Happy New Year to all our readers around the world! As we look forward to the new year, the FTG team looks back on 2017 to review the players (under 23) who wowed us with their impressive performances.
- Andreas Christensen (Chelsea/Denmark)
To fully understand the rise of Andreas Christensen and his impact in 2017, it is important to remember that following Chelsea’s games against Manchester United, West Brom and Liverpool, he became the first Chelsea academy graduate since John Terry to start three consecutive Premier League games. Some might point to David Luiz’s injury and rumored burst up with Antonio Conte as the reason for this, that argument would be shallow for a number of reasons as Christensen has demonstrated beyond any shadow of doubt that he’s not just a replacement for the Brazilian but also an upgrade.
His stellar form hasn’t just come from his appearances with Chelsea. Back in April, he set a season high Bundesliga passing accuracy of 98.2%. This efficiency in ball distribution is a crucial component of Antonio Conte’s side who like to build from the back; he has a passing accuracy of 93.9% in the Premier League so far. Defensively, the Dane has made 17 interceptions, 55 clearances and 10 blocks from 15 appearances in the EPL.
Christensen has brought a lot more calm to the Chelsea defence and certainly deserves to be regarded as one of the best in his age bracket. Apampa Tobiloba
- Thomas Lemar (AS Monaco/France)
The one Thomas who doesn’t doubt. Thomas Lemar is so good, he caused a £92m tug of war on transfer deadline day. In a situation where other players would force a move, Thomas never doubted Monaco’s prospects, instead staying to help them through a rebuilding process. He has become the headliner of the new Monegasque outfit. With 4goals and 5assists already, he looks set to break the ranks again this season. Don’t bet against another £92m scuffle next summer. Liverpool, Arsenal and Barcelona are just a fraction of the pick he has. Awolope Kolawole
- Timo Werner (RB Leipzig/Germany)
A country known for breeding world class finishers has birthed another. Germany’s lack of a striker in Miroslav Klose’s mould was missed sorely for three years. Step in Timo Werner. The Stuttgart native has breathed fresh air into the German attack. He showed it at the Confederations Cup where he finished top scorer and laid two assists. His club numbers have been equalling impressing, netting 13 times in 25 appearances so far in 2017/18. Add that to the 7 he scored at the turn of the year, and the 21 year old looks certain to grow better. He is already been linked with a move to Liverpool. Fijasewa Arogunyo
- Leon Goretzka (Schalke 04/Germany)
One name set to dominate transfer headlines next summer is that of the German midfielder, Leon Goretzka, An artist of his own kind, the 21 year old set the Confederations cup alights with goals and intricate play. His deft touches ensured he carted home not only a Gold medal, but a silver boot and a bronze ball(a total sweep of the podium). Those at Schalke 04 are not surprised.He has weighed in with 4 goals this season, it is however the assist and chances created column that make him different from the others, as his coach Domenico Tedesco put it, Goretzka is a star that comes once in a thousand years. Fijasewa Arogunyo
- Joshua Kimmich (Bayern Munich/Germany)
In the summer, Bayern had a Lahm-sized hole to fill. With many young players in and out of the club to choose from, the departed icon identified his successor, Joshua Kimmich. After what was a sizzling Confederations Cup tournament, the German swiftly directed his attentions to Bayern and has posted unbelievable statistics since the start of 17/18; 3goals, 8assists, 90% pass success rate and 0.3shots per goal count.
It seems all too unsurprising has he has featured in every game for FC Hollywood. Lahm was right; He had found his successor before he left. A world cup berth awaits the diminutive full back who can also play as a midfielder… That reminds you of errr… Fijasewa Arogunyo
- Christian Pulisic (Borussia Dortmund/USA)
Christian Pulisic is the best thing to happen to American football since Freddie Adu. You would be forgiven for the tempered hype when he clocked two years as a pro. That was when Adu went into oblivion. However, this is no Freddie Adu. A bonafide first team member at Borussia Dortmund, and a carrier of the hopes of over 300million Americans at age 19, he sure deserves a mention.
He has attempted more dribbles than any other player in Europe bar Messi and Neymar this season. It is however his end product that needs to improve, given that he has only 3goals and 1assists from 33shots.It didn’t stop him from winning the US male soccer player of the year. Fijasewa Arogunyo
- Naby Keita (RB Leipzig/Guinea)
When your club refuses to sell you despite your insistence on leaving, it shows you are the bossman. That apparently is what Naby Keita is at RB Leipzig. The Guinean has earned a big money move to Liverpool already, not before spending one more season in Germany with the team he has helped lead to the top. Keita had the highest successful tackle rate in Europe in 2017. A whole 1.0 tackles more than next challenger NgoLo Kante. He has also added a goal dimension to his game. Netting key goals, ranging from pile drivers to volleys. The premier league awaits a son after its heart. Awolope Kolawole
- Gabriel Jesus (Manchester City, Brazil)
The boy washed cars as recently as two years ago on the streets of Rio Grande is now a global phenomenon. He had become a nuisance to defenders in Brazil, and proved his worth at the Olympics while also ending the Seleccao’s search for a number 9. Guess we didnt get the memo in the PL. His arrival took the league by storm and hasnt looked back since. He bagged 10goals in world cuo qualifying and has been no slouch for City either, weighing a modest 17league goals in 2017. So much for a tap in merchant. Fijasewa Arogunyo
- Gianluigi Donnarumma (AC Milan, Italy)
Fake notes were thrown at Donnarumma during the U21 Euros in Poland by Italian fans. The reason wasnt far-fetched, the 19-year old had asked to leave(head turned by agent Mino Raiola: that guy eh?). Milan’s biggest performer over the last two seasons, Donnarymma had asked to play at a higher level with him unsure the Rossoneri would be their anytime soon.
