Over many decades Spanish magazine Don Balon would publish their list of the top 100 youngsters in world football at around this time of year.
Due to economic pressures and a scandal that brought about the arrest of their editor, Don Balon is no longer with us and we initially stepped into the breach a year ago to list the best young players currently plying their trade in world football.
There is one rule for this top youngsters run down, and follows the format Don Balon put in place over many years. To qualify for inclusion, the player must be born after January 1, 1991.
The list below is in alphabetical order and includes video evidence, just click on the name of the player.
Of course, whilst this list took many months to compile, there must be plenty of eligible players omitted. We are happy to hear about the players that you think should have been included in the comments, on Twitter or on our Facebook page.
1. Adryan, Flamengo, 18. Last July Adryan made his first appearance for the Flamengo first team but the attacking midfielder has been well known for some time in Brazil after starring for the Brazil Under-17 national team. September saw Adryan notch his first goal for Flamengo’s first team and Manchester United are believed to have been scouting the “new Zico” for some time.
3. David Alaba, Bayern Munich, 20. The versatile Austrian is almost a veteran now having been around for so long – he made his Bayern Munich first team debut in February 2010. A key member of Juup Heynckes’ squad, Alaba looks set for a long career at club and international level.
4. Rafa Alcantara, Barcelona, 19. Rafinha is the brother of Thiago, see below and the son of 1994 World Cup winner Mazinho. Still seems a little way off the Barcelona first team but the attacker has a good record in the Segunda Division and the Catalans are unlikely to let him go before giving Rafa a first team opportunity.
5. Thiago Alcantara, Barcelona, 21. The undoubted future of the Barcelona centre midfield once Xavi and Andres Iniesta have hung up their boots. Thiago has been unlucky with injuries over the past year but his drive in the middle of the park is a huge asset.
6. Jano Ananidze, Spartak Moscow, 20. The Georgian playmaker has already hit his career best season goals tally in 2012/2013 and appears to be improving after plenty of initial hype.
7. Christian Atsu, FC Porto, 20. Yet another gem emerging through the Porto system. Atsu is a Ghanaian left winger with pace, power and a powerful left foot.
8. Jean-Christophe Bahebeck, Troyes (on loan from PSG), 19. Quick and able to use both feet, Bahebeck has impressed when given the opportunity at PSG and for the French national youth sides. Currently gaining valuable experience at Troyes.
9. Ross Barkley, Sheffield Wednesday (on loan from Everton), 18. Long tipped as the next big thing off the Goodison Park production line after Wayne Rooney. A serious injury in a youth match with Liverpool stunted his progress somewhat but is earning rave reviews on loan in the Championship this season.
10. Fabio Borini, Liverpool, 21. Currently injured and likely to be frustrated at an underwhelming start to life at Liverpool. Nevertheless, did well at Roma last season and was part of Italy’s Euro 2012 squad. Still plenty of time to make an impact on English football.
11. Joel Campbell, Arsenal (on loan at Real Betis), 20. The Costa Rican hitman has undergone some fairly flat loan spells since joining Arsenal but his international form has been terrific (including a goal against Spain) and it would be no surprise to see him score goals for many years to come.
12. Steven Caulker, Tottenham, 20. Slowly but surely Caulker has established himself in the Spurs first team, after a fine loan spell at Swansea in 2011/2012. Good in the air both offensively and defensively and surprisingly quick across the ground, Caulker is a future England centre back.
13. Sergio Canales, Valencia, 21. The Spanish playmaker has had horrible luck with injuries but we saw enough during his break out years at Racing Santander to suggest Canales should still be a big player in years to come. Blessed with terrific technique and a terrific left peg, Canales has already been through plenty for such a young player.
14. Luc Castaignos, FC Twente, 20. Rebuilding his career in Holland after failing to make the breakthrough at Inter Milan. Throughout his career Castaignos has banged in the goals and should continue to notch in the Eredivisie under Steve McClaren.
15. Thibaut Courtois, Atletico Madrid (on loan from Chelsea), 20. According to reports, after a hugely impressive spell so far at Atletico Madrid, Chelsea will loan Courtois to an English team next season. Petr Cech will have to absolutely stay on top of his game at Stamford Bridge to ensure Courtois, arguably the best young keeper in world football, doesn’t make his way to West London permanently.
