Young English players are rising up to the top of the game. Many are transitioning from academy prospects to first team regulars, others are gaining multi-million-pound moves, and a few are even leaving the nest to apply their tek abroad.
One region within the nation is proving to be the spiritual home of next gen talent. With a corner of it recently dubbed the ‘Concrete Catalonia’, South London has become the breeding ground for a long list of talented young ballers. South of the river is also home to a host of professional football clubs including Chelsea, Fulham, Crystal Palace, Charlton Athletic, Millwall and AFC Wimbledon, which all have a rich history of producing players. Football is part of the fabric of South London.
Some notable South London vets from the past include Rio Ferdinand from Peckham and Ian Wright from Woolwich – but we’re here to look to the future. We’ve rounded up the 25 best new gen players putting South London on the football map yet again.
1. Jadon Sancho
Club: Borussia Dortmund
Most recently nominated for the prestigious Golden Boy award, Sancho is arguably the current torch bearer for young South London ballers. The Bundesliga starlet is reaping the benefits of leaving the UK nest, and 12 goals and 17 assists last season with Dortmund have made him one of the most coveted talents in world football. Sancho has become known for his distinctive dribbling style and elegant skill, which he learned in the local parks and cages of Kennington.
2. Ruben Loftus-Cheek
After a much anticipated come up, this one-time prospect is now a first team regular at Chelsea – quite a feat when you consider he’s the first player to make the transition from academy to senior football at the Blues since John Terry. Loftus-Cheek will now be hoping to replicate and develop his form from last year, which saw him become a driving force in Chelsea’s successful Europa League campaign, scoring four goals in the competition. Nicknamed “The Lewisham Ballack”, RLC will be working towards making the same impact at Chelsea as the German did.
3. Ademola Lookman
Club: RB Leipzig
A bright star who has had a rapid rise to the top, Lookman is another tekky South London representative. Five years ago, Lookman was still playing Semi-Pro but today, he finds himself as a multi-million pound export in the Bundesliga with RB Leipzig. It’s a club where he bagged 5 goals in 11 appearances when on loan two seasons ago, in the middle of a sticky spell with Everton where he was never given a chance to shine. Backed by one of the hottest young managers in football Julian Naggelsmann, Lookman will be hoping to mix his raw flair with diligent coaching to become a future great.
4. Aaron Wan-Bissaka
Club: Manchester United
Aaron Wan-Bissaka is Manchester United’s fifth most expensive signing of all time – let that sink in. Formerly a winger, the England U21 international made a seamless transition to right back and is now regarded as one of the best defenders operating within the Premier League. This is compounded by a host of impressive stats including most clearances, tackles won, tackle success, take-ons and interceptions for a full back last season. The Croydon native will hope to take his skillset to the European stage next season as he features in the Europa League for the first time.
5. Eddie Nketiah
The young shooter is one of three Arsenal youngsters who have officially been promoted to Arsenal’s first team this season – he’s also one of two members within that group who are from South London. The starlet started his career at Chelsea before switching allegiances to North London, where he scored his first ever Premier League goal at the end of 2018/19. He is being touted to be a huge star at the club and recently, the Blue Borough native expressed his want to challenge strike partnership Aubemeyang and Lacazette for their places in the starting XI.
6. Callum Hudson-Odoi
The future of Chelsea’s attack and the potential heir to Hazard’s throne is another South London driller. Remarkably, the silky dribbler made his first start for England before making a Premier League start for Chelsea but he still ended last season’s breakthrough campaign with 24 appearances and five goals. Having impressed and shown his innate talent, the baller will hope to continue putting the league on notice when he returns from injury.
7. Declan Rice
Club: West Ham
Although contentious, Kingston – like Croydon – is indeed a London Borough making this talisman a South London original. An integral part of West Ham’s defence and arguably a future leader in England’s midfield, Declan’s rise to the top has a London theme to it. Another former Chelsea protégé, he moved to the East London-ed Hammers and has grown into a local hero. By his own admission, he has so much more to offer and will hope to do so in the coming years.
8. Joe Gomez
This versatile defender has been labelled the future of Liverpool and many have backed Joe Gomez to be a long-term partner to PFA Player of the Year, Virgil van Dijk. South London through and through, Gomez originally broke through for his local club Charlton and played 24 times for the team before earning a move to Merseyside after just one season of senior football. With a UCL medal to his name and notable Premier League performances in the bag, the youngster has already given a taste of what is to come.
9. Reiss Nelson
Area: Elephant and Castle
Potentially Arsenal’s next poster boy, Reiss Nelson represents a South London baller with big ambitions. Having ventured on loan to Bundesliga outfit Hoffenheim last season, the talented forward has now officially been promoted to Arsenal’s fist team after stellar performances in the league and Champions League, where he scored seven times and was nominated for Germany’s “Rookie of the Year” award. Now back in North London, he’s been one of the faces of Arsenal’s kit launches with adidas this past summer alongside Ian Wright – another South London legend who Nelson will no doubt be looking to emulate.
10. Tammy Abraham
Chelsea’s new number nine finds himself with an opportunity to become a club great. Following another successful loan spell in the Championship which saw a return of 25 goals in 37 appearances, the fleet-footed big man will be hoping to replicate that form in the Premier League with his parent club. TA9 has proven he can find the net and has gained respect for having gamechanging ability with the ball at his feet, too. The young shooter will face stiff competition from Olivier Giroud and Michy Batshuayi for a spot in Chelsea’s starting XI, but there’s little doubt this season is set up as Tammy’s time to shine.
11. Ryan Sessegnon
Ryan Sessegnon is being touted to reach the top of the game with a large number of suitors monitoring his situation. An amazing Championship campaign in 2017/18 was followed up by 35 appearances in a debut Premier League campaign with Fulham that saw him score twice and claim six assists – in spite of Fulham’s relegation, Sessegnon impressed. Having been with the Fulham senior team since he turned 16, this now established pro and England U21 baller is another one who still take the world by storm.
