The Wonderkid Power Rankings: Man City star battles Jude Bellingham for number one crown
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Welcome once more to 3 Added Minutes’ weekly Wonderkid Power Rankings – our attempt to order the ten best under-21s in world football not just by raw talent but also by recent form. The last couple of weeks have been pretty cruel for young talents with a string of brutal injuries sidelining some of the biggest names in the world – but normal service is slowly being resumed with the returns of both Jude Bellingham and Pedri.
Can Bellingham reclaim the number one slot that he had an absolute monopoly on before his recent injury? Read on to find out as we welcome a sparkling Borussia Dortmund youngster into the top ten for the first time – although we do also say a fond but likely temporary farewell to both Endrick and Kendry Páez, two stars of the future who have just gone a game or two too long without a goal to keep their place...
10. João Neves – Benfica (⬇️ from 9)
One of Portugal’s most gifted and composed midfielders already, Neves has only had one domestic cup game against Famalicão in which to impress us over the course of the past week but he did just that, with another dominant display in the heart of the park.
It wasn’t the toughest game he’ll be involved in – a relatively straightforward 2-0 win over a side who gave it a decent go – but he still helped his side to dominate possession with his crisp passing, excellent reading of the game and classy technique.
9. Lamine Yamal – Barcelona (⬇️ from 4)
Yamal continues to be rotated in and out of the side, which is wise given the mistakes Barça may have made with Gavi (who is now out for the season) and Pedri (who is only just back from his fourth significant injury lay-off) – so he only got about 75 minutes of action between the match against Rayo Vallecano and a very late cameo appearance against Porto.
Still, he had another promising game against Rayo, using his dancing feet and lethal acceleration to blast past defenders with regularity – although winning 80% of his one-on-one duels didn’t lead in this case to more than a few slightly optimistic shots from around the edge of the area. A huge talent who didn’t get on the scoresheet this time around, but showed plenty of flashes of what he can do.
8. Jamie Bynoe-Gittens – Borussia Dortmund (new entry)
The 19-year-old Englishman is the latest massive talent to come off the Dortmund production line and the German giants have been gradually dialling up his minutes of late – which he has rewarded with two goals, two assists and a penalty won over his last three games for the club.
It took the winger just ten minutes of the Champions League tie with AC Milan to completely bamboozle Davide Calabria and win a penalty, and he followed that up with a cool side-footed finish on the hour mark to put his side 2-1 ahead, a lead they never relinquished. He was arguably even better in Saturday’s 4-2 win over Borussia Mönchengladbach, during which he put his side 3-2 up with an astonishingly effortless strike from just outside the box which seemed to glide inside the near post. An exciting player hitting his straps in style.
7. Joško Gvardiol – Manchester City (non-mover)
Gvardiol was a victim of Pep Guardiola’s ever-frustrating rotation policy for the weekend fixture against Liverpool, but was back in action for the 3-2 win over RB Leipzig and put in a typically measured performance with plenty of good distribution of the ball and some pretty unflustered work at the back.
He even picked up an assist with a smart pass into Phil Foden from the left wing, although he did blot his copybook very slightly when he nodded a free header over the crossbar from ten yards out – a thoroughly presentable chance for his first Manchester City goal, which was sadly not taken, not that it did any harm in the end.
6. Simon Adingra – Brighton & Hove Albion (⬇️ from 3)
After a run of excellent performances for Brighton and the Ivory Coast, Adingra put in a relatively indifferent display against Nottingham Forest on Saturday, with plenty of solid passing and some useful defensive contributions but little in the way of threat in the final third.
Adingra didn’t get any shots away and only racked up a total expected assists of 0.07, which unsurprisingly didn’t lead to any goals – but even though he didn’t manage any moments of individual magic he still played a rock solid role for the team and Brighton have every reason to be optimistic that the 21-year-old is developing into a very fine player down their right flank.
5. Pedri – Barcelona (re-entry)
It’s a joy to have the persistently impressive midfielder back from another injury lay-off, and he doesn’t seem to have missed too many beats, even if he did fluff a thoroughly presentable chance in the disappointing 1-1 draw against Rayo.
His dribbling, control, movement and direct passing all seem mercifully unaffected by his litany of lumps and bumps, and he picked up a Champions League assists against Porto, feeding João Félix for what proved to be the decisive goal. With Gavi likely out for the rest of the season, keeping Pedri fit and firing for the next six months will be critical if Barcelona want to stand a chance of retaining the Spanish title.
4. Xavi Simons – RB Leipzig (⬆️ from 6)
It was a pretty bad week for Leipzig in the end, with a 2-1 defeat to Wolfsburg coming before they threw away a two-goal lead at the Etihad on Tuesday night – but the gifted young Dutchman certainly can’t have any of the blame laid at his feet.
Simons was Leizpig’s best creative outlet in both matches and picked up an assist with his long ball over the top for French forward Loïs Openda – and he should perhaps have had one or two against Wolfsburg as well, with several dangerous balls into the box not put away by a misfiring front line. His passing was excellent in both games and he won over 75% of his ground duels, but sadly his efforts ended up being in vain this time around.
3. Florian Wirtz – Bayer Leverkusen (⬇️ from 1)
After two weeks on top spot, Leverkusen’s technically imperious and aesthetically glorious young attacking midfielder drops away following a fairly quiet outing in the 3-0 win over Werder Bremen. Not that Wirtz did much wrong – his passing was tidy, his control as elegant as always – but for once in his life he didn’t make a real impact in the final third.
No shots, no assists, no key passes and even no fouls drawn – a very atypical statline for a player who usually gives defenders conniptions whenever he gets the ball. That said, if arguably your worst performance of the season is still a rock solid showing in a comfortable victory that keeps your side top of the table, you can probably be quietly content with the way things are going.
2. Jérémy Doku – Manchester City (non-mover)
Doku only got onto the field for the last half-hour or so of the win over Leipzig and didn’t really make much of an impact, but he was at his daring, fleet-footed best against Liverpool even if he didn’t end up getting himself in among the goal contributions.
The Belgian winger racked up a hugely impressive 0.74xA, won a frankly astonishing 18 one-on-ones with the ball at his feet, and generally gave the left side of Liverpool’s defence an incessant working-over as he pushed Jack Grealish even further away from the starting line-up in big matches. He seems practically unplayable at the moment, and very few defenders seem to have figured out how to stop those feet from dancing around them and into the area.
1. Jude Bellingham – Real Madrid (re-entry)
Well, where else could we possibly put him? A few games on the sidelines don’t stop him from being the best young player in the world by a country mile, and he picked up precisely where he left off in Real Madrid’s 3-0 victory over Cádiz at the weekend, breaking a scoring record in the process.
When he drilled the ball left-footed across the goalkeeper’s body and inside the far post, he made it 14 goals in 15 matches, the most ever scored at this point by any player in Real Madrid’s history – breaking a record set by some bloke called Cristiano Ronaldo. Plus all his passing, dribbling and general play was precisely on point, as usual, with a 95% passing accuracy rate and only nine losses of possession, which is a very impressive mark over the course of a match. Let’s just assume that this won’t be the last record Bellingham breaks. What a brilliant player.