NXGN: Kylian Mbappe, Christian Pulisic and where 2017's best wonderkids are now

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GOAL selected the 50 best footballing talents from around the world born on or after January 1, 1998 – but did they go on to fulfil their potential?

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 2017 are now:

Every NXGN list

Dembele, Tielemans & 2016's best wonderkids

De Ligt, Kluivert & 2018's best wonderkids

Haaland, Sancho & 2019's best wonderkids

Saka, Rodrygo & 2020's best wonderkids

Oberdorf, Huitema & 2020's best women's wonderkids

Pedri, Ansu Fati & 2021's best wonderkids

Bennison, Tromp & 2021's best women's wonderkids

Bellingham, Musiala & 2022's best wonderkids

Dumornay, Fowler & 2022's best women's wonderkids

Gavi, Garnacho & 2023's best wonderkids

Thompson, Caicedo & 2023's best women's wonderkids

  1. Diego Lainez | Club America
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    #50 Diego Lainez | Club America

    2017: Having made his senior debut as a 16-year-old, Lainez was regarded as the best prospect in Mexican football as he bore a passing resemblance to Lionel Messi in his style of play.

    2018: Lainez continued to develop, and made his senior international debut for Mexico in September 2018.

    2019: In January 2019, Real Betis paid €12m to sign Lainez, making him the second-most expensive Mexican player bought by a European club. His first goal for the club came in dramatic fashion, as he netted a last-minute equaliser against Rennes in the Europa League.

    2020: Lainez's first full season in Spain yielded just 18 outings, though he did miss the final three months of the campaign due to an abdominal strain.

    2021: The forward again found himself on the fringe at Betis, making 25 appearances during the 2020-21 campaign. Scored for Mexico in the final of the Concacaf Nations League, though El Tri were beaten by the United States.

    2022: After a knee injury meant he missed the first two months of the season, Lainez fell right down the pecking order and made just 13 appearances in all competitions before being loaned to Braga at the end of the campaign.

    2023: Braga cut Lainez's loan short in January 2023 after he made just six league appearances in Portugal, and he was sent on a one-year loan to Tigres in his native Mexico a few weeks later.

  2. Takefusa Kubo | FC Tokyo
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    #49 Takefusa Kubo | FC Tokyo

    2017: Nicknamed 'The Japanese Messi', Kubo was forced to return to his homeland in the aftermath of Barcelona's FIFA-imposed transfer ban having been invited to La Masia as a 10-year-old. In April 2017, he became the youngest goalscorer in J.League history as a 15-year-old.

    2018: Kubo was loaned to Yokohama F. Marinos in August 2018, and scored on his debut for his new club.

    2019: Having enjoyed the most productive season of his career at senior level in 2019, Kubo made his international debut after being called-up to the Japan squad for the Copa America (they participated as one of the guest teams in Brazil). At club level, many expected him to return to Barcelona, but Real Madrid managed to secure his signature, before sending him on loan to newly-promoted Mallorca for the 2019-20 campaign.

    2020: Kubo was one of the young stars of the Spanish season, directly contributing to nine goals as Mallorca fought against relegation. His form persuaded Villarreal to take him on loan for the following season.

    2021: 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.

  3. Dujon Sterling | Chelsea
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    #48 Dujon Sterling | Chelsea

    2017: After impressing in the Blues' youth ranks, Sterling made his first-team debut under Antonio Conte in September 2017.

    2018: Sterling made one further appearance for the Blues senior side in 2017-18 before joining Coventry City on loan for the following campaign.

    2019: The full-back enjoyed a successful spell in League One, playing 40 matches in all competitions, before heading to Wigan Athletic on loan to test himself at Championship level the following season.

    2020: Sterling managed just 10 appearances for Wigan because of a hamstring injury, which was then compounded by him picking up a serious illness that kept him on the sidelines for even longer.

    2021: After missing 13 months of football, Sterling returned to action for Chelsea's Under-23s in the second half of the 2020-21 season. He proved his fitness enough to earn a new contract at Stamford Bridge, which he signed before joining Blackpool on loan.

    2022: Sterling was largely a starter for the Championship outfit, and impressed enough to earn another loan move, this time to Stoke City.

    2023: Now 23, Sterling has recently locked down a starting berth for the Potters having been in and out of the side during the opening months of the campaign.

  4. Niklas Dorsch | Bayern Munich
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    #47 Niklas Dorsch | Bayern Munich

    2017: Likened to Toni Kroos by those in the know at Bayern, Dorsch was being closely monitored by then-coach Carlo Ancelotti.

    2018: Dorsch marked his senior Bayern debut with the opening goal against Eintracht Frankfurt, but that proved to be his only appearance for the club, as a failure to agree a new contract saw him join second-division outfit FC Heidenheim in the summer of 2018.

    2019: A regular starter for Heidenheim through the 2018-19 season, Dorsch impressed with his maturity despite his lack of experience.

    2020: Dorsch helped Heidenheim reach the 2019-20 promotion-relegation play-off match, which they lost to Werder Bremen, before joining Gent at the end of the season in a €3.5m deal.

    2021: Having got his first taste of European football with Gent, Dorsch was outstanding for Germany as they won the 2021 Under-21 European Championship. Those performances earned him a €7m move to Augsburg.

    2022: After a slow start to life in the Bundesliga, Dorsch grew into his new environment, and played 30 times as Augsburg fought off the threat of relegation.

    2023: A broken foot meant that Dorsch missed the entire first half of the 2022-23 season, but he has since worked his way back into the Augsburg line up.

  5. Kelechi Nwakali | Arsenal
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    #46 Kelechi Nwakali | Arsenal

    2017: Winner of the Golden Ball as Nigeria won the 2015 Under-17 World Cup, Nwakali joined Arsenal a year later. He was sent out on loan to Dutch lower-league side Maastricht in 2016-17 to earn first-team experience, before joining top-flight outfit VVV-Venlo ahead of the following campaign.

    2018: Nwakali ended his time with VVV after six months, and returned to Maastricht for the remainder of the season, where he helped them reach the play-offs. He was then loaned to Porto in the summer of 2018, where he joined their B-team squad.

    2019: The attacking midfielder never came close to breaking into the Portuguese giants' first team, and upon his return to Arsenal, he was sold to Huesca having never made an appearance for the Gunners.

    2020: Nwakali made just five appearances as Huesca earned promotion to La Liga, and continued to struggle for game time in the top flight of Spanish football.

    2021: He joined second-division side Alcorcon in January 2021, where Nwakali scored four goals during the second half of the campaign.

    2022: Back at Huesca following their relegation back to the Segunda Division, Nwakali forced himself into the line-up, only to return late from the Africa Cup of Nations, leading to him being disciplined, ostracised from the squad and eventually released in April 2022.

    2023: Nwakali joined another Spanish second division side, Ponferradina, ahead of the 2022-23 season, and he has been a virtual ever-present for the relegation-threatened team.

  6. Pietro Pellegri | Genoa
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    #45 Pietro Pellegri | Genoa

    2017: Became the joint-youngest player to debut in Serie A at the age of 15 years and 280 days. A playmaking forward, Pellegri had already turned down an offer to move to Manchester United.

    2018: Pellegri continued to impress when given the chance by Genoa and Monaco swooped in January 2018 to sign him for €25m – the second-largest fee ever paid for a 16-year-old. He managed three Ligue 1 appearances in his first half-season, but suffered a season-ending groin injury in September 2018.

    2019: Pellegri returned for the start of the 2019-20 campaign, but almost instantly suffered back-to-back hamstring injuries that left him on the sidelines for another six months.

    2020: Having worked himself back to fitness and into first-team contention at the Stade Louis II, Pellegri made his senior Italy debut in November 2020.

