NXGN: Youri Tielemans, Gabriel Jesus & where 2016'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 2016 are now:
Every NXGN list
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#50 Rafik Zekhnini | Odd
2016: Zekhnini shone against Borussia Dortmund in a Europa League play-off, registering an assist after just 16 seconds of the first leg in Norway. His performance in that game, coupled with some fine domestic displays, saw him linked to both Dortmund and Manchester United.
2017: Fiorentina paid €1.5 million to sign Zekhnini in the summer of 2017, handing the winger a five-year contract.
2018: Having made just one substitute appearance for the Fiorentina first team, Zekhnini was loaned to first Rosenborg for three months, and then FC Twente on a year-long deal for the 2018-19 campaign.
2019: Zekhnini performed well as Twente earned promotion to the Eredivisie, and the Dutch side loaned him back for another season in the summer of 2019.
2020: The Norway Under-21 international did not have the same impact in the top-flight for Twente, and he was sent on loan to Lausanne in Switzerland ahead of the 2020-21 campaign.
2021: Zekhnini eventually left Fiorentina on a permanent basis in the summer of 2021, joining Molde on a free transfer having failed to add to his solitary appearance for La Viola.
2022: Zekhnini's first full season at Molde saw him end the season with a title-winners' medal, though he fell out of favour during the second half of the campaign for the Norwegian champions.
2023: Now 25, Zekhnini is hoping to force his way back into contention as Molde prepare to kick-off their title defence.
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#49 Niklas Dorsch | Bayern Munich
2016: Dorsch was being tipped as the heir to Bastian Schweinsteiger and Toni Kroos, with the midfielder regarded as the best player within the Bayern Munich academy.
2017: Named captain of the Bayern reserve side in the summer of 2017, Dorsch continued to close in on a first-team debut at the Allianz Arena.
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 back to his homeland with 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.
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#48 Ismail Azzaoui | Wolfsburg
2016: Originally a product of Anderlecht's academy, winger Azzaoui left Tottenham in 2015 in a bid to prove his worth at senior level with Wolfsburg in Germany, making two Bundesliga appearances in his first season with the club.
2017: A ruptured cruciate ligament ruled him out of the entire 2016-17 campaign, and Azzaoui joined Willem II on a season-long loan deal in the summer of 2017.
2018: Azzaoui provided 10 direct goal contributions during his year in Eredivisie, but suffered a second serious knee injury upon his return to Wolfsburg that ruled him out of action for almost an entire year.
2019: His injury meant that Azzaoui played just seven competitive games in 2019, all of which came for Wolfsburg's reserve side in the lower leagues of German football.
2020: Azzaoui was released by Wolfsburg in the summer of 2020, and eventually signed for Dutch side Heracles three months later, signing a one-year deal with the Eredivisie outfit.
2021: The Belgium youth international did enough to earn a contract extension at Heracles, but after an encouraging start to the 2021-22 season, Azzaoui suffered yet another serious knee injury in December that ruled him out for the rest of the season.
2022: Having been released following Heracles' relegation in the summer of 2022, Azzaoui was re-signed by the club having proven his fitness in October 2022.
2023: Azzaoui is now a regular contributor for Heracles as they chase promotion back to the top flight.
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#47 Nicolas Delgadillo | Velez Sarsfield
2016: Having broken into the Velez Sarsfield first team as a 17-year-old in 2015, winger Delgadillo was being scouted by the likes of Real Madrid and Valencia.
2017: Opportunities were harder to come by for Delgadillo, as he made just six first-team appearances over the course of the year.
2018: Delgadillo made more appearances in 2018 than he had done the previous year, but managed just a solitary first-team goal.
2019: The forward was sent on a six-month loan to San Martin Tucuman at the start of 2019, before joining Velez's fellow top-flight outfit Atletico Patronato on another loan deal.
2020: Delgadillo returned to Patronato for another year on loan, playing more than 20 times for the first-team either side of the coronavirus-enforced shutdown of the game in Argentina.
2021: Patronato again took Delgadillo on loan for the 2021 campaign, where he played 30 matches, but scored just two goals.
2022: Delgadillo found himself on loan at Atletico Platense for the 2022 campaign, but he managed only 15 first-team appearances in all competitions.
2023: The forward finally left Velez on a permanent deal in January 2023, joining Argentine second division side Atletico de Rafaela.
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#46 Thiago Maia | Santos
2016: A number of elite European clubs were scouting Thiago Maia after the midfielder had established himself as a regular starter for Santos over the course of the previous two seasons. He was also part of the Brazil squad that won the gold medal at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
2017: Lille paid €14m to sign Maia in the summer of 2017, and he went almost straight into the French outfit's starting line up in Ligue 1.
2018: Maia continued to play regularly for Lille, though his appearances began to come more as a substitute than as a starter.
2019: Injuries began to plague Maia, who made just three Ligue 1 appearances during the first half of the 2019-20 season.
2020: In January 2020, Maia returned to Brazil with Flamengo, who signed him on an 18-month loan deal, though Covid-19 meant that chances to play were few and far between even before he suffered a serious knee injury towards the end of the year.
2021: Maia missed the first six months of 2021 while recovering from injury, but forced his way into the Flamengo line-up during the second half of the season.
2022: Flamengo took up the option to sign Maia permanently in January 2022, paying a reduced fee of €4m to complete the deal, and he became a key figure as they went onto win the Copa Libertadores.
2023: Now 25, Maia is preparing to embark on another season of challenging for both domestic and continental honours for the Mengao.
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#45 Steven Bergwijn | PSV
2016: Bergwijn was being touted as 'the new Memphis Depay' at PSV after the ex-Ajax academy star had begun earning first-team opportunities in Eindhoven.
2017: The winger's development continued through 2017, as he made over 30 first-team appearances while scoring his first goals at senior level.
2018: Bergwijn played a key role in PSV winning Eredivisie in 2017-18, and scored in the 3-0 win over Ajax which sealed the title. He went on to make his full Netherlands debut in October 2018 against Germany.
2019: Bergwijn took his game to even greater levels, providing 14 goals and 12 assists in the 2018-19 league campaign, and began the following season by directly contributing to 15 goals in 16 Eredivisie appearances.
2020: Tottenham paid £25m to sign Bergwijn in January 2020, and he repaid them by scoring on his league debut in a win over Manchester City. An ankle injury suffered in early March, however, ruled him out for the remainder of the campaign.
2021: Bergwijn struggled to hold down a regular place in Jose Mourinho's side, and his mixed form eventually led to him missing out on a place in the Netherlands squad for Euro 2020.
2022: Bergwijn started just four Premier League matches in 2021-22, but that did not deter Ajax from making him the most expensive signing in Eredivisie history when they paid €31.25m to bring the forward back to his homeland.
2023: The 26-year-old's form this season has been encouraging, with Bergwijn having already reached double-figures for goals in all competitions having played in four of the Netherlands' five matches at the World Cup.
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#44 Bilal Ould-Chikh | Benfica
2016: Winger Ould-Chikh was signed by Benfica two days after his 18th birthday, having been likened to Arjen Robben during his rise through the ranks at FC Twente.
2017: Less than two years into a five-year contract and having never played for the first team, Ould-Chikh was released by Benfica in March 2017. He moved back to the Netherlands, joining FC Utrecht.
2018: After making just five substitute appearances, Ould-Chikh was released by Utrecht at the end of the 2017-18 campaign, and joined Turkish side Denzlispor six months later.
2019: For the second time in his career, Ould-Chikh left a club having never played for them as Denzlispor let him go in the summer of 2019, allowing ADO Den Haag to pick him up on a free transfer.
2020: Ould-Chikh made 13 appearances in Eredivisie for Den Haag, earning himself a second contract with the Dutch outfit in the process.
