After beginning to bubble up in 2019, a fresh wave of players have their 2020 resolutions firmed up and one thing in each of their minds – it’s time to shine.
While there’s a sense of newness and reinvention in the air at the start of a new decade, old habits continue to die hard and agendas continue to agenda. One of ours remains the same: sourcing the sauciest young ballers in the world and providing the intel you need on them before they go straight to the top of the game.
The last 12 months has been mad, with teenage sensations Jadon Sancho, Erling Braut Håland and Matthijs de Ligt absolutely blitzing it on the global stage and seeing their value skyrocket by asserting themselves as some of the best players in the world, despite still being in their adolescence.
While those guys are now certified, there’s a new batch of players that are ready to take over in the next 12 months. After spotlighting the likes of Frenkie de Jong, Mason Greenwood and Kai Havertz at the beginning of last season, we’re now looking at the next group of players that will be doing some serious bits both domestically and around the world in the next calendar year.
These are the 20 young ballers who will light up the world in 2020.
1. Eberechi Eze
Eze is one of the standout players among a whole new wave of exciting Super Eagles talents breaking through right now. The 21-year-old has now solidified his breakout status and is firmly considered as one of the best young talents in the Championship with his electric form this season, scoring 10 goals at the time of writing. A move to the Premier League looks very likely in 2020 with the likes of Southampton, Sheffield United and West Ham all reportedly interested in signing the Greenwich-born baller.
2. Rayan Cherki
Lyon have one of the best production lines in European football – as the likes of Karim Benzema, Hatem Ben Arfa and Nabil Fekir have proven in the last decade – but few had the impact that Rayan Cherki is having at the age of 16. Cherki has absolutely insane tek, regularly skinning opposition like Hatem, creating like Nabil and finishing like prime Karim – and his potential is arguably higher than any of those elite names. Widely regarded as the next superstar of French football, Cherki became the club’s youngest goalscorer in 2020. Say it quietly, but he’s probably Ligue 1’s hottest prospect since Kylian Mbappé.
3. Jayden Bogle
Club: Derby County
With the reinvention of the full back position in the domestic game being spearheaded by Trent Alexander-Arnold, who recently remarked how him and Andy Robertson are aiming to “change the way the position was previously thought about”, you can expect to see a new wave of exciting players dictating games from right or left back. Derby County are a Championship side blessed in that department with the emergence of Jayden Bogle. Regularly beating his opposing full backs with pace and trickery as well as providing inch-perfect delivery, Bogle also finds himself taking up identical positions to Trent when he drifts into the middle of the park and sprays balls around the pitch and into the box. While the comparisons are there for all to see, at only 19, Derby fans will attest Bogle has the potential to reach the heights Trent is currently hitting at Liverpool. As much as Rams fans will hate to see it, a big money move to a bigger club is due soon.
4. Allesandro Bastoni
Club: Inter Milan
Any player managing to keep Diego Godin out of a starting XI must be one hell of a plyer, and all the signs are pointing towards Allesandro Bastoni being exactly that. At 20, Bastoni has been described as “our future, but also our present” by Inter boss Antonio Conte. Backing from one of the most defensively-astute bosses in the game is some backing, and Bastoni fast becoming an integral part of Inter back line. Able to play out from the back with ease and a composed character despite his age, Bastoni could become a club legend if Inter are to win their first league title in a decade.
5. Adam Idah
Club: Norwich City
At 18 years of age, Norwich and Ireland striker Adam Idah has a made one of the hardest feats in football commonplace in his career so far – bagging hat-tricks. Idah grabbed two hat-tricks for the Canaries’ U18 team aged 16, bagged another for Ireland U17 in a European Qualifier and has now added another at senior level for the first time against Preston North End in the FA Cup. Idah has 20 goals across Ireland’s junior age groups, and his eye for goal, dribbling ability and ghost-like movement has seen him compared to Thierry Henry. Norwich have a wealth of young talent coming through the ranks and ready to blow in 2020, but out of all of their youth products, Idah is the one most well-acquainted with finding the back of the net.
