Best teenage footballers
Brief scouting reports on some of our favourites born in 2003 and later
Football is getting younger and younger, with more and more high-level players breaking into senior football in their teenage years – see Jude Bellingham, Pedri, Jamal Musiala, and plenty more. Here’s a little list of our favourite players born in 2003 and later 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.
Born in Sarcelles, a suburb of Paris, and developed at Stade Rennais, Mathys Tel has graduated through two of French football’s hottest talent spots. But it’s at FC Bayern München, the German giants, that he intends to make his name.
With a handful of first-team appearances for Rennes under his belt, Tel left the club for Germany on the back of winning the UEFA U-17 European Championship with France, a tournament in which he starred.
He has since gone on to become the youngest-ever goalscorer in Bayern’s history, their youngest-ever starter in a Bundesliga game, as well as appear in the UEFA Champions League for Julian Nagelsmann’s side.
Mathys Tel's style of play
Tel is an extraordinary talent. He is a complete package forward, an attacker that has every element needed to play at the highest levels. That includes athletic dynamism, technical skill, endless self-confidence, and more.
He can play anywhere across the front line but gravitates more to the left side, where he can drift into wider channels to angle inside on to his strong right foot. That aspect of his game is reminiscent of the legendary Thierry Henry – and his combination of sleek speed, functional strength and on-ball quality does too.
He’s a multi-functional forward: he can stretch into space, drop to combine, slide runners through, drive at goal himself, sniff out chances in the box and threaten the goal from range. If you want to see the full breadth of his potential, find compilations of his perfromances at the 2022 U-17 EURO. He was far too good for that level, and he knew it.
Projecting Tel’s potential is extremely exciting. His completeness as a forward profile is rare, and it promises plenty. He has a long way to go to realising it, but all the tools are there for him to develop into an elite-level forward.
Mathys Tel is a multi-functional forward that is mature for his age. His skillset is remarkably rounded already, comprising of high-level athleticism, intelligence and technique, as well as self-confidence.
At underage level, Mathys Tel was guility of trying to do too much. At senior level, he is still learning how to impose his skillset on games against fully-grown men.
A regular Spanish youth international and already involved with the senior Sevilla squad, Carlos Álvarez has a big reputation in youth football circles despite his small stature.
He grabbed the spotlight in the 2021/22 UEFA Youth League season as well, starring for a Sevilla team for which he carried much of the attacking threat. He has also made appearances for Sevilla’s first-team during pre-seasons.
Carlos Álvarez's style of play
Once you set eyes on Álvarez, it’s difficult not to think of the legendary Diego Maradona. Almost everything about him – his small and stocky size, his hair, his number 10 shirt – harks back to the legend that once played for Sevilla himself.
He even plays like Maradona. Álvarez plays between lines, instigating attacking situations with his close control and technical quality. He gets on the ball to dribble and drive, combine and create. One of his best skills is his ability to ride challenges, keeping his balance despite being bounced around, and it really does look similar to the Argentine icon.
He has a creative spark around the box as well, capable of opening up a defence with a quick combination or clever pass. Moreover, he’s a threat as a shooter with a promising ability to create shots out of little.
As he develops with Sevilla’s B team in the third division, Álvarez will be in contention for senior minutes before long. It will be interesting to see how – or where – he is integrated.
Carlos Álvarez has incredible technical skill housed in a stocky, robust frame that makes him incredible at riding challenges and going on slaloming runs.
The main question about Carlos Álvarez’s game going forward is his portability to senior football given the attacking midfield role and his miniature size.
The emergence of many Ajax players at senior level seems stratospheric, but is almost always just a culmination of years of steady progression through De Toekomst. Devyne Rensch is no different. After winning an award in 2020 as Ajax’s best academy player, he has progressed into the first team naturally and solidified his place in the squad with solid contributions.
Devyne Rensch's style of play
Rensch perfectly blends the technical and tactical excellence we expect from an Ajax academy graduate with versatility. Capable of playing anywhere across the back four and in midfield, he has predominantly featured as a right-back at senior level, though he has been projected as a future centre-back.
To play in the middle, he will probably be helped a lot if he can grow a couple of inches over the next couple of years to really maximise his chances battling physically with big strikers. Across the ground though, he is extremely mobile, though tends to lack the engine to see out 90 minutes in his high intensity role.
But at the end of the day it is his technical quality that shines most. Rensch is projected to be a centre-back, but his current role sees him spend a lot of time receiving the ball in congestion when he tucks into midfield, with some additional combination play in and around the penalty box when he attacks the right half space.
Devyne Rensch is a tactically flexible and technically excellent defensive player that can function in multiple roles across multiple systems.
While he played a lot of youth football at centre-back, Devyne Rensch does seem a little undersized to play the role long term and may be better suited to right-back as a senior.
Mohamed Touré stunned the A-League on his debut in February 2020, becoming the youngest goalscorer in the competition’s history when he came off the bench as a 15-year-old to score in a 2-0 win against the Central Coast Mariners.
He continued to impress in 2020/21, routinely coming off the bench as an impact sub, and still managing to score three goals in 349 minutes. In 2022, Stade de Reims made their move, adding the Australian to their squad to develop him through their reserves.
Mohamed Touré's style of play
Touré is an excitement machine. He is capable of playing anywhere across the front three, having already developed the physical qualities to play at A-League level, both as a striker and as a winger.
He is lightning fast, and is especially dangerous beating players of the dribble due to his explosiveness from a standing start. Touré loves to get on the ball, slalom through defenders and attack space in transition, although he does overdo it at times, running into dead ends when it might have been better to release the ball earlier.
