The Future’s World XI
December 30, 2017
While we may be used to (and often somewhat jaded by) the hyperbole surrounding the Premier League and every young player who shows initial promise, there’s no doubt that the next generation of footballers are shaping up to be something truly special.
Across the globe, there are a score of outstanding young players that are undoubtedly potential superstars, with many having already performed regularly for their clubs and countries.
With this in mind, we thought we’d piece together our future World XI, selecting the most promising youngster in every single position. Here’s what we came up with.
1. Gianluigi Donnarumma
A natural choice between the sticks, Donnarumma is a once-in-a-lifetime player who could well break a host of world records during his career. Having being signed by AC Milan for €250,000 at the tender age of 14, he went on to make his senior debut two years later and first represented Italy as a 17-year old. Now 18 and a giant at six foot five, he’s firmly established as one of the world’s top keepers and can look forward to a stellar career over the course of the next 20 years.
2. Benjamin Henrichs
At right back is the Germany and Bayer Leverkusen starlet Benjamin Henrichs, playfully referred to as the ‘reverse Phillip Lahm’ due to his transition from central-midfield to full-back. The 20-year old remains equally adept in both of these positions, while his maturity and composure on the ball has seen him quickly emerge as a Bundesliga regular. He’s also represented his country and appeared in the Champions League, with Bayern Munich said to be interested in bidding for the versatile star.
3. Jose Luis Gaya
This cultured left-back is one of the most highly coveted youngsters in the game and the 21-year old has long been tipped as the natural successor to Jordi Alba at both club and international level. For now, Gaya is continuing to ply his trade with distinction at Valencia, where he has been a regular for two years. He also recently signed a contract extension with a €50 million release cause.
4. Timothy Fosu Mensah
While the former Ajax academy product has been unable to break into Manchester United’s first team under Jose Mourinho, it’s surely only be a matter of time. Currently on loan at Crystal Palace, the versatile 19-year old is a powerful and cultured defender who can operate at right back, in the centre of defence and even midfield. We’d expect little else from an Ajax academy graduate of course, and there’s no doubt that Fosu Mensah could emerge as one of the world’s most formidable defenders during the next decade.~
5. Kieran Tierney
There were plenty of choices at left-centre back, but we’ve plumped for Celtic’s 19-year old Kieran Tierney ahead of Ajax’s Jairo Riedewald and new Bayern Munich recruit Niklas Sule. A left-back by trade, Tierney has impressed in central defence with his reading of the game and solid distribution. He also appears to be emerging as a leader within the Celtic side. Now capped at full international level by Scotland too, we fully expect him to develop into one of the finest defenders of the next generation.
It’s rare for an English talent of Foden’s type to emerge in any area, with his quick feet, impeccable technique and eye for goal truly something to behold. The left-footed midfielder, who is equally at home on the flank or in central midfield (we’re playing him centrally here), can also drift effortlessly beyond players. He has certainly made Pep Guardiola sit up and take notice of his talent – which is no mean feat. He certainly has the right manager to mentor him and having already made his City debut this season, we expect him to become a top player soon.
7. Renato Sanches
While Renato Sanches may have struggled to impose himself during his loan spell at Swansea, there is no doubt that the 20-year old Bayern Munich star remains one of the best prospects in the world. Boasting a unique combination of energy, pace and technical ability, Sanches is a force to be reckoned with in the centre of the park and puts us in mind of a young Edgar Davids. Make no mistake, he’s one to watch over the course of the next decade.
8. Christian Pulisic
When we list the names of top players absent from next years’ World Cup, we should not forget about the USA star Christian Pulisic. This 18-year old winger has emerged as Borussia Dortmund’s latest young starlet and one who is blessed with tremendous pace, outstanding dribbling ability and a reliable final ball. He can also operate on either side of the midfield, while equally adept at skinning defenders on the outside or cutting inside to get a shot away.
9. Marcus Rashford
There’s no doubt that Marcus Rashford should feature in this side, but the question is where? We’ve decided to play this electric 20-year old forward in the number 10 role, where he can utilise his movement, touch and raw pace to devastating effect. He already has 28 goals in 98 appearances for the Red Devils and a number of assists too, which will only multiply as he develops physically. Rashford is also uniquely intelligent for a young player and truly understands the game, so he fully warrants his selection here.
10. Gabriel Jesus
This 19-year old Brazilian striker has taken the Premier League by storm this season, plundering 17 goals in 35 appearances since his debut and emerging as a focal point for Pep Guardiola’s all-conquering side. Tenacious and mobile in equal measure, Jesus boasts superb movement and a predatory poacher’s instinct that is hard to instil into youngsters. This skill-set makes him an exciting prospect and one who could break any number of records if he stays in the Premier League.
11. Kylian Mbappe
Mbappe has arguably already crossed over from potential star into superstar, thanks to his supreme performances in the Champions League for Monaco last season and his loan move to PSG. He’ll complete a £160 million permanent move to the French capital next summer. For now, his incredible pace and dribbling ability continues to terrorise defences both at home and on the continent. He starts on the left for us, but what would you expect for a man dubbed the ‘new Thierry Henry’?