    2021: More injury problems plagued Pellegri through the second half of the 2020-21 season, at the end of which he was loaned to AC Milan in the hope he could rejuvenate his career back in his homeland.

    2022: Having made just six appearances for the Rossoneri, Pellegri's loan deal at Milan was cut short as injuries again took hold. He joined Torino on loan in January 2022, before that move was made permanent six months later.

    2023: Pellegri was a bit-part player in the opening months of the season, but a knee injury has kept him out of action since the turn of the year.

  7. Dusan Vlahovic | Partizan
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    #44 Dusan Vlahovic | Partizan

    2017: The youngest player and scorer in Partizan history, Vlahovic was handed a first professional contract at the age of 15. It was announced in the summer of 2017 that he would be joining Fiorentina after his 18th birthday.

    2018: Despite arriving in Florence in January 2018, Vlahovic was not allowed to play for Fiorentina for another six months, and began training with the club's Primavera (Under-19s) side.

    2019: Vlahovic was the star of the Fiorentina side that won the 2019 Coppa Italia Primavera, earning himself 10 first-team appearances over the course of the 2018-19 campaign.

    2020: Promoted to the first-team squad, Vlahovic managed eight goals in all competitions in his first full season of senior Italian football. He went on to make his Serbia debut in October 2020.

    2021: The striker began to properly find his feet in Serie A, netting 21 league goals in 2020-21, before backing that up by netting 20 goals in 24 matches to start the following campaign.

    2022: Vlahovic's form saw him become one of Europe's most-coveted forwards, and it was Juventus who won the race to sign him, paying €75m to bring him to Turin late in the January transfer window.

    2023: The 23-year-old has not hit the heights many expected of him at Juve, and though he has contributed some key goals, there are reports that he could now leave the Allianz Stadium this summer.

  8. Marcus Edwards | Tottenham
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    #43 Marcus Edwards | Tottenham

    2017: Described as having the characteristics "of a young Messi" by Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino, Edwards had already made his first-team debut for the north London outfit.

    2018: The winger joined Norwich City on loan in January 2018, but returned to Tottenham less than three months later having made just one appearance, citing personal reasons for his departure from Carrow Road. He went onto join Dutch side Excelsior on a season-long loan deal for 2018-19.

    2019: Edwards managed 25 Eredivisie appearances over the course of his spell in the Netherlands and, given it was clear there was to be no way through for him at Spurs, he left on a free, joining Vitoria de Guimaraes.

    2020: The wideman was a revelation in Portugal, scoring nine goals and racking up as many assists in all competitions for Vitoria, leading to rumours that he could return to England sooner rather than later.

    2021: Edwards' returns dropped slightly in 2020-21, as he scored just three league goals, but he was still regarded as one of the brightest young players in the Primeira Liga.

    2022: A return to form in the first half of the 2021-22 campaign – 10 direct goal involvements in 18 games – saw Edwards complete an €8m move to defending champions Sporting C.P. in January 2022.

    2023: After being in and out of the line up in his first six months in Lisbon, Edwards has grown into a key player under Ruben Amorim, and has already hit double figures for both goals and assists in 2022-23.

  9. Jose Gomes | Benfica
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    #42 Jose Gomes | Benfica

    2017: Named as Player of the Tournament at the U17 European Championship in 2016, striker Gomes became the youngest player to represent Benfica in continental competition when coming off the bench against Napoli in the Champions League.

    2018: A regular in the Benfica B team during the 2017-18 campaign, Gomes failed to add to his five first-team appearances from the previous season.

    2019: Gomes continued to lead the line for the B team in Lisbon, and so in search of more first-team opportunities, he was loaned to Portimoense ahead of the 2019-20 campaign.

    2020: The forward made just two appearances for Portimoense before cutting his stay short, and spent the second half of the season on loan at Lechia Gdansk, where he managed to score his first professional goals.

    2021: Gomes eventually chose to leave Benfica in February 2021, joining Bulgarian outfit Cherno More on a free transfer.

    2022: Having played 34 games for Cherno More, scoring five goals, Gomes left in January 2022, and joined Serie C side Seregno Calcio a few weeks later on a short-term deal. He then moved to Romanian giants CFR Cluj ahead of the 2022-23 campaign.

    2023: Having failed to make a league appearance for his new club, Gomes was loaned to fellow top-flight club Universitatea Cluj in January 2023, where he has become a starter.

  10. Andrea Pinamonti | Inter
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    #41 Andrea Pinamonti | Inter

    2017: Pinamonti made his Inter debut in December 2016 in their Champions League win over Sparta Prague, before making his Serie A bow two months later.

    2018: The striker made a couple more first-team appearances in 2017-18, before joining Frosinone on loan for the following campaign.

    2019: Pinamonti's first full season of Serie A football was encouraging, as he scored five goals and laid on three assists for a team that was eventually relegated. That form saw Genoa sign him on loan, with an obligation to buy a year later.

    2020: After another five-goal season, Inter opted to buy Pinamonti back from Genoa and include him in Anotnio Conte's squad for the new campaign.

    2021: Pinamonti was a fringe figure as the Nerazzurri won Serie A, making 10 appearances in all competitions, and in the summer of 2021 he was loaned out to Empoli.

    2022: In what was his best top-flight season to date, Pinamonti was Empoli's top scorer with 13 Serie A goals. That form persuaded Sassuolo to take him on a season-long loan with an obligation to buy for €20m in the summer of 2023.

    2023: Pinamonti has struggled to replicate his 2021-22 form this season, and recently fell out of favour following a spell on the sidelines due to injury.

  11. Achraf Hakimi | Real Madrid
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    #40 Achraf Hakimi | Real Madrid

    2017: A regular in Real Madrid's Castilla side and already a full Morocco international, Hakimi was promoted to the first-team squad at the Santiago Bernabeu ahead of the 2017-18 campaign.

    2018: After making 17 appearances for Madrid, Hakimi was sent to Borussia Dortmund on a two-year loan deal in a bid for him to gain more experience.

    2019: Hakimi performed solidly during his first season at Signal Iduna Park before a broken foot cut short his campaign in March.

    2020: The 2019-20 campaign proved to be a breakout season for Hakimi, who registered nine goals and 10 assists in all competitions for Dortmund. Many expected Madrid to then integrate him into their line-up, but he was instead sold to Inter for €40m.

    2021: The ideal player for Antonio Conte's wing-back-oriented system, Hakimi was a revelation as Inter won Serie A, directly contributing to 17 league goals for the Nerazzurri. Financial issues at San Siro, however, meant that he needed to be sold, and Paris Saint-Germain were only too happy to pay €60m to bring him to Parc des Princes.

    2022: Hakimi did not quite hit the same heights as his previous two seasons in his first year at PSG, but did help them regain the Ligue 1 title before playing a massive role in Morocco's shock run to the 2022 World Cup semi-finals.

    2023: Hakimi was charged with rape by French prosecutors in February 2023, with the case ongoing.

  12. Brahim Diaz | Manchester City
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    #39 Brahim Diaz | Manchester City

    2017: Already regarded as one of the best players in Man City's academy, Brahim was a favourite of Pep Guardiola and made his first-team debut in September 2016.

    2018: Brahim made enough appearances to earn himself a Premier League winners' medal, though he played the majority of his football for City's Under-23s.

    2019: With his contract having entered his final six months, Real Madrid swooped to pay €17m to take the Spain youth international to Santiago Bernabeu, and he made a handful of appearances before the season was out.

    2020: Brahim fell down the pecking order at Madrid during the 2019-20 season and was subsequently loaned to AC Milan ahead of the following campaign.

    2021: The playmaker impressed at San Siro, scoring seven goals in all competitions, and the Rossoneri agreed a deal to continue his loan spell for another two seasons. He also made his senior Spain debut in June 2021.

    2022: Though he only scored three league goals in 2021-22, and none after September 25, but Brahim was still a key figure as Milan won their first Scudetto since 2011.

