NXGN: Bukayo Saka, Rodrygo and where 2020's best wonderkids are now
Since NXGN's introduction in 2016, GOAL has profiled the 50 best footballing wonderkids on the planet on an annual basis, with the top-ranked player taking home the NXGN award.
Some of those recognised for their talent as teenagers are now household names, but others have not yet realised their potential.
So, after the NXGN 2023 list was revealed on Tuesday, March 21, check out where the stars of 2020 are now:
Every NXGN list
#50 Pablo Moreno | Juventus
2020: Having scored more than 200 goals at youth level for Barcelona, teenage forward Moreno was beginning to make a similar impact in Turin, while having also earned a place on the first team's bench during the 2019-20 campaign.
2021: Moreno joined Manchester City in a swap deal in the summer of 2020, before being sent on loan to Girona. He managed 26 appearances in the Spanish second tier, scoring twice.
2022: The forward was loaned back to Girona for a second successive season, but struggled for game time, starting just once in the league all campaign. He left City to join Portuguese side Maritimo in the summer of 2022.
2023: Moreno has forced his way into the starting line up at his new club since the turn of the year, though he is yet to replicate the goalscoring exploits of his youth career.
#49 Luqman Hakim | Selangor
2020: Already a Malaysia Under-23s international at the age of 18, Hakim had seen a move to Belgian side KV Kortrijk be put on hold due to Covid-19 restrictions.
2021: Hakim eventually arrived at Kortrijk in the summer of 2020, but made just one appearance in his first season with the club. He did, however, make his full international debut in May 2021.
2022: The forward failed to make a first-team appearance in 2021-22 as reports began to swirl that he might return to Malaysia in a bid to earn minutes at the senior level.
2023: Hakim did manage two appearances for Kortrijk in the first half of 2022-23, but was loaned to Icelandic second division side Njardvik on a year-long deal in February 2023.
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#48 Luca Unbehaun | Borussia Dortmund
2020: Having been snapped up from Bochum in 2016, Germany youth international Unbehaun was working his way through the youth ranks at Dortmund.
2021: The first-choice goalkeeper for Dortmund's reserve side, Unbehaun did make the first-team bench on a number of occasions.
2022: Unbehaun missed a lot of the 2021-22 season with a hand injury, but remained the No.1 for Dortmund's reserves, who play in the German third tier.
2023: The goalkeeper's wait for a first-team debut at Dortmund goes on, though Unbehaun has been named on the bench for a number of Champions League matches this season.
#47 Naci Unuvar | Ajax
2020: Having become Ajax's youngest-ever goalscorer at the age of 16, Unuvar was being tipped to eventually replace Hakim Ziyech in the first team, despite reports linking him with Barcelona.
2021: Unuvar endured a difficult campaign, as he struggled to kick on in Amsterdam, and played solely for Jong Ajax in the second division.
2022: Unuvar performed much better for Jong Ajax in 2021-22, racking up double-figure totals for both goals and assists, while also earning a couple of first-team appearances.
2023: The winger is spending the current campaign on loan at Turkish champions Trabzonspor, but he has struggled to break into the starting line up.
#46 Daniel Maldini | AC Milan
2020: Had recently made his Serie A debut for the Rossoneri, following in the footsteps of his grandfather, Cesare, and father, Paolo, in representing the seven-time European champions.
2021: Maldini picked up another 10 first-team appearances over the course of 2020-21, but largely remained on the fringes at San Siro.
2022: The attacking midfielder marked his first Serie A start with a goal early in the 2021-22 season, but that proved to be one of just two times he was named in the line up as Milan won the Scudetto. He was then loaned out to Spezia ahead of the following campaign.
2023: Maldini has again largely been on the bench in 2022-23, but did make headlines when he scored against his parent club Milan.
#45 Xavi Simons | Paris Saint-Germain
2020: After stunning Barcelona with his decision to leave La Masia in the summer of 2019, Simons was beginning to impress for PSG's Under-19s side.
2021: Simons made his first-team debut in February 2021, while appearing on the bench for the first team on a number of occasions.
2022: One of the stars of the 2021-22 UEFA Youth League, Simons also appeared sporadically at senior level. PSG expected him to sign a new deal in Paris and join PSV on loan at the end of the season, but Simons instead moved to Eindhoven on a permanent deal.
2023: Simons has been one of the stars of the Eredivisie season, and has already recorded over 20 combined goals and assists in all competitions. That form led to the 19-year-old being called-up to the Netherlands' World Cup squad in late 2022.
