It is time to throw away the American inferiority complex with its place in the sport, where many blindly claim that technique should come above all in choosing and developing the best prospects and that the U.S. is not an international power because it cares too much about athleticism.
The 11 Best 18 Year Olds in Soccer
With the likes of Messi, Ronaldo, and Neymar reaching the end of their primes, it seems like the game is in better hands than ever. It begs the question, who are the best young players, and rather than list the likes of Haaland and Mbappe, let's look at some of the best 18-year-olds in the game.
11. Ricardo Pepi
No matter the league, anytime an 18-year-old can score goals at the rate this guy has, it deserves mentioning. With 12 goals in 23 MLS games this season, and a goal to revive the United States' World Cup qualification bid on his debut, it's clear why Pepi is considered one of the most wanted teenage strikers in all of the world. The Texas native is in for a big season once the MLS season ends, and he presumably heads to Europe in January.
10. Ilaix Moriba
If you don't know who Moriba is, watch this goal he scored for the Barcelona Academy. He's no longer a member of the club after a bitter contract dispute led him to Leipzig, but he is still a special talent. He played 18 games for Barcelona last season and will soon get a chance to show his worth in Germany.
9. Yusuf Demir
Demir is a guy that is very popular with Football Manager fans. The 18-year-old has already played three games for the Austrian national team and shocked many when Barcelona gave him Ousmane Dembele's number 11 jersey, meaning he would go straight to the first team and not the reserves like many anticipated.
8. Harvey Elliot
Prayers for a speedy recovery for Harvey Elliot. He suffered a gruesome leg break a few days ago but still makes this list off the back of his last 12 months. Last season while on loan with Blackburn in the second tier of England, he finished tied for third in the league, with 11 assists, adding seven goals. Then he followed that up by doing the seemingly impossible and breaking into Liverpool's line-up at just 18 years old. He was on his third start in a row for Liverpool before the injury, and hopefully, he can pick up where he left off once he recovers.
7. Florian Wirtz
Wirtz is a bit of a hidden secret to the casual fan because he plays for Bayern Leverkusen. But those who are familiar know how special he is. He's part of the reason the club was so comfortable selling Kai Havertz to Chelsea and why the club believes they'll finish with a champions league berth this season. With two goals in three games to start the season, Wirtz could have the kind of season that makes him a well-known name to fans everywhere.
6. Giovanni Reyna
Reyna is in at 6th. Reyna is another Bundesliga product. Reyna has shown potential far beyond his years but has also had consistency issues. He had four goals and six assists for Dortmund in the Bundesliga last season, but 7 of those goal contributions came in the first eleven games of the season. After that, he only had three goal contributions in 21 games. If he can find consistency, he'll rise up this list.
5. Jamal Musiala
Musiala comes in at 5th. The Nigerian-German who has chosen to play for Germany is a special talent. At 18, he's already played 45 games for a Bayern squad that is one of the greatest in history, not to mention the eight games he's played for the senior German national team and how he is the youngest player to ever play for Germany at an international tournament.
4. Ansu Fati
I fully believe Ansu Fati would be heading this list if not for his knee injury in November of last year. But fortunately, he's back and fit now, and the mere fact that Barcelona handed Messi's number 10 jersey to an 18-year-old tells you what they think of him. Before that injury, he started the 2020-21 season with five goals and four assists in 10 games . . . He really is that good. He drops down this list for now because it remains to be seen what kind of player he'll be after not having played in 10 months.
3. Eduardo Camavinga
Camavinga comes in at third because his last six months before signing for Real Madrid saw a slight drop-off. He started the 2020-21 season with a goal and an assist in the first two games, then didn't produce either in the eight months and 33 games that followed until he finally got another assist in April of that season. Assists and goals aren't really his game, but it goes to show that he still has the moments of inconsistency that the two players that beat him out don't have as often.
Pedri comes in at two, but barely. Put aside all the jokes and memes about how he's played over 70 games in one year, and you'll see that there's a reason some of the best teams in the world trust an 18-year-old to play that big of a role. Pedri has a long way to go in helping two falling giants in Barcelona and Spain return to their best, but he's quickly gaining all the experience needed to do so.
1. Jude Bellingham
At number 1 has to be Jude Bellingham. When you watch Pedri play, there are still moments of immaturity and concentration lapse in his game, fitting for an 18-year-old. Watching Bellingham play is like watching a 28-year-old seasoned veteran at the prime of his game. It explains why he was able to transition from playing 44 games as a 16-year-old for Birmingham in the second tier of English football to playing 44 games as a 17-year-old for Borussia Dortmund within the same calendar year.
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