The Wonderkid Power Rankings: Man City and Barcelona stars battle Jude Bellingham for top spot
Two of Manchester City’s summer signings make our latest top ten of the best young players in the global game - but can either unseat Jude Bellingham?
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With league football returning, there was a fresh chance for plenty of talented young players to strut their stuff this weekend – so we’re back with another top ten of the finest and most in-form under-21s in world football.
Jude Bellingham has dominated this season’s rankings so far, but as he fails to score for Real Madrid for the first time since moving to the Spanish capital, can anyone threaten his stranglehold on top spot? Read on to find out…
10. Mathys Tel – Bayern Munich (re-entry)
The young Frenchman only came on as a second-half substitute but still found time for a classy assist, twisting a Bayer Leverkusen defender inside out before slotting an inch-perfect ball across goal for Leon Goretzka to smash home for what looked like a late winner – only for Leverkusen to win a penalty and level things up as Thomas Tuchel’s side dropped their first points of the season.
The 18-year-old has mostly been used as an impact substitute since breaking through under Julian Nagelsmann last year, but continuously shows so much skill and situational awareness that he surely has to be in line for some regular starts soon.
9. Joško Gvardiol – Manchester City (re-entry)
Another solid display of defensive nous and superb passing from the young Croatian, who has taken very quickly to life as Pep Guardiola’s preferred left-back following his big-money summer move from RB Leipzig.
Few defenders have adapted to Manchester City’s system quite so quickly and effortlessly as Gvardiol, and his displays are even more impressive when you consider that he primarily played as a centre-back before moving to the Etihad. He should have had a well-deserved assist, too, but missed out thanks to one of Erling Haaland’s many unexpected misses in the win over West Ham United.
8. Lamine Yamal – Barcelona (⬇️ from 3)
It was in a comfortable home victory over Real Betis that Yamal, who recently became the youngest player and goalscorer in Spanish men’s history, became Barcelona’s youngest ever debutant – but he had to settle for a substitute appearance in the same fixture this season and not really contributing too much to a cosy 5-0 win for the hosts.
Yamal has had an astonishing start to the season but was, by his standards, pretty innocuous in a match that was largely done and dusted by the time he was introduced in place of João Félix.
7. Antonio Nusa – Club Brugge (⬆️ from 8)
Already one of the most thrilling dribblers in the European game at the age of 18, Norwegian Nusa got himself on the scoresheet again this weekend in an exciting 4-2 win over Charleroi – although there was a hint of luck given that his 25-yard goal was almost certainly intended as a pass that beat everyone.
There was nothing fortuitous about the quick feet that got him past his man and into position for that pass in the first place, mind you, and nor was there any luck involved when he took the ball from the edge of his own area, burst past a defender and set Ferran Jutglà through for Brugge’s fourth of the game. An electric talent.
6. Jérémy Doku – Manchester City (new entry)
Guardiola doesn’t make too many dodgy signings, and on early evidence the 21-year-old Belgian Doku won’t be among them – at least so long as he can stay fit, with his career in France dogged by injuries.
He was fit and firing well enough against West Ham, mind, scoring a brilliant equaliser just moments after the start of the second half, and hassling and harrying the Hammers’ back line throughout the game with his trickery and frightening speed. Perhaps the best player on the pitch and the inspiration behind City’s comeback win.
5. Florian Wirtz – Bayer Leverkusen (⬇️ from 4)
Wirtz doesn’t fail to get himself on the scoresheet – or at least in the assists column – very often, but he drew a blank in the game against Bayern Munich, although he did rattle the woodwork so he was hardly too far off.
Bayern did a good job of keeping a lid of the usually effervescent Wirtz in the top-of-the-table clash and he was even dispossessed four times, another unusual stat for a player with sublime ball control. There were plenty of impressive moments, however, and he certainly kept the opposing defence as busy as always, even if he didn’t come out on top to quite the same extent that he usually does.
4. Alejandro Baldé – Barcelona (new entry)
A staple of last season’s rankings, the brilliant young left-back has been quietly solid and unspectacular so far in this campaign, but retakes a deserved spot in the top ten after a very impressive display against in the battering of Betis.
The Spanish international barely missed a beat, passing the ball well, getting down the flank with ease and making several key tackles to help shut a very decent opposing side out and keep the ball moving when Barcelona were going forward.
3. Xavi Simons – RB Leipzig (⬆️ from 5)
Yet another goal, yet another assist in Leipzig’s 3-0 win over Augsburg, making it a total of seven goal contributions in just four games for his new team, where he’s already turned himself into a talismanic figure.
His opening goal was a deftly-diverted diving header although it is perhaps fair to acknowledge that both that strike and his assist, a simple pass through the middle for fellow new signing Loïs Openda, both owed a fair amount to the generous volumes of space left by a very sloppy defence. Nevertheless, good players make sure they do the business when given gifts by the opposition, and Simons did precisely that.
2. Gavi – Barcelona (non-mover)
Another high-octane, all-energy display from Gavi, who is rapidly re-establishing himself as the beating heart of his Barcelona side, with head coach Xavi describing him as a “fundamental player” and an “exemplary footballer” after the 5-0 demolition of Betis.
It isn’t just hard work that’s going into Gavi’s displays, either – his use of the ball has improved dramatically and he was constantly involved in the game, recycling possession well and becoming the springboard for innumerable attacks. His 96% pass completion rate tells much of the story.
1. Jude Bellingham – Real Madrid (non-mover)
One game without a goal was never going to be enough to unseat Bellingham after his scorching start to the season, and while the presence of Joselu ahead of him meant that he played a slightly less attacking role in a 2-1 win over Real Sociedad he still managed to get two shots on target – just no arms-aloft celebration this time around.
Madrid needed more of a grafter’s performance from Bellingham this time around and they got it, with the young England international winning seven of his nine duels, drawing four fouls, and picking up an interception on top of his two shots on goal and two key passes for others. A rock solid game from one of the best players in the world right now.