#44 Youssoufa Moukoko | Borussia Dortmund
2020: While still only 15, Moukoko was already being spoken about as a potential superstar, having scored freely for both the St. Pauli and Dortmund youth teams, despite playing three or four years above his actual age.
2021: Moukoko became both the youngest player and goalscorer in Bundesliga history, as well as the youngest player in Champions League history, before his season was ended in March by a ligament injury.
2022: Injuries have continued to plague Moukoko throughout the 2021-22 season as he started just once in the Bundesliga all campaign.
2023: Moukoko is in the midst of his best season at senior level to date, for which he was rewarded with a World Cup call-up in December and a new contract in January amid interest from Chelsea and Barcelona. An ankle ligament injury suffered in February has, however, stalled his progress.
#43 Efrain Alvarez | LA Galaxy
2020: Having been given the seal of approval by Zlatan Ibrahimovic during the Swede's time in MLS, Alvarez was beginning to earn more minutes for the Galaxy first team.
2021: Alvarez made his Mexico debut in March 2021, before growing into a regular starter for the Galaxy over the course of the year.
2022: The playmaker made a fantastic start to the 2022 MLS season, scoring a 30-yard screamer against Charlotte FC in early March, but slowly fell down the pecking order despite enjoying his best season to date in terms of his output in the final third.
2023: Alvarez has begun the 2023 season in the Galaxy line up as they chase their first title since 2014.
#42 Alessio Riccardi | Roma
2020: Riccardi was attracting interest from Juventus, having made his senior debut for Roma in late-2019, with some hopeful he would fill the void left by Francesco Totti at Stadio Olimpico.
2021: The attacking midfielder spent the 2020-21 season on loan at Pescara, but made just nine appearances for the Serie B outfit.
2022: Riccardi made it clear that he wished to leave Roma, meaning he was left out of the club's plans at all levels in 2021-22 before leaving to join Serie C side Latina at the end of the season.
2023: Having dropped down the levels, Riccardi has played regularly in his first season at the third tier, albeit not always as a starter.
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#41 Bryan Gil | Sevilla
2020: The first player born in the 21st century to score in La Liga, Gil was spending the second half of the 2019-20 season on loan at Leganes in a bid to gain experience at senior level.
2021: Gil joined Eibar for the following campaign and proved to be one of La Liga's most exciting wingers, despite playing in a team that would ultimately be relegated. That earned him an international debut for Spain, and a £21.6m summer move to Tottenham.
2022: Having failed to start a Premier League game during the first half of the season, Gil was loaned to Valencia in January 2022, for whom he started more often than not.
2023: Gil showed flashes of his ability during the first half of the 2022-23 season, but the arrival of Arnaut Danjuma in January led to him being loaned back to Sevilla in January.
#40 Troy Parrott | Tottenham
2020: Already a full Republic of Ireland international, Parrott had committed his future to Spurs after being handed his Premier League debut by Jose Mourinho midway through the 2019-20 campaign.
2021: Loaned to Millwall for the 2020-21 season, Parrott's deal was cut short after failing to find the net for the Championship side. From there, he joined Ipswich Town for the remainder of the campaign, for whom he scored his first professional goals.
2022: Parrott remained in League One for 2021-22 as he went on loan to MK Dons, for whom he scored 10 goals in all competitions as they reached the play-offs.
2023: The striker is again out on loan this season, this time in the Championship at Preston North End, where he has been in and out of the line up as he has struggled for goals.
#39 Konrad de la Fuente | Barcelona
2020: Having been at La Masia since 2012, there were fears that Konrad could be set to leave Barcelona amid interest in the United States Under-20 international from the Bundesliga.
2021: Konrad made both his first-team and international debut in November 2020, but the former would be the first of only three appearances he made for Barca before he was sold to Marseille in the summer of 2021.
2022: After providing assists in two of his first three Ligue 1 games, Konrad fell down the pecking order before injuries meant that he missed the final four months of the season.
2023: Konrad joined Olympiacos on loan ahead of the 2022-23 season, but has not featured for the Greek giants since September. A January move to Hull City fell through, meaning he will likely not have played a competitive match for over 18 months by the time next season begins.
#38 Isaac Lihadji | Marseille
2020: Having starred for France at the 2019 Under-17 World Cup, Lihadji had been frozen out at Marseille after refusing to sign a new contract, with Manchester United and Chelsea among those being linked with his signature.