17. Isaac Cuenca, Barcelona, 21. Currently the forgotten man at Barcelona after undergoing an operation to repair his meniscus in May and has failed to break into Tito Vilanova’s first team in recent weeks. But showed enough flashes of class last season under Pep Guardiola to suggest he can make it at the Nou Camp.
18. Kevin De Bruyne, Werder Bremen (on loan from Chelsea), 21. Belgian winger who is performing well in the Bundesliga with all the qualities to succeed in the Premier League once he returns to Stamford Bridge. Throughout his time at Genk and initially at Werder Bremen, De Bruyne has been a player that can make things happen.
19. Gerard Deulofeu, Barcelona, 18. Arguably the biggest talent to emerge at Barcelona since Lionel Messi. Deulofeu is on fire for the Barcelona II side this season and his performances for Spain Under-19s and Under-21s suggest the Catalans have another outrageously gifted attacking midfielder on their hands.
20. Lucas Digne, Lille, 19. One of the finest young defensive talents in France. Broke his way into the Lille first team in 2011/2012 and has impressed at all youth international levels. Like all good modern full backs, Digne loves to get forward. Linked with Chelsea.
21. Jean Marie Dongou, Barcelona, 17. Brought to Barcelona through Samuel Eto’o’s foundation and for a few years has been tipped as one of the brightest talents coming through the famed La Masia academy. Scored his first goal for Barcelona B last March and is now a regular in the Catalans second side.
22. Dudu, Dynamo Kiev, 20. One of many young and talented Brazilians to make their way to the Ukraine. As it stands Eduardo Pereira Rodrigues (to give him his full name) is yet to really impress for Dynamo but the diminutive attacking midfielder is a massive talent.
23. Stephan El Shaarawy, AC Milan, 20. One of the few AC Milan players to step up a level following the departures of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva. The Pharoah scored 8 goals in his first 11 games of 2012/2013 and has taken on the goal scoring burden at the San Siro. Can the Rossoneri hold on to their exciting young hitman?
24. Christian Eriksen, Ajax, 20. No stranger to this kind of list, Eriksen has been dazzling for Ajax for some time now. Was a key part of the Eredivisie title success last season and appears to be maturing at a rapid pace.
25. Julian Draxler, Schalke, 19. The fourth youngest ever Bundesliga player and has already played for the German national team. Recently broke his wrist but appears to be one of the most talented young midfielders in Europe.
26. Viktor Fischer, Ajax, 18. After impressing in last season’s Next Gen series, Fischer was linked with Manchester United in the summer and scored his first goal for the Ajax first team in late October. A hugely talented playmaker – the “new Christian Eriksen” – which says a lot about the Amsterdammers youth system.
27. James Forrest, Celtic, 21. A terrifically gifted winger who already looks a cut above the SPL. Tricky, pacey, Forrest is very much a wide man of a bygone era but who could go on to great things.
28. Chris Forrester, St Patrick’s, 19. Linked with Everton this week, Forrester has been impressing for St Pat’s for some time and is the number one young talent still plying his trade in Ireland. Scorer of some audacious goals.
29. Rogelio Funes Mori, River Plate, 21. The identical twin brother of Ramiro – who is also making a name for himself at River Plate. Knows where the goal is and could well be plying his trade in Europe sooner rather than later.
31. Serge Gnabry, Arsenal, 17. Made his breakthrough into Arsenal’s first team ahead of schedule but there has been plenty of hype surrounding the young German midfielder for some time. Tipped by Arsene Wenger to eventually play up front, Gnabry is a name you will be hearing a lot about for a long time.
32. Antoine Griezmann, Real Sociedad, 21. A French winger who plays on the left and can appear in the centre who has been impressing in Spain for an unfashionable side. Played over 100 times for Sociedad and a move to a bigger club beckons.
33. John Guidetti, Manchester City, 20. Still not a household name in England despite recently signing a new contract at Manchester City. Guidetti’s goal scoring exploits at Feyenoord in a loan spell last season means the Swede is already a legend in Holland but will have to get past some of the world’s best forwards at the Etihad for Premier League recognition.
