50 for the future: UEFA.com's ones to watch for 2021
Tuesday, January 19, 2021
Our correspondents pick out 50 young men's players who could be big news in 2021.
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We asked UEFA.com's team of reporters, correspondents and editors across the continent to pick out some of Europe's rising men's stars. How many of our 50 will be household names by this time next year?
This list was selected by UEFA.com reporters, correspondents and editors and is not intended to rival more established awards.
Paulos Abraham (SWE, 18 – AIK)
Pacy and a good reader of the game, Abraham is a starter in AIK's midfield after moving from renowned talent factory Brommapojkarna.
Tyler Adams (USA, 20 – Leizpig)
A product of the New York Red Bulls academy, Adams is an ever more central figure at Leipzig having announced himself with a dramatic late winner against Atlético in last season's UEFA Champions League quarter-finals.
Sergio Arribas (ESP, 19 – Real Madrid)
A key member of the Real Madrid squad that impressively won the UEFA Youth League last season, Arribas made his UEFA Champions League debut against Borussia Mönchengladbach on Matchday 6.
Mitchel Bakker (NED, 20 – Paris)
The former Ajax defender is enjoying a breakthrough season at Paris after making his debut last term. The tall, blonde Dutchman has the physical profile of a centre-half but excels as a defensive-minded left-back. Could earn a first Netherlands call-up in 2021.
Jude Bellingham (ENG, 17 – Dortmund)
His home-town club, Birmingham City, retired the No22 shirt in his honour when he left having just turned 17. Has already had an impact at Dortmund, becoming the youngest English player to feature in the UEFA Champions League, and made his international debut; has drawn comparisons to Patrick Vieira.
Jens Cajuste (SWE, 21 – Midtjylland)
Moved to China with his family at six and started playing football there before they all returned to Gothenburg. Cajuste has since evolved into a ball-winning midfielder, earning his full Sweden debut in autumn 2020.
Riccardo Calafiori (ITA, 18 – Roma)
His first ever professional goal was a wonder strike in his second UEFA Europa League appearance – not bad for a left-back! He made his Serie A debut on the final day of the 2019/20 campaign.
David Carmo (POR, 21 – Braga)
Commanding central defender who is particularly astute in one-on-one situations, Carmo is now a regular starter for Braga despite his relative inexperience.
Charles De Ketelaere (BEL, 19 – Club Brugge)
A key member of the Club Brugge side that threatened to upset the odds in their UEFA Champions League group, De Ketelaere is an attacking midfielder who was handed his first senior Belgium cap in November.
Yusuf Demir (AUT, 17 – Rapid Wien)
This gifted midfielder is considered Austria's hottest prospect and has already made a huge impact at Rapid. He scored his first goal in the UEFA Europa League this season.
Amad Diallo (CIV, 18 – Atalanta)
Set to join Manchester United in January, Diallo already has UEFA Champions League football under his belt with La Dea after impressing in the UEFA Youth League and scoring his first ever Serie A goal in 2019/20.
Mohammed Diomande (CIV, 18 – Nordsjælland)
Diomande is an enigmatic player who has been in Denmark for less than a year but is already feared by any opponent assigned the task of marking him. A central or left midfielder who acts as a playmaker.
Igor Diveev (RUS, 21 – CSKA Moskva)
Diveev, a central defender, became one of CSKA's key players in 2020. He made his full Russia debut and was named Russian Premier League young player of the year.
Jeremy Doku (BEL, 18 – Rennes)
Seen by many as the new Eden Hazard, Doku already has five Belgium caps. His pace, explosive dribbling style and array of skills single him out; Rennes paid a club record fee to sign him from Anderlecht.
Radu Drăgușin (ROU, 18 – Juventus)
At Juventus for two years now, this imposing Romania youth team captain recently made his Serie A and UEFA Champions League debuts. Tall, strong and skilful, watch out for him at the 2021 Under-21 EURO final tournament.
Roman Evgenyev (RUS, 21 – Dinamo Moskva)
Already Dinamo Moskva captain, Evgenyev is both solid in defence and dangerous in the opponents' penalty area. Made his Russia debut in November.
Wahidullah 'Wahid' Faghir (DEN, 17 – Vejle)
Faghir has become a vital part of the Vejle attack despite only turning 17 in July. He is already physically well-developed and finishes with power and quality. His talent and self-confidence have yielded an obvious nickname: "the next Zlatan".