2021: Lille eventually won the race for the winger, as Lihadji made 15 Ligue 1 appearances for the eventual French champions.
2022: Lihadji continued to make sporadic appearances in 2021-22 and managed to score his first professional goal in January 2022.
2023: After not making a first-team appearance during the first half of the 2022-23 season, Lihadji left Lille to join Sunderland, but has struggled to make an impact in the Championship as yet.
#37 Ander Barrenetxea | Real Sociedad
2020: The first Real Sociedad player to skip the club's B team and go straight into the first team since Antoine Griezmann, Barrenetxea had already found the net against Real Madrid in his fledgling senior career.
2021: The winger's first full season in the senior squad was a good one, with Barrenetxea impressing in his 31 league appearances, earning himself a new, six-year contract in the process.
2022: Barrenetxea made just 11 La Liga appearances as a number of injuries, including a season-ending thigh problem suffered in January, stalled his progress.
2023: Injuries have continued to plague Barrenetxea in 2022-23, meaning he has been unable to lock down a regular starting spot in San Sebastian.
#36 Marcos Paulo | Fluminense
2020: Barcelona had already seen a bid for Portugal youth international Paulo rejected, with the striker having become a regular in the Fluminense first team.
2021: Paulo allowed his contract to run down before joining Atletico Madrid on a free transfer in the summer of 2021. He was immediately loaned out to Famalicao by the Rojiblancos.
2022: The forward failed to find the net for the Portuguese side before being dropped into their U23s for the second half of the season. He was then loaned out again in the summer of 2023, joining second division Spanish team Mirandes.
2023: After scoring just twice in the first half of the 2022-23 campaign, Paulo's loan was cut short and he instead returned to Brazil in January, joining Sao Paulo on a year-long loan.
#35 Lucien Agoume | Inter
2020: After moving to San Siro from Sochaux in the summer of 2019, France Under-17s captain Agoume was earning comparisons to Paul Pogba following his Inter debut.
2021: Agoume joined newly-promoted Spezia on loan for the 2020-21 season and made 12 appearances in Serie A as they avoided relegation.
2022: The midfielder was back in France for 2021-22, playing on loan for Brest, where he was a regular starter. His form convinced Troyes to take him on loan for the following campaign.
2023: Having shaken off a hamstring injury that ruled him out for three months, Agoume has established himself in the starting line up for the Ligue 1 side.
#34 Gabriel Veron | Palmeiras
2020: The Golden Ball winner at the 2019 Under-17 World Cup, Veron had already broken into the Palmeiras first team, scoring twice on just his second senior appearance.
2021: Veron went on to play an important part in 2020 Palmeiras' Copa Libertadores triumph, which was sealed in early 2021, and he was linked with a host of top European clubs. He missed four months of action with a hamstring injury, however, and struggled for force his way back into the line-up in 2021.
2022: The winger continued to be in and out of the Palmeiras team in the early weeks of the 2022 campaign, before Porto agreed to pay €10.25m to sign Veron.
2023: Veron has largely been a substitute in his first season in Portugal as he gets to grips with the rigours of playing in Europe.
#33 Billy Gilmour | Chelsea
2020: The former Rangers academy star was earning rave reviews at Chelsea after putting in dominant displays against both Liverpool and Everton, shortly before football went into its coronavirus-enforced shutdown.
2021: A serious knee injury saw Gilmour miss six months of football in the latter half of 2020, and he struggled to re-establish himself following Thomas Tuchel's arrival at Stamford Bridge. In the summer of 2021, he joined Norwich City on loan.
2022: Perhaps not a player with the skills required for a relegation-threatened team, Gilmour was criticised at times by Norwich fans, though he grew into being a regular starter as the season wore on. Those performances convinced Brighton to pay £9m to sign him in the summer of 2022.
2023: Gilmour has struggled to force his way into the line up at the Amex Stadium given the form of Moises Caicedo ahead of him.
#32 Ki-Jana Hoever | Liverpool
2020: Having become the youngest Liverpool player to appear in the FA Cup when making his debut at 16, defender Hoever was getting further opportunities to prove his worth to Jurgen Klopp in cup competitions.
2021: Hoever joined Wolves in a £9m move in the summer of 2020 and made his first 12 Premier League the following campaign, acting predominantly as a back-up for Nelson Semedo.
2022: The ex-Ajax youngster performed a similar role under Bruno Lage, who criticised Hoever for a lack of preparation that led to a mid-season injury. The defender was then loaned to PSV ahead of the 2021-22 campaign.
