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UEFA Champions League 2016-17: 11 Youngsters To Get Their Major Breakthrough This Season

UEFA Champions League logoUEFA Champions League is finally back after almost 4 months! The second matchday suggests us some great entertainment, with top matches like Borussia Dortmund vs. Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid vs. Bayern Munich as the cream of the crop.

The first matchday brought us some interesting clashes. PSG tied with Arsenal at home, the same as Juventus with Sevilla. Leicester started their Champions League journey with a win in Brugge. Fans saw lots of goals, with Barcelona winning 7-0 over Celtic, Borussia Dortmund scoring 6 against Legia, and Bayern not experiencing any problems either (5-0 against Rostov). Hosts and guests won five matches each, as six matches were tied. A couple of them were especially thrilling: the match, where CSKA delivered a comeback after being 2-0 down, and the one in Portugal, between Benfica and Besiktas. Benfica’s Anderson Talisca, currently on loan at Besiktas, scored on 93rd minute to bring a point to the Turkish side.

Argentine stars Sergio Aguero (Manchester City) and Leo Messi (Barcelona) scored the first hat-tricks of the tournament and currently share the position of the top-scorer. 4 players scored twice – Kimmich (Bayern), Mahrez (Leicester), Milik (Napoli) and Suarez (Barcelona). Barcelona’s Neymar managed to leave the pitch with four assists and a goal. This was an amazing matchday, with the best players on the continent showing what they are capable of. 

However, new seasons bring new teams and new football talents. And this is another reason why we have been looking forward to the Champions League group stage. Some of the top talents of the upcoming generation are waiting for their chance and they will get them. 

We would like to introduce eleven youngsters from different Champions League participant clubs. We expect to see these eleven players get their major breakthrough this season. You have most probably not heard about all of them so far, but you are surely going to read lots of stories related to their names very soon. So here we go with our team of youngsters ready to blast the European football market: 

Adrian Semper
Club: Dinamo Zagreb
Age: 18
Nationality: Croatian
Position: Goalkeeper
Senior appearances: 7

Adrian Semper belongs to the group of hottest prospects in Croatian football. At an age of 18 he has managed to win the competition for the number one post in Dinamo Zagreb. Adrian is in the watchlist of many big European clubs. He represented his country in several youth tournaments, including U-17 World Cup in 2015. Adrian Semper is the future number one of Croatia.

Pablo Maffeo
Club: Manchester City
Age: 18
Nationality: Spanish
Position: Right-back
Senior appearances: 1

Pep Guardiola expressed his delight with Pablo Maffeo and Angelino after a friendly match against Bayern this summer. Maffeo’s name appeared among the first-team substitutes in a Premier League match a month ago. He spent most of his youth career in Espanyol before he moved to Manchester at the age of 15. After a loan move to Girona last season, Maffeo is ready and determined to fight for a place in the first team. His biggest competitors are Zabaleta and Sagna.

Emanuel Mammana
Club: Olympique Lyon
Age: 20
Nationality: Argentinian
Position: Centre-back
Senior appearances: 36

The Argentine centre-back comes from the River Plate youth system. He represented Argentina’s youth teams, but can now boast of a senior international cap for one of the most successful national teams in the world. He is likely to become a regular name for the A-team. After making more than 30 senior appearances for River Plate, Mammana moved to Lyon this summer, where he has only made a single 90-minute appearance.
Cameron Carter-Vickers
Club: Tottenham Hotspur
Age: 18
Nationality: American, English
Position: Centre-back
Senior appearances: 1

Cameron Carter-Vickers is undoubtedly one of the biggest talents in English football. He impressed manager Mauricio Pochettino and became a usual name on Tottenham´s A-team bid. He has been representing his father´s country internationally, playing under the US flag in various youth categories, most prominently U-20 World Cup in 2015. The Tottenham youngster is still available for the English senior team. There might be another dispute between USA and England, this time with a reason called Cameron Carter-Vickers.
Club: Manchester City
Age: 19
Nationality: Spanish
Position: Left-back
Senior appearances: 17

Another youngster that impressed Pep Guardiola, Angelino, started his career in Deportivo La Coruna. The talented Spaniard enjoys his time in England, unlike the period in his homeland. "You aren't given as many chances with Deportivo. If you are under 16 you play with the under 16s, they won't give you an opportunity to move up", as he mentioned after moving to Manchester. Now, he is becoming a regular name in Guardiola’s Manchester City A-team. He was sent to earn some practice on loan in New York last season, where he managed to play 14 times and provided 3 assists. His record for Man City first team shows three appearances and an assist. His competitors for the first team spot are Clichy and Kolarov.

