The 2019/20 season is almost upon us. And for several young players across Europe it will be a campaign in which they cement themselves as future stars.
Many are likely to burst onto the scene in much the same fashion as Kylian Mbappé did in 2016. Others will require a little more patience, only realising their potential with continued first-team exposure.
Player development is not an exact science but at Football Whispers we have scanned countless European leagues to bring you 20 young players we predict will make a big impact this season.
The below are ordered by country only. This isn't a ranking. The youngster at the top of this list has just as much potential as that at the bottom. Enjoy.
- 1 Rhian Brewster (Liverpool)
- 2 Mason Mount (Chelsea)
- 3 Harvey Barnes (Leicester City)
- 4 Fabio Silva (Porto)
- 5 Florentino Luís (Benfica)
- 6 Jota (Benfica)
- 7 Dejan Joveljić (Eintracht Frankfurt)
- 8 Michaël Cuisance (Borussia Mönchengladbach)
- 9 Matheus Cunha (RB Leipzig)
- 10 Lee Kang-in (Valencia)
- 11 Marc Roca (Espanyol)
- 12 Samuel Chukwueze (Villarreal)
- 13 Diego Lainez (Real Betis)
- 14 Kik Pierie (Ajax)
- 15 Bartłomiej Drągowski (Fiorentina)
- 16 Christian Kouamé (Genoa)
- 17 Hamed Junior Traorè (Sassuolo)
- 18 Willem Geubbels (Monaco)
- 19 Antonio Marin (Dinamo Zagreb)
- 20 Erling Braut Håland (Red Bull Salzburg)
Rhian Brewster (Liverpool)
The 19-year-old forward has yet to make his debut for Liverpool. And yet he is a Champions League winner. Not bad, that.
Brewster wouldn't be included on this list were it not for ankle and knee ligament injuries suffered in 2018. They cost him a year of football; a year in which he would have deputisied for Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mané.
That will change this term. Brewster featured regularly for the Reds in pre-season and impressed. He couples clinical, composed finishing with a high-energy pressing game.
Jürgen Klopp has high hopes for the young forward. He can demonstrate why this season.
Mason Mount (Chelsea)
Chelsea's registration ban is a blessing for several of the club's younger players this summer, but perhaps no more so than Mount.
The young midfielder impressed on loan at Derby County last term and, under Frank Lampard, will be given an opportunity to make his mark at Stamford Bridge.
Capable of playing as a No.10 or in central midfield, Mount is a goalscorer, creator and tireless worker without the ball. There's very little he can't do and he could blossom into one of England's most complete midfielders this term.
Harvey Barnes (Leicester City)
Leicester City have made shrewd signings this summer but the biggest positive for the Foxes could be the fact they have Harvey Barnes for the entire season.
He started the previous campaign on loan at West Bromwich Albion and starred for the Baggies. So much so he was recalled to the King Power in January. And Barnes kept up his fine form.
The young winger averaged a remarkable 0.69 expected goal contribution per 90, ahead of the likes of Premier League strikers Callum Wilson, Raul Jiménez, Romelu Lukaku and Gonzalo Higuaín.
All eyes will likely be on James Maddison, Youri Tielemans, Ayoze Pérez and Jamie Vardy this term. But it’s Barnes who could become a consistent match-winner for the Foxes.
Fabio Silva (Porto)
We'll leave it to Manuel Fernandes – scouting director at one of Porto's great rivals, Sporting – to explain why Silva is on this list.
“When Cristiano Ronaldo was 17 years old, he was a striker for Sporting’s youth. I saw him do the same things that I’m seeing from a kid in Porto’s youth, Fábio Silva. In a few years he will be an extraordinary forward.”
Silva only turned 17 years old last month and few players his age are ready for senior football. If they are given an opportunity they often appear out of their depth, overawed by the physicality of the men’s game.
Don’t expect any such problems for Silva. He is a special talent. One who can make an immediate impact in the Portuguese top flight this season.
Florentino Luís (Benfica)
Few clubs produce as many future stars as Benfica. This summer João Félix left for Atlético Madrid for £107million. Before him, the likes of Bernardo Silva, João Cancelo and Gonçalo Guedes departed in big-money moves.
The next on that list is likely to be Luís. Nicknamed ‘The Octopus', the 19-year-old was fast-tracked into the first-team last season. He made 14 appearances and ensured the club clinched the Primeira Liga title for the fifth time in six years.
Already in the sights of Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester City, a strong 2019/20 campaign will inevitably lead to further interest. His buyout clause? £107million.
