Best young football strikers
Brief scouting reports on some of our favourite emerging strikers
Goalscorers are worth their weight in gold. A good striker can elevate teams to another level, and there are different types of strikers too. Here’s a little list of our favourite young strikers 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.
OUR LISTS OF THE BEST YOUNG TALENTS
Matías Arezo is well-known to many already because of ability on Football Manager, but he is also a pretty exciting prospect in real-world football. He made his River Plate (URU) debut as a 16-year-old and has accumulated 91 appearances in the last two years, scoring 37 goals in the process – albeit a good chunk of those were from the penalty spot.
Nicknamed ‘El Bufalo’ in Uruguay, he made a much-anticipated move to Europe in January 2022, moving to La Liga club Granada CF for €5 million. He has struggled to make an impact in Spain so far, but time is on his side.
Matías Arezo's style of play
Arezo’s build subscribes to the stereotypical South American striker – short and stocky with good core strength. He utilises his body to good effect to pin and disrupt defenders when rumbling around the attacking third. He has a good burst and above-average speed but he is not especially quick; he is more steady and functional, something which may be an issue in the top European leagues.
He makes up for a lack of high-level athleticism with clever movement into depth and within the box. He angles his body intelligently to optimise his runs and is adept at attacking blindsides of defenders.
As a pure ball-striker, he generates excellent power off both feet with little back-lift. This makes him a dangerous snap shooter in most situations, but his awful shot selection is a key weakness of his game. He shoots from any angle and distance, regardless of situation; he shoots from the halfway line every other game.
His link play is neither particularly bad nor good but needs to improve touch and accuracy, especially at higher levels. He is decent at dropping off to relay possession and can create shots with direct passes or crosses, especially in transition. Ultimately, he works best with a partner, like Lautaro Martínez.
Arezo would’ve been better making a move within South America (Argentina, Brazil) or to a mid-level league in Europe (Portugal) before an elite-level league like La Liga. He can become a regular scorer in a top-five league, although his athleticism is likely not good enough to reach Champions League level.
Matías Arezo is an excellent ball striker that is good at finding space in the box. He is also aided by a strong and stocky build that makes him a robust presence up front.
Arezo’s link-up play lacks refinement and he also is too willing to shoot from long range when other better options are available.
Our lists of the best young talents
Adam Hložek is one of the most exciting talents currently playing outside of the top-five leagues in European football.
Since breaking into the AC Sparta Praha first-team as a 16-year-old during the 2018/19 season, Hložek has racked up well over 100 senior appearances, scoring and creating plenty along the way. He’s also established himself as a regular in the Czech Republic squad. And in the summer of 2022, he finally got his big move, joining an exciting, youthful Bayer Leverkusen team.
Adam Hložek's style of play
Adam Hložek is a brute of a human being. He has the physical build and attacking skillset reminiscent of a young Zlatan Ibrahimović.
He is thick-set, around 6’1” and has a good burst of speed when given some space to gather speed. He can play across the attack, but his skillset is definitely suited to him playing as a striker.
As a striker, he is a dynamic threat. He can win the ball in the air exceptionally well, heading for goal or trying to hold up play to get others involved. But he can also play off the last man’s shoulder and look for avenues in-behind the defence, or swing wide into the channels to open up space for others.
Adam Hložek has a myriad of finishes in his arsenal: curlers on the half-turn, dribbles past the goalkeeper into an open goal, flicked backheels, towering headers, long range thunderbolts; and he can do it all effectively on both sides of his body.
Adam Hložek is a versatile attacking threat that can be damaging in a wide range of scenarios due to his varied skillset as a wide, technical player and as a physical, athletic striker.
Adam Hložek’s main weakness is his link-up play, especially when he is playing out wide.
Like many teenage stars who burst onto the scene, Alexander Isak has been criticised for not fulfilling an unrealistic level of potential.
But the striker impressed for Real Sociedad after initially struggling to establish himself at Borussia Dortmund after arriving in the Bundesliga as a teenager.
But now his career is on the upshot, having left La Liga to join Newcastle United, where he hit the ground running with very strong early performances.
Alexander Isak's style of play
Isak is comfortable on both feet and in the air, which means he can score a variety of goals based on many different situations. The 21-year-old is tall and leggy but possesses good technique, showing quality in his link-up play and dribbling.
He also possesses impressive movement – his running in behind is intelligent, while he moves smartly in the box to escape defenders. Isak struggles to impact himself against quick, physical defenders. He is still growing into his body for top level action.
The striker lacks intensity when defending – his tackle and interception numbers are low – although he can press when asked. His goalscoring is streaky. Adding consistency to his game will improve his standing and performances.
Alexander Isak is an excellent finisher, but he is also a great technician for a striker that can also link play excellently.
Isak’s main weakness is that he can sometimes be crowded out of games and struggles to make an impact when isolated from the rest of the attack.
A semi-professional footballer in 2019, and barely a professional for part of 2020, Alou Kuol is now one of the hottest names in Australian football.
A wonderful first full campaign in the A-League did not go unnoticed in Europe either, with Sven Mislintat’s VfB Stuttgart pouncing to complete the signing of 2001-born striker who made the move to Germany at the end of his debut season in the A-League.
After six months training with the first-team and playing with the second-team in the Regionalliga, Kuol joined SV Sandhausen on loan in the 2. Bundesliga. He struggled for minutes though, returning to Stuttgart to play for the club’s reserve team in the German fourth tier.