    2023: Brahim has again been a regular starter for Milan this season, and there are reports that Real Madrid are keen to introduce him back into their squad once his loan deal expires this summer.

  13. Leandrinho | Napoli
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    #38 Leandrinho | Napoli

    2017: The top scorer as Brazil won the Under-17s South American Championships in 2015, Leandrinho swapped Ponte Preta in his homeland to join Napoli in January 2017.

    2018: After a productive first half-season in Napoli's Primavera (U19s) side, goals dried up for Leandrinho over the course of the 2017-18 campaign, and he was loaned back to Brazil with Atletico Mineiro in the summer of 2018.

    2019: Leandrinho returned to Napoli a year later having made just three appearances for Atletico, with it clear he also had no future with the Partenopei.

    2020: He returned to his homeland again in February 2020 as Red Bull Bragantino agreed to take Leandrinho on loan, only for Covid-19 to hit just as he arrived back in Brazil. That did not stop Bragantino from signing him on a permanent deal once play resumed in August, the forward leaving Napoli having failed to muster a single first-team appearance.

    2021: Leandrinho managed just four league appearances through the 2021 season, though did make a late substitute's appearance in the final of the Copa Sudamericana.

    2022: The forward did not make a single league appearance for Bragantino in 2022 before being loaned to second-division side Londrina-PR for the final three months of the season.

    2023: Clearly surplus to requirements at his parent club, Leandrinho is now on loan at lower-league outfit Maringa FC for the whole of 2023.

  14. Angel Gomes | Manchester United
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    #37 Angel Gomes | Manchester United

    2017: Likened to Ronaldinho for his ability with the ball at his feet, Gomes captained England as they won the 2017 Under-17 World Cup, and was regarded as the brightest prospect to have been developed by Manchester United for some time as he became the first player born in the 21st century to appear in the Premier League.

    2018: Gomes played just two minutes of first-team football in 2017-18 as he was forced to be patient and wait for his chance to impress.

    2019: The midfielder continued to find himself on the fringes at Old Trafford, making just two Premier League appearances in the 2018-19 campaign.

    2020: After featuring in just 10 games, Gomes left United in the summer of 2020 having failed to agree a contract extension, and joined Lille, who immediately sent him on loan to Boavista to gain more experience.

    2021: Gomes made a strong start to life in Portugal, registering a hat-trick of assists on his debut and scoring his first goal from the halfway line, with his performances over the course of the season enough to convince Lille he was ready to join their squad the following campaign.

    2022: Despite scoring his first Champions League goal, Gomes was in and out of the Lille line up during his first season in French football.

    2023: The 22-year-old has now established himself as a starter at Stade Pierre-Mauroy, and there have been whispers regarding a return to the Premier League.

  15. Joaquin Ardaiz | Danubio
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    #36 Joaquin Ardaiz | Danubio

    2017: Tipped as the forward to follow in the footsteps of Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani, Ardaiz scored twice as Uruguay beat Ecuador to win the South American Under-20 Championship in early 2017.

    2018: Having been loaned to Royal Antwerp for the 2017-18 season, Ardaiz scored five goals for the Belgian outfit. He was then signed permanently by Swiss side Chiasso, who immediately sent the forward on loan to Frosinone.

    2019: Ardaiz's time in Serie A was cut short in January 2019 after injuries limited him to just one appearance, and a month later he was loaned to the Vancouver Whitecaps for the 2019 MLS season, where he failed to score in 16 outings.

    2020: Lugano signed Ardaiz on a permanent deal in the summer of 2020, with the Swiss top-flight side hopeful of reviving his career.

    2021: Ardaiz managed just three goals in 26 games for Lugano and dropped down a division as he joined Schaffhausen in the second division of Swiss football on a free transfer.

    2022: The striker finally found some form in front of goal, finishing as the top scorer in the Challenge League with 20 strikes as Schaffhausen reached the play-offs. That form earned him a move back to the top flight with Luzern.

    2023: After 15 league games without a goal in the first half of the 2022-23 campaign, Ardaiz was loaned to fellow Super League side FC Winterthur in February 2023, where he has hit the ground running with both goals and assists.

  16. Rui Pedro | Porto
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    #35 Rui Pedro | Porto

    2017: Hot on the heels of Andre Silva emerging from Porto's famed academy, Pedro made headlines when scoring an injury-time winner against Braga on his first-team debut in December 2016.

    2018: In a bid to earn more first-team experience, Pedro joined Boavista on loan for the 2017-18 season, but only managed one goal in his 19 league appearances.

    2019: With opportunities at Porto limited, Pedro joined second-division side Varzim on loan in January 2019, but again struggled in front of goal. In the summer of 2019, he opted to try his luck in Spain, joining Granada's B team on loan.

    2020: Two goals were all that Pedro could manage and he cut his stay in Spain short in January 2020. He joined another Portuguese second-tier outfit, Leixoes, on loan later that month, before making the move permanent at the end of the campaign.

    2021: Pedro again swapped teams in January 2021, joining Penafiel on a permanent deal, for whom he scored two goals in 16 appearances.

    2022: The striker scored just one goal in 24 league appearances for Penafiel in the Portuguese second division and left to join Slovenian side NK Olimpija on a free transfer.

    2023: After a hot start to the season, goals have dried up of late for Pedro as he approaches his 25th birthday.

  17. Ianis Hagi | Fiorentina
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    #34 Ianis Hagi | Fiorentina

    2017: The son of Romania legend Gheorge, the young Hagi possessed the same ability when on the ball. Joined Fiorentina in the summer of 2016 having impressed for Farul Constanta in his homeland.

    2018: Hagi made two appearances for Fiorentina during his first season at the club but, with opportunities limited, he was sold back to Farul Constanta in January 2018. He soon became a key member of their squad and earned his first Romania cap in November of the same year.

    2019: The attacking midfielder shone in 2018-19, scoring 14 goals and laying on eight assists in all competitions as Farul won the Romanian Cup. That form saw Genk pay an initial €4m to sign him that summer.

    2020: Hagi spent just six months in Belgium before joining Rangers on loan in January 2020. After impressing and scoring some crucial goals in the Europa League, he was signed permanently by Steven Gerrard's side.

    2021: Despite only starting around half of Rangers' league games in 2020-21, Hagi still managed to contribute six goals and nine assists to their Premiership title-winning campaign.

    2022: Having forced his way into the team on a more regular basis at the start of 2021-22, Hagi's season was ended prematurely after a knee injury picked up in January forced him to undergo surgery.

    2023: After over a year out, Hagi returned to first-team action in late January 2023, but has struggled for regular minutes at Ibrox since.

  18. Lincoln | Gremio
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    #33 Lincoln | Gremio

    2017: Handed his first-team debut by Luiz Felipe Scolari as a 16-year-old, the attacking midfielder had previously captained Brazil at the Under-17 World Cup in 2015.

    2018: Lincoln returned from an encouraging loan spell at Caykur Rizespor in Turkey, but made just one further appearance for Gremio before being loaned to America Mineiro for the final months of the 2018 Brazilian campaign.

    2019: A permanent move to Europe arrived in the summer of 2019 as Lincoln joined Portuguese outfit Santa Clara for an undisclosed fee, and soon forced himself into the starting line-up.

    2020: Though he struggled for goals, Lincoln provided a number of assists as he began to establish himself in the Primeira Liga.

    2021: Lincoln helped Santa Clara secure European football for the 2021-22 season as they qualified for the Europa Conference League.

    2022: The midfielder contributed a combined 17 goals and assists across all competitions in 2021-22 before joining Fenerbahce, who paid €3.5m to bring him back to Turkey.

    2023: Lincoln, now 24, is closing in on double-figures for assists during his first season in Istanbul having been a regular starter throughout the campaign.

