Kylian Mbappe has left behind the carefree days of teenage life and turned 20.
Mbappe will now be moving into a deep midfield role and looking to dictate play using his wealth of experience while younger legs do the running for him.
The relentless sands of time mean there’s a gaping Mbappe-sized hole when it comes to the best teenager in world football. So who’s the heir to the throne?
On current form, it’s difficult to look past Borussia Dortmund’s Jadon Sancho.
The 18-year-old has the ability to make grown men look like those weird inflatable things that you only see outside of car dealers.
But it’s not all just pure carnival fun and nutmegs. Sancho possesses devastating end product. Six goals and seven assists in ten Bundesliga starts this season, to be precise.
Winning derby goals against Borussia Monchengladbach and Schalke could prove to be pivotal in helping Sancho lift his first senior league title come the end of the season.
Matthijs De Ligt is another serious front runner. The Ajax defender, who succeeded Mbappe in being named the European Golden Boy, still has eight months to go before he turns 20.
While the strength of the Eredivisie counts against De Ligt, the Dutchman’s consistent performances in the Champions League and international level this season prove he belongs at the highest level.
He’s undoubtedly ahead of Dan-Axel Zagadou, Declan Rice, Ibrahima Konate and Malang Sarr in the pecking order for the best teenage defender in world football.
Ajax’s captain will be able to sign for any side in world football when he decides to move on. And there you are still breaking out into Fortnite dances every 30 seconds. Take a deep hit on that watermelon flavour vape and think about life.
One teenager who’s been slightly left behind in the hype of his peers is AC Milan’s Gianluigi Donnarumma. This is, after all, a goalkeeper who broke into Milan’s first-team at 15.
Donnarumma hasn’t been helped by playing in a distinctly average Milan side desperately lacking the quality of Andriy Shevchenko, Alessandro Nesta and co from years gone by.
The 19-year-old has eased Italy’s transition into the post-Gianluigi Buffon years, which is no mean feat. It’s a shame goalkeepers don’t count as actual footballers. Sorry, Gianluigi.
Slightly behind the leading pack you can find two of England’s brightest lights, Ryan Sessegnon and Phil Foden.
Foden’s talent is there for all to see, it’s just a case of competing with David Silva, Kevin De Bruyne, Ilkay Gundogan, Fernandinho and Bernardo Silva for minutes. Gulp.
Sessegnon isn’t faced with the same traffic jam, although the lack of stability at Fulham has slightly ruined the 18-year-old’s first taste of the Premier League.
In Germany, Bayer Leverkusen midfielder Kai Havertz looks to be a nailed on Bayern Munich signing in the future, while team-mate Paulinho has impressed in spells.
Fellow Brazilian Vinicius Junior is beginning to find his feet at Real Madrid and recently picked up his first piece of silverware in the shape of the Club World Cup.
In Italy, 19-year-old Justin Kluivert became Roma’s youngest Champions League goalscorer when he netted against Viktoria Plzen.
Then there’s the trio of Willem Geubbels, Joao Felix and Rodrygo, all of whom need more time at the top level before they can be included in the conversation.
So what’s the conclusion? As far as we’re concerned it’s a toss of a coin between Sancho and De Ligt.
Of course, being English, that coin would be heavily weighted towards Sancho. Sorry, at least we’re honest.
Feel free to send your thoughts through by carrier pigeon.
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