34. Alen Halilovic, Dinamo Zagreb, 16. The “new Luka Modric” and son of former player Sejad Halilovic is the new buzz youngster in European football. Appeared in the Champions League this season and also became the youngest ever scorer in the Croatian top division. A youngster with an eye for a Golazo!
35. Eden Hazard, Chelsea, 21. Such a big name in English football now after an electrifying start at Stamford Bridge, it is somewhat of a surprise that Hazard is of the right age to make this list. A Belgian superstar already, who dazzled in Ligue 1 and should continue to dazzle at Chelsea for some time to come.
36. Thorgan Hazard, Zulte Waregem (on loan from Chelsea), 19. According to many, including Eden himself, Thorgan is a bigger talent than his more famous brother. Has so far inspired Zulte Waregem to title contention in Belgium and appears to have the confidence and talent to make his own name in European football.
37. Angelo Henriquez, Manchester United, 18. A surprising summer signing for Manchester United but after impressing for Universidad de Chile and scoring goals in the Copa Libertadores, has what it takes to succeed at Old Trafford. A tremendously powerful striker, even at such a young age, Henriquez had been watched by Sir Alex Ferguson for over two years before signing for the English giants.
38. Son Heung-Min, Hamburg, 20. Already one of the biggest Asian stars in world football. Heung-Min has scored five goals in his first 10 games this season, equalling his tally from the whole of the last campaign.
39. Bruno Martins Indi, Feyenoord, 20. A strong and powerful defender making his name under Ronald Koeman at Feyenoord – whose youth production line is highly impressive. Also a recent debutant for the Holland national team and has already scored twice for the Oranje.
40. Isco, Malaga, 19. It was a surprise that Malaga kept hold of the “new Andres Iniesta” in the summer and it will be a true shock if they can keep Isco for longer than the end of this current season after some terrific displays in the Champions League. A potential star of next summer’s Under-21 European Championships in Israel.
41. Ola John, Benfica, 20. Brother of former Fulham striker Collins John, Ola has all the attributes of a modern winger and has started notching up the assists at Benfica. Yet to play for the Holland national team but was one of the stars of the Eredivisie last campaign.
42. Phil Jones, Manchester United, 20. Injured for the start of the 2012/2013 campaign but the rise of Phil Jones has been hugely impressive. Produced some excellent performances for Blackburn and then impressed immediately at Old Trafford – if he can stay injury free, Jones will be a regular centre back for club and country.
43. Vaclav Kadlec, Sparta Prague, 20. Underwent a trial at Liverpool in 2007 and has been banging in goals consistently for Sparta Prague throughout his career. Scored on his Czech Republic debut and looks on course for his best goals tally in a season yet this campaign.
44. Tomas Kalas, Vitesse Arnhem (on loan from Chelsea), 19. One of a number of Chelsea loanees on this list. Has a contract at Stamford Bridge until 2017 which suggests the Blues are impressed with how the defender is progressing at Vitesse.
45. Maksym Koval, Dynamo Kiev, 19. For a 19-year-old to be the first choice goalkeeper of Dynamo Kiev, Koval must be a pretty special talent. Played just once for the Ukraine national team but should be the first choice number one for club and country for many years to come.
46. Takefusa Kubo, Barcelona, 11. A marketing man’s dream and already nicknamed the “Japanese Messi” on account of the fact he is emerging through the La Masia youth system after being plucked from Japan as a kid. A number 10 noted for his fine left foot and excellent vision.
48. Manuel Lanzini, River Plate, 19. An attacking midfielder nicknamed “The Jewel,” Lanzini is a crucial member of the current River Plate side after spending time at Fluminense on loan. A big move abroad and international recognition awaits should he continue to make progress.
49. Jurgen Locadia, PSV, 18. Reportedly being scouted by Liverpool after scoring an 11-minute hat-trick against VVV Venlo on his Eredivisie debut. Has been compared to Brazilian striker Adriano due to his powerful playing style
50. Samuele Longo, Espanyol, 20. (on loan from Inter Milan), 20. A goal scorer at every level he has played at, Longo has been banging them in for Inter Milan youth sides and is now in Spain as the Nerazzurri look to give him high level experience. A star of Inter Milan’s successful NextGen series campaign in 2011/2012, claiming five goals in 7 matches.