  19. Ismaila Sarr | Metz
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    #32 Ismaila Sarr | Metz

    2017: The youngest player selected by any country at the 2017 African Cup of Nations, the Senegalese came through the same academy as his hero Sadio Mane before joining Metz in 2016.

    2018: Having chosen to join Rennes in the summer of 2017 in a €17m deal, Sarr missed much of the first half of the campaign with a torn tendon, but returned to provide five goals and five assists before the season was out.

    2019: Sarr enjoyed a true breakout campaign, reaching double figures for both goals and assists across all competitions in 2018-19, leading to Watford paying a club-record £30m to bring him to the Premier League.

    2020: The pacey winger caught the eye for the Hornets, but he could not do enough to stop them from being relegated to the Championship. He was heavily linked with a move to Liverpool in the months that followed, but Watford fought to keep their prized asset.

    2021: Sarr proved too good for the second tier of English football, again hitting double figures for goals and assists as Watford were promoted back to the Premier League at the first time of asking.

    2022: Despite injury fears heading into the tournament, Sarr was part of the Senegal side that won the Africa Cup of Nations, but those fitness problems restricted the winger at club level as Watford suffered relegation once more.

    2023: While not quite producing the goal and assist numbers that would be expected of him, Sarr has again been a figure for Watford as they push for promotion back to the Premier League.

  20. Carles Alena | Barcelona
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    #31 Carles Alena | Barcelona

    2017: Having joined La Masia at the age of seven, Alena – who was likened to Deco and Andres Iniesta – marked his first-team debut for Barcelona with a goal against Hercules in the Copa del Rey.

    2018: First-team chances for Alena in 2017-18 were limited to the Copa del Rey, but he was a star performer for the club's B team in the third tier of Spanish football.

    2019: That form saw Alena promoted to the first-team squad on a more regular basis and he made 27 appearances across all competitions in 2018-19.

    2020: Increased competition for places at Barca led to Alena being loaned out to Real Betis for the second half of the 2019-20 season and he played regularly in Seville.

    2021: A similar story followed in 2020-21, with Getafe the club to take Alena on loan in January. He helped them avoid relegation, and in return they paid €5m to sign the midfielder at the end of the campaign.

    2022: Alena was a regular starter in La Liga, though he has struggled to make too many telling contributions in the final third after being deployed in a slightly deeper midfield role.

    2023: Now a veteran of over 120 La Liga appearances, Alena remains a key contributor for Getafe.

  21. Tomas Conechny | San Lorenzo
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    #30 Tomas Conechny | San Lorenzo

    2017: Though he was invited to have a trial with Liverpool before joining San Lorenzo in 2014, Conechny's biggest contribution to the game at this stage of his career was missing the final of the South American Under-17s Championship in 2015 having fallen out of a window while playing FIFA on the Playstation!

    2018: After making a handful of appearances for San Lorenzo, Conechny joined the Portland Timbers on loan in July 2018.

    2019: The attacking midfielder made just four appearances for the first team in Portland, but that did not stop them from making Conechny's move permanent in July 2019.

    2020: Conechny continued to be a pit-part player in MLS, making just eight appearances during the 2020 season.

    2021: Portland released Conechny ahead of the new MLS season, allowing him move back to Argentina to join Deportivo Maldonado in the Argentine top flight. After an encouraging start, though, he fell out of favour somewhat.

    2022: Conechny joined second-division side Almagro in January, and was regular contributor as they finished eighth in the table.

    2023: The winger's form earned him a move to top-flight side Godoy Cruz, for whom Conechny recently scored his first league goal.

  22. Matthijs de Ligt | Ajax
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    #29 Matthijs de Ligt | Ajax

    2017: Already a regular in the Ajax first team at the age of 17, De Ligt started in the 2017 Europa League final and made his Netherlands debut at a similar time. He was also the second-youngest goalscorer in the club's history behind Clarence Seedorf, after netting on his debut in September 2016.

    2018: De Ligt became the youngest captain in Ajax history after taking the armband in March 2018, as he continued to emerge as one of the best defensive prospects in world football, and was crowned the winner of the Golden Boy.

    2019: The centre-back skippered Ajax to a domestic double and the semi-finals of the Champions League, during which he scored some crucial goals. Those performances earned him a €75m move to Juventus, as well as the Kopa Trophee at the Ballon d'Or ceremony.

    2020: After a slow start to life in Turin, De Ligt grew into a key figure for Juve as they secured the Serie A title.

    2021: A shoulder injury saw him miss the first three months of the 2020-21 season but, once fit, De Ligt was an automatic starter at the Allianz Stadium.

    2022: After another decent season in Serie A, De Ligt left Juve to join Bayern Munich for an initial €67m in the summer of 2022.

    2023: De Ligt started just once for the Netherlands at the 2022 World Cup, but has been a regular in the line up during his first season with Bundesliga champions Bayern.

  23. Nicolas Schiappacasse | Atletico Madrid
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    #28 Nicolas Schiappacasse | Atletico Madrid

    2017: Comfortable across the forward line, Schiappacasse left River Plate Montevideo for Atletico Madrid in the summer of 2016, and was thought to be on verge of making his debut for Diego Simeone's side.

    2018: That first-team debut was not forthcoming, however, and Schiappacasse was loaned to second-division side Rayo Majadahonda in the summer of 2018.

    2019: Schiappacasse scored just once for Majadahonda before his loan deal was cut short and he joined Parma for the remainder of the campaign, though he played just three times in Serie A. He would then move to Portugal, joining Famalicao on a season-long loan deal.

    2020: The Uruguayan only played 63 minutes for his latest temporary club, leading to him being sold by Atletico in October 2020, as Sassuolo picked him up on the cheap.

    2021: Schiappacasse returned to his homeland in March 2021, joining Penarol on loan, but he spent just two months there before a ruptured cruciate ligament ruled him out of action for over seven months.

    2022: The striker was hit with a 14-month suspended jail sentence for gunrunning in April 2022 after being arrested while travelling to Penarol's derby clash with Nacional. That, coupled with his injury, meant he did not play football for over a year before joining Uruguayan second-division side Miramar Misiones for the final months of the 2022 season.

    2023: Schiappacasse is now back in the Uruguayan top flight after joining La Luz ahead of the 2023 campaign.

  24. Lorenzo Callegari | Paris Saint-Germain
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    #27 Lorenzo Callegari | Paris Saint-Germain

    2017: Having come through the PSG ranks, Callegari made his first-team debut in November 2016 and was being tipped to become a regular in the senior squad in the following months.

    2018: Callegari never played again for Les Parisiens and joined Genoa on a free transfer in the summer of 2018, before being loaned to Serie C outfit Ternana.

    2019: The defensive midfielder made 17 appearances in the 2018-19 season, before he was let go by Genoa, this time moving to the third tier of French football at Avranches.

    2020: A regular before Covid-19 brought a premature end to the season, Callegari earned himself a move to Ligue 2 with Chambly.

    2021: Only a bit-part player, Callegari could not do enough to stop Chambly from suffering relegation.

    2022: Callegari continued to be in and out of the line-up in the third tier of French football before being released at the end of the campaign.

    2023: After six months without a club, Callegari moved to Canadian Premier League side HFX Wanderers in January 2023.

  25. Yann Karamoh | Caen
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    #26 Yann Karamoh | Caen

    2017: One of the revelations of the 2016-17 Ligue 1 season, Cote d'Ivoire-born Karamoh showcased his ability as both a wide forward and a central striker, convincing Inter to sign him on loan at the end of the campaign.

    2018: Karamoh made 16 Serie A appearances for the Nerazzurri, who paid just over €6m to make the deal permanent before loaning him to Bordeaux for the 2018-19 campaign.

    2019: The attacker managed just 26 appearances back in French football and, upon his return to Italy, was sent on a season-long loan to Parma.