It simply reflected the ambitions of a man who seems to have outgrown the surroundings at Milanello. He has already been linked with Real Madrid and Manchester United and has already been hailed affirmatively by Gigi Buffon as the next great Italian goalkeeper. Never count against him been mentioned in the same breath as Zoff and Buffon. Rotimi Daramola
- Marco Asensio (Real Madrid, Spain)
The crowned prince of Real Madrid. The young Spaniard is a man in form. He finished with 3goals at the U21 Euros in Poland and also bagged a team of the tournament spot. He has contributed to the Madrid cause also, with stunning goals ranging from free kicks to belters from range. His 4goals and 3assists have won 10pts this 2017/18 season. Add that he scored on his debut in all competitions including one blinding finish in the supercopa. Watch out for him at the World Cup. Fijasewa Arogunyo
- Saul Niguez (Atletico Madrid, Spain)
The reason Atletico circumvented Spanish rules. Saul is rumored to have an outrageous release clause boasted only by the creme de la creme of spanish football. So important and vital he was deemed, that Atleti held him to a 9year contract(something impossible in Spain). He has thrilled us with delicious goals, be it the curler at the U21 euros, where he was top scorer or the swivel and placing against Barcelona. This kid has got them in boatloads: skill, vision and tenacity. Fijasewa Arogunyo
Marcus Rashford (Manchester United, England)
Rashboy has grown from strength to strength since March 2016. He has become a vital piece of the united machine and his growth is indicated as he is United’s dead ball specialist. While he is prone to the odd indecision and wastefulness. He has the makings of a future ballon d’Or winner. His role in United’s Europa League success is well documented, with crucial contributions in goals and assists in the last 16, Quarter Final and semi proving key. He has not relented, scoring 9 and laying on a further 8 this season while creating as much as 6 chances. Fijasewa Arogunyo
Raheem Sterling (Manchester City, England)
When Eden Hazard’s mocking video of Raheem Sterling went viral, it was supposed to be a classic case of mocking the man who is seen as having epitomized England’s failure in recent years. A 22-year old with speed and nothing technical, poor finishing, poor first touch. However, the purists are changing that notion now. Sterling has improved markedly under Guardiola and is one of the headliners of City’s scintillating play this season.
He has scored 13 goals already. The most in his career (previous high was 7). It is however his contributions to the City cause that make the goals worth more. Those goals have won City 12 points. Its a number that reveals Sterling’s importance to the team. Maybe he should be the poster boy of this City team after all. Rotimi Daramola
Ousmane Dembele (Borussia Dortmund/FC Barcelona, France)
An exit, A strike and a €105m fee… That’s what it cost Ousmane Dembele to move from Dortmund to Barcelona. The player with the most completed take ons on Europe in 16/17 and the most Bundesliga assists (15), is a joy to watch when in the groove. It’s no surprise Barca were willing to shell out the monstrous prize for a 19year old… Awolope Kolawole
Leroy Sané (Manchester City, Germany)
If Sadio Mane is the Mane Man, what is Leroy Sané? Only an Insane fellow, would pull the tricks and stunts the young German pulls every game for City. Add his lightning speed and stamina, and you have no choice but to admit, this is a man insane. Carrying the genes of his footballer dad and gymnast mum, He has bagged 8assists in the PL this season and is one of the few shoo-in players to go to Russia with the Manschaft to defend their crown. The reason isn’t far-fetched, Germany need a little bit of Sane when it’s all going insane for them on the pitch. Awolope Kolawole
Bernardo Silva (AS Monaco/Manchester City, Portugal)
With Monaco one down against PSG in a game that could ultimately decide Ligue 16/17 destiny, 90minutes had struck with two minutes of added time to be played, up stepped Bernardo, side-stepping a couple of challenges before rifling a thunderbolt into the net to preserve Monaco’s 6pt-lead at that juncture. It left the Monegasques with nothing stream-rolling to do in their subsequent games, while the goal apparently damaged PSG beyond repair(Le Parisien stumbled from then on).
That moment and a virtuoso performance against Man City in the champions League made him the Citizens first signing in the summer. While he hasn’t been the first name on the team sheet, he has proven to be a class apart when called upon. Filling the shoes of David Silva will be the least of his problems. Rotimi Daramola
Kylian Mbappe-Lottin (PSG/AS Monaco, France)
The Cameroonian born French international has been a revelation this year. Bursting unto the scene as a burgeoning and ambitious 18-year old. The Teenager took the world by storm just like his football role-model ‘Cristiano Ronaldo’ has. He has scored 10Champions League goals. The youngest and fastest to reach that mark. He had netted 14times and laid on a further 11 in the second half of the 16/17 season alone. It was enough to convince PSG to shell out €180m next summer.
Such was his rise. He has 12 already this season for Le Parisiens. He is a Bondy native and has explained that was why he chose PSG over Madrid. Now 19, with a huge transfer fee on his head, and playing with no pressure. Mbappe is playing well beyond his years, his goal against Buffon last season while at Monaco unveiled that. He is the best teen to happen to football since the real Ronaldo. Expect him to be the player with the highest accumulated transfer fee at the end of his career. Rotimi Daramola
Author: Rotimi “Papi the Great” Daramola
Rotimi Daramola aka Papi the Great is the owner of ForTheGoal.
A freelance sports writer who focuses on football, Rotimi is also a freelance writer, a copywriter and a football analyst who regularly appears on radio and television to talk football. You can follow him on twitter @papi_thegreat to keep up with his writings, engage him and also find out about how you can secure his writing services.