This year football continues to be the only constant in a world still recovering from the impact of COVID-19 over the past 10 months. There are a number of exciting players throughout Europe that will be looking to catch the eye and impress especially with the postponed 2020 European Championships now potentially taking place this coming June. The list below will look closely at the three most exciting young players in Europe and who will no doubt be household names by the end of theyear.
3. Jude Bellingham (England –Age: 17 years old Position: Central Midfield Current Club: Borussia Dortmund)
Jude Bellingham has achieved so much in his short remarkable career so far it is quite hard to believe he is still only 17 years old. Bellingham joined his boyhood club Birmingham City as an under-8, becoming the club’s youngest ever first team player when he made his senior debut in August 2019 at the age of 16 years and 38 days old against Portsmouth in the Carabao Cup. The talented youngster impressed playing 44 games in central midfield under manager Pep Clotet during his breakthrough 2019/20 season for the Blues scoring 4 goals.
His exceptional performances during his first season playing for Birmingham caught the eye of the top European clubs with the likes of Manchester United, Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund enquiring about his potential availability. Despite the Red Devils best efforts to sign him, the ambitious young English man chose a move to Bundesliga giants Borussia Dortmund last summer in a deal worth around £30 million.
Bellingham is close friends with BorussiaDortmund and England ace Jadon Sancho which was a huge contributing factor in him deciding to move to Germany. Bellingham and his family were impressed after seeing Sancho’s rapid development with consistent game time in the North Rhine-Westpahlia region in Germany.
Bellingham has made an instant impact in Dortmund in his first season making 20 appearances and scoring once and becoming the youngest English player to ever play in the UEFA Champions League this season. England manager Gareth Southgate has been a huge fan of the exceptional young England midfield and handed Bellingham his international debut last November in a friendly against the Republic of Ireland. Bellingham became the third youngest full international for the England senior team at 17 years and 136 days old only surpassed by the legendary Wayne Rooney and Theo Walcott. The talented youngster has achieved so much in such a short career and looks to have a very bright future ahead of him.
He will be hoping a successful debut season playing in Germany will put him in contention for a potential place in the upcoming European Championship squad for Gareth Southgate’s side. Jude Bellingham is the real deal and this year could potentially be the year everyone realises how special the kid from Birmingham really is.
2. Wesley Fofana (France – Age: 20 years old -Position: Centre Half – Current Club: Leicester City)
Wesley Fofana is the latest prospect from the infamous St. Etienne Les Verts’ academy never ending conveyor belt of talent. St. Etienne’s academy has developed and nurtured a number of world recognised players such as World Cup winning midfielder BlaiseMatuidi, Chelsea central defender Kurt Zouma and current Arsenal captain Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang. The imposing centre half made his debut for the club in a 3-0 Ligue 1 win over OGC Nice on the 18th May 2019 at the end of the 2018/19 season. The following season Fofana made the breakthrough to the first team and became a regular starter at the Stade Geoffroy-Guichardmaking 23 appearances in all competitions in the 2019/20 season.
St. Etienne were having a poor season under the guidance of former Leicester City manager Claude Puel with Les Verts’ sitting one position above the relegation places before the season was suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, one of the bright sparks was the outstanding performances of Wesley Fofana in the heart of the defence which coincided with a number of top European clubs enquiring about his potential availability in the summer transfer window. The three clubs scouting and monitoring Fofana for a potential move were former Premier League champions Leicester City, La Ligachasing Atletico Madrid and German side R.B Leipzig.
Wesley Fofana is primarily a right side centre half and is most notably known for his intuitive reading of the game. He has an impressive ability to get in front of his man and intercept the ball, which is evident from his positioning and his ability for predicting the movements of opposition players and teams.
Another important trait the six foot two inch centre half is his aerial dominance which you can see from his statistics during the 2019/20 season. His 6.62 aerial duels per in Ligue 1 during the 2019/20 is inside the division’s top 25 players, but his success rate was really impressive with 72.92% of battles won in the air which was the second-best record in the Ligue 1.
Leicester City have been known to sign relatively unknown players from the French divisions and develop them into top class players such as the meteoric rise of Ngolo Kante and Riyad Mahrez who lead scout Steve Walsh brought to the club. Kanta and Mahrez developed into world class players for the Foxes and starred in their amazing 2015/16 Premier League winning season under Italian manager Claudio Ranieri. The Foxes won the race for the highly talented young French centre half and paid St. Etienne £30 million for his services on the 2nd of October 2020. Brendan Rodgers has eased Fofana into the Premier League gradually but an injury to key defender Caglar Soyuncu gave the youngster his opportunity to make his debut against Aston Villa.
The French man has looked superb and developed a good central defensive partnership with veteran defender Jonny Evans as the Foxes chase a top four finish this season. During his early career Wesley Fofana has showcased that he has the ability to play at the highest level, which is evident in his excellent performances for his new club Leicester City in the Premier League. If the impressive centre half continues to stand out in the Premier League it won’t be long before a potential international call up to World Cup winners France in the future.
1.Phil Foden (England – Age: 20 – Position: Central Attacking Midfielder – Current Club: Manchester City)
Manchester City’s diminutive midfielder Phil Foden tops the list for the most exciting young player to watch in Europe in 2021. Manchester City manager praised Foden as a “generational talent” at the age of 17 and the Stockport born midfielder has become a key member of City’s squad so far this season since DavidSilva left the club last summer to return to Spain.
Despite his rather skinny frame and 5’5” height the versatile Foden can operate across a number of different positions such as an advanced midfielder, right winger and as a false 9. His low centre of gravity is one of his key strengths and is often seen gliding across the field and cutting in from the right flank. Foden has excellent close-control, balance, co-ordination and often displays his dynamism in midfield which has earned him comparisons to Manchester City legend David Silva. Guadiola has also praised the youngsters passing ability and range of passing which have been showcased since he came into the Manchester City first team squad.
Phil Foden made his Manchester Debut on the 21stof November 2017 in the Champions League game against Feyenoord at the age of 17 years 177 days old. He became the fourth youngest English player to make an appearance in the Champions League and the excellent youngster broke another record previously held by Josh McEachran becoming the youngest English player at the age of 17 years and 192 days old to start a Champions League match.
After his excellent displays in the Champions League, Manchester City manager Guardiola handed Foden his Premier League debut against Spurs on the 16th December 2017. The England star topped off a remarkable 2017 by winning the BBC Young Sports Personality of the Year. Despite only being 20 years old Foden has made 96 appearances for Manchester City, winning eight trophies and became the youngest recipient of a Premier Leagues medal in 2019.
Since David Silva’s exit from the club Guardiola has turned to Phil Foden to replace the Spaniard which has been evident from the youngster’s impressive first half of the season so far. He is enjoying his best goal scoring season so far with an impressive 8 goals in 22 appearances with some important goals along the way. England manager Gareth Southgate has always praised Foden’s natural ability and his fine form was acknowledged when he was called up to the England senior set up in August 2020.
The City midfielder made his full international debut for the Three Lions against Iceland on the 5th September 2020 in the UEFA Nations League tournament. He continued to impress with the national team scoring two goals in his third appearance against Iceland at Wembley stadium in the November International break. Phil Foden has achieved so much in his remarkable career already and this year under managers Guardiola and Southgate will be hoping to continue to develop into one of Europe’s best young players.