The Wonderkid Power Rankings: Arsenal’s Gabriel Martinelli on the up as top talents struggle

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Ranking the best and most in-form wonderkids in the world, with Arsenal’s Gabriel Martinelli making the number one spot his own.

It’s been a tough week for the world’s wonderkids, at least for the most part. Last week’s Power Rankings number one Bukayo Saka missed a key penalty. New entry Bart Verbruggen forced his way into the top ten off the back of a string of clean sheets, and promptly shipped five in one game. Elsewhere, there have been benchings, drops in form, and few players really impressing.

That gives us a fresh number one and leaves room for two brand new entries this week, as we track not just the most gifted but also the most in-form youngsters in global football - and form leaves at least one staple of the rankings in danger of dropping out entirely as he continues to spend too much time sat down in the dugout.

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We’ll also drop a couple of honourable mentions into the conversation this week, as big-name youngsters find form after lean spells and put themselves back into consideration – firstly, rumoured Manchester United target Benjamin Šeško has scored four in four after a dry patch, and in Brazil, big-money proto-superstar Endrick has put an extended goal drought behind him to register three in four games. Two of them were tap-ins, mind you.

1. Gabriel Martinelli – Arsenal (⬆️ from 3)

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It feels like an eternity since we started these Power Rankings and left Martinelli out entirely. Since that ill-judged snub the Brazilian has gone from strength to strength, demonstrating the predatory streak that he had been missing earlier in his career and wreaking havoc around opposing penalty areas. Arsenal may be starting to stumble towards the finish line in the Premier League, but that has precious little to do with Martinelli – another assist against West Ham United makes it ten goal contributions in nine games, form that no other under-21 in the world can come close to matching right now. A worthy number one.

2. Jude Bellingham – Borrusia Dortmund (non-mover)

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As Dortmund do their best to blow up their season at every turn, Bellingham continues to perform well, an astonishingly consistent presence at the heart of midfield who uses the ball just as well whether his team are smashing Koln 6-1, or collapsing late on against Stuttgart, as they did at the weekend. He’s only scored once in 2023, which reflects the slightly deeper role he’s been playing recently rather than any concerns over his form, but he’s still one of the best players within spitting distance of the Rhine week in, week out.

3. Bukayo Saka – Arsenal (⬇️ from 1)

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A missed penalty at a key moment followed by a disgusting volley of racist abuse on social media from fans who shame the game with their every hateful keystroke. Never mind that Saka has been perhaps Arsenal’s best player across the course of the season, never mind that he’s one of the most blatantly talented players in the world right now, there are always some troglodytes, blinking as they emerge from their caves, that cannot wear for another opportunity to tear down a brilliant Black man who has achieved more than they could ever dream of at a point in his life where he’s only barely allowed to drink a beer in the United States. Saka deserves nothing but love, and luckily he’ll get a lot more of it over the years.

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4. Eduardo Camavinga – Real Madrid (⬆️ from 7)

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Camavinga finds himself in a slightly strange spot – impressive in his temporary role as a left-back against Chelsea, his position as a Champions League starter means that Carlo Ancelotti has been limiting his minutes in the league. Never mind that Ferland Mendy’s injury means that the supremely-gifted Frenchman is having to stick it out in an unfamiliar position, he can’t even get the week-in, week-out gametime that he unquestionably deserves. On another week Camavinga might have struggled to justify his place in the top five but that solid game in the Bernabeu and a bad run for the competition means he gets to go up the rankings as others lose ground.

5. Gavi – Barcelona (⬇️ from 4)

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Since being installed as number one in our rankings a fortnight ago, Gavi has struggled. That said, so has his entire team. Barcelona have bounced from one dreary and uninspiring 0-0 to another, this time against Getafe, as they plod listlessly towards the La Liga title. Gavi hasn’t stopped hustling – he’s likely incapable of dropping his energy levels even if he wanted to – but has struggled to show off the flair and elan that has made him one of the most decorated young players in world football. But then, is Gavi playing poorly because his team are? Or are his team off the boil because Gavi is? On his day, he’s Barcelona’s engine room – for the last fortnight, it hasn’t been his day.

6. Moisés Caicedo – Brighton & Hove Albion (new entry)

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It’s something of an anomaly that Caicedo is only now making his debut in the Power Rankings. By ‘anomaly’, I of course mean that it’s basically been an unforgivable oversight on my part. The engine room of Roberto De Zerbi’s endlessly impressive Brighton team, Caicedo ran the show at Stamford Bridge to give the Sussexians yet another big win, using the ball brilliantly and snuffing out attacks at the source all game long. He’s shrugged off the endless rumours of a big-money move to one of the bigger teams in the league and carried on being consistent, rugged and reliable week in, week out, and belatedly earns his overdue place in the top ten.

7. Joško Gvardiol – RB Leipzig (re-entry)

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Back in the top ten after putting the humbling experience of being hooked off when 3-0 down at home to Mainz behind him, Gvardiol has looked back to somewhere close to his best in the 1-0 win over Hertha Berlin and in the narrow home victory over Ausgburg. He’s still one of the most gifted ball-playing defenders in the world, is still refining an already impressive positional sense, and is still sufficiently strong in the air to withstand a more direct style of attacking play. A fine all-round defender who deserves his spot back.

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8. Florian Wirtz – Bayer Leverkusen (⬇️ from 6)

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Restricted to just 28 minutes on the pitch this week as he continues his rehabilitation after serious injury, Wirtz didn’t have much time to make an impact on the 0-0 draw with Wolfsburg – although he did find time to pick up a yellow card. A quiet and less than noteworthy week – notes in the referee’s book aside – but he’s still been on supreme form since emerging from the physio’s room and remains one of the most technically talented and thrillingly elegant teenagers on the planet, so he keeps his spot in the Power Rankings for another week. He’s simply too much of a joy to watch to be easily dislodged.

9. Arda Güler – Fenerbahçe (new entry)

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A recent subject of the Wonderkid Files, the 18 year-old midfielder has been sublime in April and deservingly breaks into the top ten after a magnificent performance against Ankaragucu as Fenerbahce won to keep up the pressure on table-topping Galatasaray – a brilliant showing of flair, playmaking skill and attacking threat that came off the back of an equally impressive outing against Besiktas and a supersub showing in a win over Fatih Karagumruk. He’s been used rather sparingly for much of the season, mostly restricted to cameos off the bench, but in recent months has finally been given a long-overdue berth in the starting eleven and is playing like a man who knows he isn’t going to be dropped again in a hurry. A Turkish tyro with the sky as his only obvious limit.

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10. Jamal Musiala – Bayern Munich (⬇️ from 5)

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The reign of Thomas Tuchel has not, as yet, been an especially enjoyable one for Musiala. He may already be a regular starter at international level but Tuchel has largely kept him warming the bench since taking charge in Bavaria, and he was given just half an hour to make his mark in the disappointing 1-1 draw against Hoffenheim this weekend. Whether it’s a matter of tactics or a lack of personal faith in the 20 year-old remains unclear, but with minutes at a premium and no goals since the end of February, we may be looking at the first tough patch of a so-far stellar career. He’s in grave danger of dropping out of the Power Rankings for the first time, then, but a player this good and this gifted will be back before too long – or at least back when Tuchel finally decides to give him the full 90 minutes again.

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