The 11 Best U21 Players in Soccer

02/02/2023

This list, as of today, will cover the best players in soccer, 21 years old and younger. There are a variety of factors that go into this, from accomplishments to leadership and impact. With that said, let's get to the list.


11. Eduardo Camavinga

Camavinga is 20 years old and has already played in both a Champions League and World Cup final. However, despite an impressive resume, Camavinga is yet to play a leading role for Real Madrid or France. Take this season. He has played 32 games for club and country but has only started 16 times. With a more important role as Toni Kroos retires, Camavinga will prove his quality.


10. Gabriel Martinelli

At 10 is Gabriel Martinelli of Arsenal. At the start of the season, he probably wouldn't have been on this list, but 7 goals and 2 assists for 9 goal contributions in 19 starts for an Arsenal team leading the Premier League table is a pretty good return. Martinelli would be higher on this list if not for his lackluster performance at the World Cup, as he played three games and had no goal contributions to show for it.


9. Gonçalo Ramos

Goncalo tops Martinelli for his contributions at Benfica this season and what he showed at the world cup. The Portuguese league is a bit of a different beast to judge, evident by Darwin Nunez's great goal-scoring for Benfica but his struggles to covert chances at Liverpool. Nonetheless, Ramos has contributed 12 goals and 4 assists in 16 Portuguese League games and has 18 goals and 7 assists in all competitions in just 28 games. Goals are goals no matter how you get them, and he is having a great season. His spot on this list is also aided by the hat trick he scored at the world cup.


8. William Saliba

Saliba is another young player getting it done for Arsenal this season. Centerbacks are not supposed to be this good this early, and to have played all but 14 minutes in 19 games, ranking third on the team at just 21 years old, is an incredible return. But while he was also on the France World Cup team that reached the final, he only played 27 minutes at the tournament. So not enough of an impact internationally to go any higher on this list.


7. Josko Gvardiol

Do you want a young center-back who is already a massive player at the club and international levels? Look no further than this generational center-back prospect. Gvardiol is one of the leaders of a new generation of center-backs that are as good at stuffing out attacks as they are at progressing the ball to generate goal-scoring opportunities. Gvardiol was incredible at the World Cup, helping Croatia to a third-place finish as he played every minute at the tournament and won player of the match after scoring a goal in the third-place game. It's only a matter of time before he gets a big-money move out of Leipzig.


6. Jude Bellingham

Jude Bellingham is only 19 but plays like a seasoned 30-year-old with hundreds of games under his belt. There is nothing he can't do, and he has even started adding goals to his game with 10 goals already this season, 4 more than he had all of last year. The sky is the limit for Jude Bellingham, and the only thing that stops him from placing higher on this list is that most of his impact at the club and international level has been non-significant, with no trophies or big games to show for it.


5. Gavi

Gavi, at 18, is already a polarizing player. For some, he's too volatile and emotional, shown by the fact that he led the team in yellow cards last season. For others, he's the crown jewel of La Masia, who can do no wrong. For me, he's only 18 and has already had some massive moments in his career that some world-class players go their entire careers without experiencing. Such as leading Barcelona to a Supercopa final trophy over Real Madrid with a goal and two assists in a 3-1 victory. And I haven't mentioned that he's the youngest player to win FIFA's Golden Boy award, and he and Messi are the only 18-year-old players to have won the award.


4. Khvicha Kvaratskhelia

If you don't know who this is or how to pronounce his name, you will soon, trust me. The Georgian is one of the best dribblers in the world, and with 7 goals and 10 assists for 17 goal contributions in 16 games for Serie A-leading Napoli, Kvaratskhelia has substance to his style. The only thing preventing him from entering the top three at this point is no fault of his own, but he has yet to have any success on the international stage with a Georgia team severely lacking talent. But even then, he has 10 goals in 19 games, including against Spain, Sweden, and Greece.


3. Bukayo Saka

With the top 3, we are entering the territory of players who I believe to be world-class, and kicking that off is the 21-year-old Bukayo Saka. This season has been incredible for the right winger who has helped lead the Arsenal surge to the top of the table with 7 goals and 7 assists in 19 games. On top of that, he took a break to go to the World Cup with England and left with many saying he was his country's best player. There do not seem to be any holes in his game, and if he continues his form, we are looking at a potential future Ballon d'Or candidate.


2. Pedri

Pedri is incredible to watch- and the scary part is he can still clearly get better. At 20 years old, he is already one of the best midfielders in the world and has the best tutor possible as his head coach, Xavi Hernandez. Pedri has shown at the club and international levels that he can be relied upon game in and out, as he rarely misses time. The next stage of his development will be adding goals and assists to his game, as he has played 33 games for club and country this year and is yet to register an assist. But that will come with time, and as it does, we're talking about a generational talent.


1. Jamal Musiala

Who else to top this list but Jamal Musiala? I wrote an article about him during the World Cup that he's the closest to Messi we've seen when it comes to his dribbling style. And that's only the start of his quality. Capable of playing anywhere across the front three or in an advanced midfield role, Musiala, only 19, is already one of the most frightening players to go up against in Europe. The man completed 13 dribbles in just one game against Costa Rica at the World Cup. He has 13 goals and 10 assists for Bayern in 26 games this season, and when you watch Bayern and Germany, two incredible teams with world-class players in every position, it's Musiala they look to in dire situations to create magic. That tells you all you need to know.


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