Best young football wingers
Brief scouting reports on some of our favourite emerging wingers
Wingers is a broad term, but we’ve included wide players in general – that includes out-and-out wingers, inside forwards, wide forwards, and so on. Here’s a little list of our favourite young wingers that are currently breaking onto the scene.
More profiles can be found in the goalkeepers, defenders, midfielders, wingers and strikers sections. Below, you’ll find profiles covering backgrounds, styles, strengths and weaknesses, while providing links to where you can find out more about them.
For full in-depth analysis of some of the best young players from all over the planet, check out our profiles page. We have countlesss profiles on players there, focussing on a range of talents from across the world. There are also exclusive interviews too, and plenty more.
Antony agreed to sign for AFC Ajax in February 2020 after impressing for boyhood side São Paulo. He is a flighty, explosive right-sided winger with a penchant for a looping cross towards the back post after cutting back onto his left foot.
Antony excels in one-on-one situations when going inside onto his favoured foot, but can be restricted by being shown down the line. However, with his sharp drops of the shoulder, low centre of gravity and excellent acceleration, it is difficult to stop him wherever he intends to go.
His excellent performances at Ajax propelled him to a huge money move to Manchester United in the summer of 2022.
Antony's style of play
Growing up in the working-class city of Osasco in São Paulo’s metropolitan region, Antony’s humble roots are reflected in his style of play. He is an individual whose work-rate is off the charts, even if the care and attention of his defensive work is far from refined.
Dribbling is one of Antony’s standout traits, capable of carrying the ball long distances, which would make him an asset certainly in teams who thrive in attacking transitions. His shooting is to a good standard, often hitting the target, even from range, although his shot locations can be questionable at times.
His output after signing for Ajax took plenty by surprise, with the team continuing to dominate at the top of the Eredivisie despite routinely losing big names.
Now he faces an even bigger task; helping Manchester United return to the summit of English football under the same manager, Erik ten Hag, that helped him blast onto the scene in European football with Ajax.
Antony is an electric and technically gifted right winger that likes to sit wide, and can attack either way when he receives possession.
While he is willing to attack the by-line, Antony is still quite left-foot dominant and will need to continue to improve on the other side of his body.
Phil Foden is a footballer with elite-level potential, which has been realised by a careful development programme under Pep Guardiola. Despite criticism from all angles, Guardiola integrated Foden into the team slowly but has since been vindicated by the standards he’s reached.
2020/21 saw Foden establish himself as a regular starter for City, and 2021/22 was similar – even if he is now part of a rotation that sees players start games in stints under Guardiola. Nevertheless, Foden is a key player for club and country before the age of 22.
Phil Foden's style of play
An attacking 8 or number 10 at youth level, Foden has been moulded into a dynamic forward under Guardiola – perhaps because he lacks the requisite control of tempo needed to play in a deeper, central role.
Nevertheless, Foden has made the ‘winger’ role his own. He has the sharpness and ball-carrying ability to be a threat with the ball, and his intelligence and awareness makes him a dangerous threat off the ball as well. His pressing ability is also a key component of his skillset.
Foden has a knack for neat inter-play in congested areas, is unafraid to use his sharp bursts of acceleration to beat players, accentuated by his slight frame, but it is perhaps his footballing intelligence which shines above all.
His knowledge of where to position himself in attacking phases has been finely-tuned under Guardiola, allowing him to be milliseconds ahead of his marker or nearest opponent, which is all he needs to receive on the turn and skip away from pressure.
In terms of (expected) outputs, Foden is one of the premiere young players in that regard. Even if he plays for an all-conquering side like City, his underlying numbers are extremely impressive for a player of his age and fluctuating role.
Foden is an extraordinarily technical gifted player that can play a variety of roles with elite output in each. He has developed into a really excellent penalty box player in recent seasons.
It is hard to pick a weakness in Foden’s game, but his inability to properly control the tempo of a match is a good reason why Pep Guardiola has settled on playing him out wide.
It took just 20 senior appearances before Juventus sporting director Fabio Paratici decided he had seen enough. Parma’s on-loan winger Dejan Kulusevski had been so dynamic in his short stint in Serie A, that Juve parted with €35 million to bring the Swede to Turin.
He struggled to settle at Juventus, in and out under Andrea Pirlo then Max Allegri. But Paratici, now sporting director at Tottenham Hotspur, was at hand to sign him again. He joined Spurs in the winter of 2022, part of a squad refresh under Antonio Conte.
Dejan Kulusevski's style of play
Kulusevski is ready to do anything Andrea Pirlo asks of him. Already this season he has played at least three or four distinctly different roles; from striker to wing-back and in between. The primary aspects of his skillset that allows him to be functional in a range of different position are his speed, his massive engine and his willingness to pressure and be active defensively.
Pirlo’s 3-5-2/4-4-2 set-up this season does not really have a place for the Swede to play his most natural role, so he is having to adapt to his surroundings. While we have seen some of his better traits shine through – progressive ball-carrying, chance creation, and his left-footed finishing – there are certainly improvements to be made in his all-round combination play.