It’s almost an annual occurrence for a Benfica academy graduate to step up and establish themselves as the club's next big star. And it looks like it will happen again this season.
Young winger Jota is primed to fill the creative void left by Félix in the club's forward line. And he may have only made seven first-team appearances for the Portuguese giants, but that hasn't stopped Europe's elite from sniffing around.
Arsenal and Spurs have been named as suitors while Liverpool are also believed to be keeping tabs on his development. Impress in the 2019/20 campaign and a big-money transfer is inevitable.
Dejan Joveljić (Eintracht Frankfurt)
When the Bundesliga side sold Luka Jović to Real Madrid they needed an able replacement. One that could help them compete domestically and also in Europe.
So they signed Jovelijić… a Jović doppelgänger. A 19-year-old striker who was born in the same city, Bijeljina, Bosnia, and was signed from the same club, Red Star Belgrade, as the man he replaced.
The comparisons don't end there. The teenager is a clinical finisher, a predator in the penalty area. He scored his first goal in the Europa League clash against Flora, an instinctive penalty-box header, and it will be the first of many.
It was in the summer of 2017 that the French teenager made a decision that would shape his future as a professional footballer. He opted to turn down Manchester City and sign with Bundesliga side Gladbach.
Two years on and that decision has yet to truly pay off. He impressed in 2017/18 and was named the Bundesliga side's player of the season. Last term, however, he was often left out of the starting XI.
It's why 2019/20 is vital for Cuisance. He is a wonderfully gifted playmaker and even has his own signature pass. But he needs game time to fulfil his potential. It's on Gladbach to ensure that happens.
Matheus Cunha (RB Leipzig)
The Brazilian arrived in Europe before he had played a senior game in his homeland. Signed by side FC Sion in 2017, Cunha impressed in his sole campaign in Switzerland and earned a move to RB Leipzig a year later.
The now 20-year-old was eased into life in Germany but scored nine goals in all competitions last term.
An instinctive finisher and elite chance-getter, further first-team opportunities will be handed to Cunha this season.
And if he develops as expected, the £50million Leipzig received for Naby Keïta could look like loose change.
Lee Kang-in (Valencia)
Being named the best player at the Under-20 World Cup isn’t the one-way pass to football stardom. But the South Korean wonderkid can follow in the footsteps of Leo Messi, Sergio Agüero and Paul Pogba having claimed this summer's Golden Ball.
Primed for stardom since just seven years old, Lee was called a football prodigy, dubbed ‘Little Park Ji-sung’ by those enamoured with the talent he first showcased.
At ten years old he moved to Spain and joined Valencia; the youth coaches who honed the skills of David Albelda, Isco and David Silva haven’t attempted to curb Lee’s individualism.
He remains an effervescent dribbler, a player capable of embarrassing the most seasoned defender. And this season he is set to make a telling impact in LaLiga.
Marc Roca (Espanyol)
Spain have produced a number of world-class deep-lying playmakers over the last 15 years – think Xabi Alonso, Sergio Busquets and Rodri to name but three.
The next off that production line is Roca. The 22-year-old's technical ability is phenomenal. His vision is extraordinary. And it is only matched by his execution.
Though not a ball carrier, his ability to create angles for passes off either foot means he’s press-resistant. It's a priceless trait to possess in the modern game and is why he has been heavily linked with a move to Bayern Munich. Liverpool and West Ham have also registered their interest.
Samuel Chukwueze (Villarreal)
In the space of 12 months, the 20-year-old Nigerian went from featuring for Villarreal's B team in the third tier of Spanish football to being linked with a £60m move to the Premier League.
That interest came primarily off the back of an exhilarating display against Barcelona in April.
Chukwueze was too fast, too clever and too tricky for the Blaugrana. He scored and registered an assist in a 4-4 draw.
That match highlighted Chukwueze's raw potential. He can be a match-winner; a forward that can create and score in equal measure. Now with a year's worth of first-team experience, it's time for the youngster to produce on a weekly basis. Do that and a big move will follow.
Diego Lainez (Real Betis)
Dubbed the Mexican Messi – no pressure, then – the 19-year-old joined Betis in January for £11.2million from Liga MX side Club América.
He was eased into life in Seville. During his first six months in the south of Spain, he made just 12 LaLiga appearances – of which only three were starts. Much more will be expected this term.
A tricky ball-carrying winger who is equally comfortable playing in the No.10 role, Lainez can quickly prove why he has been compared to Messi if he is given a consistent of games by new Betis boss Rubi.