2023: PSV cut Hoever's loan short in January after he made just seven first-team appearances in Eindhoven. He was then loaned to Championship side Stoke City in January 2023.
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#31 Benoit Badiashile | Monaco
2020: Centre-back Badiashile was earning comparisons to Samuel Umtiti, having quickly become a regular in the Monaco line-up after making his first-team debut in November 2018.
2021: Having generated interest from Manchester United, Badiashile played all-but three league games for Monaco in 2020-21 as they went close to winning the French title under Niko Kovac.
2022: The 20-year-old struggled with hamstring injuries over the course of the 2021-22 campaign, but still performed well whenever available.
2023: Having previously been linked with Manchester United, Badiashile did move to the Premier League in January 2023 when he joined Chelsea in a £35m move.
#30 Antonio Marin | Dinamo Zagreb
2020: Juventus, Paris Saint-Germain and AC Milan all showed an interest in Marin before he signed his first professional contract with Dinamo in 2017, and the playmaker had begun to make his mark in the first team in Zagreb.
2021: He joined AC Monza on loan for the 2020-21 season but, after making just seven appearances in Italy, Marin cut his stay short and joined Lokomotiva for the remainder of the campaign in January 2021.
2022: Marin spent the 2021-22 season on loan at HNK Sibenik, and he enjoyed an encouraging season, providing a combined 15 goals and assists in the top flight.
2023: The winger struggled to force his way into the Dinamo team upon his return, and was loaned out again, this time to HNK Rijeka, in January 2023.
#29 Tomas Tavares | Benfica
2020: Tavares started five of Benfica's six Champions League group games in 2019-20, with the Portugal Under-19 international already a key member of the senior squad at Estadio da Luz.
2021: Having joined Alaves on loan in the summer of 2020, Tavares made just five appearances for the Spanish side before the deal was cut short in January. From there, he joined Farense, where he was a regular starter in the Portuguese top flight.
2022: The full-back spent the 2021-22 season on loan at Basel, where he racked up 28 appearances before suffering a ruptured cruciate ligament in the final weeks of the campaign.
2023: Tavares' injury meant that he did not feature again in 2022 before completing a permanent move to Spartak Moscow in January 2023.
#28 Yari Verschaeren | Anderlecht
2020: Already a full international and goalscorer for Belgium, 'the new Eden Hazard' was a regular in the Anderlecht line-up.
2021: A three-month absence with an ankle injury, coupled with an early finish to the season due to Covid-19, meant that Verscharen made just 16 league appearances in 2020-21, though he still managed to score five times.
2022: An established starter, Verschaeren set personal bests for goals and assists in a single season under Vincent Kompany.
2023: Verschaeren's attacking output has regressed in 2022-23, but that is in part due to him playing slightly deeper, leading to him earning Luka Modric comparisons.
#27 Curtis Jones | Liverpool
2020: Already something of a cult hero in the eyes of Liverpool fans after scoring a stunning winner against Everton in the FA Cup, as well as the deciding penalty in a Carabao Cup shootout victory over Arsenal earlier in the 2019-20 season.
2021: Jones began to earn comparisons with Steven Gerrard as he went from strength to strength over the course of the 2020-21 season.
2022: After missing two months with an eye injury, Jones struggled to re-establish himself in the Liverpool midfield, though he continued to make the odd appearance for Jurgen Klopp's side.
2023: Despite Liverpool's midfield struggles, Jones has failed to lock down a spot in the Reds' line up, and has instead made only a handful of first-team appearances in 2022-23.
#26 Lassina Traore | Ajax
2020: Traore impressed during his first 12 months in Amsterdam following his move from Ajax Cape Town, with the Burkina Faso international having found the net on his debut for Erik ten Hag's side in December 2019.
2021: The striker made headlines in October 2020 when he netted five goals in Ajax's record-breaking 13-0 win over VVV-Venlo, but he scored just twice more in the Eredivisie in 2020-21 as he fell down the pecking order, leading to Shakhtar Donetsk paying €10m to sign him in the summer transfer window.
2022: Traore made a brilliant start to life in Ukraine, scoring nine goals in his first 14 Shakhtar appearances, only to suffer a season-ending knee injury in September.
2023: The striker opted to remain at Shakhtar amid Russia's invasion of Ukraine, but has been in and out of the line up during the 2022-23 season.
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#25 Joao Pedro | Watford
2020: Watford moved quickly to sign Joao Pedro before he had even made his Fluminense debut and, after catching the eye with his performances in Brazil, he eventually made the switch to Vicarage Road in January 2020.