When isolating defenders one-on-one, he shows obvious technical quality but lacks some decisiveness when trying to find a way past his marker. Throughout his career so far, his best moments in these situations have come either from blasting past defenders with his speed (which requires space) or by rolling challenges with his great bodywork.
Interestingly for a right-footed left winger, Touré likes to hit the by-line and is quite reliable at delivering cut-backs to team-mates in the penalty. Likewise, when he is able to get into central positions, he is very good at finding space at the back post to receive cut-backs: the source of a majority of his A-League goals.
Mohamed Touré has an explosive change of speed that aids his inclination to dribble as much as possible. He also is quite versatile across a range of attacking roles.
Mohamed Touré’s main weaknesses are finishing opportunities, and also dribbling once the game slows down – he prefers attacking defenders at speed in transition.
Our lists of the best young talents
Warren Zaïre-Emery was the revelation of the this season’s UEFA Youth League. At just 15 years old, not only was he one of the youngest prospects to play in the tournament, he started all but one game as an exciting Paris Saint-Germain team reached the quarter-final stage.
He has been a prominent name in youth football circles for a little while now, impressing at the Al-Kass Cup. He further confirmed his elite-level talent by dominating midfielders against largely 2005-born players in the 2022 UEFA U-17 European Championship, which France won.
After an outstanding season and summer, PSG had to fast-track him into the senior set-up. He’s currently on the fringes of the first-team, playing minutes when the situation allows. He’s signed a professional contract at PSG and become the club’s youngest-ever player.
Warren Zaïre-Emery's style of play
Zaïre-Emery is an extremely advanced and rounded player for his age; there aren’t any obvious weaknesses to his game, more specific skills which he can hone further as he grows and gains experience.
He can be whatever he needs to be in midfield, capable of adapting his role and responsibilities at short notice. He can sit and organise play from the base of midfield, he can be the driving midfielder between both boxes, he can be forward-breaking runner – he has it all to do it all. Plug-and-play would be a suitable label to tag Zaïre-Emery with. A versatile athletic profile underpins his game too; he’s highly-developed for his age in this regard too, with a solid core and smooth change of pace.
Expect to hear a lot more about Zaïre-Emery in the coming months and years. PSG will have to battle fiercely to keep hold of him – to do so, they will have to prove they can provide him the minutes his talent demands. He will be playing senior football before long, wherever he is.
Warren Zaïre-Emery has multiple elite attributes. He has an incredible physical profile that combines mobility, strength and speed, combining it with high level technical quality and plenty of aggression.
It is hard to pinpoint one in Warren Zaïre-Emery’s game, but carrying the ball a little to long at times would probably be the main concern. He can also drift out of games occasionally.
Arsen Zakharyan made his debut for Dynamo Moscow in November 2020, started his first game the following February, and played 888 minutes in the 2020/21 Russian Premier League season.
In that time, his impact at Dinamo Moscow was so great that he was awarded the club’s Player of the Season award, as he contributed three goals and four assists largely playing off the right flank.
In the summer of 2022, there were strong links for a move to Chelsea, but due to complications brought on by the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the move was not able to be facilitated.
Arsen Zakharyan's style of play
While Zakharyan has predominantly played on the right, his future undoubtedly lies playing in an attacking midfield role. At the Under-21 European Championship group stage in March 2021, the Russian was hugely impressive as the fulcrum of the attack.
His ability to find and occupy spaces in central attacking areas is a standout trait. He has a knack for positioning himself perfectly within a group of defenders, and then has the technical quality to receive and the vision – when in transition – to seek out passing options as the defence collapses onto him.
He can still find these spaces against set defences, but finds it much more difficult to pick out a passing option; too often he will kick the ball into defenders as he tries to pass or cross the ball centrally.
For now, Zakharyan thrives in counter-attacking situations. It suits his best physical qualities; he is a tall, rangy, agile and quick athlete, that despite his height, is very uncomfortable competing in physical duels. He is very difficult to stop when he is able to take possession and build up speed, with his ability to shift his weight and his feet quickly making him particularly evasive. And, despite his unwillingness to get stuck into physical duels, he is quite good at riding and rolling challenges, and drawing fouls, as he glides through midfield with the ball.
Arsen Zakharyan loves to attack in transition, as he is fantastic at finding space in attacking areas, and has the ball control, technique and decision-making to make his touches count in these spaces.
Arsen Zakhraryan shies away from physical duels and also struggles to break down set defences – he is better at attacking in transition.
Slavia Praha have one of the most productive academies in Europe, but Lukas Ambros might just prove to be the one that got away. Now with Wolfsburg, Ambros showcased his qualities in 2021/22 during the club’s UEFA Youth League campaign, one of a few shining lights in a difficult campaign for the German club.
Lukas Ambros' style of play
Ambros is a delightful, technical attacking midfielder. He is just a lot of fun to watch, slaloming through traffic in midfield, chopping and stepover-ing his way through challenges, drawing defenders into his orbit and opening spaces for others. His fabulous body control is key in all this, as he shifts his weight from side to side and making great use of hesitation moves to throw off his marker.
He is superb at receiving the ball with his back to goal either rolling his marker, or exploiting any defences that refuse to press him by turning and using his creative passing ability to spot up targets ahead of him.
His style is a little bit old school though, very different to the many of the other attacking midfielders at UEFA Youth League level. He is far less active off the ball. He likes to gamble on intercepting by drifting into passing lanes but is not very active as a front-footed presser.
In terms of players that haven’t hit the mainstream yet, there are two: Warren Zaïre-Emery at Paris Saint-Germain and Endrick of Palmeiras, both of the 2006 generation.
It’s probably Jude Bellingham, with Pedri and Jamal Musiala just behind him. Mathys Tel (2005) moved to FC Bayern München in a move that totalled near €30 million in the summer of 2022 as well.