2021: The wideman played another 14 top-flight games in 2020-21, but fell out of favour during the final third of the season and was released come the summer. Ould-Chikh spent the second half of 2021 without a club.
2022: Second-division Dutch side Volendam signed Ould-Chikh in January 2022, and the 24-year-old finally scored his first professional goals as he helped his new club earn promotion to the top-flight.
2023: Ould-Chikh has featured regularly on his return to Eredivisie as Volendam fight to avoid an immediate relegation.
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#43 Lincoln | Gremio
2016: Handed his first-team debut at Gremio by Luiz Felipe Scolari as a 16-year-old, attacking midfielder Lincoln had also captained Brazil at the Under-17 World Cup in 2015.
2017: After making sporadic appearances for Gremio, Lincoln was loaned to Turkish second-division side Caykur Rizespor for the 2017-18 campaign.
2018: Lincoln returned from an encouraging spell 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 following 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.
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#42 Aaron Leya Iseka | Anderlecht
2016: The younger brother of Michy Batshuayi, fellow forward Leya Iseka recovered from a serious knee injury to join Marseille on loan ahead of the 2016-17 season, having previously made his Anderlecht debut as a 17-year-old.
2017: The former star of the UEFA Youth League managed just eight Ligue 1 appearances for Marseille, and upon his return to Belgium in the summer of 2017, he was immediately sent on loan to Zulte Waregem.
2018: Leya Iseka scored nine goals during the 2017-18 season, earning him a permanent move back to France with Toulouse, who paid Anderlecht around €1.5m for the striker.
2019: After initially being thrown straight into the starting XI, Leya Iseka slowly fell out of favour during the 2018-19 campaign, scoring a total of six goals in all competitions.
2020: Leya Iseka found opportunities even harder to come by in the following season, starting just six league matches as Toulouse suffered relegation to Ligue 2. He was offered a route back to the top flight, however, when Metz signed him on a season-long loan in October 2020.
2021: Despite a good start at Metz, Leya Iseka's goalscoring touch soon evaded him, and he returned to Toulouse in the summer of 2021, only to be sold to Championship side Barnsley for an undisclosed fee.
2022: Things looked to be coming together for Leya Iseka early in the season as he scored in three successive matches, but he fell out of favour as the Tykes were relegated from the Championship. He was then loaned to Adanaspor in August 2022 having had his attitude in training criticised.
2023: Leya Iseka scored just twice for Adanaspor before having his stay with the club cut short, after which he joined fellow Turkish second-division side Tuzlaspor on loan in February 2023.
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#41 Dominic Solanke | Chelsea
2016: Solanke was out on loan at Vitesse, having already made his debut for both Chelsea and England Under-21s off the back of starring for the Three Lions as they won the U17 European Championship in 2014.
2017: After finding chances hard to come by at Chelsea, Solanke surprisingly rejected a new contract at Stamford Bridge and agreed a move to Liverpool in May 2017. He followed that up by being named Player of the Tournament as England won the U20 World Cup a few days later, before making his full international debut in November 2017.
2018: Solanke made over 20 Premier League appearances during his first season at Anfield, but only managed one goal for Jurgen Klopp's side.
2019: Bournemouth agreed to pay £19m to sign Solanke in January 2019, but he failed to score for the Cherries in his first 12 months at the club.
2020: The striker eventually netted his first league goals for Bournemouth in July 2020, but they were not enough to help the club avoid relegation from the Premier League.
2021: Solanke began to show what he could do in front of goal at Championship level, netting 15 times in the league while also laying on 11 assists as Bournemouth missed out on promotion via the play-offs.
2022: Solanke continued to grow in confidence at the Vitality Stadium, netting 29 goals as Bournemouth earned promotion back to the Premier League.
2023: Now 25, Solanke has found goals harder to come by since his return to the top flight, but certainly looks more at home among the elite than during his previous years at the highest level.
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#40 Leandrinho | Ponte Preta
2016: The top scorer at the South American Under-17 Championship with Brazil, Leandrinho was being linked with a move to Italy or Turkey.
2017: The winger joined Napoli in January 2017, signing a four-year deal with the Serie A outfit. Scored six goals before the end of the 2016-17 season for the club's Primavera (U19s) side.
2018: 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 appearance in the final of the Copa Sudamericana – South America's answer to the Europa League.
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.
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#39 Lee Seung-woo | Barcelona
2016: Dubbed 'the Korean Messi', Lee was being tipped for a breakthrough season in Catalunya after seeing his career temporarily halted by Barcelona's transfer ban in the mid-2010s.
2017: That breakthrough never came, however, and Lee – who was named Young Asian Footballer of the Year – was sold to Hellas Verona in the summer of 2017 for a fee of €1.5m.
2018: Despite scoring his first professional goal in May 2018, Lee was unable to help Verona avoid relegation from Serie A. He did, though, make his full international debut shortly after, and made two appearances for South Korea at the World Cup that summer.
2019: Lee played 23 league matches as Verona earned promotion from Serie B at the first time of asking, but it soon became clear that he would not be part of their plans going forward and was sold to Sint-Truiden ahead of the 2019-20 campaign. Lee did not, however, make his debut for the Belgian outfit until their final match of 2019.
2020: The attacking midfielder fared better during the first half of his second season in the Jupiler League, making 13 league appearances while scoring two goals.
2021: Despite that, Lee was loaned to Portuguese side Portimonense for the second half of the 2020-21 campaign, though he rarely played following the move. He returned to Sint-Truiden, but was released by the club in November 2021.
2022: Lee returned to Korea after being picked up by Suwon FC in January 2022 and scored 14 goals during his first senior campaign back in his homeland.
2023: Despite rumours of a return to Europe, Lee remains at Suwon as he continues to rebuild his career.
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#38 Krystian Bielik | Arsenal
2016: Signed by Arsenal from Legia Warsaw a year earlier, Bielik had already been given a taste of senior football by Arsene Wenger in north London.
2017: Bielik joined Birmingham City on loan for the second half of the 2016-17 season, playing 10 matches for the Championship outfit as he began to build up experience of English football. He would have gone out on loan again in the summer of 2017, but suffered a shoulder injury that required surgery.
2018: The defensive midfielder joined Walsall on loan in January 2018, but never played for the club due to a series of injury problems. He then joined Charlton Athletic on a season-long loan deal that summer.
2019: Bielik proved a revelation in League One, and was named Man of the Match as Charlton beat Sunderland in the play-off final to earn promotion to the Championship. His displays at The Valley led to Derby County paying £8m to sign him in August 2019, and he made his senior Poland debut a month later.
2020: A serious knee injury suffered in January 2020 kept Bielik out of action for 10 months, though he did manage to score his first Derby goal upon his return to action.
2021: Just over a year from the day of his first knee injury, Bielik suffered a torn knee ligament that kept him on the sidelines for another 12 months.
2022: Exactly a year after suffering his second knee injury, Bielik marked his return with a stoppage-time equaliser for Derby against his former club Birmingham, but was unable to help save the Rams from relegation. He then re-joined Birmingham on loan for the 2022-23 season.
2023: Bielik has been a regular starter in the Championship over the course of the current campaign, with his form earning him a place in Poland's World Cup squad in Qatar.
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#37 Ousmane Dembele | Rennes
2016: At the age of 18, Dembele was regarded as the breakout star of the Ligue 1 season after scoring 12 goals for Rennes, and earned himself a €15m move to Borussia Dortmund and a France debut before the year was out.
2017: Dembele directly contributed to over 30 goals in his debut campaign at Dortmund and, amid great competition for his signature, was sold to Barcelona for an initial €105m as the Blaugrana looked to replace the departed Neymar. A hamstring injury suffered in September 2017, however, ruled him out for over three months.
