NXGN Nine 2023: World football's elite wonderkids
- Premier League
- UEFA Champions League
- Primera División
- Manchester United
- Bayern München
- Borussia Dortmund
- Alejandro Garnacho
- Y. Moukoko
- Real Madrid
- Ligue 1
- Süper Lig
- Serie A
- R. Lavia
- Real Sociedad
- A. Güler
- M. Tel
- M. Cho
In previous years, GOAL has ranked the world's top teenage talents in women's football, with the likes of Jude Bellingham, Gianluigi Donnarumma and Jadon Sancho finishing as the eventual winners.
This year, though, instead of there being a sole victor, we've selected an elite group that we believe are the very top of the class: The inaugural NXGN Nine.
So, having named 50 finalists, check out our selections for the top teenage talents in the world:
(Note: All players born on or after January 1, 2004.)
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Arda Guler (Fenerbahce)
Dubbed ‘The Turkish Messi’ in his homeland, Arda has been touted for the top of the game for a number of years, and has shown exactly why since breaking into the Fenerbahce first team in the summer of 2021.
The youngest goalscorer in the club’s history, Arda possesses a dribbling ability and close control that few can match, while his eye for the spectacular has always marked him out as a special talent.
As well as Messi, Arda has been likened to Mesut Ozil in some quarters, and he had the chance to learn from the ex-Real Madrid and Arsenal midfielder while Ozil was playing for the Istanbul outfit.
Ozil has gone on the record to state that Arda will one day be "a world star", and while he has not always had the minutes his talent deserves this season, he has generally made the most of his opportunities when they have come along.
The 18-year-old attacking midfielder is already a full Turkey international after making his debut in November, and the likes of Arsenal, Barcelona and Bayern Munich have all shown an interest in signing him over the past 12 months.
Mohamed-Ali Cho (Real Sociedad)
Having spent time in both Paris Saint-Germain and Everton’s academies as his family moved between France and England, Cho broke out at Angers in Ligue 1 last season.
A pacey forward who is capable of playing anywhere across the front line, Cho's willingness to take on defenders and his silky skills even led to some comparing him with Kylian Mbappe during his time in the French top flight.
His form earned him a call-up to the France U21 squad (having previously represented England) and an €11 million (£9.8m/$11.6m) move to Real Sociedad over the summer.
The 19-year-old has, though, struggled with injuries since arriving in Spain, but when he has been available, he has shown why La Real were so keen to bring him to La Liga.
Dubbed "a superstar in the making" by Spanish football expert Graham Hunter, the sky is the limit for Cho if he can maintain his fitness.
Ever since clips of him dominating Brazil’s prestigious U20 Copinha as a 15-year-old went viral in January 2022, the race to sign Endrick grew more and more intense among Europe’s elite clubs.
In the end, Real Madrid beat off competition from Barcelona, Chelsea and PSG as they agreed to pay Palmeiras up to €60m to sign the forward, who is regarded as the best talent to emerge in Brazil since Neymar.
Quick, two-footed and with an eye for the spectacular, Endrick is the encapsulation of 'O Jogo Bonito', and many in Brazil are already excited by the prospect of him appearing alongside Selecao stars Vinicius Junior and Rodrygo at Santiago Bernabeu.
Endrick himself has modelled his game on former Palmeiras sensation Gabriel Jesus, but there is a real belief that he will far surpass the Arsenal's strikers achievements in the game.
The 16-year-old will have to wait another 18 months to move to Spain, but having scored three goals in his first seven top-flight games towards the end of 2022, expectations are that Endrick will keep burgeoning his growing reputation in the meantime.
Barcelona are used to producing world-class talents within their famed La Masia academy, but they have outdone themselves when it comes to Gavi.
The midfielder is still only 18 yet already a veteran of over 80 appearances for one of world football’s biggest clubs, with his combative nature and exceptional ball control ensuring that he bridged the gap from youth team football to the elite with ease.
He made that transition look so easy that he was called up by Spain having made fewer than 10 first-team appearances in September 2021, and became the youngest player to ever represent La Roja when he was handed his debut by Luis Enrique.
Gavi also became the third-youngest player to ever score at a World Cup for any nation when he netted against Costa Rica in November, though that is likely to just be the start of him making a regular impact on major international tournaments.
At club level, meanwhile, the 2022 Kopa Trophy and Golden Boy winner is already a key figure for Xavi's improving team, hence the desperation Barca have shown to tie him down to a new contract amid fears the likes of Liverpool or Manchester United could sneak in to sign him as the club tangle with La Liga over whether they can afford to register the teenager.
Alejandro Garnacho (Manchester United)
Nothing illustrates the popularity that Garnacho has among Manchester United supporters more than the fact that the Old Trafford faithful have replaced Cristiano Ronaldo’s name with the teenager’s in their famous ‘Viva Ronaldo’ chant in recent months.
