The Wonderkid Power Rankings: Man City & Brighton stars soar in battle for number one spot
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The Wonderkid Power Rankings tend to take on an unfamiliar look after international breaks, but this week’s top ten is especially unusual thanks to a slew of brutal injuries – regulars Gavi, Eduardo Camavinga and Warren Zaïre-Emery all suffered long-term injuries on national duty, while Jamal Musiala and Jude Bellingham both withdrew from their squads due to knocks. That’s five players who have made our rankings their own completely absent.
That does, at least, leave some space for several players to force their way back into our rundown of the most in-form young talents in the global game, but will Florian Wirtz hang on top spot after a dreadful week for Germany which saw them lose friendlies against Turkey and Austria? Read on to find out…
10. António Silva – Benfica & Portugal (re-entry)
It would be rather generous to put centre-back Silva back into the top ten solely off the back of keeping a clean sheet against Liechtenstein, but he gets rewarded not just for a solid if rather straightforward display for Portugal but also for his exceptionally consistent form for Benfica.
Silva has only seen two goals hit the back of his own team’s net over the past two months in La Liga Portugal, and has continued to cement his burgeoning reputation as one of the best defensive prospects in Europe. The big teams are circling, and his composure and quality on the ball are not going unnoticed.
9. João Neves – Benfica & Portugal (⬇️ from 5)
On a less injury-ravaged week, Silva’s Benfica and Portugal team-mate Neves might have been dropped from the top ten given that he was only given the sum total of 19 minutes on the field of play by his national side, coming on for cameos against both Liechtenstein and Iceland.
But in fairness, Neves did everything right in the brief time he was allowed to play, with a 100% pass completion rate and some very tidy play in an admittedly minuscule sample size. Should get rather more minutes when he heads back home to Lisbon.
8. Endrick – Palmeiras & Brazil (⬇️ from 4)
Future Real Madrid forward Endrick became one of the youngest players in Brazil’s storied history when he played in the World Cup qualifiers against Colombia and Argentina, although like Neves he wasn’t given much of a chance to make a significant impact.
He only had the chance to make eight touches of the ball and get one shot away (blocked) across 26 minutes of game time in two brief but richly deserved cameos. Like Neves, he might have been given a break from the top ten in a week where so many brilliant players hadn’t been crocked, but his achievement in making the national side at the age of just 17 deserves attention and reward.
7. Joško Gvardiol – Manchester City & Croatia (re-entry)
After a slight dip in form in which he was culpable for one of Chelsea’s goals in the ding-dong 4-4 draw at Stamford Bridge last week, Gvardiol looked back to his imperious and unflappable best for Croatia, helping his side to keep clean sheets against both Armenia and Latvia.
One can debate the difficulty of the assignments, of course, but Gvardiol still put very few feet wrong and was especially good against Armenia, against who he completed 95% of his passes and dropped 80% of his long balls into the feet of his attacking team-mates. A fine display which should encourage him after a very brief and minor wobble.
6. Xavi Simons – RB Leipzig & Netherlands (⬇️ from 3)
Good luck getting a handle on Simons’ form of late – he’s been scintillating one week and shocking the next, although he was more quiet that bad in the Netherlands’ victories over the Republic of Ireland and Gibraltar.
No goals and no assists, although he knocked the ball around tidily enough in both matches and didn’t making any particularly glaring errors. You’d still feel that a player which Simons’ class in the final third should probably get at least one shot or key pass in half an hour of a 6-0 thumping of Gibraltar, mind you.
5. Kendry Páez – Independiente del Valle & Ecuador (⬆️ from 9)
Ecuador’s brightest young prospect was pretty quiet in the 0-0 draw with Venezuela (in common with every other player on the pitch) but was much livelier in the 1-0 win over Chile and even though he didn’t get on the scoresheet himself, his energy, movement and direct play gave Ecuador plenty of impetus throughout the game.
Two shots, three successful dribbles, four accurate long balls, two key passes and a 91% pass completion rate are the raw numbers, and they do a good job of summarising an excellent display by the Chelsea-bound teenager.
4. Lamine Yamal – Barcelona & Spain (re-entry)
Barely 16 years of age but already four caps into his Spain career, Yamal took just five minutes to get himself on the scoresheet against Cyprus last week, picking the ball up at the far post and coolly navigating both the goalkeeper and several defenders’ efforts to pull out a last-gasp block to slot home.
Yamal was excellent against the Cypriots and rock solid in a second-half substitute appearance against Georgia as well, and looks utterly at home in a team packed with first-rate players who are twice his age. An extraordinary prospect.
3. Simon Adingra – Brighton & Hove Albion & Ivory Coast (⬆️ from 6)
Adingra has been on cracking form for the Seagulls lately and carried that into the opening games of World Cup qualifying in Africa, scoring a fine goal while playing as a right wing-back in a 9-0 rout of the Seychelles before starting as a left winger in the win over The Gambia.
Adingra’s finish against the Seychelles was excellent, a sharp cut back from the right sending a defender the wrong way before he curled the ball into the far corner with his left foot to make it 3-0. A supremely talented player coming into his own quickly.
2. Jérémy Doku – Manchester City & Belgium (⬆️ from 8)
Doku is putting in huge performances with increasing regularity, and he while his game against Azerbaijan wasn’t quite on a par with his astonishing game at Bournemouth a few weeks back, he was still absolutely outstanding, picking up two assists in a 5-0 win.
He dropped a cross onto the head of Romelu Lukaku for the opener and teased the Azeri defence with his quick feet before a cut-back found Arsenal’s Leandro Trossard for the fifth and final goal of the rout – capping another quality display of creativity and elegance on the ball.
1. Florian Wirtz – Bayer Leverkusen & Germany (non-mover)
Wirtz is maybe a little lucky to get top spot for the second week in a row, especially given that he wasn’t able to help his country avoid two rather damning defeats – but he was probably the brightest spark in the side that lost to Turkey and was only given half an hour or so to make any kind of impact against the Austrians, and has been so good this season that pushing him down the order would only be unfair.
Against Turkey he completed every single pass he made, put in a solid defensive shift featuring three tackles, and was generally entirely blameless for his team-mates’ performance in a surprise 3-2 defeat – and nor was he responsible for the manager playing Kai Havertz at left-back. Granted, the Arsenal man scored, but still…