2018: Dembele was part of the France squad that won the 2018 World Cup, though was an unused substitute in the final. Back at Barca, concerning reports began to emerge regarding potential attitude problems, which did not sit well given his underwhelming form for the Blaugrana.
2019: Injuries and poor form continued to plague Dembele, who had five separate spells on the sidelines over the course of 2019.
2020: More injuries followed for Dembele, including a season-ending hamstring injury suffered in February 2020. When he was on the pitch, he continued to be criticised for not providing enough decisive moments in the final third.
2021: New year, same story for Dembele, whose injury problems included a four-and-a-half month lay-off with a knee problem that meant his 2021-22 season did not get going until November.
2022: Dembele was threatened with being frozen out of the club if he did not leave Barcelona in the 2022 January transfer window, but he was instead reintegrated into Xavi's squad and ended the campaign with 13 assists, the most in La Liga. His form saw him earn a new two-year contract at Camp Nou.
2023: The winger has continued to be a star performer for Barca and was part of the France team that reached the World Cup final. A recent hamstring injury has, though, seen him spend almost two months on the sidelines.
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#36 Alban Lafont | Toulouse
2016: Was being tipped as a future France No.1 after Lafont became the youngest goalkeeper in Ligue 1 history, making his Toulouse debut as a 16-year-old.
2017: Lafont continued to impress, enjoying his first full season as Toulouse's undisputed No.1.
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.
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#35 Adalberto Penaranda | Udinese
2016: One of the brightest prospects in South American football, Penaranda had joined Udinese in the summer of 2015 before being loaned to Granada, where he broke Lionel Messi's La Liga record as the youngest non-Spaniard to score a brace when netting both goals in a 2-1 win over Levante. Later in 2016, his registration was switched from Udinese to Watford, before he was loaned back to Granada for the remainder of the season. He also made his international debut for Venezuela in March 2016.
2017: Penaranda spent the first half of the 2016-17 campaign on loan at Udinese, before joining Malaga on an 18-month loan deal in January 2017, though he made just 10 first-team appearances over the course of the season.
2018: The attacking midfielder fared little better in his first and only full season at Malaga, failing to score in 13 La Liga appearances before an injury suffered in January 2018 ended his campaign.
2019: Three years after signing for them, Penaranda finally made his Watford debut in January 2019, before scoring his first goal for the club in August of the same year. He was loaned out just a few weeks later, however, joining Belgian side Eupen.
2020: Penaranda's spell at Eupen was cut short in January 2020 having made just six appearances, and he spent the remainder of the campaign on the fringes at Watford. He joined CSKA Sofia on a season-long loan deal ahead of the 2020-21 season.
2021: Having made just nine appearances in Bulgaria, Penaranda was sent out to his sixth different loan club since joining Watford in the summer of 2021, joining Spanish second-division side Las Palmas.
2022: Though injuries held him back somewhat, Penaranda managed 19 appearances for Las Palmas in all competitions. He was released by Watford at the end of the 2021-22 season and joined Boavista in Portugal.
2023: Penaranda is still to make his Boavista debut as his career threatens to peter out somewhat.
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#34 Nikola Vlasic | Hajduk Split
2016: Having made his senior debut at the age of 16, Vlasic was being compared to Xherdan Shaqiri for his ability with the ball at his feet, while he had already captained Hajduk Split on a number of occasions.
2017: Vlasic made his full international debut for Croatia in May 2017, before joining Everton three months later in a deal worth an estimated £10m – the largest sale in Hajduk Split history.
2018: After an indifferent campaign at Goodison Park, Vlasic was sent on loan to CSKA Moscow, where he made an immediate impact, scoring the winning goal against Real Madrid in the Champions League in October 2018.
2019: CSKA paid £14m to sign Vlasic permanently in the summer of 2019, and he continued to flourish both domestically and in Europe.
2020: Vlasic was named Russian Premier League Footballer of the Year for 2020 after scoring 13 goals and assisting six more over the course of the calendar year, with his form earning him interest from around Europe.
2021: After Vlasic appeared for Croatia at the delayed European Championship finals, West Ham paid in excess of £25m to bring the forward back to the Premier League in the summer of 2021.
2022: Vlasic was largely used as a rotational piece by David Moyes during his first season at the London Stadium, and was loaned to Torino at the start of the following campaign after the signing of Lucas Paqueta.
2023: Having made six appearances for Croatia at the 2022 World Cup, Vlasic has been a regular starter in Serie A.
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#33 Cameron Borthwick-Jackson | Manchester United
2016: Borthwick-Jackson made his senior Manchester United debut under Louis van Gaal in December 2015, and quickly became a regular in the Red Devils' matchday squad through the remainder of the campaign, earning himself a new four-year contract in the process.
2017: Having been loaned to Wolves ahead of the 2016-17 season, a change of management at Molineux saw the left-back fall down the pecking order, and he returned to Old Trafford less than five months into his season-long deal. Borthwick-Jackson then joined Leeds United on loan in the summer of 2017.
2018: Again, his season-long loan was cancelled halfway through, and Borthwick-Jackson had another four months of playing Under-23s football before joining Scunthorpe United for the 2018-19 campaign.
2019: Borthwick-Jackson scored his first professional goals while playing in League One, and was loaned to another third-tier side, Tranmere Rovers, for the 2019-20 season.
2020: The England youth international did not fare as well at Prenton Park, and again had his loan cut short, instead joining Oldham Athletic for the remainder of the 2019-20 season. He was released by United that summer, and fourth-tier Oldham offered him a one-year deal to remain at the club.
2021: Borthwick-Jackson performed well for Oldham, and earned himself a promotion through the divisions, joining Burton Albion in League One for the 2021-22 campaign.
2022: A regular starter for Burton, Borthwick-Jackson looked well on the way to rebuilding a career that threatened to go off the rails before it ever got properly going.
2023: Having continued to be an almost nailed-on starter through the first half of 2022-23, Borthwick-Jackson has not featured since being told he was free to leave the club at the end of January.
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#32 Rey Manaj | Inter
2016: Plucked from Cremonese in the summer of 2015, Inter beat off competition from Juventus, Atletico Madrid and Roma to sign Manaj, who had already made his full Albania debut.
2017: Having seen a loan spell at Pescara cut short due to disciplinary issues, Manaj joined Serie B side Pisa for the second half of the 2016-17 campaign. The striker was then sent on loan to Granada for the 2017-18 season.
2018: Despite failing to impress in Spain, Manaj returned for the 2018-19 campaign as he joined Albacete on a season-long loan deal.
2019: Manaj scored seven goals for his temporary employers, and Albacete made the deal a permanent one in the summer of 2019.
2020: Just six months after joining Albacete, he was sold to Barcelona, who included a €50m release clause in his contract despite Manaj being signed for the B team.
2021: After a season in which he scored 14 goals for Barca B, Manaj was loaned to Serie A side Spezia for the 2021-22 season.
2022: Manaj became a regular starter in the Italian top flight, though he only managed five league goals as Spezia narrowly avoided relegation. He joined Watford on a free transfer in the summer of 2022.
2023: Having made just six Championship appearances for the Hornets, Manaj had his contract cancelled by Watford in February 2023. He is currently without a club.
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#31 Bartlomiej Dragowski | Jagiellonia Bialystok
2016: Likened to Manuel Neuer, Dragowski was being linked with moves to the Premier League having broken into the Poland Under-21s side. He eventually joined Fiorentina in the summer of 2016.
2017: Dragowski was initially the third-choice goalkeeper for La Viola, and did not make his debut until the final day of the 2016-17 season.
2018: The young Pole continued to wait for his opportunity at Florence as he remained a back-up.