Wesley Fofana (FRA, 19 – Leicester)
Another astute piece of business by Leicester, Fofana has oozed class in the heart of defence since joining from Saint-Étienne. Can "become one of the best centre-backs in the world" according to his manager, Brendan Rodgers.
Gianluca Frabotta (ITA, 21, Juventus)
Coach Andrea Pirlo has often used him this season as a left wing-back, placing trust in the youngster at home and in Europe.
Amine Gouiri (FRA, 20 – Nice)
A Lyon academy graduate, Gouiri has scored 45 goals in 52 appearances for France's youth teams and has made a prolific start at Nice since joining in July. Found the net four times in five UEFA Europa League group stage games.
Ryan Gravenberch (NED, 18 – Ajax)
Widely tipped as the latest Ajax wonderkid, Gravenberch already has a host of Europe's biggest clubs queueing up for his signature. Compared to Paul Pogba in style but says "my example is Zinédine Zidane".
Joško Gvardiol (CRO, 19 – Dinamo Zagreb, on loan from Leipzig)
Gvardiol ticks all the boxes for a modern-day centre-back; fast, strong, with the ability to play out from the back. Helped Dinamo concede just one goal in the UEFA Europa League group stage; he joins Leipzig at the end of the season for a record fee for a Croatian teenager.
Jens Petter Hauge (NOR, 21 – AC Milan)
The Norwegian is impressing in his maiden season in the UEFA Europa League, having struck six goals in eight games (qualifiers included). He also made his Serie A debut and scored his first Italian top-flight goal, helping the Rossoneri to their best start to a campaign for some time.
Ísak Bergmann Jóhannesson (ISL, 17 – IFK Norrköping)
Born in England – while his father Joey Guðjónsson was playing for Premier League side Aston Villa – Jóhannesson is already a mainstay in midfield for his Swedish top-flight employers and made his international debut against England in November.
Curtis Jones (ENG, 20 – Liverpool)
Liverpool's injury problems meant more first-team involvement than Jones may have expected, but he's shown himself more than up to the task. A local-born box-to-box midfielder – Steven Gerrard comparisons are inevitable – Jones has shown real game intelligence.
Boubacar Kamara (FRA, 21 – Marseille)
Joined Marseille when he was five and was captain of many of the club's academy teams. Made his professional debut at 17 and is now a regular in either the centre of defence or midfield.
Orkun Kökçü (TUR, 19 – Feyenoord)
Capped by the Netherlands at Under-19 level, Kökçü is now a senior Turkish international. Last year committed his future to Feyenoord until 2025 having grown ever more influential under Dick Advocaat.
Ladislav Krejčí (CZE, 21 – Sparta Praha)
A midfielder who is a near ever-present for Sparta, Krejčí is yet to earn his first senior cap but is surely not far away after scoring in the Czech Republic's successful Under-21 qualifying campaign.
Takefusa Kubo (JAP, 19 – Getafe, on loan from Real Madrid)
Already a senior Japanese international, the forward caught the eye on loan at Villarreal, scoring in their UEFA Europa League victory over Sivasspor in October, before moving to Getafe for the rest of the season in January. Has been touted as a Madrid star of the future.
Marash Kumbulla (ALB, 20 – Roma)
Kumbulla joined the Verona youth system aged eight. A tall, solid centre-back, he is an admirer of Giorgio Chiellini; joined Roma in September and has quickly established himself in the capital.
Stanislav Magkeev (RUS, 21 – Lokomotiv Moskva)
Once a taekwondo fighter, Magkeev can be deployed in various positions – in the centre of defence, as a full-back or as a defensive midfielder.
Daniel Maldini (ITA, 19 – AC Milan)
The name needs little introduction; in case you weren't sure, he is indeed Paolo Maldini's son and Cesare Maldini's grandson. However, against the family tradition, he is an attacking midfielder and not a defender. This is his first season in the UEFA Europa League, having made his Serie A debut last term.
Giorgi Mamardashvili (GEO, 20 – Locomotive Tbilisi)
Already first-choice goalkeeper for Georgia's Under-21s side, Mamardashvili is forging quite the reputation for himself having also impressed in UEFA Europa League qualifying.