Kik Pierie (Ajax)
The Dutch side knew they would have a big hole to fill in their defence this summer when Matthijs de Ligt moved on to pastures new. Which is perhaps why they went out in April and spent around £4million on Pierie.
The American-born centre-back had established himself as one of the finest defensive prospects in Holland over the previous two seasons while at Heerenveen.
Pierie blends the principles of modern-day defending with those of years past. He reads the game expertly, far better than many defenders his senior, and is rarely caught out of position.
De Ligt will not be an easy man to replace but the teenager has everything required to do so.
Bartłomiej Drągowski (Fiorentina)
The 21-year-old Pole produced one of last season's outstanding goalkeeping displays. Guarding the Empoli net against Atalanta in April, Drągowski made 17 saves, the most by a Serie A goalkeeper since the 2004/05 season.
He single-handedly repelled a dominant Atalanta side who had an expected goals total of 5.06 for the game. To say a performance of this level is rare would be an understatement.
Prior to Drągowski's arrival on loan in January, Empoli had underperformed their expected goals against total by over eight. In the time the Fiorentina man was with the club, they outperformed the same metric by 2.21.
It highlights just how special a goalkeeper Drągowski is. Back at Fiorentina and now the club's first-choice, further heroics will soon alert Europe's elite sides.
Christian Kouamé (Genoa)
Kouamé was a street footballer when he was brought to Italy from the Ivory Coast as a hopeful 16-year-old. There was no guarantee of a contract; he would audition for different clubs.
He was signed by fourth-tier Prato, an amateur side in Tuscany. Fewer than four years later, he was shining for Genoa against Juventus at the Allianz Stadium.
At 6ft 1ins Kouamé has the physical profile to hold off defenders and consistently win the ball in the air. Yet he is far from a battering ram. He is nimble in possession, able to skip past a centre-back with a flick or trick. Deceptively quick, his long legs enable him to sprint past opponents with ease. And he can unlock defences with an intelligent or subtle pass.
His idol is Didier Drogba. It may not be too long until he is replicating his role model's feats at one of Europe's biggest sides.
Click here to read our full profile on Christian Kouamé
Hamed Junior Traorè (Sassuolo)
Very few 19-year-olds are linked with moves to Juventus and it’s even rarer that one from a struggling team is reportedly a target for the Serie A giants. It shows just what a talent Traoré is.
Instead of a switch to the Old Lady this summer the midfielder joined Sassuolo on loan. The Turin giants do, however, have a first-option clause for the next two seasons.
The Ivory Coast international is a one-man midfield. He can do it all. And a big season for Sassuolo could alert the masses. His move will have gone unnoticed outside of Serie A but it could turn out to be one of the shrewdest pieces of business of the 2019 summer window.
Willem Geubbels (Monaco)
The young French forward's reputation as a star in the making was cemented when at the age of just 16 years old, Monaco paid Lyon €20million to bring him to the principality.
Unfortunately for Geubbels, his first year in senior football was ravaged by injury.
Muscle strains, hamstring issues and a knee injury meant he made just one appearance in the French top flight for Monaco, a seven-minute cameo against Lille in August.
But if the teenager is able to shake off the injuries and do enough in training to show Leonardo Jardim he can be part of the first-team this season, he could explode onto the scene in a similar manner to Mbappé.
Antonio Marin (Dinamo Zagreb)
The list of European stars who have come through the Dinamo Zagreb academy is the envy of many a club.
Luka Modrić, Dejan Lovren, Šime Vrsaljko and Mateo Kovačić had their talents honed by the Croatian side. So if a club wants to sign the next Croatian star, they shouldn’t look beyond Dinamo. And they shouldn’t look beyond Antonio Marin.
The 18-year-old has made just nine first-team appearances yet has a reputation as not only the standout young player in Croatia but one of the brightest in Europe
He has already turned down offers from Manchester City, Milan, Juventus and Internazionale. Impress in 2019/20 and it won't be long until the circle once again.
Erling Braut Håland (Red Bull Salzburg)
In the space of just 90 minutes, the 19-year-old striker established himself as one of world football’s brightest young stars.
His nine goals against Honduras at this summer's Under-20 World Cup broke records. Håland trended across social media. A star was born.
The teenager has it all. At 6ft 4ins he can bully the most grizzled and experienced centre-backs. With the ball, he has the quick-feet of a diminutive winger and the raw power of an NFL running back.
He will lead the Salzburg attack this season. Impress and a big-money move will follow.