Wonderkid XI: Teenage gems set to light up Europe in 2022 breakthrough

A new year is upon us bringing fresh hopes and aspirations, with teenage stars hopeful of breaking through and making a name for themselves in 2022.

Mirror Football has drawn up an XI of young prospects who are not yet household names but who we are likely to hear a lot more of over the years to come.

We have applied the criteria that anyone on this list must have been born on or after 1 January 2002, so that they entered this year as teenager.

There are a handful of teens who fall into this bracket who have already established their talents, such as Barcelona trio Ansu Fati, Pedri and Gavi, and Borussia Dortmund stars Jude Bellingham and Giovanni Reyna, or Eduardo Camavinga of Real Madrid.

For this reason, those names are not included in our XI – who are likely to be linked to big-money transfers in the months and years to come.

Maarten Vandevoordt (Genk)

Vandevoordt became the youngest ever goalkeeper to play in the Champions League

Belgium Under-21 international Vandevoordt has established himself as one of Europe’s most promising young goalkeepers, helping Genk to last season’s Belgian Cup trophy.

In December 2019, Vandevoordt became the Champions League ’s youngest ever goalkeeper – aged 17 years 287 days – as he played the full 90 minutes against Napoli.

Vandevoordt could well be the long-term successor to Thibaut Courtois at international level.

Ilya Zabarnyi (Dynamo Kiev)

Zabarnyi has become a regular for club and country – starring in the Champions League and Euro 2020

Less than 16 months after making his senior debut, Zabarnyi has established himself as a regular starter for Dynamo Kiev and Ukraine in the heart of defence.

Zabarnyi has already clocked up 18 international appearances for Ukraine after making his debut against France in October 2020, just a month after his club debut.

Having already helped Dynamo Kiev to three trophies in his short career to date, Zabarnyi appears to be destined for the top.

Josko Gvardiol (RB Leipzig)

Gvardiol was chosen by RB Leipzig to succeed Dayot Upamecano and Ibrahima Konate

Capable of playing either in the heart of defence or at left-back, Gvardiol is a regular for RB Leipzig having joined from Dinamo Zagreb last year.

The innovative Bundesliga club splashed out £15million to sign the defender, who has already been capped nine times by the Croatian national side.

He has helped replace Dayot Upamecano and Ibrahima Konate for the German side and looks set to have a big future.

Piero Hincapie (Bayer Leverkusen)

Hincapie is starring in Germany after impressing in Ecuador and Argentina

Hincapie has already enjoyed an eventful career, having played in Ecuador, Argentina and Germany in less than two-and-a-half seasons.

Having broken through initially with Independiente del Valle in his home nation, Argentine club Talleres snapped him up in 2020 and after a stellar year – joined Bayer Leverkusen.

Like Gvardiol, is capable of playing either in the centre or left-side of a four-man defence and has been a regular in the Bundesliga and Europa League.

Aaron Hickey (Bologna)

Hickey – in action for Bologna against Juventus – has impressed in Serie A

Glasgow-born Hickey rose to prominence in the youth ranks of Celtic and Hearts, for whom he made 33 first-team appearances before being signed by Serie A club Bologna in 2020.

Hickey has drawn comparisons to Andy Robertson, his fellow Scot, due to his willingness to bomb down the wings, while he can also play in central midfield.

Nominated for last year’s Golden Boy award despite having his first full season in Italy cut short through injury.

Pape Sarr (Metz/Tottenham)

Sarr has a deal in place to join Tottenham’s first-team squad next summer

Despite making just 28 first-team appearances for Ligue 1 club Metz, Tottenham were persuaded to part with £15million to sign Sarr last summer.

The Senegalese international has remained on loan at Metz for the remainder of this campaign, where he has continued to thrive.

HAVE YOUR SAY! Have we missed any teenage stars out of our XI? Let us know what you think in the comments section below

Primarily a holding midfielder, Sarr also possesses a goal threat – scoring four times last season – and will join Tottenham’s first-team squad this summer, when he will still be a teenager.

Ryan Gravenberch (Ajax)

Gravenberch is set to be the next big thing to emerge from Ajax’s production line of talent

For several years, Gravenberch has been seen as the most exciting youth prospect to emerge at Amsterdam giants Ajax.

Capped 10 times by the Dutch national side, Gravenberch has starred not just in Eredevisie but also in the Champions League for Erik Ten Hag’s side.

Like Frenkie de Jong, Donny van de Beek and Matthijs de Ligt before him – Gravenberch is set to command a huge transfer fee in the years to come.

Florian Wirtz (Bayer Leverkusen)

Wirtz has already established himself as a star in the Bundesliga despite being aged just 18

Perhaps the biggest teenage prospect in world football right now, Wirtz has taken the Bundesliga by storm with Bayer Leverkusen.

Aged just 18, he has already netted 18 goals for the German side and been capped four times by the Germany national team.

An attacking, dynamic midfielder, Wirtz has played across a range of positions and thrived whenever called upon.

Has drawn comparisons to Kai Havertz, who left Leverkusen 18 months ago for Chelsea.

Adam Hlozek (Sparta Prague)

Hlozek – in action for Czech Republic – has already been linked with a move to Liverpool, among others

Having made his senior league debut aged just 16 years, 3 months and 16 days, Adam Hložek is the youngest top-flight debutant in the history of Sparta Prague. He has subsequently featured in 112 first-team games, scoring 34 goals and blossoming into the brightest star in the Czech Republic.

Hložek is an attacking player capable of playing across the front three and has been linked with Liverpool and Leicester in recent years.

Capped 12 times by the Czech Republic, a move to one of Europe’s top five leagues surely beckons.

Karim Adeyemi (RB Salzburg)

Adeyemi netted four goals in this season’s Champions League group stages to propel his side into the Round of 16

Perhaps the most recognisable name on this list, Adeyemi starred in this season’s Champions League group stages for Red Bull Salzburg – netting four goals.

The striker has already surpassed his goal tally for last season with 18 goals in 28 appearances, with links to clubs such as Liverpool, Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund.

The player is contracted at Salzburg’s Red Bull Arena until 2024 and his immediate focus is on developing his precocious ability with the Austrian champions.

Kamaldeen Sulemana (Rennes)

Sulemana joined Rennes from Danish football this season and has enjoyed an exciting start to life in France

One of the breakout stars in the 2021/22 Ligue 1 season, Sulemana has taken to French football with ease after a summer switch from Danish side FC Nordsjælland.

Sulemana netted 14 goals in less than a season-and-a-half with the Danish Superliga club, earning his move to Ligue 1 and call-up to the Ghanaian international setup.

His form has tailed off after an electric start at Rennes but there are high hopes that he will blossom into of Africa’s best players.

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