2021: The forward did not get a run of games under his belt until the Hornets found themselves in the Championship, but once he was in the team, it proved difficult to get him out of it, as he scored nine goals to help fire Watford to promotion.
2022: Joao Pedro was in and out of the Watford line up but scored only three goals as the Hornets were relegated from the Premier League. Despite that, Newcastle had two bids for the forward rejected in the summer of 2022.
2023: Back in the Championship, Joao Pedro is on track to surpass his goal record from two seasons ago as Watford again chase promotion.
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#24 Karim Adeyemi | Red Bull Salzburg
2020: Released by Bayern Munich at an early age, Adeyemi opted to join Salzburg over Chelsea when he turned 16, and had just made his debut for the Austrian champions.
2021: Despite not being a regular starter, Adeyemi reached double figures for both goals and assists in 2020-21, marking him out as Salzburg's next breakout star.
2022: Break out he has this season, earning himself a Germany debut in the process after scoring 23 goals in all competitions. That convinced Borussia Dortmund to pay €38m to sign him to help replace the departing Erling Haaland.
2023: After a slow start to the season, Adeyemi was beginning to find some form in early 2023 before suffering a hamstring injury in mid-February.
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#23 Gio Reyna | Borussia Dortmund
2020: As a young American learning his trade at Dortmund, it was only natural that Reyna would earn comparisons to Christian Pulisic, but the forward was living up to the hype after becoming the youngest goalscorer in DFB-Pokal history.
2021: Reyna became a key part of Dortmund's attacking unit in 2020-21, providing seven goals and eight assists in all competitions while also establishing himself in the U.S. men's national team.
2022: The forward made just 10 Bundesliga appearances as his 2021-22 season was book-ended by muscle injuries.
2023: Reyna made headlines when, after a disappointing World Cup, he was caught in the middle of a huge row between his family and the United States coaching staff. He has shaken it off, though, by producing from the bench in 2023.
#22 Joshua Zirkzee | Bayern Munich
2020: Having scored decisive goals in each of his first two Bayern Munich appearances, Netherlands Under-19 international Zirkzee was settling into his role as the Bavarians' main back-up for Robert Lewandowski.
2021: Zirkzee fell out of favour during the opening months of the 2020-21 season and was loaned to Parma in January. He managed just four appearances in Italy, as a knee injury ended his season early, before he joined Anderlecht on loan for the new campaign.
2022: The striker was a revelation in Belgian football, scoring 18 goals and providing 13 assists in all competitions. That form convinced Bologna to pay €8.5m to sign him from Bayern.
2023: Zirkzee has struggled to get going in Serie A, having been in and out of the line up due to issues with both form and fitness.
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#21 Fabio Silva | Porto
2020: Both the youngest player and goalscorer in Porto history, Silva was earning comparisons to Cristiano Ronaldo in his homeland after enjoying a superb youth career.
2021: Wolves paid a club-record £35m ($47m) to bring the striker to Molineux in the summer of 2020, and though he became the club's youngest-ever Premier League goalscorer, he struggled at times after being required to deputise for the injured Raul Jimenez.
2022: With Jimenez back available, Silva tended to be used off the bench in 2021-22, and ended the campaign without a first-team goal, leading to him being loaned to Anderlecht in the summer of 2022.
2023: Silva scored 11 goals in the first half of the season in Belgium, but was recalled by Wolves so he could instead be sent on loan to PSV in January to help replace the departed Cody Gakpo.
#20 Myron Boadu | AZ
2020: Boadu was well on his way to finishing the 2019-20 season with 20 goals and 13 assists in all competitions, and having already played and scored for the Netherlands, he looked destined for a big-money summer transfer.
2021: That move did not come, and Boadu made a slow start to the following season before eventually finding his form to finish the campaign with 15 goals. That convinced Monaco to pay €17m to sign him in the summer of 2021.
2022: Boadu struggled in his role as Wissam Ben Yedder's back-up at the Stade Louis II, as the goals dried up upon his arrival in Ligue 1.
2023: The striker began the 2022-23 season with foot injury that meant his campaign did not begin until Octoeber, and he has struggled for minutes ever since.
#19 Thiago Almada | Velez Sarsfield
2020: Almada was being heavily linked with a move to Manchester City after continually putting in performances for Argentine side Velez that belied his tender years.
2021: A nine-goal season followed for the playmaker in 2021, as he continued to be linked with a move to either Europe or MLS.
