23 and under: 10 of World Football’s Best Players

These 10 players stand among the elite when we ask that age old question; “Can you generate a random list that includes 10 of the best footballers in the world, preferably 23 and under?

Oh, if only I had a dollar for every time I was asked that question.

Anyway, rambling aside, here we go.

Goalkeeper:
Thibaut Courtois – Chelsea and Belgium

At the ripe old age of 21, the 2013/14 season has seen Thibaut Courtois become one of the biggest names in world football. Displaying maturity far beyond his years, the strapping shot stopper and Atletico Madrid seem to be the most perfect of matches. Rumours are circulating that Mourinho will choose to sell Peter Cech, opting to install the young Belgian as Chelsea’s number one. Harsh on Cech? possibly so. However, football is a result driven business, and recent performances, especially Thibaut’s heroics at Stamford Bridge against his parent club, have proven that Belgium’s best is quickly becoming Europe’s best. If his goalkeeping career should inexplicably falter, Courtois would make an excellent Bond villain. Just picture him stroking that cat on his lap, convincing, right?

Midfield:
Paul Pogba – Juventus and France

Oh, Sir Alex, you silly man. Manchester United desperately require Pogba’s services more than ever before, especially when you look at such substandard players like Tom Cleverly and Marraoune Fellaini warming the bench. In addition, Carrick and Fletcher command about as much respect as Donald Sterling at an NBA function, enough said.

At the age of 18, Pogba left Old Trafford in 2012 after finding first-team football hard to come by. Two years on, how times have changed. Along with Andrea Pirlo and Carlos Tevez, the Frenchman has become essential to the Juventus set up. Pogba was instrumental in both their Serie A campaign and Europa League exploits. A domineering presence in midfield, Pogba memorably captained France to victory at the last Under-20’s World Cup tournament. Comically enough, after letting him go for next to nothing, United reportedly want to resign him.

However, PSG look favourites to secure his services, and this looks extremely likely, especially when you consider that a sum close to £40 million must be paid to secure his services.

Midfield:
Eden Hazard – Chelsea and Belgium

The Belgian is a young man who needs absolutely no introduction. At just 23 years of age, Hazard is widely regarded as one of the best attacking players’ in world football. Recently criticized by Mourinho for his lack of desire to track back, Hazard may look to ply his trade elsewhere, preferably for a club that grants him a free-flowing role, similar to that gifted to Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale at Madrid. Nevertheless, as of now, he remains Chelsea’s only real attacking entity, especially with Oscar’s mystifying dip in form.

Midfield:
Raheem Sterling – Liverpool and England

In the final few months of the EPL season, without question, Raheem Sterling has been one of the most electrifying performers, simply fantastic. Possessing electrifying pace and a total lack of fear, Sterling has the potential to bring glory for his country in Brazil, of course that is before they inevitably fall prey to the dreaded penalty shootout scenario. Along with Ross Barkley, Sterling’s performances on Merseyside this season are enough to suggest that England have some of the most exciting young talent in world football.

Midfield:
Julian Draxler – Schalke and Germany

Three years ago, Draxler became one of the Bundesliga’s youngest ever debutants. A lot has changed since that fresh faced 17-year-old burst onto the scene, with Draxler going on to impress for club and country.

With his silky passing and mesmerizing awareness, Draxler is now valued at close to £40 million. An unfortunate tendon injury hampered his progress this season, nonetheless, a move to a top tier European club looks inevitable.

Midfield:
Jorge Resurrecciòn Merodio (Koke) – Atletico Madrid and Spain

In midfield, the Spanish national team possesses an embarrassment of riches. Koke is yet another production courtesy of the proverbial conveyor belt. The 21-year-old is a midfielder with talent, technique and an excellent reading of the game. With his radar like passing accuracy, Koke has been instrumental in Atletico’s rise to the top of La Liga and their Champions League heroics.

Striker:
Romelu Lukaku – Chelsea and Belgium

It is close to three years since Chelsea paid £17 million to bring the then gigantic 18-year-old from Anderlecht to London. Now, cutting an even more colossal figure, the Belgian hitman has developed into a fine EPL striker, even if The Special One remains oddly unimpressed by his indisputable abilities. Roberto Martinez has regularly sung the praises of Lukaku, placing a large part of Everton’s success down to Lukaku’s power, shrewdness and impressive finishing prowess. When you consider that Chelsea would have probably won this year’s EPL campaign with a decent striker, it really is inexcusable to accept Mourinho loaning out Lukaku’s services to a rival club.

Defender:
Raphael Varane – Real Madrid and France

Varane has quickly become one of the game’s finest young central defensive talents. Three years ago, relatively unknown outside of France, Varane joined Real from Lens for £9 million. After receiving a glowing reference from Zinedine Zidane, I think many would agree that the strapping defender was destined for superstardom. Nonetheless, first team football has been difficult to secure under Carlo Ancelotti, especially with Pepe and Ramos in such fine form. At such a young age, Varane has time on his side. When you consider and actually appreciate his talent, it becomes abundantly clear that it’s only a matter of time before the center back becomes a first team regular at Madrid.

Defender:
Marquinhos – PSG and Brazil

Oh, how I envy Marcos Aoás Corrêa, especially when you acknowledge the fact that he only turns 20 this summer. As a somewhat unconventional birthday present, Marquinhos could very well be gifted the opportunity to help fire Brazil to World Cup success.
At such a young age, many question his temperament and his ability to remain impervious to the pressures of international football. But, alongside Thiago Silva, with whom he plays with at moneybags Paris Saint-Germain, the young man could very well be a standout performer in just a few weeks time. Let us not forget that PSG paid Roma close to £30 million, so pressure and high expectations have always been followed Marquinhos around like an unnecessary odour.

Defender:
Luke Shaw: Southampton and England

Displaying the on-field arrogance of Stuart Pearce and the attacking prowess of a young Ashley Cole, Southampton’s highly coveted left-back has quickly become one of the EPL’s most exciting players. As a left back, Shaw possesses all the necessary attributes, ticks all the metaphorical boxes, from his vigour, both physically and mentally, to his positional awareness, Shaw is a super solid defender. Unremittingly inventive going forward, Shaw seems certain to become a regular for England; however, Leighton Baines might have something to say about that. Surely Southampton cannot retain his services for much longer; Shaw is destined to play for a title contending/winning team. Manchester United, Chelsea and Man City are among the sides linked with a summer move for the most exciting young full back in world football.

 

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