Over the weekend I did a video on the best player under the age of 23 at every club in the Premier League. Well, it was meant to be every club, but some idiot forgot about Aston Villa… sorry again about that Villa fans. Feel free to give that video a watch after this if you haven’t already, but there were a fair few comments craving a Premier League video on even younger prospects.
So today’s video is exactly what it says on the tin, my views on the 7 best players in the Premier League aged 19 or younger in the eyes of this humble YouTube sensation:
P.s. There will be some honourable mentions between first and second place, before you tell me I’ve forgotten x, y or z in the comments.
7. Mason Greenwood
Getting us started in this seven is a teenager we have seen very little of when it comes to first team football. That is because Mason Greenwood only turned 18 last month, which I believe will make him the youngest player in this seven. Greenwood has made 15 appearances for Manchester United in total, although he has only registered one start in the Premier League, which was a 2-0 defeat against Cardiff City on the final day of last season.
In 13 games for United’s under-18’s last season, Greenwood scored 15 goals. He also scored five in five in the UEFA Youth League, so clearly we’re dealing with a young man who knows where the goal is. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer described Greenwood as one of the best finishers he has ever seen, but clearly he doesn’t think he’s quite ready for the Premier League just yet, which is no insult to an 18-year-old.
The England under-21 international has started for United in the Europa League and EFL Cup, and he has scored in both of those competitions against Astana and Rochdale. That got a lot of people waxing lyrical about the teenager, but it’s rare that we see a player of his age breakthrough and immediately become a star man. Nevertheless, Mason Greenwood is a player with elegance on the ball, a sharp eye for goal and extraordinary potential, for now though – he comes in at seventh.
6. Reiss Nelson
One of the hardest parts of making this video was comparing a player who has bags of experience for their age with one who has just shown remarkable promise, in order to come to a final decision with regards to how good they are right now. Reiss Nelson does have first team experience, but not in the Premier League. He spent last season on-loan in the Bundesliga as a rival of his close friend Jadon Sancho’s at Hoffenheim.
Nelson caught a lot of people’s attention with 7 goals in 23 Bundesliga outings, most of which were substitute appearances. He averaged a mightily impressive record of a goal every 84 minutes. As with Greenwood at United, Arsenal aren’t yet convinced Nelson is fully ready for Premier League football since returning from Hoffenheim. Nelson started Arsenal’s first two games of the season against Newcastle and Burnley, but he hasn’t even been included in a Premier League squad since September.
That’s the reason why Nelson is only sixth in this seven, but now onto why he is in this seven at all. The 19-year-old is quick, brilliant on the ball and showed in Germany that he’s capable of finding the back of the net. He made the under-17 Euros Team of the Tournament in 2016, he’s scored 4 goals in 8 games for England’s under-21’s, and he got one goal and one assist for Arsenal in the EFL Cup against Nottingham Forest.
5. Reece James
There are a number of exceptional young footballers at Stamford Bridge right now, and it shouldn’t surprise you to hear that Reece James isn’t the only Chelsea player who will feature in this seven. It tends to be forward and attacking players who catch the eye in football, and that is particularly true of younger players. Managers are naturally more comfortable with the inevitable errors that inexperience brings in forward areas than defensive areas, so it would have been easy to pack this seven solely with strikers, attacking midfielders and wingers.
Reece James is a player I’ve liked a lot ever since he played a starring role in England’s win at the 2017 Toulon Tournament. He spent last season on-loan at Wigan, where he was excellent, winning the club’s Player of the Year, Players’ Player of the Year and Goal of the Season awards. Frank Lampard chose not to send the 19-year-old back out on-loan this season, suggesting prospects of first team football weren’t unrealistic, and so it has proved.
James has featured in Chelsea’s last three Premier League games, a trio of wins, albeit only coming off the bench. He has started games in the Champions League and in the EFL Cup, playing 67 minutes in the Blues 2-1 win over Lille and getting a goal and an assist in Chelsea’s 7-1 demolition of Grimsby Town. A fantastic athlete, an excellent crosser of the ball and a bit of a free-kick specialist, I’d say James was a future England regular if it wasn’t for the brilliance of Trent Alexander-Arnold.
4. Ryan Sessegnon
The love-in for Ryan Sessegnon has died off a little over the last 12-16 months, having failed to set the world alight in a relegated Fulham side in the Premier League and having yet to start a game for Tottenham. However, one ought to take note of the fact that we’re talking about other players getting a handful of minutes here and there in some cases in this seven, meanwhile Ryan Sessegnon has already made 120 league appearances. That is just remarkable for a 19-year-old, and it may make him the most experienced 19-year-old in world football.
