Ronaldo, Owen, Sterling: 11 best PL teenage sensations ranked after Nwaneri debut

Who is the best teenage sensation in Premier League history?

Cristiano Ronaldo, Michael Owen and Raheem Sterling are all famous examples of players that burst onto the scene. Likewise, Wayne Rooney and Robbie Fowler.

But after Ethan Nwaneri made history on Sunday and became the youngest person to ever feature in an English top-flight match aged just 15 years and 181 days old, we thought it would be fitting to identify the very best.

So, with that in mind, we’ve picked out the top 11 teenage sensations in Premier League history and ranked them from 11-1 – check out our findings below.

11. Phil Foden

Pep Guardiola’s golden boy, Foden’s debut in November 2017 was followed up with a near incomparable level of hype.

Five years on, and it turns out the hype was more than justified given Foden has won back-to-back Young Player of the Season awards in 2020/21 and 2021/22.

A truly stunning player and the only reason he’s not pushing the top placings is because both of those awards came after his 20th birthday.

Phil Foden has dazzled at Manchester City this season

10. Cristiano Ronaldo

Nobody would have predicted that Ronaldo would go on to scale the heights he has done when he first joined United as a scrawny 18-year-old.

But it was clear to all that he was gifted, if just a little rough around the edges and he would even wind his teammates up at times with his overzealous tricks and showboating.

Nevertheless, Ronaldo began to show the first signs of the all-conquering star he would go on to become as he approached his 20s, chipping in frequently with goals and improving his overall gameplay.

Cristiano Ronaldo lifts the FA Cup for Manchester United in 2004
Cristiano Ronaldo lifts the FA Cup for Manchester United in 2004

9. Nicolas Anelka

Arsenal became the first of a host of Premier League clubs that had Anelka on their books at some point across the well-travelled Frenchman’s career.

Fortunately for them, they almost certainly saw the best of him. After joining from Paris Saint-Germain for a £500,000 fee, Anelka would go on to score 17 goals in his second Premier League campaign and claim the Young Player of the Season award.

His performances earnt him a £22 million switch to Real Madrid at the end of the season.

Nicolas Anelka Arsenal
Anelka formed a deadly strike partnership with Wright at Arsenal.

8. Raheem Sterling

Brendan Rodgers wasted no time in making 17-year-old Sterling an integral member of his Premier League title challenging frontline.

The teenager, who lined up on the left of Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge, was tasked with providing enough explosive pace and skill to batter teams into submission – a task which he and his teammates executed to great success regularly.

Despite cruelly missing out on the title, Sterling would remain at the heart of Liverpool’s attacking threat up until he left the club to join Man City as a 20-year-old for £50 million.

Raheem Sterling Liverpool

7. Rio Ferdinand

It’s not often a teenager becomes a mainstay at the heart of a Premier League defence, where mistakes are most costly, and physicality plays such a key role.

But that’s exactly what Ferdinand did at West Ham, even claiming the club’s Player of the Year award prior to his 20th birthday.

He quickly became known as one of the top centre-backs in the world, going on to captain Leeds before making a record-breaking switch to Man Utd in 2002.

Rio Ferdinand - West Ham
Rio Ferdinand – West Ham

6. Jack Wilshere

Wilshere’s performance as a 19-year-old against Barcelona is still heralded one of the finest Champions League showings of all-time.

The masterclass instantly made Wilshere England’s next big hope – but unfortunately, injuries took their roll and his career steadily declined up until his retirement as a 30-year-old earlier this year.

Jack Wilshere for Arsenal vs Barcelona
Jack Wilshere for Arsenal vs Barcelona

5. Cesc Fabregas

From one Arsenal midfield sensation to another, Fabregas makes up one of only two players that have ever managed to rack up more than a century of Premier League appearances as a teenager (104).

The passing king, who joined from Barcelona academy at 16, was pretty much instantly ready to tackle the might of the world’s toughest league.

He won the FA Cup in his first season at the club and would go on to become a hero to many.

Cesc Fabregas

4. Wayne Rooney

The only other teenager to have appeared more times than Fabregas? That would be Rooney (105).

The Everton and United legend first appeared for the Blues in 2002 as a 16-year-old and announced himself to the world through a sublime volley that still has David Seaman baffled to this day.

He would eventually move to United and would go on to become the club’s record goalscorer, a title he also holds for the England national team.

Wayne Rooney

3. Robbie Fowler

Remembered as one of the most lethal strikers in Premier League history, it’s only fitting that Fowler smashed home an incredible six goals in his first two outings for Liverpool.

The teenager scored on his debut against Fulham in a League Cup tie, but in the return leg, scored all five as Liverpool thumped the London club 5-0.

He scored 35 league goals whilst still a teenager, a tally bettered by only one.

Robbie Fowler of Liverpool

2. Ryan Giggs

Giggs was the division’s young superstar when the Premier League first came to fruition in 1992.

United won their first league title in 26 years and Giggs, who had been incredible all season, claimed the Young Player of the Season award aged 19.

He would then scoop the prize for a second consecutive time in the next campaign.

Ryan Giggs

1. Michael Owen

No matter how good many of these other legends were as a youngster, none of them can hold a candle to Owen.

The Englishman incredibly won two Golden Boots in his teenage years, scoring 47 goals before he had even hit his second decade of life.

Owen would then go on to scoop the Ballon d’Or as a 22-year-old. However, like Wilshere, injuries sadly de-railed his career and what should have been just the beginning for Owen, turned out to be his peak.

Arsenal SCARE YOU! (The Football Terrace)

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