2019: Dragowski joined Empoli on loan in January 2019, and almost immediately was installed into their starting line up. He made headlines in April when he broke the Serie A record for the most saves in a single game (17 vs Atalanta), with his form earning him the starting job at Fiorentina upon his return that summer.
2020: In October 2020, Dragowski won his first senior cap for Poland in a friendly against Finland.
2021: Injuries forced Dragowski to sit out the final months of 2021, forcing him to rescind his place in the Fiorentina team for the first time in over two years.
2022: Dragowski never won back his starting role in Florence, and left the club join Spezia ahead of the 2022-23 campaign.
2023: Now back starting regularly in Serie A, Dragowski is playing a key role in his new club's fight to avoid relegation.
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#30 Pedro Pereira | Sampdoria
2016: Having trained in the academies of both Sporting CP and Benfica in his native Portugal, Pereira moved to Sampdoria in 2015 and was already a regular in the Serie A side's matchday squad.
2017: The full-back re-joined Benfica in January 2017, and made his debut for the club on the final day of the season.
2018: Pereira returned to Italy in January 2018, joining Genoa on an 18-month loan deal.
2019: The Portugal youth international made 26 appearances in Serie A for Genoa in 2018-19, but they declined the chance to sign him permanently at the end of the season. He instead joined Bristol City on loan for the following campaign.
2020: Pereira scored his first professional goals in the Championship as he split time between playing in defence and midfield, but he fell out of favour during the second half of the season. He was again sent on loan in the summer of 2020, joining Crotone.
2021: Back in Serie A, Pereira managed to get another 30+ top-flight games under his belt. He was then loaned to ambitious Serie B side Monza in the summer of 2021, who had an obligation to buy at the end of the season.
2022: Monza took up the option to sign Pereira permanently midway through the season as he helped them gain promotion to the top flight. A flurry of signings, though, forced him down the pecking order, and he was loaned to Turkish outfit Alanyaspor.
2023: Now 25, Pereira has been a regular contributor during his first season in the Super Lig.
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#29 Borja Mayoral | Real Madrid
2016: A prolific goalscorer in Real Madrid's Castilla team, Mayoral was being likened to Raul in the Spanish capital. He joined Wolfsburg on loan ahead of the 2016-17 campaign.
2017: Mayoral struggled to impose himself on the Bundesliga, scoring just twice during his season-long loan spell.
2018: The Spain youth international was part of the Madrid squad that won the Champions League in 2018, but was largely a fringe player at Santiago Bernabeu. He joined fellow La Liga outfit Levante on loan ahead of the following season.
2019: Mayoral played over 30 games in the 2018-19 campaign, and Levante extended his loan deal for another year off the back of his impressive performances.
2020: The striker enjoyed his best goalscoring season to date in 2019-20, netting nine times in all competitions for Levante. That form convinced Roma to sign Mayoral on a two-year loan deal.
2021: Mayoral's first season in Serie A was impressive, as he netted 17 times in all competitions. He fell out of favour, however, under new manager Jose Mourinho following the Portuguese's arrival in the summer of 2021.
2022: Roma cut Mayoral's loan short, and he spent the second half of the 2021-22 season on loan at Getafe, where he scored six goals to help save them from relegation. That form convinced Getafe to spend €10m on the striker to make his stay permanent.
2023: After a slow start to the season, Mayoral has shown improvements in 2023 and has his eyes set on reaching double-figures for La Liga goals this term.
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#28 Luka Jovic | Red Star Belgrade
2016: Already a relative veteran of over 50 appearances for Red Star, Jovic was linked with moves to Arsenal and Tottenham having been compared to Radamel Falcao. He eventually joined Benfica in January 2016.
2017: Jovic had to wait until January 2017 to make his first-team debut in Portugal, but that proved to be his only appearance for Benfica. He joined Eintracht Frankfurt on a two-year loan deal ahead of the 2017-18 campaign.
2018: The forward's first season in the Bundesliga was encouraging, as he netted nine goals in all competitions, earning a first international cap and a call-up to the Serbia squad for the 2018 World Cup.
2019: Jovic exploded during the 2018-19 season, scoring 27 goals as part of one of Europe's most prolific forward lines. Eintracht took up the option to sign him on a permanent basis, before immediately selling Jovic to Real Madrid for around €60m.
2020: The striker struggled for form and fitness during his first year at Santiago Bernabeu, scoring just twice for Los Blancos in all competitions.
2021: Jovic continued to be a shadow of the player who thrived in Germany, and returned to Eintracht on loan in January 2021 in a bid to revive himself. He started well, but scored only four times in 18 league appearances.
2022: Having returned to Madrid, Jovic was a bit-part player once more, and was allowed to leave on a free transfer to Fiorentina in the summer of 2022 having scored just three goals for the Spanish giants.
2023: Jovic has struggled to lock down a regular starting berth in Serie A, though his form in the Europa Conference League has illustrated that he remains a good player at 25.
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#27 Reece Oxford | West Ham
2016: The youngest player in West Ham history, Oxford made headlines on his Premier League debut as the 16-year-old shone in a 2-0 win over Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium.
2017: Oxford joined Reading on loan in January 2017, but managed just five appearances for the Championship side during his half-season at the club. He was then loaned to 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 €2.5m 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.
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#26 Jeff Reine-Adelaide | Arsenal
2016: Signed by Arsenal in the summer of 2015, Reine-Adelaide made his debut for the Gunners the following January.
2017: The midfielder continued to make sporadic appearances in cup competitions under Arsene Wenger.
2018: Still without a league appearance to his name, Reine-Adelaide joined Angers on loan in January 2018, and impressed the Ligue 1 outfit sufficiently for them to make the move permanent the following summer.
2019: Reine-Adelaide developed into one of the most consistent midfielder performers in Ligue 1 over the course of the 2018-19 campaign, scoring his first professional goals in the process. His displays led to Lyon paying €25 million to sign him in August 2019, though he suffered a season-ending injury before the year was out.
2020: Having made his return to fitness, Nice signed Reine-Adelaide on a season-long loan in October 2021, with the deal including an option to sign him permanently for €25m.
2021: Nice did not take up the option after Reine-Adelaide suffered a second serious knee injury in the space of 14 months that saw him miss the second half of the 2020-21 campaign.
2022: After more than a year on the sidelines, Reine-Adelaide returned to action for Lyon in March 2022 as he looked to shake off the bad luck that had stalled what was an encouraging start to his career.
2023: Having made just one Ligue 1 start in the first half of the campaign, Reine-Adelaide was loaned to Troyes in January 2023, but is yet to make any real impact on his new club.
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#25 Hachim Mastour | AC Milan
2016: Subject of interest from Barcelona, Real Madrid and Juventus, Mastour rose to fame when appearing in a Red Bull advert alongside Neymar performing a series of skills. Was sent on a two-year loan to Malaga in the summer of 2015 having been named on the AC Milan bench while just 15. He was also the youngest player to ever represent Morocco.
2017: Mastour's spell at Malaga was cut short after one season and just one first-team appearance, and he spent the 2016-17 campaign on loan at Dutch side PEC Zwolle.
2018: With his contract at San Siro up, Mastour left Milan in the summer of 2018, joining Greek side Lamia on a free transfer.
2019: Mastour was released by Lamia in March 2019 having made just six first-team appearances, and spent seven months without a club before being picked up by his boyhood club Reggina.
2020: A debut for Reggina arrived in January 2020, but that proved to be Mastour's only appearance of the season for the Serie C outfit.
2021: Despite playing 11 games during the first half of the season, Mastour was loaned to Carpi for the second half of the 2020-21 campaign, and scored his first senior goal in just his third appearance for the club.
2022: Mastour spent a year without a club having been released by Reggina in the summer of 2021 before being picked up by Moroccan second division side Renaissance Zemamra, for whom he scored on his debut.