    2020: Karamoh missed three months with a torn lateral collateral ligament but, with an obligation to buy, Parma spent the €8m required to make his move permanent.

    2021: Injuries continued to plague Karamoh, and he was unable to help Parma avoid relegation back to Serie B. At the end of the season, he was loaned out to Turkish side Fatih Karagumruk.

    2022: Karamoh was in and out of the line up as he finished the season with just four Super Lig goals before being released by Parma at the end of the campaign. Serie A side Torino moved quickly to sign him on a one-year deal.

    2023: After mostly being a substitute in the opening months of the season, Karamoh has forced his way into the Torino line up and has begun to find some form in front of goal.

  26. Jonathan Ikone | Paris Saint-Germain
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    #25 Jonathan Ikone | Paris Saint-Germain

    2017: Having made his PSG debut at the start of the 2016-17 campaign, Ikone was sent out on loan to Montpellier in January 2017 to earn further first-team experience.

    2018: Ikone did enough for Montpellier to extend that loan deal by a further 12 months, and he made over 20 appearances in all competitions over the course of the 2018-19 campaign. With chances limited at PSG, he was then sold to Lille for around €5m.

    2019: The forward starred in his first season at Lille, reaching double figures for assists in Ligue 1 before marking his France debut in September 2019 with a goal.

    2020: Ikone was well on his way to posting similar numbers in 2019-20 before the season was curtailed because of Covid-19, confirming his status as one of the brightest young attackers in the French top flight.

    2021: Playing predominantly off the right, Ikone featured in all-but one of Lille's league matches as they surprisingly beat PSG to the Ligue 1 title under Christophe Galtier.

    2022: Ikone left Lille in January 2022, joining Fiorentina in a €15m deal, but managed just one goal in his first 17 Serie A appearances.

    2023: Now 24, Ikone starts more often than not for Fiorentina, though his goal and assist numbers are nothing to write home about.

  27. Ezequiel Barco | Independiente
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    #24 Ezequiel Barco | Independiente

    2017: Having made his senior debut as a 17-year-old, attacking midfielder Barco had linked with a summer move to Benfica before he scored in the 2017 Copa Sudamerica final.

    2018: Atlanta United paid $13.8m to bring Barco to MLS in January 2018, and he was part of the squad that won the MLS Cup that same year.

    2019: Despite some injury problems, Barco managed six direct goal contributions in 18 appearances in 2019 as he continued to show improvements.

    2020: Barco endured his least effective year to date at Atalanta in 2020, as his side failed to reach the play-offs.

    2021: With eight goals and seven assists in all competitions, Barco proved to be one of MLS' best playmakers in the 2021 season, while also representing Argentina at the Olympics.

    2022: Barco returned to his homeland in January 2022, joining River Plate on a two-year loan deal.

    2023: In just over 12 months at River, Barco has been in and out of the line up, and it feels unlikely that they will make his move permanent at the end of 2023.

  28. Trent Alexander-Arnold | Liverpool
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    #23 Trent Alexander-Arnold | Liverpool

    2017: Having captained Liverpool at various age-group levels, Alexander-Arnold was making his first steps into senior football, earning strong reviews from Jurgen Klopp and Steven Gerrard.

    2018: The full-back began to force his way into the Liverpool line-up and earned his first England cap after being called-up to Gareth Southgate's squad for the 2018 World Cup.

    2019: Alexander-Arnold took his game to a new level in 2018-19, registering 12 Premier League assists while playing a key role as Liverpool won the Champions League.

    2020: Crowned PFA and Premier League Young Player of the Year after registering another 13 league assists as Klopp's side ran away with their first league title in 30 years.

    2021: Alexander-Arnold suffered a slight drop in form, leading to him being left out of the England squad in March 2021. He was recalled ahead of the summer's European Championship, only to suffer an injury in a pre-tournament friendly that ruled him out of the competition.

    2022: The defender was back to his best in 2021-22, and recorded 19 assists in all competitions as the Reds won two trophies while narrowly missing out on the Premier League title and reaching the Champions League final.

    2023: Alexander-Arnold's form continues to fluctuate, with his creativity from full-back remaining unmatched while his defensive capabilities still require improvement.

  29. Moussa Diaby | Paris Saint-Germain
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    #22 Moussa Diaby | Paris Saint-Germain

    2017: The winner of the 2016 Titi d'Or (the prize awarded to the best player in PSG's academy), Diaby was being linked with moves to Manchester City and Juventus as he awaited his professional debut.

    2018: That senior bow eventually came at Crotone, after Diaby joined the Serie A outfit on loan in January 2018.

    2019: Upon his return to France, Diaby forced himself into the first-team picture at PSG, and made 34 appearances in all competitions during the 2018-19 campaign. Despite that, a €15m offer from Bayer Leverkusen was accepted that summer.

    2020: Diaby made a solid start to life in Germany, directly contributing to 16 goals for Leverkusen in 2019-20.

    2021: The forward continued to improve, reaching double figures for Bundesliga assists in 2020-21, before going on to make his France debut in September 2021.

    2022: Diaby's game reached new heights in 2021-22, as he returned over 30 combined goals and assists in all competitions, leading to reports linking him with a move to the Premier League.

    2023: The winger remains a star performer for Leverkusen, with Arsenal and Newcastle thought to be the front-runners when it comes to signing him this summer.

  30. Justin Kluivert | Ajax
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    #21 Justin Kluivert | Ajax

    2017: The son of Barcelona and Netherlands legend Patrick, the young Kluivert had recently broken into the Ajax first team.

    2018: Kluivert went from strength to strength in 2018-19 as he averaged a goal or assist every other game for Ajax in the Eredivisie, with that form earning him the 2018 NXGN award, a first Netherlands cap and a €18.75m move to Roma.

    2019: The forward managed just a single Serie A goal in his first season at Stadio Olimpico, as an encouraging start to the season soon fizzled out.

    2020: Kluivert performed slightly better in 2019-20, scoring seven goals in all competitions, but his inconsistent performances led to him being loaned out to RB Leipzig ahead of the following campaign.

    2021: Despite goals in high-profile Bundesliga and Champions League games, Kluivert was largely a disappointment at Leipzig, and he was loaned back out to Nice for the 2021-22 season.

    2022: Kluivert enjoyed the most consistent season since his Ajax days, but that was not enough to convince Roma to keep him around upon his return from France. A loan move to Fulham fell through due to work permit issues before he joined Valencia on a season-long deal.

    2023: The forward has largely been a substitute for the struggling Spanish side, with Kluivert's hopes of being a long-term contributor at the highest level fading with every season that passes.

  31. Ben Woodburn | Liverpool
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    #20 Ben Woodburn | Liverpool

    2017: Woodburn made headlines as he became the youngest player to score for Liverpool at the age of just 17 years and 45 days, taking the record off Michael Owen with his goal against Leeds United. He backed that up in September 2017 by scoring a stunning winning goal on his Wales debut.

    2018: The attacking midfielder made just two first-team appearances in 2017-18, and was loaned to Sheffield United ahead of the following campaign so as to gain experience.

    2019: Injuries and poor form meant Woodburn played just eight times for the Championship side before his stay at Bramall Lane was cut short, and he spent the remainder of the campaign playing for Liverpool Under-23s.

    2020: Woodburn joined Oxford United on loan for the 2019-20 season, but back-to-back foot injuries saw him miss over four months of action, meaning he made just 16 appearances for the League One outfit. He then reunited with ex-Liverpool U23s boss Neil Critchley as Woodburn joined Blackpool on loan in the summer of 2020.

    2021: Having played just 11 times, Woodburn again returned from a loan spell halfway through a season, and again had to make do with youth-team matches on Merseyside to maintain his fitness.

