The young turks

When I see footballers, still in their teens, boss the pitch like they’ve been playing the game forever, it scares me to a point where I almost start developing a massive inferiority complex! And I guess one way of dealing with this complex is by simply putting out a few names from a long list of very talented youngsters and admitting why I like them.

Kylian Mbappe is fast, has a host of tricks, can score and more importantly, knows when to pass.   -  Getty Images

When a 18-year-old Marcus Rashford marked his Manchester United debut against Arsenal with a brace on a weekend two seasons ago, he celebrated it by turning up at school on Monday and the fact amuses me now as much as it did then. But it also reminds me that talented players, who are hogging headlines and come with ridiculous price tags, are getting younger by the season. 

When I see footballers, still in their teens, boss the pitch like they’ve been playing the game forever, it scares me to a point where I almost start developing a massive inferiority complex! And I guess one way of dealing with this complex is by simply putting out a few names from a long list of very talented youngsters and admitting why I like them. I’m sure I will be missing more than just a few names, but I’m purely going with what comes to my mind at the moment. 

Kylian Mbappe, 18, PSG and France 

I’m addressing the elephant in the room and getting this one out of the way. For a minute, ignore the astronomical sum that PSG has paid Monaco for Mbappe’s services and simply run through the kid’s highlight reel. He breezes past opponents with the kind of grace that has a heavy hint of disregard tagging along with it. What I like about him is his decision making ability. Footballers at that age usually come with exceptional pace or skill but not so much the kind of decision making you’d get from a seasoned campaigner. But that’s where Mbappe is different. He’s fast, has a host of tricks, can score and more importantly, knows when to pass. 

Marco Asensio, 21, Real Madrid and Spain 

When a team-mate says you’re the present and not the future of the club, you must be doing more than something right at 21. Marco Asensio is special and it’s as simple as that. He has the penchant for the 30-yard strikes and he picks the biggest moments and stage to remind us about the fact. I am a Barcelona supporter but I could only stand and applaud when a kid, who is battling against some incredible talent within his own team, turns up and scorers two absolute belters across two legs of a El Clasico. Asensio has already giving Zidane a selection headache and with enough reason. The youngster has a sense of occasion and his hat-trick in the group stage game of the U21 EURO against Macedonia was the only way he knew how to mark his debut in the tournament. 

Dele Alli, 21, Tottenham and England 

It’s fascinating to watch how this midfielder keeps getting better with every passing game. His technical ability on the ball and the way he reads situations is what sets him apart. What I like about Alli is the fact that he is an absolute team player and even possesses the kind of skill to do things on his own when needed. His goal against Crystal Palace in 2016 is something I can watch on loop every day. While his technical abilities allow him to flourish in the central midfielder’s role, his eye of goal makes him a very pleasing No. 10 to have on your side. 

Gianluigi Donnarumma, 18, AC Milan and Italy 

This list needed a goalkeeper and you can’t really ignore a 6-foot-5 frame, can you? But his enormous height aside, the Milan and Italy goalkeeper makes my list on the basis of talent and potential to get better, more than any other aspect. That Milan hasn’t been having the best of phase is no reason to turn a blind eye to what this youngster has brought to the pitch. He made his Serie A debut at 16 and his national team debut at 17 and while I’m not sure about other positions on the pitch, when Italian teams roll out defences and ’keepers, they’re always top notch. He is still a work in progress but has shown ample calm and composure while standing tall against quality attacks. They’ve tipped him to be the long-term successor to the legendary Gigi Buffon and it isn’t shocking at all. He’s a good shot-stopper and is very commanding in the air. There are rough edges but then, this is a player who still goes back to his school books after games. 

This list also needs… 

Marcus Rashford (19) paints such a confident picture every time he us handed a chance to get on the pitch. He came in for an injured Martial and sang all the right notes from the first minute. He is a big and bright prospect for both club and country.

Joshua Kimmich (22) has drawn praise from the Germany boss Joachim Loew, who has hailed him as the brightest prospect he’s seen in the country over the last decade. Kimmich is versatile, filling roles at right-back, centre-back and even wing-back. He has now played 21 consecutive games from start to finish for the national side and if that isn’t impressive, then you’re hard to please! 

Ousmane Dembele (20) is a youngster who can play in almost every attacking position and impressed so much at Dortmund that Barcelona came for his signature with a bagful of cash and got their man. He’s fleet-footed, crosses the ball brilliantly and is every bit the prodigy that he’s been made out to be. 

I think I might need a second and then a third column to speak about Gabriel Jesus, Christian Pulisic, Andre Silva, Theo Hernandez and more. That list is long and scarily good!