The Wonderkid Power Rankings: Premier League stars make top ten - but who will take Bellingham's crown?
With Jude Bellingham out injured, who will take his crown as the best young footballer in the world?
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Every single week of these rankings - our effort to put together a top ten from among the world's finest Under-21 based on form - one thing has remained constant, and that's Jude Bellingham at number one. He's towered above every other wonderkid in the global game without pause, and nothing seemed remotely likely to take him off the top spot. Until now.
Not that the Stourbridge starlet loses his place in the top ten because his form has nosedived, or anything - he's simply been injured, missing Real Madrid's last two games, and because it's pretty hard to be "on form" in the physio's room, he's out after three straight months in first place. Following him out of the door, sadly, is Jamal Musiala, another staple of the top ten who went off injured in the first half of Bayern Munich's Champions League tie with Galatasaray and wasn't fit to play at the weekend.
All of which means that we have a new number one and a freshly shaken top ten, with a few new and returning faces making their presence felt. Who will be named the best young player in world football in Bellingham's absence? Read on to find out...
10. Pedri - Barcelona (re-entry)
As sad as it is to lose Bellingham and Musiala, we can at least be buoyed by the return of another towering talent from injury - Pedri is finally back in action, starting his first game in more than two months when Barcelona beat Alavés 2-1 on Sunday, and he looked nice and sharp after his long lay-off.
He could easily have had an assist or two, teeing up very presentable chance for Fermín López and, in particular, João Félix, but he can be content with an efficient and largely error-free display of passing and, more importantly, 80 minutes of football in which his leg didn't fall off. Sadly, he hasn't been deemed ready to rejoin the Spain squad, so we'll have to say goodbye to him again next week for a little while, but that at least gives a few of his Barcelona team-mates a chance to get back into the top ten after a quiet few weeks. That's why Lamine Yamal, Alejandro Balde and Gavi are all absent, in case you're wondering.
9. Kendry Páez - Independiente del Valle (⬇️ from 6)
Kendry can count himself a little lucky to remain in the top ten this week after a short and relatively undistinguished cameo in a 2-0 defeat to Aucas, which was his only contribution after he was, for whatever reason, benched despite his recent scintillating form.
Perhaps he was carrying a knock or was simply a little tired - he's still only 16, lest we forget - but he failed to make any meaningful impact in the final third and didn't manage to give the opposing defence the usual laundry list of problems. Ecuador's youngest ever international and goalscorer will now get a chance to get back on track in crucial World Cup qualifiers against Venezuela and Chile.
8. Jérémy Doku - Manchester City (⬇️ from 4)
Another player whose astonishing recent performance levels took a distinct downturn this weekend, the fleet-footed Belgian winger was unable to make any meaningful inroads in the 4-4 draw against Chelsea and was eventually replaced by his rival for the left-sided slot in the team, Jack Grealish. 1-0 to the man with Alice band.
But we're not going to flunk him right out of the top ten after a goal and four assists in a single game just the other week, and he also managed to show some serious flashes in his 10-minute cameo appearance against Young Boys on Tuesday evening, chalking up 0.41 expected assists in the brief period he was on the field, which is a lot more than it sounds in such a short space of time.
7. Eduardo Camavinga - Real Madrid (⬆️ from 10)
It can be tough to know what to do with Camavinga from week to week - he's remarkably consistent but seldom does anything especially exciting or noteworthy, like score. Instead he just ticks over, making tackles, turning the ball over and using it with a mature efficiency that belies his years and explains why he's such an important player for club and country.
For the most part, that was true again over the past week, putting in a solid if not quite top-drawer performance against Braga in the Champions League before picking it up with a near-faultless but not remotely flashy showing in the 5-1 thrashing of Valencia over the weekend. He isn't the kind of player who makes headline, he's simply very, very good.
6. Simon Adingra - Brighton & Hove Albion (new entry)
Brighton have been rather below par of late, their wins over a dreadful Ajax side in the Europa League notwithstanding, and versatile Ivorian forward Adingra is the only member of their extensive contingent of super-talented teenagers that has been playing at his best - to underline that fact, he was involved in all three goals the Seagulls managed over the course of the past week.
