UEFA Youth League: springboard to the big stage

The UEFA Youth League's relevance is emphasised by the list of talented young players who have graduated from the junior competition to star at the very top of the game.

Youth League alumni Kylian Mbappé and Marcus Rashford in UEFA Champions League action
Youth League alumni Kylian Mbappé and Marcus Rashford in UEFA Champions League action ©Getty Images

In its seven-year history, the UEFA Youth League has already proved an important testing ground for exciting young talents across Europe – as this lineup of Youth League graduates who have sparkled in the 2019/20 UEFA Champions League indicates.

GK: Mile Svilar (Anderlecht, now Benfica)
Made 15 appearances over three seasons, helping Anderlecht reach back-to-back UEFA Youth League semi-finals in 2015 and 2016. Svilar then joined Benfica and became the youngest goalkeeper in UEFA Champions League history by debuting, in October 2017 against Manchester United, aged 18 years and 52 days.

RB: Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool)
UEFA Champions League runner-up in 2018 and winner in 2019, Liverpool's right-back gained his first taste of international club action against Real Madrid in the UEFA Youth League in November 2014; the first of his two outings in that 2014/15 tournament came in Spain 28 days after his 16th birthday.

CB: Presnel Kimpembe (Paris)
Featured seven times in the 2013/14 UEFA Youth League and subsequently graduated to the big stage with Paris and the France national team. Kimpembe scored his first UEFA Champions League goal at Manchester United in February 2019 and has proved a key cog in this season's run.

Matthijs de Ligt in Youth League action in 2016
Matthijs de Ligt in Youth League action in 2016©Getty Images

CB: Matthijs de Ligt (Ajax, now Juventus)
A pivotal figure in Ajax's journey to last year's UEFA Champions League semi-finals before signing for Juventus, the outstanding centre-back played the last of his ten UEFA Youth League matches in February 2017; three months later he was experiencing a UEFA Europa League final against Manchester United.

Lucas as a teenager in 2015
Lucas as a teenager in 2015©Getty Images

LB: Lucas Hernández (Atlético, now Bayern)
Made five outings, scoring twice, in the autumn and winter of 2015/16 – and ended that campaign by appearing for Atleti's seniors in a UEFA Champions League quarter-final against Barcelona. In 2019 the versatile Lucas became Bayern and the Bundesliga's record signing.

RW: Jadon Sancho (Man. City/Dortmund)
Scored on his competition debut for Manchester City against Borussia Mönchengladbach in September 2016, and later shone at this same level for Dortmund with three goals in five outings in 2017/18. No surprise then his subsequent dazzling displays for Dortmund and England's senior sides.

DM: Lorenzo Pellegrini (Roma)
A UEFA Champions League semi-finalist with Roma in 2017/18, the Italian international midfielder had helped the Giallorossi get to the same stage of the UEFA Youth League back in 2014/15, making nine eye-catching appearances.

Leroy Sané with Schalke in 2015
Leroy Sané with Schalke in 2015©Getty Images

AM: Leroy Sané (Schalke, now Bayern)
Recently bought by Bayern after two league titles with Manchester City, the winger played 13 times in the competition for first club Schalke, helping them to the last four in 2013/14. A month after his last UEFA Youth League outing in February 2015, he hit his first UEFA Champions League goal for Schalke against Real Madrid aged 19.

Kingsley Coman with Paris in 2016
Kingsley Coman with Paris in 2016©Getty Images

LW: Kingsley Coman (Paris, now Bayern)
Turned out seven times for Paris in 2013/14 and within 12 months was making his UEFA Champions League debut for Juventus. By summer 2016, at the age of 20, the by-now Bayern winger Coman was playing in the UEFA EURO 2016 final for France.

FW: Marcus Rashford (Man. United)
Nothing illustrates Rashford's rapid rise better than the fact that five months after his two goals on his UEFA Youth League bow against PSV in September 2015, he was scoring twice on his senior United debut against Midtjylland in the UEFA Europa League. His star continues to shine.

FW: Kylian Mbappé (Monaco, now Paris)
The French FIFA World Cup winner made a single outing in the UEFA Youth League – for Monaco on 9 December 2014 – 11 days before his 16th birthday. By the following December, he was in Monaco's first team and now at Paris he is established as a worldwide star.