Nuno Mendes (POR, 18 – Sporting CP)
He is an agile left-back with an incredible attacking capability whose speed and versatility are his key weapons. Equally at ease is part of a four-man defence or in a more advanced role as part of a 3-5-2.
Youssoufa Moukoko (GER, 16 – Dortmund)
The youngest ever player in the UEFA Champions League following his Matchday 6 debut aged just 16 years and eighteen days, Moukoko is also the youngest player and goalscorer in the history of the Bundesliga.
Yunus Musah (USA, 18 – Valencia)
An England youth international before opting to represent the country of his birth at senior level, Musah became the youngest non-Spanish goalscorer in Valencia's history in November’s draw with Getafe aged 17 years, 338 days.
Jamal Musiala (ENG, 17 – Bayern)
An England Under-21 player, Musiala is an attacking midfielder born in Germany who grew up in London. Joined Bayern from Chelsea and has already made a smattering of appearances and even scored a handful of goals. Bayern legend Lothar Matthäus said: "Sometimes he plays as a No6, sometimes No8 or No10."
Noah Okafor (SUI, 20 – Salzburg)
Okafor's burgeoning reputation has taken another leap forward this season thanks to a hat-trick in October and plenty of further evidence of his eye for a key pass. Comfortable out wide or central.
Marcus Holmgren Pedersen (NOR, 20 – Molde)
A right-back who joined Molde from Tromsø in February 2020, Pedersen is a mainstay in the Norwegian top flight and made three appearances in the UEFA Europa League group stage.
Pedri (ESP, 18 – Barcelona)
Signed for Barça this summer after making the breakthrough at boyhood club Las Palmas and has already forced his way into Ronald Koeman's plans.
Abdallah Sima, (SEN, 19 – Slavia Praha)
A stylish winger or forward who impressed in the UEFA Europa League with three goals that have helped Slavia into the knockout stage. Sima is quick across the ground and excellent in the air; scored twice in derby victory over Sparta in December.
Kamaldeen Sulemana (GHA, 18 – Nordsjælland)
Nordsjælland's young Ghanaian has taken the Superliga by storm. The left-winger is a great dribbler who has an eye for goal and an assist; already capped at senior level.
Ravil Tagir (TUR, 17 – İstanbul Başakşehir)
A left-footed centre-back, this Turkish youth international joined Başakşehir from Altınordu in September 2020. He is being very slowly integrated into the first-team set-up but is already representing his country at Under-21 level.
Malick Thiaw (FIN, 19 – Schalke)
The progress of the tall, flexible and quick 19-year-old has been likened to the early days of Liverpool's Joël Matip.
Anatolii Trubin (UKR, 19 – Shakhtar Donetsk)
Tall and agile goalkeeper with great reflexes, Trubin started five of Shakhtar's six UEFA Champions League games this season, keeping three clean sheets in the process.
Christos Tzolis (GRE, 19 – PAOK)
Pacey winger with an eye for goal. The 18-year-old has impressed in the UEFA Europa League this season, scoring three goals and providing two assists. Made his full debut for Greece in October 2020, scoring his first international goal a month later.
Fábio Vieira (POR, 20 – FC Porto)
A key figure in Porto's 2019 UEFA Youth League-winning campaign, the offensive midfielder has gained more and more minutes in the senior side and opened his account in the UEFA Champions League.
Owen Wijndal (NED, 21 – AZ)
Gifted attacking left-back in line for a move away from the Netherlands after impressing for AZ in 2020. Now a senior international, Wijndal is tipped to become a regular in the Oranje set-up before or after UEFA EURO 2020.
Florian Wirtz (GER, 17 – Leverkusen)
Already a regular starter for the early pacesetters in the Bundesliga, Wirtz is hot property. He can dribble, beat an opponent with ease, pick out his team-mates with excellent distribution and has an eye for goal from range. Can play anywhere across the line behind a striker or in a more deep-lying playmaker role.
Illia Zabarnyi (UKR, 18 – Dynamo Kyiv)
The centre-back made his Dynamo debut in September and played every minute of their eight games of this UEFA Champions League campaign (including qualifying) as well as featuring in three of Ukraine's UEFA Nations League fixtures this autumn.
Check out our selection of 50 players to watch from the start of 2020.