2023: Zemamra are chasing promotion to the top flight as Mastour career continues to follow a much different trajectory to what was expected of him as a teenager.
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#24 Rolando Mandragora | Genoa
2016: Made his Serie A debut as 17-year-old in 2014 against Juventus and, just over a year later, it was announced the Bianconeri had agreed a deal to sign him at the end of the 2015-16 season, with the 'new Marco Verratti' set to play out the remainder of the season on loan at Pescara.
2017: Complications following foot surgery meant that Mandragora did not make his Juventus debut until April 2017, and he was sent on a season-long loan move to Crotone for the following campaign.
2018: Mandragora played all-but two of Crotone's matches in Serie A during the 2017-18 season, leading to Udinese signing him in the summer of 2018, as well as him making his full international debut for Italy at around the same time.
2019: The midfielder continued to impress upon his arrival at Udinese, with Mandragora regarded as being a rising star of the Italian game.
2020: At the end of another encouraging campaign, Mandragora suffered a serious knee injury that ruled him out of the opening months of the 2020-21 season. That did not stop Juventus paying €10.7m to buy him back, though he was loaned straight back to Udinese.
2021: After falling down the pecking order at Udinese, Mandragora was instead loaned to Torino in February 2021 on an 18-month deal.
2022: Knee injuries limited Mandragora's game time during the first half of 2021-22, but he worked his way back to become a regular starter. Juventus then sold him to Fiorentina for €8.2m at the end of the campaign.
2023: Mandragora has enjoyed a relatively injury-free campaign, becoming a key player for La Viola in the process.
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#23 Enes Unal | Manchester City
2016: Already the youngest goalscorer in Super Lig history and a full Turkey international by the age of 17, Unal joined Manchester City from Bursaspor in the summer of 2015 and was immediately sent on loan to Genk. He struggled in Belgium, though a loan spell at Dutch second-division side NAC Breda during the second half of the 2015-16 campaign proved more fruitful.
2017: Unal headed back to the Netherlands for the 2016-17 season as he joined FC Twente on loan, and he fared well, scoring 19 goals for the Eredivisie outfit. That form convinced Villarreal to pay €14m to sign him at the end of the campaign.
2018: The forward's first season in La Liga yielded six goals, including one during a short loan spell at Levante in the first half of the campaign. In the summer of 2018, Unal joined Real Valladolid on a season-long loan.
2019: Unal again netted six league goals in the Spanish top flight, with Valladolid satisfied enough to extend his loan for a second season.
2020: For the third campaign in a row, Unal finished it with six Liga goals, leading to him joining Getafe in a €9.5m deal in the summer of 2020.
2021: Unal struggled for a team who managed just 28 league goals in the whole of the 2020-21 campaign, netting just five times himself in all competitions.
2022: Despite Getafe struggling in the lower reaches of La Liga, Unal enjoyed the most productive season of his career to date, netting 16 times to guide his team to safety.
2023: Unal has again hit double-figures for goals in 2022-23, leading to reports linking him with a move to Juventus.
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#22 Sergio Diaz | Cerro Porteno
2016: Having been likened to Sergio Aguero as he came through the ranks in his native Paraguay, Diaz was linked with Liverpool and Manchester United after a series of eye-catching performances during his first steps into senior football at Cerro Porteno. He eventually joined Real Madrid in the summer of 2016.
2017: Diaz enjoyed a decent first season in Spain, scoring five times for Real Madrid Castilla in the third division while directly contributing to nine goals in just eight UEFA Youth League games. He was loaned to second-division side Lugo in the summer of 2017, but a ruptured knee ligament suffered in November ended his season prematurely.
2018: Having recovered from his injury, Diaz was loaned to Corinthians in Brazil's top flight, but he played for them on just three occasions after suffering 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.
#21 Abdelhak Nouri | Ajax
Regarded as one of the finest talents within Ajax's famed academy, Netherlands Under-19 captain Nouri was being linked with Arsenal and Manchester United in 2016 despite having never played a first-team match.
In a pre-season friendly the following year, though, Nouri collapsed after suffering a cardiac arrhythmia. He suffered permanent and severe brain damage following the incident, and a hugely promising career was tragically cut short.
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#20 Jean-Kevin Augustin | Paris Saint-Germain
2016: Rated as highly as Kylian Mbappe as they came through the ranks of French football at a similar time, Augustin was already a regular in PSG's matchday squad despite the presence of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Edinson Cavani. He was named Player of the Tournament as he won the Golden Boot at the 2019 Under-19 European Championship.
2017: After making 13 appearances for PSG in the 2016-17 campaign, Augustin joined RB Leipzig in a €13m deal as he looked for more regular first-team football.
2018: Augustin's first season in Germany was encouraging, as he scored 12 goals in all competitions under Ralph Hasenhuttl.
2019: It was a case of second-season syndrome for Augustin at Leipzig, as he managed just three Bundesliga goals in the 2018-19 campaign. In a bid to regain some form and amid claims of ill-discipline, he joined Monaco on loan the following summer.
2020: After scoring just once in 13 matches for Monaco, Augustin had his loan cut short, and he joined Leeds United in January 2020 as Marcelo Bielsa looked for attacking reinforcements in his bid to secure promotion to the Premier League. The striker made just three substitute appearances for the Elland Road outfit, however, due to a series of fitness issues, and after being released by Leipzig that summer, he was signed by Nantes in the early weeks of the 2020-21 campaign.
2021: Augustin made just three appearances for his new club in his first season, as it was revealed that he was suffering from Long-COVID.
2022: Having failed to start a single Ligue 1 match in 2021-22, Augustin was allowed to leave Nantes on a free transfer at the end of the season and join FC Basel.
2023: Injuries have meant that Augustin has struggled to establish himself in Switzerland, with any hope of him having a career at the very highest level now surely gone.
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#19 Andrija Balic | Hajduk Split
2016: Regarded as a combination of Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic, Balic was a regular in the Hajduk midfield by the age of 17 and was being linked with a move to Juventus before joining Udinese in February 2016.
2017: Sixteen months after joining the club, Balic eventually made his Udinese debut in May 2017, playing in the final four Serie A matches of the season.
2018: Balic managed 21 league appearances in his second full season in Italy, but he failed to truly impress before suffering a knee injury in the final weeks of the campaign.
2019: After falling down the pecking order, Balic was loaned to Dutch outfit Fortuna Sittard in January 2019, where he made 13 league appearances. He then joined Serie B side Perugia for the 2019-20 campaign.
2020: Balic's loan spell was cut short in February 2020, and he joined Slovakian side Dunajska Streda initially on loan, with the move made permanent that summer.
2021: Making 35 appearances in all competitions, the 2020-21 campaign was the best of Balic's career in terms of regular playing time as Dunajska qualified for the Europa Conference League.
2022: A persistent back injury meant that Balic missed much of 2022, and he subsequently fell down the pecking order at his club.
2023: Balic joined fellow Slovakian side Banksa Bystrica on loan in February 2023 and netted on his debut for his new club.
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#18 Manu Garcia | Manchester City
2016: Signed by Man City as a 16-year-old, Garcia spent two years in the club's academy before earning a first call-up to the senior squad, with his first goal coming against Crystal Palace in late 2015.
2017: Garcia joined Alaves on loan for the 2016-17 season, but had the deal cut short after making just one appearance during the first half of the campaign. Moved to NAC Breda in January 2017 and helped the Dutch outfit earn promotion to the top flight, resulting in his loan move being extended for a further 12 months.
2018: The midfielder made 34 Eredivisie appearances in 2017-18 before joining Toulouse on loan for the following campaign.