2022: Atlanta United made Almada the most expensive signing in MLS history, paying $16m in February 2022 to bring him to Georgia, and he rewarded them by producing a Newcomer of the Year-worthy season.
2023: After becoming the first MLS player to lift the World Cup after being a late call-up to the Argentina squad for Qatar 2022, Almada has started the 2023 season in fine form.
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#18 Pedri | Las Palmas
2020: The young midfielder already knew he would be leaving Las Palmas for Barcelona at the end of the season, with the Blaugrana having paid an initial €5m to sign a player likened to Andres Iniesta.
2021: The breakout star of the 2020-21 La Liga season, Pedri played all-but one of Barca's league games as he struck up a superb relationship with Lionel Messi. He went on to be named Young Player of the Tournament at Euro 2020, and the Golden Boy and Kopa Trophee winner for 2021.
2022: Pedri's hectic schedule, which also included the Olympic Games, eventually caught up with him, as a hamstring injury ruled him out for three-and-a-half months during the first half of the 2021-22 season. He returned in fine form, but suffered another similar injury in April that ended his campaign early.
2023: The midfielder has been a star performer in Barca's revival this season, though he is currently recovering from another hamstring injury that he suffered in February.
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#17 Harvey Elliott | Liverpool
2020: After becoming the youngest player in Premier League history in the spring of 2019, Liverpool moved quickly to sign the Fulham starlet that summer, before handing him first-team opportunities in the early weeks of the following campaign.
2021: Elliott spent the 2020-21 season on loan at Blackburn Rovers and he proved to be one of the Championship's star attractions, providing a combined 18 goals and assists at Ewood Park.
2022: The midfielder forced himself into Liverpool's line-up to start the season, only for a horrific ankle injury to rule him out for five months. Upon his return, he scored his first goal for the club in February.
2023: Elliott has been in and out of the line up during a difficult season for Liverpool, but he looks set to be staple of the team as the Reds plan for a squad overhaul.
#16 Adil Aouchiche | Paris Saint-Germain
2020: Aouchiche made headlines in the summer of 2019 after scoring nine goals in just four games at the Under-17s European Championship, and the midfielder backed that up by finding the net in one of his first appearances for the PSG first team.
2021: Having let his PSG contract run down, Aouchiche joined Saint-Etienne, and played all-but four of their Ligue 1 games in his first season at the club.
2022: Aouchiche was largely a substitute during the 2021-22 campaign as they suffered relegation from Ligue 1, before he was allowed to join Lorient ahead of the following season.
2023: The midfielder has struggled to establish himself in his new surroundings, and has been limited to cameos off the bench thus far in 2022-23.
#15 Bukayo Saka | Arsenal
2020: After being given opportunities to impress under Unai Emery, the versatile winger was excelling as a left-back under Mikel Arteta in north London.
2021: Saka truly exploded in the 2020-21 season, directly contributing to 17 goals for Arsenal, before starring for England in their run to the Euro 2020 final.
2022: The forward's form continued into the following campaign, as he bettered his tally from the previous year with 19 direct goal contributions.
2023: Saka has taken his games to new levels this term, with his goals and assists spearheading Arsenal's bid to win the Premier League title.
#14 Rayan Cherki | Lyon
2020: Already the youngest goalscorer in Lyon history, Cherki was beginning to make waves in French football having been touted as a potential generational talent throughout his youth career.
2021: Cherki made mostly substitute appearances in 2020-21, as he continued to be linked with a move to Real Madrid.
2022: Though he found form in the Europa League and for France Under-21s, Cherki was not having the breakout season a number of fans were expecting before a broken foot ended his campaign early in February.
2023: Cherki has fared better in 2022-23, even if his core attacking numbers don't reflect some of the excellent performances he has produced under Laurent Blanc.
#13 Eric Garcia | Manchester City
2020: The former La Masia star was beginning to earn regular game time under Pep Guardiola at the Etihad Stadium, with City believing they had a defensive gem on their hands.
2021: It was announced that Garcia would not be renewing his contract at City, and so he struggled for minutes in 2020-21, though that did not stop him from playing a key role for Spain at Euro 2020. Ahead of the tournament, it was announced that he would be returning to boyhood club Barcelona on a free transfer.
2022: Garcia was largely a starter in his first season back in Catalunya, with the hope remaining that he could become Gerard Pique's long-term replacement.
2023: The summer signings of Jules Kounde, Andreas Christensen and Marcos Alonso have pushed Garcia down the pecking order at Camp Nou in 2022-23.
