With the summer transfer window almost upon us, Europe’s top clubs will be running the rule over the most talented young players from across the globe who have shown that they not only have the talent but also the first-team experience to make an impact at the elite level.
Thankfully, the CIES Football Observatory has done some of the hard work for them by crafting a comprehensive rundown of all those players yet to celebrate their 20th birthday who have had the most minutes of game time in 2022 thus far.
The CIES index is primarily based on the amount of minutes of first-team football each teenager has got under their belt since the turn of the year, but it also uses a custom “experience capital” metric to assess the value of those minutes in terms of the level of games in which they came.
The only stipulation is that all players under consideration must have been yet to turn 20 years old by May 30, 2022.
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10. Destiny Udogie (Udinese): Date of birth Nov. 28, 2002 (19 years old); 1,585 minutes
A roaming left-back / midfielder who has already represented Italy at under-21 level, Udogie seems destined to pick up his first full cap before long should his burgeoning career continue on the same upward trajectory. Udogie played 35 Serie A games for Udinese in 2021-22 and has scored five goals this year so far, the most recent a beautiful right-footed curling effort against Salernitana on the final day of the season.
Yunus Musah gives Valencia the lead over Atletico!
That’s his first LaLiga goal since November 2020. pic.twitter.com/Dyi2LhSPFB
– ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) January 22, 2022
The first player on record to have started two games for the United States men’s national team national side before turning 18, New York City-born Musah came through the Arsenal academy, and captained England at U18 level before making his name on the wing for Valencia in Spain. The fleet-footed attacker made 36 appearances for Los Che in 2021-22 and scored three goals, including a superb opener against Atletico Madrid in LaLiga in January.
⚽️ Jamal Musiala magic!
– UEFA Champions League (@ChampionsLeague) March 2, 2021
With 14 Bundesliga appearances in 2022, creative midfielder Musiala is just beginning to find a foothold in the Bayern first team. His claim for more playing time next season was strengthened by the fact he signed off this term with two goals in his final four games as the Bavarians wrapped up a 10th consecutive title. Born in Stuttgart, Musiala represented England from U15 to U21 level before pledging his senior allegiance to Germany in February 2021. He has since won 11 caps for his country and scored one goal.
– Fulham Football Club (@FulhamFC) January 16, 2022
With 13 goal involvements (six goals and seven assists) in 23 Championship games since the start of 2022, Fulham midfielder Carvalho is the highest-ranked player on the list to have been playing outside of Europe’s top five leagues. All that will change next season though as the Portugal U21 international has already agreed a deal to join Liverpool that will become official on July 1, after the Reds previously missed out on signing him in the January transfer window.
Sergio Ramos would be proud of this tackle from Eduardo Camavinga 😅 pic.twitter.com/CyTa3h4LTc
– ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) January 10, 2022
A versatile central midfielder who is comfortable both pressing on and chasing back, Camavinga has provided dependable support in the middle for Madrid throughout a season which ended with him becoming a LaLiga and Champions League winner. Camavinga has already become the youngest player since 1914 to make his debut for the France national side when he won his first cap against Croatia in 2020 at the age of 17.
– Paris Saint-Germain (@PSG_English) May 9, 2022
In a team full of superstars, Portugal international Mendes has still managed to make a name for himself this season with a string of excellent performances at left-back. During his loan from Sporting CP (which has since been made permanent), the flying full-back made 40 appearances overall in his debut campaign with PSG and demonstrated impressive levels of athleticism, work rate and a flexibility that saw him deployed as a winger on several occasions too.
– Ligue 1 Uber Eats (@ Ligue1UberEats) May 2, 2022
French football has a tradition of producing strong center-backs and Lukeba looks to be the latest off the production line having become a mainstay for Lyon since breaking into the first-team in early December. The defender also became the youngest player to score for OL since Karim Benzema (in 2006) when he found the net in a 3-0 win over Marseille earlier this month.
3. Pedri (Barcelona): Nov. 25, 2002 (19); 1,500
– LaLiga English (@LaLigaEN) April 14, 2022
A recurring hamstring injury has scuppered Pedri’s involvement in 2021-22 with the issue causing him to miss a total of 25 LaLiga games this season, including the final eight fixtures of the campaign. Still, the midfielder is seen as one of the most gifted young players of his generation and no doubt a return to fitness over the summer will see him come roaring back to his best once things get up and running again in August.
2. Gavi (Barcelona): Aug. 5, 2004 (17); 1,716
17-year-old Gavi was holding his own against Kroos, Casemiro and Modric 💪 pic.twitter.com/9MlaEIOX7G
– ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) January 14, 2022
Gavi is the second of Barca’s twin midfield jewels to feature on the list, and he is above Pedri by virtue of being both significantly younger and by having tallied up over 200 more minutes of action than his teammate for the Catalan side since the turn of the year. A product of the club’s famed academy system, Gavi possesses the technical composure that will see him follow in the footsteps of all those great La Masia alumni that came before him – including his current head coach, Xavi.
Already a staple in Dortmund’s first team despite his tender years, Bellingham made a total of 44 appearances in all competitions for the Bundesliga side in 2021-22 and scored six goals. The England international midfielder is the second-youngest player in the entire top 10 and is already set firmly on course for a big future at the highest level with his all-round ability to score and create goals, play box-to-box and make defensive contributions.