The Football Notebook
La Liga Wonderkids
10. Riqui Puig (Barcelona)
Considered one of the most promising graduates from Barcelona’s famous La Masia academy, Riqui Puig has already drawn comparisons to the greatest products of his youth system, namely one Andres Iniesta. Struggling to break into the first team under Ernesto Valverde, he is finally starting to get the recognition he deserves under Quique Setién. Usually playing on the left side of a midfield three, his composure and technical ability on the ball certainly makes him one to watch.
Most comparable to: Andres Iniesta
9. Kangin Lee (Valencia)
When you are asked to train with Valencia’s academy at the age of ten from the other side of the world you must be doing something right. Claiming the best player award in the FIFA U20 World cup in 2019 was only the tip of the iceberg for Kangin Lee, also becoming the youngest Korean to play in a Champions League game. He has been likened to David Silva due to his creativity and fantastic ability to create scoring chances.
Most comparable to: David Silva
8. Alexander Isak (Real Sociedad)
A tall and powerful Swedish striker. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Alexander Isak’s towering presence strikes fear into some of the best defences in the league, but comparisons to Zlatan are way off - in fact, the two forwards are almost the opposite. Isak’s modest and down to earth persona has gotten him to where he is today, from rising through the ranks at AIK, to bagging 14 goals in all competitions this season, with an average of a goal every 108 minutes. Life is exciting for the youngster at the moment and if he keeps working hard, it will just get better.
Most comparable to: Robert Lewandowski
7. Ferran Torres
The second Valencia academy product on this list, Ferran Torres has already established himself as a starter for Los Che. The versatile winger has 6 goals and 7 assists this season. His blistering pace troubles even the best of full-backs, and his two-footed ability makes him unpredictable. At the slight age of 20, Liverpool, Barcelona and Juventus are already knocking on the door to sign him.
Most comparable to: Phillipe Coutinho
6. Vinicius Jr.
Despite his slow start to the 2019/20 season, Vinicius Jr. has affirmed himself as the future of Real Madrid. Signed from Flamengo for the whopping fee of €46 million at the age of 18, he burst into the public eye when he was named MOTM in his first start for Madrid. This season he has been limited to few minutes, being behind Eden Hazard and Rodrygo in the pecking order. Despite this, he has proved to be a valuable asset to have, his quick feet matched with his pace and power gives him the ability to turn games on their heads almost instantly, as shown by the vital goal he scored against Barcelona to heat up the title race.
Most comparable to: Rivaldo
5. Takefusa Kubo
Forced out of La Masia at the age of thirteen due to legal reasons, Takefusa Kubo has managed to find his way back to the spotlight via a few years at FC Tokyo. Currently on loan to struggling RCD Mallorca from Real Madrid, he is flourishing, getting better and better with each passing matchday. Primarily deployed on the right flank, his dribbling prowess is what got him dubbed the “Japanese Messi”. Kubo has the 4th highest completed dribbles per 90 minutes in La Liga, and his pace also makes him a deadly weapon on the counter-attack, usually the first to get the ball when Mallorca is seeking a goal. However, Kubo’s eyes are solely set on having an important role in Real Madrid’s first team and if this trajectory continues, expect this little man to have a huge impact there.
Most comparable to: Lionel Messi
4. Rodrygo Goes
Wonderkids usually have a lot of pressure on their shoulders, and so the expectations for them to perform well can destroy their fledgling career.s This was no different for Rodrygo. Said to be the next Neymar at only the age of 12, the amount of pressure on his shoulders was immeasurable. Having said that, he has dealt with it excellently, with his performances in the Champions League having been sublime, averaging two goals and an assist per 90 minutes. He leads all Real’s forwards in percentage of shots on target and is arguably their most efficient forward this season, despite the small sample size.
Most comparable to: Neymar Jr
3. Ansu Fati
At only 17 years old, Ansu Fati has already sent shockwaves through the footballing world. He is Barcelona’s second youngest ever player to make a first-team appearance, and his first start justified the hype. He scored and assisted in that game, becoming the youngest in La Liga history to ever do so. Everything about him screams 'wonderkid' - the hype, the goals, the talent, but this path has been well trodden, particularly in La Masia. Bojan Krkic, Alex Halilovic and many more have seen the same hype, but turned out nowhere near as good as everyone thought they would be. What matters is if he can keep a good work ethic, and with Fati it seems that he most definitely will. Training with one of the best clubs in terms of youth development, having possible the best mentor in Leo Messi, there is nothing stopping him from becoming one of the greats of the game.
Most comparable to: Thierry Henry
2. Joao Felix
Eyebrows were raised when Atletico Madrid spent a whopping €126M on Felix, making him the second-most expensive teenager of all time. There was no doubting the unbelievable talent that the Portuguese had possessed, his ability to play the perfect pass and his eye for goal making him a versatile player who can be deployed anywhere across the forward line. Injuries have so far hindered his start at Atletico but once he gets fit again there is no doubt he will be one of the most dangerous forwards in Europe.
Most comparable to: Kaka
1. Martin Odegaard
Signed by Real Madrid at the age of just 16, Martin Ødegaard was living every child’s dream. However, with impossibly high expectations placed on his shoulders, he was unfairly written off early as he failed to break into the first team before he was 18. After loan spells at Vitesse and Real Sociedad, Ødegaard finally looks like he is ready for a successful career at Los Blancos. Seen as the perfect understudy and possible more attacking-minded successor to Luka Modric, his playmaking ability rivals some of the best in Europe, deservedly taking our number one spot in this list.
Most comparable to: Roberto Baggio
Reiner Jesus Carvalho