    2022: Woodburn spent the 2021-22 season on loan at Hearts, for whom he scored his top-flight goals. He was then released by Liverpool before joining Preston North End on a free transfer.

    2023: The attacking midfielder has made over 30 appearances for the Championship side, but has been a substitute more often than not.

  32. Moise Kean | Juventus
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    #19 Moise Kean | Juventus

    2017: The first player born in the 2000s to appear in the Champions League, excitement was building around 17-year-old Kean, with the Bianconeri believing they had a world-class talent on their hands.

    2018: Kean spent the 2017-18 season on loan at Hellas Verona, scoring four Serie A goals before injury ended his campaign in March. He returned to Juve and made his Italy debut eight months later.

    2019: The striker finished the 2018-19 season strongly, scoring in six successive matches for club and country during the spring, but he was surprisingly sold to Everton in a deal worth £27m.

    2020: Kean struggled for the Toffees, scoring just two Premier League goals in 29 appearances. In a bid to revive his career, he joined Paris Saint-Germain on loan in October 2020.

    2021: Playing for a Champions League-level club suited Kean far better, and he scored 17 goals in all competitions for PSG. He then returned to Juventus in the summer of 2021, agreeing a two-year loan deal that will then become a €28m permanent move.

    2022: Kean found goals harder to come by back in Turin, as he netted just six times in all competitions during his first year back at the Bianconeri.

    2023: The striker has already surpassed his goal tally from last season in 2022-23, though he remains a rotational piece under Massimiliano Allegri.

  33. Vincent Thill | Metz
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    #18 Vincent Thill | Metz

    2017: Regarded as the best player ever to come out of Luxembourg despite being just 17, Thill became the first player born in the 2000s to debut in one of Europe's top five leagues in September 2016. Linked with moves to Bayern Munich and Real Madrid.

    2018: Thill made just four appearances for Metz during the 2017-18 campaign and was loaned to third-division side Pau ahead of the following season.

    2019: The attacking midfielder thrived at the lower level, scoring 12 goals and earning himself another loan move, this time to Ligue 2 side Orleans.

    2020: The leap in standard was not an easy one for Thill to bridge, and he scored just once for Orleans. Metz then chose to cut ties, allowing him to leave for Portuguese side Nacional.

    2021: Thill made just 13 starts in the Primeira Liga before suffering from pubitis in May – a problem that eventually required surgery that would rule him out for six months. Regardless, he was picked up by Vorskla Poltava on a free transfer in the summer of 2021.

    2022: Having struggled to break through at Vorskla, Thill joined Swedish second-division side Orebro on a three-month loan in March 2022. He impressed enough to earn a one-year loan move back to Sweden, joining top-flight outfit AIK.

    2023: The 23-year-old has become a starter for AIK at the start of the 2023 Allsvenskan season.

  34. Reece Oxford | West Ham
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    #17 Reece Oxford | West Ham

    2017: The youngest player in West Ham history, Oxford made headlines on his Premier League debut as the 16-year-old defender shone in a 2-0 win over Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium. Spent time on loan at Reading before joining Borussia Monchengladbach for the 2017-18 campaign.

    2018: The defender played just eight matches for Gladbach before suffering a season-ending injury in March 2018. He remained at West Ham for the first half of the 2018-19 campaign, but played exclusively for the Under-23s.

    2019: Oxford returned to Germany in January 2019, joining Augsburg on loan for the remainder of the season. He impressed sufficiently for the Bundesliga outfit to pay €2.5 million to bring him to the club permanently seven months later.

    2020: Oxford made just 12 appearances during his first full season at the Augsburg Arena as he continued to get used to the rigours of the senior game.

    2021: After being in-and-out of the line-up for much of the season, Oxford established himself as a regular starter towards the end of the 2020-21 campaign.

    2022: Oxford took his game to a new level in 2021-22 as he became renowned as one of the Bundesliga's best up-and-coming defenders amid some talk of a potential England call-up.

    2023: The current season has been rough for Oxford, who missed the opening three months following knee surgery and managed just three appearances before a calf injury sidelined him once again.

  35. Sergio Diaz | Real Madrid
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    #16 Sergio Diaz | Real Madrid

    2017: Having been likened to Sergio Aguero as he came through the ranks in his native Paraguay, Real Madrid won the race to sign Diaz ahead of Liverpool and Manchester United after a series of eye-catching performances during his first steps into senior football.

    2018: Having recovered from a serious knee injury suffered while on loan at Lugo in the Spanish second division, Diaz was loaned to Corinthians in Brazil's top flight, but he played for them on just three occasions after suffering from further knee problems.

    2019: Diaz was loaned back to his boyhood club, Cerro Porteno, in the summer of 2019, but he struggled to make much of an impact back in Paraguay.

    2020: Mexico was the next destination for what was becoming a nomadic career for Diaz as he joined Club America on loan, but yet again appearances were hard to come by.

    2021: Five years after joining the club, Diaz was eventually released by Real Madrid having never made a first-team appearance for the club.

    2022: After five months without a club, Diaz was offered a contract by Cerro Porteno, but his third spell with the club got off to a nightmare start as he suffered a season-ending ruptured knee ligament in April 2022.

    2023: Diaz returned to action in February 2023 as he looks to salvage his injury-hit career back in his homeland.

  36. Ryan Sessegnon | Fulham
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    #15 Ryan Sessegnon | Fulham

    2017: The first player born in the 2000s to score an English league goal and the youngest to ever score in a Championship game, Sessegnon was being compared to Gareth Bale by onlookers.

    2018: Sessegnon scored 15 goals as Fulham earned promotion to the Premier League, ensuring he would remain at Craven Cottage for at least one more season.

    2019: As with most of his team-mates, Sessegnon found the leap to the top flight difficult, and he scored just twice as relegation was confirmed. He would remain in the Premier League, however, as Tottenham paid £25m to sign him.

    2020: Sessegnon made just 12 appearances in his first season at Spurs, and was loaned to Hoffenheim in the summer of 2020 in a bid to revive his career.

    2021: Injuries in the second half of the campaign meant that Sessegnon's year in the Bundesliga was not as fulfilling as it might have been, but he did manage to get 23 top-flight appearances under his belt.

    2022: After finding himself down the pecking order in north London, Sessegnon was given a new lease of life playing as a wing-back under Antonio Conte.

    2023: Ivan Perisic's arrival in the summer of 2022 gave Sessegnon added competition, and having been in and out of the line up, a recent hamstring injury has left him facing a period on the sidelines.

  37. Kai Havertz | Bayer Leverkusen
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    #14 Kai Havertz | Bayer Leverkusen

    2017: The youngest Bundesliga debutant in Leverkusen history, Havertz was turning heads around Europe, with some comparing the teenage creative midfielder to Mesut Ozil.

    2018: Havertz's first full season in the Bundesliga was a good one, as he directly contributed to 12 goals, leading to him making his Germany debut in September 2018.

    2019: The playmaker went to another level in 2018-19, scoring 17 Bundesliga goals as some of Europe's biggest clubs began to take note of his talent.

    2020: Another 18 goals in all competitions followed for Havertz, before he joined Chelsea in a £62m deal in the summer of 2020.

    2021: Havertz was not always at his best during his first season in west London, but he ended it in memorable fashion, scoring the only goal as Chelsea beat Manchester City in the Champions League final.

    2022: The 22-year-old's penchant for important goals continued as he netted the winning goal in the Club World Cup final, but having been installed as Thomas Tuchel's first-choice central striker, his return of 14 goals in all competitions was a little disappointing.

    2023: Havertz has kept his place in the line up since Graham Potter replaced Tuchel at Stamford Bridge, but he continues to face criticism for his lack of consistent goalscoring.

  38. Tom Davies | Everton
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    #13 Tom Davies | Everton

    2017: Captain of the England Under-19s, midfielder Davies began to make himself a regular in the Everton first team in early 2017, with his superb strike against Manchester City a highlight one of the goals of the season.