#12 William Saliba | Arsenal
2020: Regarded as one of the best young centre-backs in European football, Saliba was back on loan with boyhood club Saint-Etienne after Arsenal agreed to pay £27m to bring the teenager to north London in the summer of 2019.
2021: Somewhat surprisingly, Mikel Arteta opted against integrating Saliba into his squad, meaning he was forced to join Nice on loan for the second half of the 2020-21 season in a bid to get minutes under his belt.
2022: Saliba remained in France after joining Marseille on loan and was named Ligue 1 Young Player of the Year after shining at Stade Velodrome.
2023: The centre-back finally got his chance at Arsenal, and he has been superb at the Emirates Stadium as they chase the Premier League title having also established himself in the France squad.
#11 Sebastiano Esposito | Inter
2020: One of the stars of Italy's run to the Under-17s European Championship final in 2019, Esposito had already scored his first goal for the Inter first team after becoming their youngest-ever player in European competition.
2021: The forward's loan spell at SPAL for the 2020-21 season was cut short after six months and he instead joined Venezia for the second half of the season, where he played 19 games as they earned promotion to Serie A. He joined FC Basel on loan at the start of the following season.
2022: Esposito made a brilliant start to live in Switzerland, scoring in four of his first five league appearances, but a series of injuries made putting a run of consistent games together difficult.
2023: The forward spent the first half of the 2022-23 season on loan at Anderlecht, but scored just one league goal before returning to Italy to join Serie B side Bari, again on loan.
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#10 Ryan Gravenberch | Ajax
2020: After becoming Ajax's youngest-ever player in September 2018, Gravenberch was a regular in Erik ten Hag's side at the age of 17 and being compared to Paul Pogba.
2021: The midfielder continued to progress, scoring his first Champions League goal as well as three times in the league. Gravenberch's form earned him a first Netherlands cap in March 2021.
2022: Though he was not always at his best in 2021-22, Bayern Munich made the decision to spend an initial €19m on the midfielder in the summer of 2022.
2023: Gravenberch has struggled to force his way into Julian Nagelsmann's line up in Munich, with his lack of games leading to him being left out of the Netherlands' World Cup squad back in November.
#9 Takefusa Kubo | Real Madrid
2020: Forced to leave Barcelona in 2016 following their FIFA-imposed transfer ban, Kubo had returned to Spain in the summer of 2019 with Madrid, having broken countless J.League records in his homeland. Was spending his first season in La Liga impressing on loan at Mallorca.
2021: Having joined Villarreal on loan in the summer of 2020, the forward failed to force his way into Unai Emery's team and had his loan spell cut short in January 2021, with Madrid instead sending him on loan to Getafe for the remainder of the season, though he struggled to make much of an impact.
2022: Mallorca's promotion back to La Liga allowed them to make their move and bring Kubo back to the club on loan in 2021-22, and the Japan international's form having improved a little as a result.
2023: Kubo left Real Madrid to join Real Sociedad for an initial €6.5m in the summer of 2022 and he has been back to his best for the Spanish high-flyers so far this season.
#8 Mohamed Ihattaren | PSV
2020: One of Europe's best teenage creative midfielders, Ihattaren could be found regularly pulling the strings for PSV.
2021: The attacking midfielder fell out with PSV managed Roger Schmidt at the beginning of the 2020-21 season and he played just 22 times in the Eredivisie. Further rifts followed, leading to Ihatteren joining Juventus in a €6m deal, before he was loaned to Sampdoria.
2022: Ihattaren never played a game in Serie A, and there were even reports that he would retire after he returned to Netherlands mid-season. He was signed on a year-long loan by Ajax in January 2022, but fitness issues meant that he played just four minutes in the first team before the end of the campaign.
2023: Ajax cut short Ihattaren's loan amid reports he was being targeted by organised crime groups and he was arrested in November 2022. He remains on Juventus' books, but was arrested again in February on suspicion of assault. He has not appeared in a competitive football match in over 10 months.
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#7 Lee Kang-in | Valencia
2020: After winning the Golden Ball at the 2019 Under-20 World Cup as an 18-year-old, South Korea international Lee was earning regular starts for Valencia.
2021: Lee rejected a series of contract renewal offers from Valencia over the course of the 2020-21 season and was placed on the transfer list at the end of the campaign. In the end, he was released in August, allowing Mallorca to sign him on a free.
2022: After beginning the season as a starter, Lee fell down the pecking order at Mallorca, and ended the campaign with just one league goal and two assists.