2019: After another encouraging season in France, Garcia eventually left City on a permanent deal, as his boyhood club, Sporting Gijon, paid a club-record €4m to bring him back to Spain.
2020: Garcia played a key playmaking role in the Spanish second division, directly contributing to 11 goals in his first season back at Sporting.
2021: After another strong season at Sporting, Garcia made a shock Spain debut after the U21s squad were forced to deputise for the senior side amid a Covid outbreak. He then joined Alaves on loan for the second time in his career.
2022: Garcia was in and out of the Alaves team, suggesting he is not quite ready for the rigours of La Liga football, and Sporting chose to sell him to Greek side Aris in the summer of 2022.
2023: A regular starter at his new club, Garcia netted a hat-trick in what proved to be his final match of the season in January as he suffered a ruptured cruciate ligament just a few days later.
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#17 Victor Osimhen | Ultimate Strikers Academy
2016: Having won the Golden Boot at the 2015 Under-17 World Cup with 10 goals, Osimhen had agreed a deal to join Wolfsburg in January 2017.
2017: Osimhen made just three appearances for Wolfsburg in his first half-season at the club, but did make his senior Nigeria debut in the summer of 2017.
2018: The forward only managed a further 12 Bundesliga games in his first full campaign in Germany, and was loaned to Charleroi ahead of the 2018-19 campaign.
2019: Osimhen scored 20 goals in all competitions for the Belgian outfit, leading to them signing him permanently before immediately selling him to Lille for around €12m.
2020: The striker's fine form continued in France, as he netted 18 times for the Ligue 1 side, leading to Napoli spending an initial €50m to sign him in the summer of 2020 in a club-record deal.
2021: Shoulder and head injuries meant that Osimhen's first season in Serie A was stop-start, but he still managed to net 10 league goals.
2022: Despite suffering a fractured cheekbone in the early months of the 2021-22 season, Osimhen still managed 18 goals in all competitions.
2023: Osimhen has exploded this season, spearheading Europe's most exciting side as Napoli head towards the Serie A title, leading to reports he could be the subject of €100m transfer bids this summer.
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#16 Patrick Roberts | Manchester City
2016: Having made his debut for Fulham as a 17-year-old, Roberts was signed by Man City in the summer of 2015, and had already made a handful of substitute appearances for the Premier League side before being loaned to Celtic on an 18-month deal in January 2016.
2017: Roberts soon became a fan favourite at Parkhead, and even scored against City in a Champions League meeting at the Etihad Stadium. His record of 17 goals and more than 20 assists in a season-and-a-half convinced Celtic to take him on loan for a further 12 months in the summer of 2017.
2018: The winger missed over three months of action with a thigh injury in 2017-18 and, as a result, he was unable to make anything like the same impact. Celtic remained keen on re-signing him at the end of the campaign, but a deal could not be struck, and Roberts was instead sent on loan to Girona.
2019: Roberts managed over 20 appearances for the Spanish side, though his direct goal contributions were minimal. He became Norwich City's first signing following their promotion to the Premier League in 2019, joining on a season-long loan.
2020: That deal was cut short halfway through the season, and Roberts dropped down into the Championship to join Middlesbrough, but he again was a bit-part player.
2021: Having spent another six months with Middlesbrough to start the 2020-21 season, he was then sent on loan to Derby County, where he helped Wayne Rooney's side preserve their Championship status. Troyes then became his sixth different loan club when he joined the French side in the summer of 2021, though it quickly became clear that he would be playing reserve-team football, rather than in Ligue 1 with the first team.
2022: In January 2022, City agreed to let Roberts leave for Sunderland on a free transfer, and helped the Black Cats earn promotion back to the Championship via the play-offs.
2023: Roberts has been a regular starter for Sunderland in the second tier as he looks to belatedly rebuild his career in the second tier.
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#15 Umar Sadiq | Spezia
2016: Sadiq made an immediate impact during a loan spell at Roma from Spezia during the 2015-16 season, scoring twice either side of the new year despite being just 18. That form saw the Giallorossi sign him on a permanent deal at the end of the season, before he went onto score four goals as Nigeria won bronze at the 2016 Olympics.
2017: Bologna took Sadiq on loan for the 2016-17 season, but a series of injury problems limited him to just seven Serie A appearances. He then joined Torino on loan ahead of the following campaign.
2018: The striker made just three league appearances in Turin, leading to his loan being cut short. He joined NAC Breda for the second half of the season and directly contributed to eight goals in just 12 league appearances. That form convinced Rangers to sign him on loan, but that deal was cut short after just four months and as many appearances.
2019: Perugia was the next stop on Sadiq's loan tour, as he spent the second half of the 2019-20 season playing in Serie B, before joining Partizan on a season-long deal ahead of the next campaign.
2020: Sadiq finally returned on his potential in Belgrade, returning over 30 combined goals and assists over the course of the 2020-21 season, and they unsurprisingly signed him on a permanent deal midway through the campaign. He began the next season in similar form before being signed by ambitious Spanish second-division side Almeria in a €5m deal.
2021: With 20 goals, only two players scored more than Sadiq in his first season in the Segunda Division, though that was not enough for Almeria to earn promotion.
2022: Sadiq began the year by making his Nigeria debut at the Africa Cup of Nations, before returning to Almeria to spearhead their promotion push, contributing a combined 30 goals and assists as they won the Segunda Division. He wouldn't play for Almeria in La Liga, though, as Real Socieded spent €20m to bring him to San Sebastian.
2023: Sadiq is currently recovering from a ruptured MCL that he suffered having scored three goals in his first six games for his new club.
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#14 Amadou Diawara | Bologna
2016: Bologna snapped up Diawara in the summer of 2015, and he was a regular for the Serie A side despite his lack of experience. That convinced Napoli to sign him for €15m a year later.
2017: Though not a regular starter, Diawara managed almost 30 appearances during his debut campaign in Naples.
2018: Diawara continued to be in and out of the Napoli team, though he did net his first Serie A goal in April 2018. He also made his senior Guinea debut later the same year.
2019: It was another frustrating campaign for the midfielder in 2018-19 and, after three years in Naples, Diawara was sold to Roma in the summer of 2019, as the Giallorossi paid €21m to take him to Stadio Olimpico.
2020: A series of knee injuries limited Diawara during his first year in the Italian capital, and he was unable to establish himself under Paulo Fonseca.
2021: Diawara was again a bit-part player for Roma, before a fall-out with Jose Mourinho in the early weeks of the 2021-22 season left him almost permanently on the bench or out of the squad altogether.
2022: Diawara eventually left Roma for Anderlecht in the summer of 2022 as the Italian side made a loss of almost €20m on the midfielder.
2023: Now 25, Diawara has started regularly during his first season in the Belgian top flight.
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#13 Donny van de Beek | Ajax
2016: Dubbed 'MaraDonny' by Ajax supporters, Van de Beek was a regular in Frank de Boer's side as an 18-year-old after a series of impressive performances.
2017: The midfielder continued to grow into a role within the Ajax squad and came off the bench for the final 20 minutes of the 2017 Europa League final. In November 2017, he was awarded his first cap for Netherlands.
2018: The 2017-18 season proved to be a real breakout campaign for Van de Beek, as he netted 11 goals in Eredivisie, while also providing six assists. At the end of the season, he rejected an offer to join Roma.
2019: Van de Beek went from strength to strength under Erik ten Hag, earning himself a place on the 30-man Ballon d'Or shortlist after playing a pivotal role in Ajax's run to the Champions League semi-finals.
2020: After more strong showings in 2019-20, Van de Beek was signed by Manchester United at the end of the season, the Red Devils paying £35m to bring in a player who was also being heavily linked with Real Madrid.
2021: Ole Gunnar Solskjaer struggled to find a place for Van de Beek in his United team and the Dutchman started just four Premier League games in his first English campaign.