Alou Kuol's style of play
Kuol’s fundamental qualities are surprisingly strong for a youngster just emerging at the professional level. His game has a lot of intensity to it; he makes things happen, he is already at (and above) the physical level to compete at senior level, and the defensive side of his game is quite competent.
And from there you build. As a striker, he obviously needs to score, and in the A-League he was been one of the best in 2020/21. While his role as a super sub helped, his returns – both in terms of goals and expected goals – are right near the top of all A-League players.
Kuol thrives in a variety of situations because of a unique physical profile that sees him dominate in aerial duels, while still being agile and extremely quick. He is not overly tall, but he possesses an incredible leap that helps him score a lot of headers, as well as contest strongly for the ball across the field. His agility is derived from a light-footed running stance that sees him jog around the pitch almost on his tippy-toes as he scans for opportunities to latch onto a loose touch or misdirected pass.
His game will still need some rounding out; he can look slightly unnatural in possession at times, especially when he has time to take a touch and assess his options. But within an elite development set-up at Stuttgart, there is hope that Kuol has the tools to become the next great Australian striker.
Kuol has a unique athletic skillset, including an incredible leap that makes him an incredible aerial threat. He also has a lot of intensity off the ball.
Kuol’s main weaknesses are on-ball as a link-up player, he also just generally lacks experience playing at the highest level, having still only played around 1,000 minutes of senior professional football as of September 2022, as a 21-year-old.
Darwin Núñez burst onto the scene in the 2019/20 season, scoring 16 goals for UD Almería in his first and only season in Spain’s Segunda División. He moved to Spain from Peñarol in his native Uruguay, where he started his senior career.
Following his breakthrough season in Europe, Darwin moved to SL Benfica in a deal that cost over €20 million. After a relatively slow start in Portugal, the Uruguayan striker kicked into stride and scored 26 goals in 28 league games in the 2021/22 season – as well as six in the Champions League.
In the summer of 2022, Darwin was signed by Liverpool for a reported fee that could top out at €75 million and beyond. His first months in England have been somewhat of a struggle as he adapts to the higher levels.
Darwin Núñez's style of play
Comparing anyone to Erling Braut Haaland is a disingenuous, but Darwin Núñez will remind you of him a little bit – not least for the way he attacks space. Like Haaland, Darwin is a tall striker with long limbs who possesses explosive athleticism. His acceleration and top-end speed is excellent, making him a dangerous attacker in transition and open space. When he gets going, he creates separations easily. He also has the robustness to withstand contact and is able to bounce of challenges, even at high speed.
Darwin’s movement is intelligent too, not just athletic. He’s good at attacking space off the shoulder, making the most of his speed, but is also adept at making short, sharp movements around the box which distract and occupy defenders. He scans regularly in these situations and adjusts his position accordingly to find pockets of space in and around the box.
An upside of Darwin’s intelligent movement and general instinct is that he’s able to get shots from a range of situations – throughballs into space in direct attacks from deep, off dribbles in and around the box, crosses and cut-backs from wide, set-pieces, as well as the odd opposition mistake. As a shooter, he prefers power to finesse and possesses excellent ball-striking technique. He generates great power with minimal back-lift, which makes him a threat from less likely situations and leads to spectacular finishes. That said, Darwin lacks composure at times – adding that would make him a more versatile goalscorer.
Darwin Núñez is a tall, fast and robust athlete who moves incisively and with explosiveness.
Darwin does struggle as a link player slightly, with an inconsistent touch limiting him at times. He also needs to play with more composure in front of goal.
Our lists of the best young talents
Gianluca Scamacca’s career has taken its time to blossom. A wonderful youth international career with Italy has often been counter-balanced by struggles at club level.
A product of AS Roma’s academy, he left at an early age to join PSV Eindhoven. He returned to Italy fairly soon after, joining US Sassuolo. A couple of loans away from the club set him up to score 16 goals in the 2021/22 season of Serie A, announcing himself as one of Europe’s premiere young strikers and forcing his way into the Italian national team.
His eye-catching season garnered interest from some of Europe’s biggest clubs, but he ultimately ended up at West Ham United in the summer of 2022.
Gianluca Scamacca's style of play
The Italian striker is physically gifted. His athletic profile is reminiscent of a young Zlatan Ibrahimović; he is extremely mobile at 6’5”, and while he is not yet the physically dominant striker the Swede has become, the potential is undoubtedly there.
In the meantime, there are so many other aspects of his game to be excited about. Scamacca is turning into a nicely well-rounded striker. His non-penalty expected goals per 90 minutes of 0.34 in 2020/21 so far is quite solid for a young player in a bad team, but it his creativity and ball progression that provide the best indication of a striker that could be influential at a top-level club.
His hold up play and ball carrying is a much improved feature of his game as he grows more comfortable at senior level. His technical quality is wonderful for his size and he has a good turn of pace as well.
Gianluca Scamacca is an exceptional ball-striker, which gives him a solid floor as a goalscorer. He is also very skilled for a player of his size, capable of linking play with deft two-touch play.
Scamacca has room to develop different aspects of his attacking skillset, not least adding more dynamic movements in the penalty box to score ‘easier’ goals.
It’s Erling Braut Haaland, mainly because Kylian Mbappé can’t quite be considered an out-and-out striker. Victor Osimhen is the best of the rest.
After Mbappé and Haaland, it’s probably Victor Osimhen at Napoli.