The CIES Football Observatory recently published its study on the most experienced young players born in or after 1998 currently playing in Europe by weighing the domestic league minutes played by the footballers during the last two years according to the sporting strength of the employer teams. Here are the top 5 players from his list.
#5. Dayot Upamecano
In the fifth position is RB Leipzig centre-back Dayot Upamecano with a CIES rating of 49.46. Upamecano narrowly beats the defending Golden Boy award winner, Matthijs de Ligt, who has a CIES score of 49.31.
Upamecano, who was born in 1998, has played professionally since 2015 for Liefering, Red Bull Salzburg and RB Leipzig.
The Frenchman is a key player for the Bundesliga side that’s attempting to establish itself as a regular Champions League side. Despite impressing at club level, he is yet to make his debut for the France senior team but it would only be a matter of time.
#4. Trent Alexander-Arnold
Liverpool’s academy groomed the likes of Steven Gerrard, Jamie Carragher and Michael Owen in the late 90s but since then, academy products haven’t had the impact the club would have hoped for but the rise of Trent Alexander-Arnold could start a new era.
Alexander-Arnold made his first-team debut in 2016 but he mainly played as an understudy to Nathaniel Clyne in the 2016/17 season. The following season, an injury to Clyne gave the youngster a chance to shine and he has won many admirers with his excellent displays.
In fact, Arnold has been so impressive that Clyne sought a loan move away from Liverpool in January in search of first-team opportunities.
The England international played 33 times last season scoring three goals and has featured in 24 games so far this season for the Premier League contenders.
CIES has given the Liverpool man a score of 50.43.
#3. Houssem Aouar
France won the World Cup in 2018 and they have a plethora of young talent coming through which will definitely help them in defending their title in 2022. Olympique Lyon’s Houssem Aouar is one of three Frenchmen in this top 5 list and he has been given a score of 52.68 by CIES.
Aouar only made his first-team debut nearly two years ago and he only played five games by the end of the 2017/18 season. Following the departure of Corentin Tolisso, not only did Aouar receive more playing time but he also inherited the symbolic number 8.
The 20-year-old played 44 games last season for Lyon in all competitions and this season, he has already played 34 games.
Despite his meteoric rise, Aouar, like Upamecano, is yet to make his senior debut for France.
#2. Kylian Mbappe
Any list featuring the best young players in the world is incomplete without Kylian Mbappe.
He enjoyed his breakthrough season in 2016/17 en route to helping Monaco win the Ligue 1 title and since then, he became the second most expensive player in the world, a World Cup winner, he scored 45 goals for PSG and scored ten goals for France and has won numerous individual and team honours.
Why did Mbappe choose to join PSG?
CIES has given Mbappe a score of 65.42 which is quite high but only puts him second on the list despite already playing over 160 games for both club and country.
#1. Gianluigi Donnarumma
With a CIES score of 73.66, Gianluigi Donnarumma tops this list even though the other four players were born in 1998 while the Italian was born in 1999.
Donnarumma is still only 19-years-old but he has already played 151 games for Milan and ten more for the Italian national team.
The teenager has been Milan’s undisputed first-choice goalkeeper since the 2015/16 season when he was only 16-years-old. As a result, he plays almost every game for the club and tops this list with a significant lead over Mbappe in second place.