2023: Lee has forced his way back into the line up at Mallorca and has been more productive in attack, even if he has not yet hit the levels expected of him a few years ago.
#6 Gabriel Martinelli | Arsenal
2020: Plucked from the fourth tier of Brazilian football in the summer of 2019, Martinelli had made a superb start to life at Arsenal, becoming the first teenager to reach double-figures for goals in a single season for the club since Nicolas Anelka in 1998-99.
2021: Martinelli missed the first half of the 2020-21 season with a knee injury and struggled to force himself into the first-team picture thereafter, finishing the campaign with just two goals to his name.
2022: The forward was back to his best, with his pace and dribbling ability down the left-hand side earning him a regular starting spot in the Gunners line-up, as well as a first Brazil call-up.
2023: Martinelli has taken his game to another level in 2022-23, with the forward having already hit double-figures for goals in the Premier League as they look to seal a first Premier League title since 2004.
#5 Eduardo Camavinga | Rennes
2020: Camavinga became an overnight star in August 2019 after a highlights clip went viral of the then-16-year-old putting in a dominant performance against Paris Saint-Germain. He was soon linked with a host of top European clubs, most notably Real Madrid, as he continued to shine in Ligue 1.
2021: The midfielder started the 2020-21 season in sparkling form, and became France's youngest goalscorer in over a century, before his form dropped off in the second half of the campaign. That did not put off Real Madrid, though, who paid €40m to bring him to Santiago Bernabeu.
2022: After scoring on his Madrid debut, Camavinga was largely a substitute during his first season in Spain, though he made some key contributions off the bench as Los Blancos won both La Liga and the Champions League.
2023: Camavinga has been in and out of the Madrid line up in 2022-23, and has even been pressed into duty at left-back for both club and country.
#4 Reinier | Real Madrid
2020: The latest teenager to swap Brazil for the Bernabeu, Madrid paid €35m in January 2020 to sign the Flamengo playmaker, who had been likened to Kaka in South America.
2021: Reinier joined Borussia Dortmund on a two-year loan deal in the summer of 2021, but started just one match – the final league game of the season – in his first campaign in Germany. Despite reports his deal would be terminated, he opted to remain with the club for a second season.
2022: Things did not improve for Reinier, as the Brazilian started just once in the Bundesliga during his second season at Dortmund, and he was sent on loan to Girona upon his return to Spain in the summer of 2022.
2023: Injuries kept Reinier on the sidelines for much of the first half of the current season, and he has struggled to force his way into the line up in 2023.
#3 Mason Greenwood | Manchester United
Following Greenwood's inclusion on the NXGN 2019 list, he continued to develop, becoming a key figure in the Manchester United forward line and a full England international.
In January 2022, Greenwood was suspended "until further notice" by United, after he was arrested on suspicion of rape and assault.
Though all charges against him were dropped in February 2023, Greenwood's suspension remains, with it unclear when and if he will continue his football career.
#2 Ansu Fati | Barcelona
2020: Having beaten Real Madrid to the signing of Fati, Barcelona took the almost unheard of decision to promote the forward to the club's first-team squad in the summer of 2019, despite him having never played for the club's B team. He rewarded them by breaking countless goalscoring records, including becoming the youngest ever player to find the net in the Champions League in December of the same year.
2021: Fati earned a first Spain cap as he started the 2020-21 season by scoring four goals in his first seven league appearances, only to suffer a meniscus injury in November that required four surgeries and ruled him out for the season. He did, however, pick up the 2021 NXGN award.
2022: Fati made just 10 league appearances the following year, as a hamstring injury kept him out of action for six months in the middle of the campaign.
2023: Finally free of injuries, Fati has struggled to make much of an impact in 2022-23, leading to reports that he could leave Camp Nou this summer.
#1 Rodrygo | Real Madrid
2020: Having made his Santos debut at the age of 16 in 2017, Rodrygo joined Madrid 18 months later in a deal worth €45m. He marked his Blancos debut with a goal after 93 seconds before scoring a perfect hat-trick on his first Champions League start. In addition, he had already been capped twice by Brazil.
2021: Rodrygo was mainly a substitute during the 2020-21, and scored just twice in all competitions.
2022: Though still largely a rotational piece in Carlo Ancelotti's squad, the Brazilian put in some key performances in 2021-22, especially in their triumphant Champions League run.
2023: Rodrygo has earned more starts this season as he continues to develop into one of European football's most promising young attackers.