12. Emile Smith-Rowe
Another one of Arsenal’s future stars, Emile Smith-Rowe is a fine footballer who performs with grace beyond his young age. Smith-Rowe started the season off in good form bagging two goals in four Europa League appearances for Arsenal. He secured an exciting loan move to RB Leipzig in January, but injury troubles unfortunately limited his impact. With either a squad role at Arsenal or another loan both options for the coming season, this young baller will be out to make a mark in 2019/20.
13. Jonathan Panzo
Club: AS Monaco
Once of Chelsea but now based out in the glamorous French principality of Monte Carlo, this baller’s journey started in South London. The towering centre back, who is well known for his calmness and poise when on the ball, will be hoping to stake a claim for regular first team football at a Monaco side in transition this season, having made his senior debut in 2018/19.
14. Joe Aribo
Fresh from a move to the SPFL with Rangers, Aribo is already making a name for himself north of the border with his acute but adventurous play in central midfield. He is another young baller who made his route to professional football via non-league, having made more than 20 appearances for Staines Town. The 23-year old is also one of many ballers to come out of Croydon’s esteemed Kinetic Football Academy. With Liverpool hero Steven Gerrard now as his manager, Aribo will have one of the best mentors in the game to turn him into a midfield match winner.
15. Marcus McGuane
From South London to La Masia. Marcus McGuane has already achieved many footballer’s childhood dreams, a move to one of the most iconic teams in the world. He had impressed during his early days as an Arsenal prospect, even being involved for some of their 17/18 Europa League campaign. Since his move, the talented centre mid has made one senior appearance for the club – becoming the first Englishman at Barca since Gary Lineker – but mostly applied his trade in Barca’s B team and will be hoping to one day rub shoulders with the likes of Frenkie De Jong and Sergio Busquets.
16. Trevoh Chalobah
Trevoh Chalobah is another player from Chelsea’s academy who has the potential to become an influential midfielder in a major European league. The younger brother of tekky Watford player Nathaniel, Trevoh had a breakthrough season on loan at Ipswich in 2018/19, making 43 senior appearances between defence and midfield, scoring two goals. Another loan spell is expected this season but should he keep making rapid progress on the pitch, Chalobah has the ability and discipline to make waves at Chelsea and beyond.
17. Patrick Roberts
Club: Manchester City (on loan at Norwich)
The Manchester City young bull has just secured a loan move to Norwich after acclaimed stints in La Liga with Girona, and Scotland with Celtic. The skilful winger will be hoping to aid newly promoted Norwich to Premier League survival, by contributing goals and assists in big moments. Roberts has been touted for the top since breaking through at Fulham in 2014 and will hope this season is his true arrival on the biggest stage.
18. Kasey Palmer
Club: Bristol City
The ex-Chelsea man has just linked up with Bristol City on a permanent basis, and is primed to take his game to the next level. During his loan spell last season, Palmer made 29 appearances for the Championship outfit and has now penned a 4-year deal. Palmer’s game of craft, spark and pinpoint set pieces will be vital weapons in Bristol City’s armoury.
19. Ola Aina
The Nigerian international has made a name for himself since landing in Serie A. He has become a pivotal part of the Italian side Torino’s defence, amassing 30 appearances and chipping in with 3 goals from left back. Having now made his move permanent, Aina will be looking to show the promise that saw him gain his international call up for the Super Eagles at this past summer’s Afcon and emulate the success of former Nigerian left backs Celestine Babayaro and Taribo West.
20. Josh Maja
One of the hottest prospects in the UK last season, Maja earned a move to Bordeaux following an impressive return of 15 goals in 24 league appearances for Sunderland. The young striker – once of Manchester City – will be competing with a host of other young hitmen in the Ligue 1 including Kylian Mbappé and Moussa Dembele. From the South of London to the South of France, Maja is up next.
21. Eberechi Eze
Once of South London’s Millwall, the talented midfielder had his best season yet last term. 42 appearances in the league with four goals and assists, Eze was a light of hope in what QPR fans deemed to be a hard season both on and off the pitch. With potential suitors rumoured to be on the look out and QPR hoping to rebuild around their young talent, Eze will see his status within the team become more prominent.
22. Josh Koroma
11 goals and seven assists in 39 appearances was an impressive return last season for Leyton Orient – so much so that Koroma earned a move from the National League to the Championship. The prospect will now be hoping he can aid Huddersfield’s push for Premier League football following their relegation last season. The talented forward who plays anywhere along the frontline will be looking to demonstrate he is meant for this new level, and chef opponents the same way he did in non-league.
23. Bright Osayi-Samuel
Born in Nigeria but raised in South London following a brief stint in Spain, Bright is another QPR winger with a lot of promise. His manager has described him as his name suggests – “bright” – and noted his pace and dribbling scares opponents. Last season, Bright’s 27 appearances showed his ability. Next season, the whole of South London will be rooting on him to turn his ability into outstanding performances.
24. Myles Kenlock
Club: Ipswich Town
Following 19 solid appearances in the Championship last season, the self-proclaimed ‘South Londoner Professional Footballer’ (as labelled in his Twitter bio), has been tipped to make the left back position at Ipswich his own, after signing a contract extension at the club earlier this summer.
25. Paul Kalambayi
Club: AFC Wimbledon
The young centre back broke through into Wimbledon’s first team last season making 19 appearances in all competitions. Following the departure of another South Londoner and former club captain Deji Oshilaja to Charlton, there is a starter position up for grabs which the talented 20-year-old will hope to make his own. The youngster, once of Brentford, was a striker before joining the Dons academy.