Kulusevski is a damaging player when afforded space to run in behind the defence, but needs to be more effective when dropping deeper and having to thread needles through a deep block.
Dejan Kulusevski is an incredible counter-attacking player who combines incredible top speed with excellent decision-making and technical quality to be a final third difference maker.
Kulusevski is incredibly left-foot dominant which feeds into issues receiving and combining in small spaces – part of the reason he prefers playing a transitional style.
Leaving Chelsea’s famed Cobham academy to join Juventus was certainly not seen as a conventional move when Samuel Iling-Junior decide to leave England for Italy.
But after a slow-ish start, the Englishman is starting to grow into life in Turin with strong performances at UEFA Youth League level, as well as his first appearances for Juventus’ under-23. In 2022/23 he has settled into a role as a regular for the newly rebranded Juventus Next Gen team, which play’s in Serie C.
Samuel Iling-Junior's style of play
The Englishman always looks fluid in possession. He likes to pick the ball up from wide on the left and glide inside despite being left-footed. In saying that, he does seem more comfortable combining with others than attacking the penalty box.
He is also a really good size for a wide player; tall, quick and strong enough to drift inside and battle it out with centre-backs.
In goalscoring positions, he tends to lack a bit of conviction. His shooting technique/decision-making at close range clearly needs a bit of work.
He seems far more comfortable shooting from range with power, whereas he struggles with more unorthodox close-range shots from cutbacks and crosses where he can’t simply put his laces through the ball. However, he is typically played as a conventional winger and so it is probably not the most important part of his skillset.
Samuel Iling-Junior is a fluid ball-carrier out wide that loves to use his high level athleticism to attack space in front of him. He also combines very well with team-mates out wide.
To become an elite wide player, Iling-Junior will need to learn how to attack the penalty box with more conviction as well as becoming a better and more consistent ball striker.
Having arrived in England with little fanfare, Pedro Neto has already developed into one of the Premier League’s most exciting young players. His career started at SC Braga, before he was dubiously moved to SS Lazio as a 17-year-old for a substantial fee.
Jorge Mendes duly moved him again a couple of years later to Wolves, where the forward has been a standout performer, despite their struggles under Nuno Espírito Santo.
His breakout 2020/21 season lead to high acclaim and international recognition, but a serious injury cut it short and scuppered his probable involvement at last summer’s European Championship. He’s since returned to first-team involvements in March 2022.
Pedro Neto's style of play
Despite playing in advanced areas, his offensive statistics – shots, dribbles and key passes – are surprisingly low. But there is a conviction to his actions that means he is often decisive. Neto is confident on either foot which makes him hugely unpredictable, meaning he can play (and shoot) in a variety of different positions.
The 20-year-old is fleet-footed and likes to weave between defenders, with quick hip movements also encouraging sharp changes of direction. His acceleration is impressive.
For someone with such impressive ball striking ability, his shots often blaze over or wide after rushing. Taking time to settle and place his efforts will benefit him significantly. Neto is occasionally guilty of delaying passes in promising situations or counter attacks, more through uncertainty as opposed to selfishness.
Pedro Neto is a versatile wide player that is effective on both feet, works hard in defensive phases, and is an all-round high level athlete.
Neto is a good high volume attacker, but he can sometimes be a little bit erratic in his usefulness when executing his final third actions.
More of a pace and power player than you would normally expect to come out of a Spanish academy, Antonio Zarzana was one of the most entertaining players to watch in the 2021/22 UEFA Youth League season. Clearly the Sevilla hierarchy agree, with coach Julen Lopetegui regularly including Zarzana in his matchday squads.
This season he has been sent on loan to Liga Portugal strugglers Maritimo where he is picking up good minutes as he continues his development.
Antonio Zarzana's style of play
Zarzana is a powerful, thickset wide player that loves to get his head down and burrow through defenders. But his athletic profile belies his technical qualities: he is a comfortable dribbler with quick feet and the ability to quickly shift his weight to unsettle defenders. His raw pace also helps him in these situations.
At times he does have tunnel vision, failing to raise his eyes to see play developing in front of him. But this is partly counteracted by how difficult he is to dispossess as he combines his size, speed and technical ability to retain the ball.
He plays with a hunger and intensity that will take him a long way in the senior game, even if he does not have a huge ceiling, and he has an athletic profile that should help him integrate into senior football at an early age. Over 1,000 minutes in 2021/22 in Sevilla’s reserves in Spain’s third division suggests he is on the right path.
Antonio Zarzana has a strong, robust physical frame and plays with an aggressive mindset. He is difficult to dispossess as he shields the ball and uses his body to herd off defenders.
Zarzana can sometimes lack awareness as a dribbler, not raising his vision to find team-mates to progress the ball to. For this reason, he struggles to combine in tight spaces – instead trying to bulldoze his way through defences.
Vinícius Júnior. He has exploded over the past year, establishing himslef as a highly-impactful key player for both Real Madrid and Brazil.
Khvicha Kvaratskhelia and Mykhaylo Mudryk are playing themselves into that bracket. Starring at Napoli and Shakhtar Donetsk respectively, both are being lined with big-money moves to the top echelon of European football.