6. Eduardo Camavinga
Club: Stades Rennes
As hundreds of YouTube compilations titles already attest, Eduardo Camavinga is actually INSANE for his age. Quick, skilful and able to break up play like a seasoned vet in holding midfield, the Rennes midfielder broke into the side towards the end of last season and is a regular for the Breton outfit in 2019/20. He became the youngest ever baller to win Ligue 1’s Player of the Month prize, before bagging his first Ligue 1 goal in December – an absolute banger, by the way.
7. Michael Obafemi
19 years of age, Saints’ youngest-ever Premier League goalscorer and having dreams of emulating Champions League winners Gareth Bale and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Michael Obafemi is another Irish hitman with a lot of promise. The Dublin-born baller fits the Hasenhüttl player mould perfectly, blessed with intensity, hunger and dynamism. Obafemi will be looking to shake off the shouts of “unprofessionalism” behind-the-scenes and make 2020 his own for both club and country.
8. Gabriel Martinelli
Probably the most well-known talent on this list, Martinelli’s ceiling is as high as whoever was smoking over there at the Emirates back when they bid for Luis Suarez back in 2014. Blessed with a similar hunger for the game as the Uruguayan goal machine, anyone that has watched the Brazilian baller can see he’s got the elite mentality to go straight to the top. Aged just 18, Martinelli has made every appearance for Arsenal count this season, where he’s bagged 8 goals in just 9 starts for the Gunners. Every time he gets on the pitch, the kid’s drive and determination have set him apart from his underperforming peers at the club, and under Mikel Arteta, you can expect Martinelli to thrive even more. Despite having one of their most dismal seasons in recent history, Arsenal may have just unearthed an absolute gem of a player in Gabriel Martinelli.
9. Federico Valverde
Club: Real Madrid
Real Madrid are yet to lose a game when Federico Valverde has featured in the starting XI. ‘El Pajarito’ is now an essential cog in the Los Blancos machine that is slowly rebuilding their identity under Zinedine Zidane, with him running proceedings in the midfield. A box-to-box boss who keeps it simple to allow Madrid’s more tekky talents to ball out, Valverde has managed to break into one of the most established midfields in world football with ease. He’s fast becoming irreplaceable at the Bernebeau – expect him to solidify his status as a world-beater this year.
10. Reece James
Out of all the Cobham graduates Frank Lampard has thrust into the first team this season, Reece James’ all-round ability – in every aspect of the game – is probably the best. This season, he’s become the club’s youngest-ever Champions League goalscorer at one end of the pitch and kept the likes of Wilfried Zaha and Heung-Min Son quiet at the other. James will feature even more prominently for the Blues this year, and is firmly a part of his manager’s 2020 vision, with Lampard already confirming that James will be “a big, big player” for the club.
11. Takefusa Kubo
Club: Real Mallorca (on loan from Real Madrid)
Out of all the “*insert nationality* Messi’s” in world football, how many have actually nutmegged the man himself? Kubo is the Japanese version of that oft-repeated moniker for the most exciting young talents from their respective countries. Kubo was actually forced to leave Barça in 2015 after the club was investigated for breaking FIFA transfer regulations before returning to Spain with Real Madrid last summer. And it’s clear to see why he’s so highly sought-after. Kubo oozes the sort of tek that will take him to the top of the game. Currently out on loan at Real Mallorca, Madrid have a similar belief he will replicate Martin Odegaard’s trajectory at Real Sociedad. If that’s the case, they’ve got a serious player on their hands.
12. Sergio Gomez
Club: SD Huesca (on loan from Dortmund)
Borussia Dortmund is the probably the best wonderkid factory in Europe, with the club’s success rate at turning teenage talents into globally-renowned world-beaters incredibly high. With the likes of Mario Götze, Ousmane Dembele and Jadon Sancho all recent examples of players blossoming from their time spent in North Rhine-Westphalia (with Erling Haaland surely the next beneficiary in line), Sergio Gomez is another name set for greatness in 2020. The winger is currently balling out at SD Huesca as he seeks to fulfil his five star potential, expect to see Gomez touch back down in the Bundesliga in 2020/21.