2022: After failing to force his way into the United line-up under both Solskjaer and Ralf Rangnick, Van de Beek joined Everton on loan in January 2022, but made just seven appearances for the Toffees as they fought against relegation.
2023: It was hoped that the arrival of his former manager at Ajax, Erik ten Hag, would help revitalise Van de Beek's United career, but he remained on the periphery until suffering a season-ending knee injury in January.
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#12 Gabriel Jesus | Palmeiras
2016: Likened to Neymar due to his electric pace and ability with the ball at his feet, 18-year-old Jesus was linked with a move to Arsenal, Juventus and Roma before Manchester City paid £27m for the Palmeiras starlet in the summer of 2016. One month later, he made his senior Brazil debut.
2017: Jesus arrived at the Etihad Stadium in January 2017, and made an electric start to life at City, scoring seven goals in his first 10 Premier League appearances.
2018: Despite missing two months of the 2017-18 season with a knee injury, Jesus enjoyed a productive first full campaign in England, netting 17 goals in all competitions. That earned him a contract extension, which he signed in the summer of 2018.
2019: Jesus went past the 20-goal mark in a season for the first time in 2018-19, before going onto both score and be sent off in the final of the Copa America that summer, as Brazil lifted the trophy on home soil.
2020: Another 20+ goal campaign followed in 2019-20, with Jesus taking the opportunities presented to him when Sergio Aguero was unavailable or left out.
2021: Jesus' goal return went down during the 2020-21 season, in part due to starting fewer games, while when he did play, he was largely deployed as a winger rather than in his usual central striker role.
2022: The Brazil forward helped City to another league title, contributing a combined 25 goals and assists in all competitions. The arrival of Erling Haaland, however, threatened to push Jesus down the pecking order, and he left to join Arsenal in a £45m deal.
2023: Jesus made a fine start to life in north London as the Gunners moved to the top of the table, and while an injury picked up at the World Cup has ruled him out of action since December, he is closing in on a return to action.
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#11 Vaclav Cerny | Ajax
2016: Compared to Arjen Robben and Marc Overmars due to his dribbling ability, Cerny's initial steps in the Ajax first team had reportedly led to Czech Republic legend Pavel Nedved encouraging Juventus to sign his compatriot.
2017: Despite being the star of Jong Ajax in 2016-17, Cerny struggled to replicate that form at first-team level. He then suffered a cruciate ligament injury in October 2017 that ruled him out of action for almost an entire year.
2018: Cerny returned to action in September 2018, but had fallen well down the pecking order in terms of the senior squad in Amsterdam.
2019: Having impressed for Jong Ajax following his recovery from injury, FC Utrecht paid around €1m to sign Cerny in the summer of 2019.
2020: Cerny struggled to hold down a place at his new club, and was loaned out to FC Twente ahead of the 2020-21 campaign. A good start to the season saw him capped for the first time by the Czech Republic.
2021: The winger impressed during the first half of the season, directly contributing to 13 goals in 16 Eredivisie games, only to suffer a season-ending knee injury in January 2021. Despite that, Twente opted to make Cerny's move permanent at the end of his loan spell.
2022: Cerny returned to action in November 2021 and slowly worked his way back into starting contention at Twente.
2023: While not quite hitting the same form as late 2020, Cerny has been in good form in 2022-23, and could yet finish the season with a double-figure goal tally.
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#10 Joe Gomez | Liverpool
2016: Signed from Charlton Athletic in the summer of 2015, Gomez was thrown straight into the Liverpool team before an anterior cruciate ligament injury picked up in October ruled him out for the remainder of the season.
2017: Gomez made just eight Premier League appearances in 2016-17 but began to earn more opportunities at the start of the following campaign, which in turn led to him making his England debut in November 2017.
2018: An ankle injury suffered in March 2018 led to Gomez having to undergo surgery, meaning he missed the World Cup that summer. He returned for the start of the 2018-19 campaign, and established himself as Virgil van Dijk's first-choice partner in central defence, only to suffer a broken leg in December that ruled him out of action for over four months.
2019: Gomez returned in time to make a substitute's appearance in the 2019 Champions League final as Liverpool beat Tottenham in Madrid, but was no longer regarded as being a lock for Jurgen Klopp's line-up.
2020: The centre-back played 28 league matches for the Reds as they won the Premier League title in 2019-20, but a season-ending knee injury suffered in November 2020 meant he missed the majority of the following campaign.
2021: Gomez returned for pre-season in 2020-21, but soon found himself down the pecking order at Anfield.
2022: Despite starting just four Premier League matches in 2021-22, but still earned a new five-year contract that he signed ahead of the following campaign.
2023: Gomez has been more involved this season, but some poor performances have led to reports that he could be sold this summer.
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#9 Malcom | Corinthians
2016: Compared to Robinho, Malcom had been linked with Juventus and Borussia Dortmund following a series of impressive displays in his homeland for Corinthians. He eventually joined Bordeaux in January 2016.
2017: Malcom's first full season in France went well, as he directly contributed to 12 goals in Ligue 1 while adding a further two strikes in cup matches.
2018: The playmaker went from strength to strength, emerging as one of the brightest attacking prospects in European football over the course of 2017-18, scoring 12 goals and assisting a further seven in the French top flight. That led to a fight to sign him that summer, which Barcelona dramatically won ahead of Roma, paying €41m to bring Malcom to Camp Nou.
2019: Malcom struggled in Spain, and after just one season and a solitary league goal for the Blaugrana, he was sold to Zenit for around €40m. He was forced to sit out for his first four months in Russia, however, after suffering a hip injury.
2020: The Brazil youth international managed just 12 league appearances in his first season at Zenit, scoring four goals.
2021: Injuries again limited Malcom in 2020-21, though he did average a goal or assist every three matches when he was on the field.
2022: Malcom finished the 2021-22 season with a combined 15 goals and assists as Zenit won the Russian Premier League, and the Brazilian extended his contract to keep him at the club until 2027.
2023: Malcom's game has gone to a new level in 2022-23, with the forward on track to score at least 20 league goals as he battles to be the top scorer in Russia's top flight.
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#8 Renato Sanches | Benfica
2016: Despite only making his first-team debut in October 2015, Sanches was earning rave reviews in Portugal with his intimidating physicality in midfield belying the fact that he was just 18 years old. He went on to be named Young Player of the Tournament as Portugal won Euro 2016, earning himself a €35m move to Bayern Munich.
2017: Sanches struggled to force himself into the Bayern team during his first season in Germany, and failed to score or register an assist in 26 appearances. As such, he was loaned to Swansea City for the following campaign.
2018: The midfielder became something of a laughing stock in the Premier League, making just 12 appearances for the Swans – the last of which came in January 2018.
2019: Sanches returned to Bayern but was again a fringe figure at the Allianz Arena, though he did manage to score his first goal for the club, ironically against former side Benfica in the Champions League. A falling-out eventually led to Sanches being sold to Lille for €25m in the summer of 2019.
2020: After a slow start, Sanches established himself around the turn of the year at Lille, and helped them secure a fourth-placed finish in Ligue 1.
2021: Despite missing two months mid-season through injury, Sanches played a key role as Lille stunned European football by winning the French league title ahead of Paris Saint-Germain.
2022: Sanches continued to impress for Lille in 2021-22 before Paris Saint-Germain beat off competition from AC Milan to sign the midfielder in a deal worth up to €13m.
2023: The Portuguese has struggled to make much of an impact at Parc des Princes, with a series of injuries meaning he has struggled to build any kind of momentum.