Ante Coric
Club: Dinamo Zagreb
Age: 19
Nationality: Croatian
Position: Central midfielder
Senior appearances: 96

This Croatian teenager can already be regarded as an Ante Coric, Dinamo Zagrebexperienced player. Coric has played for his senior national team and is close to get his 100th senior appearance in the career. “The next Luka Modric” was also a part of the Croatian team at EURO 2016. Coric, considered to be among his country's brightest talents, has also been a regular member of Croatia's youth teams. He is contracted to his current club until 2020, however, it is unlikely for Coric to remain in his homeland forever. The midfielder expressed his intentions to depart from Stadion Maksimir at a press conference last year, saying: "It's over. I want to leave Dinamo." 
Laszlo Benes
Club: Borussia Monchengladbach
Age: 19
Nationality: Slovakian
Position: Central midfielder/Attacking midfielder
Senior appearances: 42

Make sure to write this name down – Laszlo Benes. Compared to the other names in this list, Benes went through the most unexciting path, starting his career at Samorin and moving to Dunajska Streda and Gyor afterwards. After appearing in one of the best Slovak teams, MSK Zilina, and spending one and a half year in the Slovak League, his talent was noticed by European heavyweights and he moved to Borussia Monchengladbach for a transfer fee of 5 million Euros, a Slovak record. La Gazzetta Della Sport included Laszlo Benes in a shortlist comprised of 50 biggest football talents in the world, along with names like Renato Sanches, Julian Brandt, Kingsley Coman and Breel Embolo. Benes represented Slovakia in all youth categories, and is yet to be called up for the senior team.

Christian Pulisic
Club: Borussia Dortmund
Age: 18
Nationality: American
Position: Attacking Midfielder
Senior appearances:  24

Christian Pulisic is probably the biggest name in our 11. He was given a chance when he was 17 and he didn’t disappoint. He became the youngest Bundesliga player to score two goals. After getting a lot of practice at Borussia Dortmund, Pulisic was also invited to try his luck in his national team. The new season has brought a new competition for Pulisic. A fight for an A-team place with Schurrle, Dembele, Mor and Gotze will be tough, but it will only make the American teenager stronger. Coach Tuchel has given him four appearances this season so far, and Pulisic has managed to score once and provide three assists in these matches. Pulisic has got the potential to become one of the greatest American soccer players ever, bringing success and fame to his country.

Kylian Mbappe
Club: AS Monaco
Age: 17
Nationality: French
Position: Winger
Senior appearances: 15

The young French winger had a great debut season at Kylian Mbappe Lottin, AS MonacoMonaco´s first team last season. Mbappe made his senior debut in Ligue 1 when he was 16 and scored his first goal on February 20, 2016 (stoppage-time goal in a 3–1 win over Troyes). He became the youngest goalscorer in Monaco's history at the age of 17 years and 62 days, beating Thierry Henry’s record. His French U-19 stats dont´t look too bad either - 5 goals in 6 appearances.
Steven Bergwijn
Club: PSV Eidhoven
Age: 18
Nationality: Dutch
Position: Winger
Senior appearances: 17

The promising Dutch youngster made his senior debut for PSV almost 2 years ago. Bergwijn made an instant impact and assisted Georginio Wijnaldum for the side‘s 5th goal in a cup match against FC Almere City, after being introduced on the 81st minute. The coach Phillip Cocu was delighted with Steven‘s performance that day. Bergwijn has occasionally been given practice ever since and has already played 17 times for the A-team, scoring once.

Jose Gomes
Club: Benfica
Age: 17
Nationality: Portuguese
Position: Striker
Senior appearances: 2

The youngest player in our team is Benfica’s Jose Gomes, born in 1999. Jose has already earned the honour to play for the senior team twice. Although we are talking about 8 minutes in total, it is clear that they count on this young striker in the Portuguese capital. Considering his amazing record for Portugal’s junior national teams (23 goals in 34 matches in total), and Benfica’s U-19 team at UEFA Youth League last season (7 goals and 2 assists), there are all the chances for us to experience Jose Gomes’s major breakthrough this season.

Read Samuel Vilkovsky's and Samuel Durinsky's article about Slovakia national team



Physical attributes


Technical attributes

ball control
free kicks
long throws
shooting accuracy
shooting power
slide tackle
stand tackle
aerial control
one on ones
off the area
penalty saving

Mental attributes

tactical awareness
work rate
positioning in the line
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