The Wonderkid Power Rankings: future Chelsea star and sensational Spaniards make the top 10
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The Wonderkid Power Rankings is back – and as it’s been an international break week there have, as you might imagine, been plenty of changes in the top ten.
Partly that’s because of talented youngsters who either haven’t made the leap to senior international level yet, partly it’s because a handful of them decided to take a few days off to recover from injuries… but the biggest change is the loss of one of the stalwarts of the rankings.
Bukayo Saka has fallen out of the top ten just once since making his debut, and has rarely been out of the top five – and he’s topped the list on several occasions. Sadly, for the purposes of compiling these articles, England’s player of the year celebrated his 22nd birthday last week and has now aged out of consideration. Best of luck for the rest of your career, old man.
Anyway, eulogies for the rapidly ageing aside, it’s time for our latest top ten, with quite a few new entries thanks to a handful of prodigies being given their debuts around the world – and some of them were quite sensational.
10. Moisés Caicedo – Chelsea (new entry)
He may have suffered a nightmare debut for his new club in the Premier League, but he put up an excellent performance in Ecuador’s World Cup qualifying win over Uruguay. His passing was excellent, his dribbling was good and his tackling was snappy – and he even picked up an assist when his inswinging corner was bundled in for Ecuador’s equaliser. As always, his work-rate was outstanding, as well, and based on this week’s showing Chelsea fans don’t have too much to worry about at all.
9. Kendry Páez – Independiente del Valle (new entry)
More good news for Chelsea fans – one of their future stars, 16-year-old Páez, become the youngest ever Ecuador international in the game against Uruguay, and picked up an assist to put the cherry atop a hugely promising performance. Signed for a reported €20m, Páez will head to Stamford Bridge when he turns 18 but for now is showing off his silky skills and visionary passing in South America, and the rapier-like cross across the six-yard box that teed up Félix Torres was a fine example of how dangerous he can be in the final third. He still has a lot to learn, as you’d imagine from someone born in 2007, but looks like a colossal talent.
8. Antonio Nusa – Club Brugge (new entry)
Speaking of huge talents who are just starting to make their first waves at the top level, Norwegian forward Nusa earned his debut for Norway in a friendly against Jordan last Thursday, scoring and picking up an assist for which we can, sadly, find no video so far. But clearly the performance was sufficiently exciting for national coach Ståle Solbakken to give him another chance to impress in a qualifier against Georgia, and he delivered with two assists to help his country to a crucial win.
His first assist was brilliant, ghosting past two defenders with a quick change of pace and looping a pinpoint cross onto Erling Haaland’s head with inevitable results, while his second saw him dribble between two Georgian players on the edge of the box before knocking into Martin Ødegaard’s path for another. A truly thrilling talent who looks likely to become a big name very soon indeed.
7. Nico Williams – Athletic Bilbao (new entry)
Spain’s men continued their recent improvement with two easy wins over relatively weak opposition – a 7-1 clattering of Georgia and a 6-0 larruping of Cyprus – and while there were plenty of goals and assists to go around, it was 21-year-old Williams who picked up more than anybody else, with three assists to go alongside his second international goal.
The solo effort he scored against Georgia was a great example of what Williams is all about – racing down the channel onto a through ball with a trademark burst of speed, shrugging off one defender, tricking his way past another and slamming the ball through the goalkeeper from close range. Williams can be frustratingly inconsistent but on his day he’s a huge handful for any full-back.
6. Eduardo Camavinga – Real Madrid (re-entry)
The Frenchman only came on as a second-half substitute in the relatively routine 2-0 win over the Republic of Ireland, but he did get the full 90 minutes in the friendly defeat to Germany yesterday evening – not that Camavinga was remotely responsible for the disappointing result.
He racked up a 94% pass completion rate, made a bunch of tackles and interceptions and even won the late penalty which Antoine Griezmann converted for a consolation after drawing a foul from Leroy Sané. Camavinga has been in and out of the Real Madrid side lately and could do with a consistent run of games, but looks as solid and reliable as ever every time we watch him play.
5. Xavi Simons – RB Leipzig (⬇️ from 3)
Simons is on flying form for club but was a little more becalmed for country, playing 90 minutes in the wins against Greece and Ireland but doing so without scoring or setting anyone else up – and two games in a row without a goal contribution is a rare occurrence in his world. The Dutchman still looked dangerous against the Greeks and tidy in Dublin, but by his increasingly high standards these were somewhat ordinary performances.
4. Florian Wirtz – Bayer Leverkusen (non- mover)
The gloriously elegant German started in the number ten role under two different Germany managers this past week, setting up Germany’s only goal in the 4-1 defeat to Japan that spelled the end of Hansi Flick’s tenure in charge of the national team, and coming off us a substitute after a lively performance in the 2-1 win over France that started Rudi Völler’s (likely brief) tenure.
The hammering taken at the hands of the Japanese might go down as one of the worst games in recent German history, but Wirtz at least gave the home crowd something to enjoy with a typical gliding run across the front of the box and a precise ball threaded into the path of Sané.
3. Lamine Yamal – Barcelona (⬆️ from 9)
What better way to celebrate becoming the youngest player ever to represent Spain than by scoring your side’s seventh and final goal? Yamal did just that in the rout of Georgia, taking a generous amount of space inside the box to whip Williams’ low cross into the top corner with the kind of calm and quality that has already become his hallmark.
And he came damned close to scoring a screamer against Cyprus to make it two in two, crashing a brilliant effort off the woodwork. In the space of two games, Yamal has proven that he’s absolutely ready for the international game – and just to remind you, he’s 16. A ridiculous talent.
2. Gavi – Barcelona (⬆️ from 6)
Speaking of which – Gavi is back to something close to his best, putting in two fine performances for Spain and topping it all off with the opening goal against Cyprus, drifting off his marker to whip a first-time shot into the net from Williams’ cross. The Athletic player did quite a lot of that this week, as we’ve already mentioned…
After bursting so brilliantly onto the scene a couple of years ago, Gavi had a rather quieter year in 2022/23 and often failed to get the motor running in quite the same way, but all the evidence suggests that he’s brimming with confidence and energy again.
1. Jude Bellingham – Real Madrid (non-mover)
Number one at the start of the season and still completely unmovable, Bellingham gave us his first sub-par performance of the season against Ukraine on Saturday and went on to blow Scotland away on Tuesday anyway.
A clinical goal, a brilliant through-ball to Marcus Rashford which led to Phil Foden’s opener, and so many runs which hassled and harried the Scottish defence. He was the best player on the field and looked like the kind of player who will make such showings a matter of routine. Still the best young player in the business.