The 18-year-old, who joined United from Atletico Madrid in 2020, was the star of the club’s FA Youth Cup-winning side in 2021-22, with his spectacular goals and mimicking of iconic celebrations earning him early cult hero status.
Garnacho has carried that form into the first team as he continues to make his mark under Erik ten Hag, and has already netted a couple of crucial late goals to keep the Red Devils on track in their pursuit of silverware in 2023, for which he is set to be rewarded with a new contract.
A tricky winger who is most at home cutting inside from the left, Garnacho represented Spain at youth level, but has since been called-up to the senior Argentina squad, and is expected to make his Albiceleste debut in the not-too-distant future.
When he does, he will likely be able to say he has played alongside both Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, and he certainly seems to have learned plenty from the 21st century GOATs if his early steps into the professional game are anything to go by.
Romeo Lavia (Southampton)
Southampton’s struggles in the Premier League this season have overshadowed what has been a superb debut season of first-team football for Lavia, with the Belgian midfielder having looked at home at the highest level from the opening day of the campaign.
The former Anderlecht academy star arrived in England with Manchester City in 2020 having caught Pep Guardiola’s eye at the KDB Cup (named after Kevin De Bruyne), and soon became a star of City’s youth sides.
However, with his path to the senior side at the Etihad Stadium blocked by Rodri, Lavia was allowed to leave in the summer of 2022 as Southampton paid just over £10m ($12m) to sign him.
The 19-year-old looked at home instantly, so much so that Chelsea made a shock £50m ($60m) bid to sign Lavia before the end of the summer transfer window, perhaps anticipating the battle that is likely to ensue for his signature in 2023, especially if the Saints suffer relegation to the Championship.
Manchester United and Liverpool are both reportedly preparing themselves to make moves for Lavia this summer, with it now highly unlikely that he will be spending much more of his career floundering towards the bottom of the table.
Youssoufa Moukoko (Borussia Dortmund)
A true goalscoring revelation at youth level, much was expected from Moukoko when he entered the Dortmund first team as a 16-year-old, and the striker has not disappointed.
Bundesliga’s youngest-ever goalscorer, the Champions League’s youngest-ever debutant and the youngest player at the 2022 World Cup, Moukoko is already a veteran of over 60 first-team appearances, despite having only turned 18 in November.
It was around the same time that the striker began to hit the best form of his senior career thus far, becoming a starter for Edin Terzic's side who was providing both goals and assists.
Those displays attracted interest from the likes of Chelsea and Barcelona, especially since Moukoko was about to enter the final six months of his contract, and Dortmund had to battle hard to tie the teenager down to fresh terms, which he agreed to in January
A recent ankle injury has come at just the wrong time for Moukoko, but there is hope he will return after the international break to spearhead Dortmund's bid for the Bundesliga title.
Mathys Tel (Bayern Munich)
Life after Robert Lewandowski has not all been plain sailing for Bayern Munich, but they can least be happy in the knowledge that they seem to have found his long-term replacement in the shape of Tel.
The 17-year-old, who previously broke Eduardo Camavinga’s record as Rennes’ youngest player, joined Bayern in a deal worth an initial €20m (£17.75m/$21.1m) in the summer of 2022, just weeks after guiding France to the title at the U17 European Championship.
He wasted little time in showing exactly why Bayern were keen to spend so much on him, with the striker having already become the club’s youngest-ever goalscorer in the Bundesliga.
The fact that he is now regarded as one of the best teenage forwards on the planet is made more remarkable by the fact that until a few years ago, he was playing as a centre-back, before his coaches gradually moved him up the pitch.
That decision is paying off big time, and there is real hope within French football that Tel will partner Kylian Mbappe to become a formidable forward duo over the next decade.
Warren Zaire-Emery (Paris Saint-Germain)
Zaire-Emery only made his PSG debut in August, but in the months since he has done nothing but break record after record having earned the trust of manager Christophe Galtier with his impressive performances.
The youngest debutant, starter and goalscorer in the history of the French champions, the 17-year-old then became the youngest player to start a Champions League knockout match when he was named in the line-up to face Bayern Munich in February.
Though he has been used on the right-hand side at times this season, Zaire-Emery’s best position is in central midfield, where he is able to dictate the tempo of games and show off his full passing range.
It was in that role where he thrived as a 15-year-old in the UEFA Youth League last season, and he has shown similar poise among much more experienced players at the professional level.
PSG's struggles to keep hold of their best academy graduates has led to Bayern Munich sniffing around Zaire-Emery, but if the French champions can keep hold of him, then they might finally have a midfield superstar to build a proper team around in the coming years.