2021 was another dramatic year for global football. Throughout the year, Covid continued to deny fans the opportunity to attend many matches and the disrupted schedules were a nightmare for many clubs. On a positive note for us footy fans, rearranged matches and squeezed schedules meant that there was elite-level football practically every day of the week!
The last year also saw its fair share of youngsters making the headlines – and some earning big-money moves – in recognition of their outstanding performances for club and/or country.
Teenage sensations like Eduardo Camavinga and Jens Petter Hauge were scooped up by Real Madrid and AC Milan respectively; in the Premier League Emile Smith Rowe has been central to Arsenal’s revitalisation under Mikel Arteta and Phil Foden really started to show why those ‘in the know’ have been waxing lyrical about him for years.
So, who are the ones to watch in 2022? Some of the players in this article are at a more advanced stage in their development and careers than others, but all have the potential to become superstars.
Who is the best youngster in the EPL?
Let’s start in the Premier League at Manchester City. Pep Guardiola has effectively limitless resources at his disposal, so when he starts giving a youngster a sniff of first-team action, you know they must be good (just like Foden). 18-year-old Kayky made his professional senior debut in 2021 for Fluminense and was quickly snapped up by City in the summer for a reported £9 million.
Already described as the ‘next Neymar’ and the ‘future of Brazil’, Kayky is primarily a right winger. He’s an explosive dribbler with a lethal finish who’s also not afraid of getting stuck in defensively. That sounds perfect for the physical nature of the Premier League and we can expect to see more of him in 2022.
The Bundesliga has long been a hotbed of talent, with players from a host of clubs catching the eye of Champions League teams across Europe (if they haven’t already been snapped up by Bayern, that is).
Moukoko enjoyed a mixed bag in 2021
Striker Youssoufa Moukoko made his debut for Borussia Dortmund one day after his sixteenth birthday back in 2020, making him the youngest ever Bundesliga player at the time. He’s also the youngest player to score in the Bundesliga and the youngest player to feature in the Champions League.
2021 was something of a mixed bag for Moukoko. He received a first call up to the U21 national team but also spent considerable time out with injury. Don’t be surprised to see him featuring more regularly for Dortmund this year – especially if Erling Braut Haaland is tempted away (most of the UK’s top online betting sites reckon he’ll be off to Man City).
We now turn our attention to another German forward, Karim Adeyemi. The 19-year-old Munich native is the latest highly-rated youngster to pop up at RB Salzburg (following in the footsteps of Haaland, Sadio Mané and Dayot Upamecano). He’s already firmly established his place in the Austrian Champions’ starting XI and is currently averaging not far off a goal a game in the League.
Adeyemi made his debut for the Germany senior team in 2021, scoring in a friendly against Armenia. If he maintains his good form through 2022, he’ll be a strong shout for inclusion in the Germany squad for the World Cup at the end of the year.
Russia endured a disappointing European Championships campaign in 2021 and will have to beat Poland and then either Sweden or Czech Republic to earn themselves a trip to Qatar this year. One player who just might make the difference for them is Dinamo Moscow wonderkid Arsen Zakharyan.
There’s a star in Madrid too
Real Madrid have allegedly singled out the 18-year-old midfielder as a future Galactico, but Spanish media reports indicated that Zakharyan would prefer a move to Barcelona. Either way, it’s a pretty safe bet that we’ll be hearing much more about Zakharyan in 2022.
One final player to watch out for in 2022 is Norwegian midfielder Andreas Schjelderup. There must be something in the water in Northern Norway because there’s been a crazy amount of footballing talent coming out of Bodø/Glimt recently.
The club from the town inside the Nordic circle made headlines a couple of months back after smashing Jose Mourinho’s Roma 6-1 at the Stadio Olimpico and top prospects like Jens Petter Hauge, Erik Botheim and Patrick Berg have all recently made multi-million-pound moves to big European clubs.
17-year-old Schjelderup was snatched up before he commanded such a big fee in what is looking like an increasingly shrewd piece of business by FC Nordsjaelland.
The Danish Superligaen side has endured a disappointing season by their high standards, but if Schjelderup comes anywhere close to where he’s being hyped up to in 2022 then FCN will surely improve their record and potentially bank a few million pounds when the elite clubs come hunting for him.