13. Sandro Tonali
Being described as a hybrid of Gennaro Gattuso and Andrea Pirlo is no mean feat, but Sandro Tonali continues to look like that every time he kicks ball for Brescia in Serie A. Blessed with the tenacity and ball-winning ability of “Ringhio” and the passing range and vision of “The Architect”, Tonali is an absolute force. Whoever signs the Italian midfielder is going to get one hell of a player, and at 19, he looks like a solid bet to lock down a place in Italy’s midfield for the next decade.
14. Folarin Balogun
Having just returned from injury as if he’d never stopped playing, Folarin Balogun started his 2020 looking like a man ready to return to continue solidifying his status as a future star. After scoring 22 goals in 23 games last season and 25 in 19 the season before, Balogun hit 7 goals and made 4 assists for the U23s in just 11 appearances this season. Balogun will be looking to step up to the senior side in 2020 – with his goal-scoring form hard to ignore for too much longer. This kid is special.
15. Ansu Fati
As most of you will know if you follow us, Ansu Fati became the youngest ever UEFA Champions League goalscorer at the end of 2019, aged just 17 years and 40 days old. Now one of the most hotly-tipped prospects in world football after breaking records for fun, Fati will spend 2020 continuing his crossfade from Barcelona B prospect to Camp Nou’s future king. If he keeps up this level of performance, Barcelona could build future squads around this young baller.
16. Brandon Williams
Club: Manchester United
Manchester United fans are a bit tired of Luke Shaw. Despite being the club’s Player of the Season – the best of a bad bunch – in 2018-19, Shaw is visibly more sluggish than he was before his long-term injury setbacks. Brandon Williams is the young baller answering United’s call; a 19-year-old local lad blessed with as much desire to hone his craft as he does in bombing forward and taking the game to the opposition from left back. Williams has all the mental attributes United have been missing in recent seasons, and looks like the latest of the club’s Academy graduates to become a first team regular.
17. Dan-Axel Zagadou
Club: Borussia Dortmund
Dan-Axel Zagadou has one of the best names in football, and is fast becoming one of the best defenders in his division. After enjoying a solid December for Dortmund, Zagadou made headlines when he registered his first assist of the season after going on an unreal run from the halfway line to Mainz’s penalty box. It’s moments like this which set the 20-year-old apart from many other centre backs in word football, with Zagadou having also completed more long balls than any other outfielder aged 21 and under in Europe’s top 5 leagues last month. He should kick on even further in 2020 and carry on showcasing all the attributes of an elite contemporary centre back.
18. Jude Bellingham
Club: Birmingham City
Jude Bellingham is one of the world’s most wanted. Not only sought after by Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal, the 16-year-old sensation also has the likes of Barcelona, Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich among his suitors after scoring three goals in the 23 impressive performances he’s put in for Birmingham City this season. The Blues’ youngest-ever first team player, he’s still on just £145-a-week and studying Sociology A-Level. Bellingham is a baller blessed with an imposing on-pitch presence despite barely being out of school. Should he continue his ascendancy, you’ll be watching him hand out lessons to opposition midfielders for many years to come.
19. Victor Osimhen
Victor Osimhen is a star boy. Another Naija talent for the present and future, Osimhen is building up quite the reputation in Ligue 1 where he’s bagged 14 goals in 25 appearances for Lille. Overcoming a Malaria illness last year to become one of Europe’s elite bagsmen in 2019-20, Osimhen looks set to continue his rise to the top of the game after already kicking off 2020 with yet another calmly taken finish against Amiens in the French League Cup.
20. Harvey Elliott
Not even someone with the on-field arrogance of Harvey Elliott could have predicted just how well his first six months at Liverpool would have gone. Plucked from Fulham’s academy as the youngest-ever player to play in the Premier League, Elliott has kicked off his career at the club with a string of saucy performances in the Carabao Cup. The top-knotted teen is blessed with a wand of a left foot, defence-splitting vision and a positional awareness beyond his years. Due more game time in the club’s FA Cup run this season, expect to see him and fellow tormenter-in-chief Curtis Jones continue the levels they set when the pair played key roles in knocking out Everton’s first XI in the 3rd Round fixture at Anfield.