The Wonderkid Power Rankings: Man City duo drop down as Liverpool target battles Jude Bellingham for top spot

After a week of great performances and glorious goals, who will emerge as the best young player in world football?
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Once again, we gather round the highlight reels and scouting reports to bring you a rundown of the ten most in-form young talents in world football – and to see if a single Under-21 in the global game can pass the Jude Bellingham test and make it to number one in the world. Will anyone unseat the Golden Boy winner this week? Let’s find out…

We’ve got one brand new entry and two returning players this week, which means we do have to say farewell, for now at least, to a few players who have lit up the game over recent weeks. Lamine Yamal, Simon Adingra and Jamie Bynoe-Gittens all take a break from the top ten after failing to hit the heights to which they are accustomed, but it’s probably not the last we’ll hear of them, to say the least.

10. Vitor Roque – Athletico Paranaense (re-entry)

Returning after a two-month injury lay-off, the Barcelona-bound striker is back on the field and back among the goals in Série A – and while he hasn’t quite rediscovered his lethal best form just yet, the striking instincts that have drawn endless comparisons with the great Ronaldo Nazário have still been firmly in evidence.

His goal in the 1-1 draw against Cruzeiro won’t exactly go viral, given that it saw him bundling the ball home into an open goal from about two yards out, but it probably still felt pretty great after returning from an ankle problem that was initially feared to be much worse. The man intended as Robert Lewandowski’s long-term replacement seems to be doing just fine, and fans in Catalonia can breathe a little easier as a result.

9. Joško Gvardiol – Manchester City (⬇️ from 7)

The Croatian defender had a reasonably solid game in the thrilling 3-3 draw against Tottenham Hotspur but wasn’t quite at his influential best, either in defence or with the ball at his feet. He kept possession ticking over neatly enough but didn’t spark as many moves in the final third as he’s accustomed to, and nor was he able to stymie Spurs to the degree he would have liked.

He managed three important interceptions for his club but didn’t make a single tackle throughout the game, although few of Spurs’ successful attacks came down his side of the field and he avoided giving the ball away in any especially daft areas. Decent, but not his very best.

8. João Neves – Benfica (⬆️ from 10)

The gifted young midfielder was in fettle this past week, putting in a cracking display against Inter Milan in the Champions League last Wednesday before a solid 45 minutes in an otherwise disappointing 0-0 draw against Moreirense in the league.

Heaven knows how many Inter would have scored in the 3-3 draw if Neves hadn’t been at his best – he made no fewer than nine tackles and won 14 of his 21 one-on-one duels, which tells you not only well he did but how busy he was. One of the sternest tests of his young career, and one he passed with flying colours.

7. Nico Williams – Athletic Club (re-entry)

The Spanish striker put lingering question marks over his future to bed by signing a new contract with Athletic, and celebrated with an absolutely magnificent goal to wrap up a superb 4-0 win over Rayo Vallecano in La Liga.

Cutting in from the left wing to receive a pass, he took a touch to give himself room for a shot and curled the ball viciously along the ground and around a helpless goalkeeper before the ball cannoned in off the far post – as precise a finish as you will see all season and a testament to his talent. Consistency has been an issue for Williams, but there’s a reason he was linked with Barcelona and Aston Villa before inking his new long-term deal, and that goal summed those reasons up rather nicely, as did his 100% success rate while dribbling.

6. Johan Bakayoko – PSV Eindhoven (new entry)

The 20-year-old Belgian wide man has been generating a lot of buzz lately and he continued his stunning form with a brilliant assist in a 2-1 win over Feyenoord. That meant that he’s contributed at least one goal or assist in eight of his past nine Eredivise games, a pretty impressive run which has seen a few big teams linked with his signature in the future.

His curling half-cross, half-lofted through ball to Ismael Saibari completely cut the Feyenoord defence out of the game and laid it on a plate for the Moroccan midfielder, a perfect pass to create an almost unmissable opportunity – and he was pretty handy in the 3-2 Champions League win over Sevilla last Wednesday too, getting plenty of balls into the box, beating his man repeatedly on the dribble and showing off a seriously exciting skillset.

5. Pedri – Barcelona (non-mover)

Pedri continued his rehabilitation from injury with a rock solid 70 minutes in a relatively uninspiring match against Atlético Madrid this weekend, using the ball well and finding plenty of pockets of space between midfield and attack on the right side of central midfield.

He probably should have had an assist for a ball into Lewandowski, but the Polish forward had a rare bad game and passed up on everything that came his way – but that didn’t take too much shine off a game in which Pedri managed three key passes and an 89% pass completion rate. Not quite back to his very top form after another lay-off, but still moving rapidly in the right direction.

4. Jérémy Doku – Manchester City (⬇️ from 2)

The Belgian winger got less than an hour to strut his stuff against Spurs at the weekend, but while he couldn’t chip in with any goals or assists this time he still provided a few headaches for Pedro Porro and company before being replaced by Jack Grealish, managing a couple of decent efforts on goal and some dangerous runs even if the end product was absent for once.

Between Doku and Bakayoko, it starting to look as though Belgium may have the seeds of a second ‘golden generation’ hot on the heels and the first, and it certainly seems as though Belgian strikers of the future will have plenty of good-quality service to look forward to.

3. Xavi Simons – RB Leipzig (⬆️ from 4)

In any just world, Xavi Simons would have had a few assists after his work in Leipzig’s 2-1 win over Heidenheim in the Bundesliga, but in the end he comes away with a blank in the goal contributions column despite four key passes in one game and at least one gilt-edged chance served up for his profligate team-mates.

One thing that’s changed for Simons over the season is that he seems to be dropping into deeper areas and spending less time picking up the ball around the edge of the area, and his goal threat has tailed off considerably – presumably an intentional move by his manager to get him on the ball more often and to emphasise his passing game, but those wickedly accurate long shots are sorely missed right now and he’s proven that he scores a truckload when given the chance. Let’s hope he gets more time in dangerous areas soon.

2. Florian Wirtz – Bayer Leverkusen (⬆️ from 3)

Long-time readers of the Wonderkid Power Rankings will be fully aware that we’re massive fans of Wirtz, an endlessly watchable and utterly graceful footballer who was probably the best player on the pitch during the 1-1 draw against Bayer Leverkusen – a result that gently dents Leverkusen’s title charge but won’t have done Wirtz any harm on a personal level.

The player, who has been linked with both Liverpool and Chelsea, didn’t get any goals or assists this time out but his passing, ball control and ability to bewilder opposing players were all on full display, and he was at the heart of everything his team did well yet again. He was everywhere in the midfield, put in three key passes for his pals and generally looked every inch the world-class prospect. He was given a breather in the routine Europa League win over BK Häcken, which was probably a sensible bit of man-management as his workload has been massive since coming back from a hideous injury in the spring.

1. Jude Bellingham – Real Madrid (non-mover)

The only thing that has kept Bellingham away from top spot this season has been injury, and since coming back from his brief lay-off he’s wasted no time at all in re-establishing himself as the best young player on the planet and deservingly won the prestigious Golden Boy award last week as well.

He bagged himself yet another goal against Napoli, a superb flying header angled across the goalkeeper and into the far corner, and capped a great performance off with an assist for Joselu in injury time, sliding the ball across goal with the outside of his boot. He did, admittedly, draw a blank in the 2-0 win over Granada at the weekend, but was still sublime in his use of the ball and put in a massive all-round shift even if he couldn’t extend his scoring streak this time out. One hell of a player.