BEST YOUNG FOOTBALL WINGERS

BRIEF SCOUTING REPORTS ON SOME OF THE BEST EMERGING WINGERS

Here’s our eight newest reports on a small selection of our favourite young wingers. More profiles can be found in the young players, goalkeepers, defenders, midfielders 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.

You can find our best and most detailed reports in the Scouted Football Handbook, our quarterly magazine in which we profile 25 of the world’s best up-and-coming talents, with additional features and interviews also included.

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LAST UPDATED: MARCH 29, 2022

Antony

DATE OF BIRTH

24/02/2000

positions

Right wing

CLUB

AFC Ajax

NATION

Brazil

ANTONY

11

HEIGHT

1.72 metres

PREFERRED FOOT

Left

STRENGTHS

WEAKNESSES

background

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.

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 since signing for Ajax has taken plenty by surprise, with the team sitting atop the Eredivisie unlike the perception that they may have found themselves licking their wounds over the loss of Hakim Ziyech.

Matheus Cunha

DATE OF BIRTH

27/05/1999

positions

Wide forward

CLUB

Atlético Madrid

NATION

Brazil

CUNHA

19

HEIGHT

1.84 metres

PREFERRED FOOT

Right

STRENGTHS

WEAKNESSES

background

From the golden beaches of João Pessoa to the urban streets of Berlin, Matheus Cunha has travelled well for such a young player.

After coming through the academy of Coritiba, Cunha made the relatively strange step of moving to FC Sion in Switzerland as a teenager – but it proved to be a great decision. He only needed a single season to catch the attention of some of Europe’s bigger clubs, and he duly moved to RB Leipzig in the Bundesliga the following year.

An in-and-out year there preceded a step down to Hertha BSC, where he found his feet as the star man in an average side. Again, it took only 18 months for him to grab the attention of others. This time, it was Atlético Madrid, whom he joined for €26 million.

STYLE OF PLAY

Capable of playing across the front line, Cunha is an excellent ball-carrier and equally slick mover – often nutmegging opponents or nipping between two defenders to create space.

The Brazil international is shot heavy and boasts impressive ball striking ability, particularly from range where his power beats goalkeepers. He is a useful counter-attacking threat and can play through the middle despite featuring mostly as a left-sided player during his time in Berlin.

The 21-year-old is no stranger to a yellow card. He can be quite petulant and gets frustrated easily, which leads to him making unnecessary fouls.

He currently averages a 71% pass completion rate which highlights need for improvement, but his intent alone unsettles defences and vacates space for others to exploit. Cunha can frustrate team-mates by not releasing the ball quickly enough in promising areas, with his soloistic tendencies preferring to go for goal.

Phil Foden

DATE OF BIRTH

28/05/2000

positions

Attacking midfield

CLUB

Manchester City

NATION

England

FODEN

47

HEIGHT

1.71 metres

PREFERRED FOOT

Left

STRENGTHS

WEAKNESSES

background

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.

Last season (2020/21) saw Foden establish himself as a regular starter for City, and this season has been 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.

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.

Samuel Iling-Junior

Juventus' Samuel Iling-Junior

DATE OF BIRTH

04/10/2003

positions

Left wing

CLUB

Juventus

NATION

England

ILING JR

11

HEIGHT

1.80 metres

PREFERRED FOOT

Left

STRENGTHS

WEAKNESSES

background

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 side which competes in Italy’s third division.

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.

Dejan Kulusevski

DATE OF BIRTH

25/04/2000

positions

Right winger

CLUB

Tottenham Hotspur

NATION

Sweden

KULUSEVSKI

21

HEIGHT

1.86 metres

PREFERRED FOOT

Left

STRENGTHS

WEAKNESSES

background

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.

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.

Dwight McNeil

DATE OF BIRTH

22/11/1999

positions

Left winger

CLUB

Burnley

NATION

England

MCNEIL

11

HEIGHT

1.83 metres

PREFERRED FOOT

Left

STRENGTHS

WEAKNESSES

background

Dwight McNeil is an arduous, hard-working wide midfielder in Burnley’s rigid 4-4-2 under Sean Dyche. He supplies the rare glimpses of ingenuity and genuine creative craft in a team which is predominantly a very rudimentary, pragmatic outfit.

McNeil differs from traditional wingers in the way that he gets through much more defensive work than his positional peers. He ranks highly for pressures, blocks, clearances, tackles and interceptions, painting a picture of a well-drilled, disciplined creative player.

STYLE OF PLAY

In a team devoid of brilliant ball-carriers, McNeil has quite the responsibility for transporting Burnley up the pitch; he is twice as likely to make a progressive carry than he is to make a progressive pass. 

From attacking positions, he is adept with his crossing, although his success in this area is helped by the two thick-set target men he is invariably aiming for. Posed with the task of playing in a more expansive team, McNeil could certainly boost his creative numbers.

It would not be surprising to see McNeil perhaps even utilised as a wing-back in future given how blurred wide positions have become recently.

Pedro Neto

DATE OF BIRTH

09/03/2000

positions

Wide forward

CLUB

Wolves

NATION

Portugal

NETO

7

HEIGHT

1.72 metres

PREFERRED FOOT

Left

STRENGTHS

WEAKNESSES

background

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.

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.

Antonio Zarzana

Sevilla's Antonio Zarzana

DATE OF BIRTH

21/03/2002

positions

Right wing

CLUB

Sevilla CF

NATION

Spain

ZARZANA

19

HEIGHT

1.80 metres

PREFERRED FOOT

Right

STRENGTHS

WEAKNESSES

background

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.

 
 

 

 

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.

It’s Vinícius Júnior or Jadon Sancho – the former is a starter for Real Madrid, and the latter made a big money move to Manchester United in 2021. Ansu Fati is of a similar importance to Barcelona as well.

Vinícius Júnior has almost everything needed to be a potent winger in FIFA 22, except maybe the finishing ability. Ajax’s Antony is similar, with his iconic skill move.

Noni Madueke is a really good one, and he can be picked up from PSV Eindhoven relatively easily – he’d fit good Premier League and Bundesliga clubs. Other options include Kamaldeen Sulemana, Moussa Diaby and Nico Williams.