Against Ajax he calmly picked out the run of Ansu Fati for the first before the Spaniard returned the favour, allowing Adingra to smash home from the angle - and he could easily have bagged another when he nearly caught goalkeeper Diant Ramaj out at the near post. Instead he settled for scoring an absolutely astonishing goal against Sheffield United a few days later, slaloming through the defence and somehow keeping his balance to play a quick one-two and fire his side ahead. A gifted young man on hugely impressive form.
5. João Neves - Benfica (new entry)
Neves has been on the cusp of the top ten quite a few times this season, but the 19-year-old midfielder finally breaks in thanks to a brilliant week in which he was the star of a stunning late win over Sporting Lisbon and the only player in red who looked good during a 3-1 defeat to Real Sociedad.
His goal against rivals Sporting - a beautifully-controlled volley through a crowded penalty area, was the 94th-minute equaliser that set the home side up for a stunning win which was completed three minutes later - was the highlight-reel moment but it was his defensive work which really stood out, with no fewer than seven tackles and four interceptions across a game in which he dominated the centre of the park, and he even managed eight turnovers against Sociedad in a game which saw most of his team-mates utterly overwhelmed. A huge prospect who is drawing the attention of most of Europe's biggest sides.
4. Endrick - Palmeiras (⬆️ from 7)
Another week and another brilliant goal from the outrageously talented Brazilian, who has finally found his form and self-belief again after a long and worrying dry spell. This time it was Internacional who were on the receiving end of the Madrid-bound striker's skills, with Endrick drilling home a low, left-footed shot from more than 20 yards out.
That was the second of three goals for his team and made it four in four for him personally, quite a turnaround from a time when he was in tears on the bench just a few months ago. He also rattled the crossbar and teed up a good chance for a team-mate, so his numbers could have been even better, but it's just an immense relief to see him fit and firing and enjoying his football once more.
3. Xavi Simons - RB Leipzig (⬆️ from 8)
The Dutchman had one hell of a week over at Leipzig, with two goals and an assist across two important wins for the German side, including two remarkably similar and equally brilliant goals which opened the scoring against Freiburg and Red Star Belgrade respectively.
Both strikes saw him ghost gracefully past a man in midfield before guiding the ball effortlessly inside the far post from 20 yards away - the first in the Champions League, a curled strike from the corner of the area and the second, in the Bundesliga a firmer shot from further out. Both were sublime and showed off the ease with which Simons can control the ball and score. He also slotted in Christoph Baumgartner for the goal which sealed a 3-1 win, to add a neat little cherry on top.
2. Warren Zaïre-Emery - Paris Saint-Germain (⬆️ from 5)
The teenage midfielder is already brilliant but seems to somehow grow a little greater in stature with every passing week, this time playing a key role in a very cosy 3-0 win over Reims in Ligue 1 (even if he did, in truth, miss a bit of a sitter) and probably providing PSG's best performance in a disappointing defeat in Milan.
Zaïre-Emery was remarkably composed in a tough game, losing possession just five times in the heart of midfield - a remarkably low number - and finishing up with a 95% passing completion rate in a 2-1 defeat. It might be a game he wants to forget given the result, but in terms of how it showed his rapidly-increasing poise, efficiency and maturity in midfield, he should probably cherish it as one of his most important games yet. A brilliant talent developing at extraordinary pace.
1. Florian Wirtz - Bayern Leverkusen (⬆️ from 2)
Finally, we get to crown one of the most aesthetically-pleasing players on the planet as the greatest youngster in the global game - and on recent form, when his playmaking, vision, technique, dribbling and goalscoring have sent Leverkusen right to the top of the league table, he absolutely deserves it.
Wirtz was all over Union Berlin during a 4-0 home win which cemented Xabi Alonso's place at the summit, and while he didn't score off the 0.66xG he generated all by himself, he did contribute an assist and ran the beleaguered Berlin side ragged from start to finish - too quick, too sharp and too technically excellent to lay a finger on. Wirtz now has 16 goal contributions in 17 games for his club this season, and seems to be adding another zero to his transfer fee every time he heads out onto the field of play. A brilliant player who deserves top billing.