    2018: Davies continued to establish himself at Goodison Park, making 33 league appearances during the 2017-18 campaign.

    2019: The midfielder began the following season by becoming the youngest player to captain Everton, but struggled for the most part, playing fewer than half the games he had in the previous campaign.

    2020: Despite featuring far more regularly in 2019-20, Davies began to come under fire from sections of the Everton support, who questioned his place in the team.

    2021: Davies remained a constant in the Everton squad, even if he did not start every week under Carlo Ancelotti.

    2022: The England Under-21 international suffered a knee injury in November 2021 that ruled him out for over six months.

    2023: Davies has largely been a substitute through the 2022-23 season despite the Toffees struggles in the Premier League.

  39. Josip Brekalo | Wolfsburg
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    #12 Josip Brekalo | Wolfsburg

    2017: Wolfsburg beat Inter to the signing of Brekalo, who had been earning rave reviews at Dinamo Zagreb, before sending him on loan to Stuttgart in January 2017.

    2018: Brekalo spent a year at Stuttgart, helping them earn promotion back to the Bundesliga in the process, before returning to Wolfsburg for the final months of the 2017-18 season. He went onto make his Croatia debut in November 2018.

    2019: The winger made 25 league appearances in his first full season at Wolfsburg, scoring three goals in the process.

    2020: Brekalo improved his goal record the following campaign, netting seven times in all competitions.

    2021: He backed that up with another seven-goal season in 2020-21, before joining Torino on loan in the summer of 2021.

    2022: Brekalo performed well in Serie A, chipping in with seven league goals after nailing down a place in the starting line-up.

    2023: The forward made just six appearances for Wolfsburg during the first half of the 2022-23 season before completing a permanent move to Fiorentina in January.

  40. Dayot Upamecano | RB Leipzig
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    #11 Dayot Upamecano | RB Leipzig

    2017: Having been plucked from the Valenciennes academy by the Red Bull group, the centre-back spent time at Salzburg before moving to RB Leipzig, despite interest from both Barcelona and Juventus.

    2018: Upamecano forced himself into the Leipzig line-up over the course of the 2017-18 campaign, while also contributing three goals.

    2019: A knee injury ended Upamecano's season in January 2019, stalling his progress a little.

    2020: Upamecano bounced back impressively, emerging as one of the best young centre-backs in Europe as Leipzig reached the Champions League semi-finals before he made his France debut in September 2020.

    2021: Bayern Munich announced in February 2021 that they had agreed a deal to sign Upamecano, paying his €42.5m release clause to do so.

    2022: Despite a shaky start to his first season at the Allianz Arena, Upamecano became a regular starter under Julian Nagelsmann at the Allianz Arena.

    2023: Upamecano has remained a virtual ever-present for Bayern, and also started five of France's seven matches in their run to the 2022 World Cup final.

  41. Timothy Fosu-Mensah | Manchester United
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    #10 Timothy Fosu-Mensah | Manchester United

    2017: After coming through the famed Ajax academy, Fosu-Mensah enjoyed a run of games for United during the second half of the 2015-16 season under Louis van Gaal. Jose Mourinho's arrival slowed his development somewhat, but he did sign a new contract in October 2016 before making his Netherlands debut 10 months later.

    2018: Fosu-Mensah was sent on loan to Crystal Palace for the 2017-18 season, but after a good start to life at Selhurst Park, he slowly fell out of contention under Roy Hodgson.

    2019: Another loan spell followed for the defender as he joined Fulham, but he was only a bit-part player at Craven Cottage before a cruciate ligament injury ended his season in April, and kept him out of action for the rest of 2019.

    2020: Having recovered from injury, Fosu-Mensah remained at United for the second half of the 2019-20 season, but made just six appearances.

    2021: Fosu-Mensah left United on a permanent basis to Bayer Leverkusen in January 2021, but suffered another cruciate ligament injury a month later that would rule him out for the remainder of the calendar year.

    2022: The defender returned to action in January 2022, but managed just six Bundesliga appearances before a hamstring injury brought his season to a premature end.

    2023: Fosu-Mensah has enjoyed an almost-clean bill of health of 2022-23, but has been limited to a bit-part role at the BayArena.

  42. Martin Odegaard | Real Madrid
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    #9 Martin Odegaard | Real Madrid

    2017: Became the youngest player and goalscorer in the Norwegian top flight, as well as the youngest player to ever represent Norway before his 16th birthday, and Real Madrid beat off a host of Europe's biggest clubs to sign Odegaard in January 2015. He played predominantly for the Castilla team before being sent out on loan to Heerenveen to gain further experience.

    2018: Odegaard performed encouragingly in Eredivisie, convincing Vitesse to bring him back to Netherlands on loan for the following season.

    2019: In what proved to be a breakout campaign for Odegaard, he returned 23 direct goal contributions for Vitesse, which convinced Real Sociedad to sign him on a two-year loan deal in the summer of 2019.

    2020: Odegaard excelled in San Sebastian, and soon became regarded as one of the best midfield players in La Liga. As such, Zinedine Zidane ordered that his loan deal be cut short so that he could finally join the Madrid first-team squad.

    2021: Opportunities were, once again, limited at Santiago Bernabeu, and Odegaard joined Arsenal on loan in January 2021. Despite scoring just twice for the Gunners, his performances were enough to convince them to pay an initial €35m to make the move permanent.

    2022: Odegaard was back to his best during his first full season of Premier League football, becoming a key member of Mikel Arteta's exciting attacking unit at the Emirates Stadium.

    2023: Now club captain at the Emirates Stadium, Odegaard has been one of the Premier League's top performers in 2022-23 as Arsenal eye a first title since 2004.

  43. Felix Passlack | Borussia Dortmund
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    #8 Felix Passlack | Borussia Dortmund

    2017: Likened to Philipp Lahm for his versatility, Passlack broke into the Dortmund first team towards the end of the 2015-16 season and was being used regularly by coach Thomas Tuchel.

    2018: Passlack joined Hoffenheim on a two-year loan deal ahead of the 2017-18 campaign, but he made just four first-team appearances during his first season with the Bundesliga outfit, and the deal was cut short halfway through. He was then sent on loan to Norwich City for the following season.

    2019: The full-back played just one league game for Norwich as they were promoted to the Premier League, and he then agreed a third successive loan move, this time to Fortuna Sittard in Netherlands.

    2020: Passlack finally managed to get a decent number of games under his belt, playing 25 times in the Eredivisie.

    2021: Having returned to Dortmund, Passlack forced himself back into first-team contention, though he was far from a regular appearance-maker at Signal Iduna Park.

    2022: Passlack began the 2021-22 season in the Dortmund line-up, but slowly fell down the pecking order, making just 10 Bundesliga appearances over the course of the campaign.

    2023: The full-back remains on Dortmund's books, but opportunities for him to make an impact on the first team have been limited.

  44. Malang Sarr | Nice
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    #7 Malang Sarr | Nice

    2017: Having reportedly attracted interest from Barcelona, Arsenal and AC Milan, Sarr had drawn comparisons with Samuel Umtiti at Nice due to his physique and ball-playing ability.

    2018: Sarr did not play quite as regularly for Nice in 2017-18, but still managed to get 29 more appearances under his belt.

    2019: The centre-back played all-but three Ligue 1 matches for Nice in 2018-19, as he continued to establish himself as one of the best young defenders in French football.

    2020: Sarr failed to agree a new contract at Nice, leading to Chelsea snapping him up on a free transfer in the summer of 2020, before loaning him to Porto for the following season.

    2021: A bit-part player in Portugal, Sarr only played 19 times during his season with Porto.