Capable of playing as a left winger or as a left-back, Sessegnon was sensational in Fulham’s promotion campaign, bagging 15 goals and being named as Championship Player of the Season – albeit it ought to have gone to Ruben Neves. There was talk of a £50 million move following that triumph, but off the back of a less awe-inspiring campaign in the Premier League, Sessegnon joined Tottenham for £25 million.
Sessegnon has missed the early parts of this season due to a hamstring injury, but recently returned to fitness and made his debut as a 90th minute substitute against Everton at the weekend. He may be a bit of a forgotten man by this sevens standards, but Sessegnon is an extremely talented young footballer who comes in at fourth place for me.
3. Moise Kean
I didn’t pick Moise Kean as Everton’s best player under the age of 23, since the 19-year-old is yet to pull up any trees on Merseyside, but he still features in this seven. There were one or two raised eyebrows across the continent when Moise Kean was put on the market by Maurizio Sarri, given his form for both Italy and Juve, his age and the Old Lady’s lack of depth and longevity up front.
Kean scored 8 goals in 21 appearances for Juventus last season, as well as scoring twice in just three caps for the national team. In the calendar year of 2019 prior to joining Everton, the Italian centre-forward had struck once every 82 minutes, an extraordinary conversion rate for a teenager. Since signing for the Toffees, however, Kean has gone ten games without a goal.
Clearly it is still very early doors and Kean is still very young, and he has only actually started twice in the Premier League. That in of itself may be of concern to some though, since Everton are hardly blessed in the centre-forward position, hence why Kean’s arrival was met with such excitement. Plenty of more experienced and more expensive signings than him have taken time to adjust to the English game though, and Kean did enough in Italy to earn himself third place in this seven.
2. Callum Hudson-Odoi
It’s a horrible decision picking between first and second in this seven, and I actually changed my mind a couple of times before finally going with my gut. There would be people in the comments saying it should be the other way round either way, and I can feel in me loins that some of you are already heading there to do so… Anyhow, in second place, my choice is Chelsea wonderkid Callum Hudson-Odoi.
Earmarked as a really special talent by both England and Chelsea from the age of 15, Hudson-Odoi looks well-placed to realise his enormous wealth of potential. Aged 18, although he will turn 19 either today or tomorrow depending on when I schedule this video for, Hudson-Odoi has already won two caps for England and had £35 million bids for him from European giants turned down.
The fact that Bayern Munich were willing to pay that amount of money for Hudson-Odoi before he’d even started a Premier League game shows both the outrageous amount of money in football and the high esteem Hudson-Odoi is held in. Chelsea’s refusal to let him go also shows their lofty view of his talents, and he’s come back into the Blues side since recovering from an achilles injury.
0. Honourable Mentions
There are loads of players I could give honourable mentions to, but there are only a few I’m actually going to, since I’m not sure me sitting here reeling off names would make for particularly thrilling viewing or listening. Arsenal duo Emile Smith Rowe and Gabriel Martinelli certainly deserve honourable mentions, as does impressive Watford youngster Domingos Quina.
Aaron Connolly’s eye-catching start to the season under Graham Potter put him in contention, although he’ll have to settle for an honourable mention. Finally, Newcastle United midfielder Matty Longstaff looks like establishing himself as a regular first team starter at the age of 19, whilst Morgan Gibbs-White has impressed me every time I’ve seen him for Wolves – already having racked up 64 appearances in what is a very strong Wolves side.
1. Phil Foden
As I said, it was a tight call between Callum Hudson-Odoi and Phil Foden, and arguments can be made in favour of either. Hudson-Odoi is likely to play a key role for Chelsea this season, while Foden is much more likely to be a peripheral figure. Then again, the Man City side is clearly far stronger and has much more depth than Chelsea’s. Hudson-Odoi is already a full England international, whilst Foden is as yet uncapped at senior level. However, I do believe that he would already be in the squad if he was getting regular game time at club level, and he is the standout individual for the under-21’s.
Essentially, they’re two very different but extremely gifted teenage footballers, and I edged towards Foden because personally I think he’s even more exciting as a prospect. England have so often lacked a central player who is always looking to get on the ball, turn and drive at defenders, either picking a slide through ball or striking at goal once he gets in the final third.
Foden is fearless in possession, and that’s what could make him a really special talent. A lot has been made of his lack of game time at Man City, but the 19-year-old has made 44 appearances for one of the best teams in world football. That isn’t bad going, although I’m sure we’d all love to see more of him, and next season will be the one in which we really see what he is made of. Foden is learning from some of the best players and arguably the best manager in the business, so his development should be just fine, but he needs to be ready to step up and play regularly next season when David Silva departs. I think he’s got what it takes to be a first team player under Guardiola, although there are of course many variables, and for me he tops this seven by the slightest of margins.