51. Adem Ljajic, Fiorentina, 21. Most famous in England for being the player that got away from Manchester United but Ljajic is performing consistently well in Italy for the Viola now. Racking up regular playing time in Serie A should stand him in good stead, especially with what appears to be a questionable temperament.
52. Romelu Lukaku, West Brom (on loan from Chelsea), 19. Not quite a regular at West Brom so far this season, Lukaku has still shown his powerful ability which persuaded Chelsea to swoop for one of the most coveted youngsters in European football. Another of the many young Belgian talents making a break through.
53. Adam Maher, AZ Alkmaar, 19. Gifted playmaker recently introduced into the Holland national team squad by Louis van Gaal. Consistently produced goals and assists at club level and looks destined for a move away from the Eredivisie eventually.
54. Lazar Markovic, Partizan Belgrade, 18. Strongly linked with Arsenal and Chelsea. Highly-rated in his homeland and already played five times for the Serbian national team, Markovic can play all across the front line.
55. Hachim Mastour, AC Milan, 14. Hachim Mastour, a 14-year-old forward, completed a world-record teenager transfer of 500,000 Euros to move to the San Siro from Reggiana in the summer. Nicknamed the “Moroccan Messi” – there are massive hopes for Mastour in Milan.
56. Mattheus, Flamengo, 18. An attacking midfielder for the Brazilian Under-20 side. What will get many of an older persuasion excited is that Mattheus is the son of 1994 World Cup legend Bebeto and his arrival prompted that (in)famous celebration of “rocking the baby.”
57. Bruno Mendes, Botafogo, 18. Has had a sensational start to his first team career at Botafogo with six goals in seven games and it would be no surprise if team mate Clarence Seedorf is recommending the young striker to many of his former club’s in Europe.
58. Arkadiusz Milik, Gornik Zabre, 18. A 6.0ft forward making a name for himself in Poland. Linked with Arsenal, Liverpool and Everton in recent days and described as the “new Robert Lewandowski.”
59. Ryo Miyaichi, Wigan (on loan from Arsenal), 19. Yet to truly have an impact at Arsenal or initially at Wigan but has shown enough in loan spells at Feyenoord and Bolton to suggest this Japanese winger has what it takes. Tricky, pacey and skilful, Miyaichi is already a massive name in Japan.
60. Martin Montoya, Barcelona, 20. A right back who has seen his progression to the first team at the Nou Camp stunted by Dani Alves. Nevertheless has put in some fine displays when called upon, including hitting the bar in a recent El Clasico and also received plenty of international recognition.
62. Lucas Moura, Sao Paulo, 20. Signed by PSG for the small matter of 45 million euros, Lucas Moura is a tricky attacker capable of scoring goals and beating opposition defenders. Has already gained a reputation for lung bursting runs from deep and could well end up being a better player than the much more celebrated Neymar.
63. Iker Muniain, Athletic Bilbao, 19. The Bart Simpson look-a-like feels like he has been around for ever after breaking all sorts of records when he first came into the Bilbao first team. Nicknamed the “Spanish Messi,” Muniain has continued to impress over the years and looks certain to be a regular starter for La Furia Roja in the future.
64. Sean Murray, Watford, 19. A tricky, quick midfielder with an eye for goal and one of the most highly rated young players in the Championship. Fine recent form should see him eventually rewarded with a full international cap for the Republic of Ireland after cleaning up a host of awards at Watford last season.
65. Ahmed Musa, CSKA Moscow, 20. A classy Nigerian forward plying his trade in Russia. Initially came to prominence at VVV Venlo in Holland, Musa has a good scoring record at international level.
66. Matija Nastasic, Manchester City, 19. A surprise summer signing by the Premier League champions but has already fitted in well at Manchester City with some fine performances in big games. Good in the air and on the ground, Nastasic could well be the long term successor to Nemanja Vidic in the national side.
67. Neymar, Santos, 20. Arguably the third best player in world football after Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. Neymar recently scored his 150th career goal for club and country and is far and away the best and most famous current Brazil player. Forget what the transfer gossips claim, a deal with Barcelona is already done, with Neymar arriving perhaps as early as this January. And ignore the doubters, the Santos star will make fools of defenders in Europe just as he has done in South America.