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#7 Ante Coric | Dinamo Zagreb
2016: Having made his senior debut two days after his 17th birthday, Coric was regarded as one of Europe's brightest prospects, with Real Madrid and Chelsea reportedly set to battle it out for a player who had already earned a cap for Croatia and was named in their squad for Euro 2016.
2017: Coric continued to be a regular contributor for Dinamo Zagreb, scoring four goals from midfield in the 2016-17 season.
2018: Another solid campaign followed for Coric, before Roma agreed to pay €6m to take the midfielder to Stadio Olimpico on a five-year deal.
2019: Coric made just three first-team appearances during his first season in Italy, and he was loaned out to Spanish second-division side Almeria in the summer of 2019.
2020: Again Coric underwhelmed, starting just five league matches during the 2019-20 season, and was again sent out on loan ahead of the next campaign, this time to VVV-Venlo in the Netherlands.
2021: Coric's time in the Eredivisie was cut short after making just one league appearance, and he was loaned to Olimpija Ljubljana for the second half of the 2020-21 season, though he made just six appearances for the Slovenian side.
2022: The 2021-22 season saw Coric on loan at FC Zurich, but he was largely a substitute in Switzerland as his struggle for regular game time continued.
2023: Despite interest from Zurich in a second loan spell and from Turkish clubs, Coric did not leave Roma in the summer of 2022, and remains on the Italian side's books despite not being part of their first-team plans.
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#6 Gerson | Roma
2016: Having made his Fluminense debut as an 18-year-old in 2015, Gerson was signed by Roma for €15m in January 2016, as the Serie A side beat off competition from Barcelona and Juventus for the Brazilian's services.
2017: The midfielder's first season in Italy saw him make just 10 first-team appearances as Gerson tried to get to grips with the European game.
2018: Gerson was a more regular contributor second time around at Stadio Olimpico, making 30 appearances, including his first run-out in the Champions League. Despite that, he was loaned out to Fiorentina ahead of the 2018-19 campaign.
2019: Forty appearances for La Viola allowed Gerson to truly get up to speed in Serie A, only for Roma to sell him to Flamengo in the summer of 2019. The €12m fee made him the most expensive Brazilian player ever signed by a Brazilian club.
2020: Gerson became a star of the Brazilian top flight as Flamengo won back-to-back league titles, as well as the Copa Libertadores in the space of just over a year.
2021: A return to Europe looked inevitable for Gerson, and he eventually agreed to join Marseille, who paid €25m to sign him in the summer of 2021. Two months later, he made his international debut for Brazil.
2022: Gerson recovered from a shaky start in Ligue 1 to become a consistent performer for Marseille as they secured Champions League qualification.
2023: New signings meant Gerson fell down the pecking order somewhat in the winter of 2022, and he eventually agreed a €15m move back to Flamengo, where he is preparing to help the Brazilian club defend their Copa Libertadores crown.
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#5 Martin Odegaard | Real Madrid
2016: Having become the youngest player and goalscorer in the Norwegian top flight, as well as the youngest player to ever represent Norway, before his 16th birthday, Real Madrid beat off a host of Europe's biggest clubs to sign Odegaard in January 2015, where he played predominantly for the Castilla team.
2017: After making just one cup appearance for the first team in 2016-17, Odegaard was loaned out to Heerenveen ahead of the following campaign.
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 – form 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.
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#4 Ruben Neves | Porto
2016: The youngest league goalscorer in Porto history, the youngest Portuguese player to play in European competition and the youngest player to captain a team in the Champions League – at just 18, Portugal international Neves was being linked with a host of Europe's top clubs.
2017: When Neves did leave Porto, he surprisingly joined Championship side Wolves, who paid a league-record £15.8m fee to bring him to Molineux in the summer of 2017.
2018: Neves proved far too good for the second tier of English football and he won Wolves' Player of the Season prize as they earned promotion.
2019: The midfielder made a strong start to life in the Premier League and was a key performer as Wolves qualified for the Europa League through a seventh-placed finish.
2020: Neves continued to be a consistent performer, both domestically and on the continent, earning himself links to some of Europe's biggest teams.
2021: Wolves were again able to keep hold of Neves, despite strong interest from Arsenal in the summer of 2021.
2022: Neves continued to be one of the most dependable performers outside of the Premier League's 'Big Six' sides following Bruno Lage's arrival as manager at Molineux.
2023: Now closing in on his 250th game for the club, Neves is Wolves' captain and a key figure as Julen Lopetegui looks to pull the team away from relegation trouble.
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#3 Gianluigi Donnarumma | AC Milan
2016: A true revelation, Donnarumma broke into the AC Milan first team as a 16-year-old, and showed enough in his early months to be regarded as the rightful heir to Gianluigi Buffon's starting spot in the Italy team. He made his international debut in September 2016.
2017: Donnarumma continued to impress for Milan, winning the 2017 NXGN award, though he drew the ire of the club's fans that summer amid a contract dispute that saw him pelted with fake money from the stands and nicknamed 'Dollarumma'.
2018: Having eventually signed 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.
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#2 Breel Embolo | Basel
2016: Already a full Switzerland international, Embolo was being linked with the likes of Arsenal, Chelsea and Juventus after his devastating speed and unparalleled power helped fire Basel to the Swiss league title in 2015. However, the following summer, he eventually joined Schalke, who paid €20m to sign him only for a fractured ankle suffered in October 2016 to rule him out of action for 11 months.
2017: Embolo eventually made his return to action in September 2017, but he struggled to deliver on his early promise.
2018: The forward netted just three Bundesliga goals in 2017-18, before suffering a broken foot in November 2018 that left him on the sidelines for another three months.
2019: Embolo's stop-start 2018-19 season yielded just five league goals, and that summer he was sold to Borussia Monchengladbach for €10m.
2020: Scoring eight and assisting eight more, Embolo enjoyed a fine Bundesliga season in 2019-20, as the change of scenery and clean bill of health allowed him to play with a little more freedom.
2021: Though his pure numbers did not match those of the previous season, Embolo again played a key role for Gladbach, either when starting or coming off the bench for Marco Rose's side.
2022: Embolo struggled for goals during much of 2021-22, only to score six goals in Gladbach's final eight Bundesliga matches of the season. That run helped convince Monaco to spend €12.5m on him that summer.
2023: One of Ligue 1's top scorers in 2022-23, Embolo is already well into double-figures for the campaign in what is best goalscoring season since he left Switzerland.
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#1 Youri Tielemans | Anderlecht
2016: A regular in the Anderlecht first team since making his debut as a 16-year-old, Tielemans already had 18 Champions League appearances under his belt by the end of 2015. Juventus were heavily linked with signing the energetic midfielder, with a number of Europe's other biggest clubs also monitoring his progress as he made his Belgium debut in November 2016.
2017: Monaco agreed to pay €25m to sign Tielemans in the summer of 2017, though he made a slow start to life in Ligue 1.
2018: Having failed to score a league goal during the 2017-18 campaign, Tielemans was regarded as a flop during his first season in France.
2019: Tielemans continued to struggle through the first half of the following season, and joined Leicester City on loan in January 2019. He proved to be a revelation in the Premier League, and despite competition from Manchester United, the Foxes were able to sign him permanently in a deal worth a club-record £40m.
2020: The midfielder enjoyed an encouraging first full season in English football, as Leicester came up agonisingly short in their bid for Champions League football.
2021: Tielemans continued to improve and enjoyed the crowning moment of his career so far when his stunning 25-yard strike against Chelsea at Wembley won Leicester their first ever FA Cup.
2022: A standout performer in what was an under-par season for Brendan Rodgers' side, Tielemans was widely expected to leave in the summer of 2022, but no moves were made for the midfielder.
2023: Tieleman's level has dropped in 2022-23, and having entered the final months of his contract at the King Power Stadium, it is expected that he will move on come the end of the campaign.