first team regular almost instantaneously, like Kovacic, he lifted an incredible four Champions Leagues and is now regarded as one of the best of his era.


3. Marco Verratti

Yep, another big green tick – these last few selections have aged brilliantly.

Verratti is one of the best in the world in his position and a leader in a star-studded PSG team.

2. Iker Muniain

Famously touted as the ‘Basque Messi’, Muniain has spent his entire career to date playing for Athletic Bilbao.

He’s captained the club and engrained his name in its history for the entirety of existence.

Sure, he might not have truly blossomed into one of the world’s best but he’s still one hell of a player.

The epitome of a ‘one club man’ and modern football’s answer to Francesco Totti.

Iker Muniain
  1. Stephan El Shaarawy

We’re not entirely sure if the hype around El Shaarawy predicated from his insanely overpower FIFA Ultimate Team cards but we certainly remember it being very real.

Unfortunately though, whether it was real or not, it was entirely unjustified and El Sharaawy’s career hasn’t lived up to what Bleacher Football expected.

Nowadays you can find him operating on the left-wing for Roma.

Ballon d’Or quiz: Can you name the missing player?

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The 2018 winner – easy peasy

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