68. M’Baye Niang, AC Milan, 17. Highly sought after by a host of major clubs when it became clear in the summer that Niang was leaving Caen. Yet to show much of his ability in Italy but consistently proved in Ligue 1 that the French striker is a name for the future.
69. Lucas Ocampos, Monaco, 18. The Ligue 2 outfit stole a march on plenty of bigger clubs by securing the services of Ocamps during the summer. Compared to Cristiano Ronaldo by some south American pundits, in truth we haven’t really seen a great deal of this in France yet.
70. Jores Okore, Nordsjælland, 20. Despite Nordsjælland’s troubles in the Champions League this season, Okore has boosted his reputation with some fine defending. Danish legend Peter Schmeichel recently recommended the Ivorian-born centre back to Sir Alex Ferguson.
71. Oscar, Chelsea, 21. The Brazilian schemer has already lit up Stamford Bridge during his short time in England, particularly in the Champions League with stunning goals against Juventus and Shakhtar Donetsk. Excellent displays for Internacional suggest Oscar will continue to impress.
72. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Arsenal, 19. The Ox has been one of the few bright spots for Arsenal in recent times with his profile arguably at an all-time high as he adorns the cover of FIFA13. Needs a few more performances like the home game against AC Milan in the Champions League last season but is generally a player who creates a lot of excitement.
73. Dani Pacheco, Liverpool, 21. A major player in Liverpool’s Under-21 side and has received a smattering of first team opportunities under Brendan Rodgers in 2012/2013. Has saved most of his best performances for the Spanish national youth sides but should still make an impact at Anfield.
75. Lucas Piazon, Chelsea, 18. Brazilian compared to Kaka, Lucas Piazon is not quite making the impact on the Chelsea first team some would have expected but has always done well when given a chance particularly in the Capital One Cup this season.
76. Paul Pogba, Juventus, 19. Two protracted transfer sagas later and Pogba is one of the best-known teenage footballers on the planet. Recently began to make an impact at Juventus where he could emerge as an important player for the Old Lady. As well as physical presence in the middle of the park, Pogba has an excellent shot from distance.
77. Joel Pohjanpalo, HJK Helsinki, 18. Came to fame thanks to a hat-trick in April when he scored a perfect hat-trick in less than three minutes against Mariehamn. Has been on the radar of some of Europe’s biggest clubs for some time after making his debut in October 2011, including Liverpool.
78. Nick Powell, Manchester United, 18. Plucked from Crewe in the summer, Powell has reportedly been earmarked as the eventual successor to Paul Scholes in the Manchester United midfield. Has already scored some stunning goals and possesses excellent technique.
79. Dennis Praet, Anderlecht, 18. Broke into the Anderlecht first team in 2011/2012 and billed as the latest Belgian wonderkid. Linked with Liverpool last month.
80. Alex Pritchard, Tottenham, 18. A cheeky and precocious attacking midfielder making waves in the Spurs youth sides, particularly in recent weeks. Already becoming somewhat of a dead ball specialist, Pritchard could well be gracing the Tottenham first team in the coming months.
81. Rodrigo, Benfica, 21. A goal scorer par excellence, Benfica have a massive talent on their hands. Scores goals for fun with his four-goal haul against Denmark for the Spanish Under-21 side in October a particular highlight.
82. Jese Rodriguez, Real Madrid, 19. Compared to Real Madrid’s leading man Cristiano Ronaldo, Rodriguez can attack down both wings and like a fair few Spaniards struggling to break through at one of La Liga’s leading two clubs, has been linked with a move to England. So far this campaign has seven goals for Real Madrid Castilla in just 11 appearances.
83. James Rodriguez, FC Porto, 21. Rodriguez has been outstanding for Porto in recent months, stepping up as their major player and looking like another brilliant find by the Portuguese giants. A release clause, which was recently re-negotiated, means Rodriguez is unlikely to leave for less than 40 million pounds.
84. Sergi Samper, Barcelona, 17. There must be a conveyor belt of these types of players in La Masia but Sergi Samper, after some fine NextGen Series displays, has been labelled “the new Xavi.” Trained with Pep Guardiola ad the first team last year which is as sure a sign as any at just how highly rated Samper is at the Nou Camp.
