By Tom Caldwell.
Wonderkids, or wunderkind, are known across the world of football as young players, usually under 21, who have the potential to be world-class in the future.
Almost every league and every nation has such players, and this is especially the case among the top international football nations in the world.
This list of the best from the top 10 nations will look at a young player from each who is under 21 and is playing in a top-flight league.
Belgium 🇧🇪 – Alexis Saelemaekers (Age 21)
Alexis Saelemaekers of AC Milan is one of a few candidates for Belgium, along with the likes of Jeremy Doku, Marco Kana, Yari Verschaeren and Zinho Vanheusden.
But with Saelemaekers playing so well for a top side such as AC Milan, it only felt right to include him.
He is a versatile attacker who could play anywhere across a front line, as a No. 10, on either wing or even deeper in the midfield.
His versatility has helped Milan rise to the top of Serie A as they hope to end Juventus dominance.
France 🇫🇷 – Eduardo Camavinga (18)
France are known for their development of young players and are currently on the verge of seeing the emergence of another Golden Generation, spearheaded by deep-lying playmaker Eduardo Camavinga of Rennes.
Camavinga has already played and scored for France’s national team, and despite being just 18 years old, is attracting interest from the biggest clubs on the continent.
Brazil 🇧🇷- Gabriel Martinelli (19)
This may be a controversial one, but for Brazil, I have selected Arsenal Gabriel Martinelli ahead of Vinicius Junior and his Real Madrid colleague, Rodrygo.
Martinelli is a dynamic attacker who has flair and confidence, and a great eye for goal. After recent injury problems, he is trying to break back into Mikel Arteta’s side, with the Arsenal boss showing plenty of willingness to blood young players.
England 🏴- Phil Foden (20)
Another country whose youngsters could be considered a Golden Generation is England. My personal highlight is Manchester City’s Phil Foden.
Primarily an advanced midfielder, but also able to play on either flank, Stockport-born Foden is quickly becoming a fan favourite and a star within a team of stars.
He has been used even as a false 9 in Pep Guardiola’s side, showing his versatility, and is also back as an England regular.
Portugal 🇵🇹 – João Felix (21)
Portugal’s young star is undoubtedly João Felix — a player who had a sensational breakthrough season at Benfica, earning him a huge move to Spanish giants Atlético Madrid for a fee in excess of €100m.
He hasn’t set the world alight at Atleti but has still been playing at a higher standard than any of his young compatriots. Other candidates include Rafael Leão, Pedro Neto and Fabio Silva.
Spain 🇪🇸 – Ansu Fati (18)
Spain, like most of these nations, have an abundance of wonderkids, with the standout star arguably being technical winger Ansu Fati.
Born in Guinea-Bissau, Fati switched nationality to Spanish as a result of his recent rise to stardom with Barcelona.
He’s now a regular starter for Ronald Koeman’s side, who will be hoping that Ansu will be their talisman for years to come. The sky is the limit for this talented teenager.
Argentina 🇦🇷- Thiago Almada (19)
Football Manager players will have almost definitely heard about Thiago Almada already. Almada is just as good in real life, if not better than he was rated in the game.
Currently still playing for Veléz in Argentina, he is one of the best players in the country. He is a very traditional No. 10 who is great on the ball and can play a killer pass.
Uruguay 🇺🇾- Mathias Arezo (18)
My pick for Uruguay is young striker Mathias Arezo — an excellent No. 9 who can really do it all.
Like Almada is he still based in South America, playing for Uruguayan side River Plate Montevideo where he is banging in the goals.
Arezo has already represented Uruguay at U23 level alongside players five years his senior.
Mexico 🇲🇽- Diego Lainez (20)
Diego Lainez is currently playing in Spain with Real Betis, and despite not being a regular at his club he is still very highly regarded by his national team setup.
He’s a very technical player who can play either wing and just LOOKS like a great player on the ball.
Italy 🇮🇹- Gianluigi Donnarumma (21)
It feels like Donnarumma doesn’t belong on a list of wonderkids as he has already been keeping goal for Milan for some time, but it’s easy to forget that he is still just 21.
He has been Milan’s number one for around five years, but can still be classed as Italy’s best wonderkid.
Gigi is a very tall, imposing figure between the sticks and is a great shot-stopper. As is the required of most modern keepers, he can play football too, making him a brilliant asset for club and country.
With his Milan contract expiring soon, could there be some transfer news on its way involving the highly-rated Italian?