    2022: Sarr returned to Chelsea and impressed Thomas Tuchel sufficiently to become a rotational piece at Stamford Bridge over the course of 2021-22. He was then loaned to Monaco ahead of the following campaign.

    2023: The centre-back has been in and out of the line up at the Stade Louis II, and with Tuchel having been sacked by Chelsea, his future is unclear.

  45. Manuel Locatelli | AC Milan
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    #6 Manuel Locatelli | AC Milan

    2017: Likened to Andrea Pirlo by some high-profile onlookers, Locatelli had shown enough to suggest he could be a mainstay of the AC Milan midfield for years to come.

    2018: After making just five Serie A starts in 2017-18, Locatelli submitted a transfer request in the summer of 2018, and he joined Sassuolo on loan with an obligation to buy a year later.

    2019: Locatelli impressed during his first season at Sassuolo, making 31 appearances in all competitions.

    2020: Another strong campaign from Locatelli saw him earn a first international cap for Italy in September 2020.

    2021: Locatelli began to be linked with Europe's elite clubs even before he impressed for Italy in their triumphant European Championship campaign, and it was Juventus who won the race, agreeing to a two-year loan deal with a €25m obligation to buy.

    2022: The midfielder slotted into the Juve squad with minimal fuss, starting more often than not for Massimiliano Allegri's side.

    2023: Locatelli remains a key piece for the Bianconeri, but their potential failure to qualify for next season's Champions League has led to reports he could be sold this summer.

  46. Alexander Isak | Borussia Dortmund
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    #5 Alexander Isak | Borussia Dortmund

    2017: The youngest goalscorer in Swedish national team history, Dortmund beat Real Madrid to the signing of a player who was already having to deal with comparisons to compatriot Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

    2018: Isak made just 12 appearances during the 2017-18 campaign as he struggled to make an impact in the Bundesliga.

    2019: The striker failed to make a first-team appearance in the first half of the 2018-19 campaign, and was loaned out to Willem II in January 2019. He proved to be a sensation in Eredivisie, scoring 13 goals and laying on seven assists in 16 league appearances for the Dutch side. That form convinced Real Sociedad to pay €15m to sign him that summer.

    2020: Isak enjoyed a productive first season in Spain, scoring 16 goals in all competitions for La Real.

    2021: A superb second half of the season saw Isak score 17 league goals in 2020-21, and he carried that form into the European Championship with Sweden, as his performances earned him interest from top European sides.

    2022: Isak did not quite hit the same heights in front of goal in 2021-22, but that did not put Newcastle off from spending £58m to bring him to the Premier League in August 2022.

    2023: A hamstring injury that kept him out of action for three months meant that Isak struggled to build up any early momentum in the Premier League, but he has shown some signs of being a successful long-term signing.

  47. Alban Lafont | Toulouse
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    #4 Alban Lafont | Toulouse

    2017: Tipped as a future France No.1 after becoming the youngest goalkeeper in Ligue 1 history when he made his senior debut as a 16-year-old, Lafont was the undisputed No.1 at Toulouse.

    2018: The shot-stopper made his 100th senior appearance towards the end of the 2017-18 campaign, but it would be Lafont's last for the club, as Fiorentina paid €7m to sign him that summer.

    2019: Lafont's first season in Serie A was a mixed one, with a number of eye-catching saves marred by some high-profile errors and, having lost his place in the Fiorentina team, he was loaned to Nantes in July 2019 on a two-year deal.

    2020: Back in France, Lafont began to rebuild his reputation with a solid first season at Nantes.

    2021: Lafont helped Nantes avoid relegation from Ligue 1 and, in May 2021, the club triggered the option to sign him permanently for €7m.

    2022: Finally starting to return on his undoubted potential, Lafont was linked with the likes of Barcelona, Arsenal and Tottenham, having become the first goalkeeper to ever be awarded a 10/10 rating by the famously mean L'Equipe for his performance versus Paris Saint-Germain in February 2022.

    2023: Now the Nantes captain, Lafont received his first France call-up at the start of the 2022-23 season and continues to be linked with a move to the Premier League.

  48. Christian Pulisic | Borussia Dortmund

    #3 Christian Pulisic | Borussia Dortmund

    2017: The youngest goalscorer in U.S. men's national team history, Pulisic was earning rave reviews having broken into the Dortmund first team at the start of 2016.

    2018: Pulisic continued to impress in the Bundesliga, recording more than 10 direct goal involvements for the second successive season.

    2019: Chelsea announced in early 2019 that they had agreed a £58m deal to sign Pulisic that summer, securing the move before their transfer ban came into play.

    2020: Despite some injury issues, Pulisic enjoyed a strong finish to his first Premier League season, hitting double figures for both goals and assists under Frank Lampard.

    2021: Injuries continued to plague Pulisic, meaning he struggled to hold down a regular starting role at Stamford Bridge.

    2022: Yet more injuries followed for Pulisic in 2021-22, which combined with not having a set role in the team meant he was unable to perform consistently.

    2023: Pulisic got the chance to play at his first World Cup in late 2022, but a knee injury shortly after saw him miss almost two months of action, and there are now strong rumours that he will be sold this summer.

  49. Kylian Mbappe | Monaco
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    #2 Kylian Mbappe | Monaco

    2017: The youngest player in Monaco history (breaking a record previously held by Thierry Henry), Mbappe became a household name in the early months of 2017 after some scintillating performances in the Champions League, while having also become the youngest scorer of a Ligue 1 hat-trick. All that convinced Paris Saint-Germain to make him the second-most expensive player in history.

    2018: After a strong first season at PSG, the €180m signing further announced himself to the world by being named Young Player of the Tournament as France won the 2018 World Cup, becoming the second teenager to score in a World Cup final after Pele.

    2019: Mbappe truly became the leader of the PSG attack in 2018-19, scoring 33 goals in just 29 league games for the French champions.

    2020: Another 30-goal season followed for Mbappe, despite the Ligue 1 campaign being curtailed early due to Covid-19.

    2021: Mbappe finished as the top scorer in Ligue 1 for the third straight season, and netted over 40 times in all competitions. Real Madrid offered €220m to sign the forward in the summer of 2021, but saw the bid rejected, despite Mbappe having entered the final year of his contract.

    2022: After a season that saw him provide a combined 65 goals and assists for PSG, Mbappe signed a massive three-year contract at Parc des Princes, much to Real Madrid's chagrin.

    2023: Mbappe is enjoying another superb season at club level, while his hat-trick in the World Cup final helped him win the Golden Boot in Qatar.

  50. Gianluigi Donnarumma | AC Milan
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    #1 Gianluigi Donnarumma | AC Milan

    2017: A true revelation, Donnarumma broke into the AC Milan line-up as a 16-year-old and showed enough quality in his first 18 months in the senior side to mark himself out as the rightful heir to Gianluigi Buffon's starting spot in the Italy team.

    2018: Following a contract dispute that eventually saw him sign a new four-year deal, Donnarumma continued to cement his status as the best young goalkeeper in world football, and became Italy's No.1 following Buffon's international retirement.

    2019: Despite incessant reports linking him with a move away from San Siro, Donnarumma continued to perform superbly for Milan, even if the Rossoneri were struggling to make much of an impact on Serie A.

    2020: Donnarumma went past 50 Serie A clean sheets during the 2019-20 season, though concerns began to grow as he entered the final year of his contract.

    2021: Crowned Player of the Tournament as Italy won Euro 2020, Donnarumma left Milan that same summer, joining Paris Saint-Germain on a free transfer.

    2022: Donnarumma was forced to share goalkeeping duties with Keylor Navas at Parc des Princes during his first season in France, with his defining moment being the error that sparked Real Madrid's come-from-behind win to knock PSG out of the Champions League in the last 16.

    2023: Now the established No.1, Donnarumma does still make the occasional high-profile error, but on the whole remains one of world football's top goalkeepers.