85. Georgi Schennikov, CSKA Moscow, 21. A left back with boundless energy, good going forward and strong defensively. Gaining great experience at CSKA where he has now been a mainstay in the first team for four full seasons.
86. Jonjo Shelvey, Liverpool, 20. Plucked from Charlton, the bald-pated midfielder has progressed at Anfield and this season appears to be well liked by Brendan Rodgers. An athletic hard working midfielder, Shelvey is probably the closest player at Liverpool to being able to replace Steven Gerrard in the long term.
87. Raheem Sterling, Liverpool, 17. The current campaign has seen Raheem Sterling burst on to the scene and become a regular in Liverpool’s first team. A diminutive winger, Sterling has shown maturity beyond his tender years to almost always pick the right pass and appears to have a great football brain. Could well burn out quickly this season but looks like being a regular for club and country for many years to come.
88. Xherdan Shaqiri, Bayern Munich, 21. After a starring role in Basel’s Champions League exploits least season, Shaqiri earned a big move to Germany’s biggest club. Initial fine performances have given way to more of a bench role of late but this vastly gifted midfielder is too good to ignore for long.
89. Suso, Liverpool, 18. Another youngster to have made an impact at Liverpool in recent months. Suso is yet another of Spain’s gifted midfielder with touch, vision and an understanding of tiki-taka that has the Kop rather excited.
90. Marc-Andre Ter Stegen, Borussia Monchengladbach, 20. A young keeper with two full seasons of Bundesliga action behind him as well as a couple of caps for the German national team. The likely successor to Manuel Neuer if he is unable to dislodge the Bayern keeper before then.
91. Christian Tello, Barcelona, 21. Impressed under Pep Guardiola last season after emerging from the Barcelona B side. Incredibly, Tello is still to sign a new deal at the Nou Camp which means he is constantly linked with clubs elsewhere – would likely improve almost any club side in world football should he leave Barca.
92. Simon Tibbling, Djurgardens, 18. Linked with the likes of Bayern Munich and Ajax at a young age, this highly-rated midfielder is already beginning to make an impact in the Allsvenskan.
94. Raphael Varane, Real Madrid, 19. Billed as the new “Fernando Hierro” on arrival at the Bernabeu, Varane has looked strong and imposing without ever really threatening to become a regular first team starter yet. Once trusted on a regular basis, Varane could well become one of the best defenders in world football.
95. Marco Verratti, PSG, 20. There was a collective wail of despair when Verratti left Pescara for PSG in the summer for 10 million pounds as a highly-rated home grown Italian talent made his way to Paris along with Thiago Silva and Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Considered the long term successor to Andrea Pirlo in the Azzurri midfield.
96. Tonny Vilhena, Feyenoord, 17. A midfielder who has made a large impression on Holland’s Under-17 side and is slowly beginning to come into first team reckoning under Ronald Koeman.
97. Victor Wanyama, Celtic, 21. Has emerged as a midfielder of huge promise in Scotland, after moving from Beerschot in Belgium. Was linked with Arsenal and Manchester United last summer and a famous goal against Barcelona illustrated his power in the air and will also not be forgotten in a while.
98. Jack Wilshere, Arsenal, 20. Arsenal’s struggles over the past 18 months have only made the yearning for Wilshere even stronger at the Emirates whilst the England tyro has been out injured. Slowly returning to first team action which is great news for Arsene Wenger and Roy Hodgson with England also in search of a modern central midfielder to base their side around for years to come.
99. Granit Xhaka, Borussia Monchegladbach, 20. Another star of Basel’s Champions League run in 2011/2012 – Xhaka earned a big money move to Borussia Monchegladbach where he is slowly integrating into Bundesliga football.
100. Samed Yesil, Liverpool, 18. Bayer Leverkusen’s decision to sell Yesil to Liverpool this past summer for a minimal fee still feels like a very strange decision. The young German striker has been compared to legendary Gerd Muller for some time and could be an Anfield legend in a couple of years.
101. Wilfried Zaha, Crystal Palace, 19. Crystal Palace fans have been singing “He’s just too good for you” long before England call-ups and the Eagles’ current promotion push. Ian Holloway and the board will have their work cut out to keep Zaha at Selhurt Park but the winger will be terrorizing full backs for years to come.