Tomorrow's Future Today: Five of Europe's best young talents
Bukayo Saka (Arsenal) watches on during a stoppage in play - (Photo by Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/Getty Images)

Long gone are the days of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi at the top of their games, but as a new era of football approaches, there are many new talents working their way up the tiers, and trying to make a name for themselves by replacing those at the top.

After a display of impressive performances during the week from many young stars, we have picked out five young talents who we think have the potential to go all the way to the top during the career, and one or two who might be there right now.

  • Sweet Sixteen: The rise of Lamine Yamal has Barcelona nostalgic

It is not rare to see new prospects leaving "la Masia." In recent years, we have had golden boy winners Pedri and Gavi both get regular game time, as well as left-back Alejandro Balde being introduced at the top stage at the Camp Nou. Of course, we cannot forget such graduates like Lionel Messi,, Sergio Busquets and Andre Iniesta. In the last year, however, 16-year old Lamine Yamal has entered the fray.

He became the 5th youngest player in La Liga history, and the youngest in Barcelona's, when he made his debut against Real Betis just over 11 months ago. Since the, his rise has been unstoppable, registering six goals and four assists in 40 games for the club. That is a tally not a lot of 16-year olds can compare to.

His playstyle speaks for itself. Yamal averages 5.04 progressive carries per 90, as well as 2.97 successful take-ons and a 78% pass completion. He also receives 12.20 progressive passes per 90, ranking in the top 8% in the top five leagues for this metric, demonstrating the trust his teammates have in the winger, despite his age.

As a right winger, Yamal likes to cut inside and attempts to shoot or create chances, but also has a surprising tendency to tackle and help defend the ball. He ranks in the top 3% for tackles, and the top 2% for blocks, demonstrating his ability to help his team out behind the ball, whilst also posing a severe threat when going forward. This is a fantastic trait for a 16-year old player who has not fully developed just yet.

Yamal is nowhere near the player he can be in five years time, but his name at the top of this list suggests he is one to keep a close eye on. Spain have also kept an eye on him, calling him up to the recent senior squad leading to an emphatic performance against Brazil, where he notched an assist, suggesting this kid has a lot of potential in the future.

  • From left-back to lethal winger: Arsenal have put their faith in Bukayo Saka

If Yamal wants a role-model to help boost his own development, then he should look to North London, because that is where we find our next pick. Mikel Arteta and his side has been fantastic in the Premier League, placing themselves firmly in the title race, and part of that can be owed to the development and footballing standard of Bukayo Saka.

With 13 goals and eight assists in the Premier League, alongside seven contributions in the Champions League, Saka is beginning to show the elite standard he is capable of, as the Gunners attempt to challenge for their first title in 20 years, and their first Champions League.

Saka ranks in the top 4% for touches in the attacking third, and top 15% for progressive carries, whilst in the top 2% for passes received, demonstrating his attacking threat. With an expected goals and assist count of 0.6 per 90, all the stats line up to suggest Saka has flourished as an elite attacker, despite beginning as a left-back for Arsenal.

Similar to Yamal, defensive contribution from wingers has become more vital recently, and Saka plays his part. He ranks in the top 5% against other wingers for tackles, and 16% for blocks, boasting high defensive numbers,but it cannot be argued his potential has been better served in attacking positions rather than defensive.

As Saka continues to be trusted with leading the line, the sky is the limit for the 22 year old, especially as it is likely he will start for England at the European Championships this summer. Add a few trophies to his game, and Saka can firmly be considered one of the top wingers in the world right now.

  • Defender Derby de Lisboa: Diomande vs Silva

Benfica vs Sporting Lisbon is one of Portugal's most established derbies, but the sides are both also some of the best talent factories in the country. That is no different this season, where as the sides are seperated by one point in the league, both Ousmane Diomande on the Sporting side, and Antonio Silva on the Benfica side, have began to flourish.

Diomande, aged 20, has shown his progressive style in his 1642 minutes with Sporting this season. More prone to ball-carrying, his 91% pass completion, 5.32 progressive passes and 0.48 successful take-ons per 90 demonstrate the Ivorian's preference to play out of defence, whilst centre-back partners Matheus and Coates carry more of the defensive water.

His strength to play short passes, as well as to dribble when in possession and tackle when required, ranking in the top 17% for the latter, display a modern side to his game, attracting international transfer interest from Newcastle United. His efforts this season also rewarded him a place in the African Cup of Nations with Ivory Coast, where he was benched for their final victory over Nigeria.

On the other side of the city, Antonio Silva boasts a more traditional profile. Having played 600 more minutes than Diomande, Silva has made himself first choice at Benfica this season, as his pass completion and tackle metrics make him irreplaceable. He ranks in the top 1% for pass completion in the top 14 leagues, as well as top 4% for attempted tackles and 11% for blocks, showing his preference to get involved and stop attackers.

The Portuguese defender also demonstrates a more attacking side, ranking in the top 25% for all progressive metrics, as well as racking up 1,320 completed passes this season. This evidence, alongside his consistent starts for Benfica in both the league and Europa League, have earned interest from Manchester United, as well as call-ups to the Portugal national team.

As it stands, these two defenders are rivals, but if a move ever comes for them, I hope they are able to forge their defensive legacy and become two of the most elite centre-backs in the modern era.

  • PSG's new wonderkid: Warren Zaire-Emery

Onto our final pick, and 18-year old defensive midfielder Warren Zaire-Emery gets our pick. At his young age, he has already featured in 64 matches over two years at Paris Saint-Germain, whilst this year alone he has picked up his first two caps for France. His versatility at right back and right midfield has also allowed the Frenchman to pick up more opportunities when required.

One thing that should be known about Zaire-Emery is that he loves carrying the ball and keeping it at his feet. He ranks in the top 10% of all carry and progressive carry metrics per 90, as well as the top 9% for touches per 90 in the attacking third. His top 3% ranking for carries into the final third highlights the confidence Zaire-Emery has to run with the ball, something not expected for an 18-year old.

Whilst not being too outstanding in many other areas of his game, his confidence to carry and pass the ball naturally has caught the eye of PSG manager Luis Enrique, who has started the midfielder in 17 of his 22 appearances this season. Furthermore, he also started in the friendly against Germany, where he impressed international fans with his passing range and defensive ability.

Zaire-Emery is still only eighteen, but has set himself up for a brilliant career in the future. With involvement in the national set-up, as well as one of the most decorated clubs in France, Zaire-Emery has the potential to become one of the elite midfielders of this era. He is certainly one to look out for in the next few years.

(All metrics used come from fbref.com)

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