XI Wonderkids you need to add to your shortlist
We’ve all got stories of the Wonderkids that we discovered in Football Manager long before they’d made an impact in real-life. Those players that not only lift your team to new heights on the game but let you drop that ever so slightly smug ‘oh him, yeah I signed him on FM a couple of years ago’ into the group chat. It’s even more satisfying when the player has flown completely under the radar so that you seem like some kind of Wonderkid Nostradamus.
To help get you up to speed on the latest crop of emerging talent, we’ve put together a Matchday squad of the brightest young stars, including one player you definitely won’t have discovered in FM21 so far…
GK – Stefan Bajic (AS Saint-Etienne)
Bajic looks set to be the latest star to emerge from the AS Saint-Etienne production line having become part of the senior squad at his hometown club. He’s impressed on the international stage too, not conceding a single goal from open play at the 2019 Under-19 European Championships, helping France to reach the semi-finals. He’s an agile and energetic ‘keeper who isn’t afraid to come out and meet the ball which makes him difficult to beat in one on one situations.
One on Ones: 12
DR – Pierre Kalulu (A.C. Milan)
Kalulu was another player that impressed in France’s Under-19 European Championship campaign. Having played his youth football for Olympique Lyonnais, Kalulu joined A.C. Milan last summer and has acquitted himself well when called into first-team action. Comfortable playing as a DR or DC, he combines good defensive awareness, strong close control and passing ability with a turn of speed that makes him a useful presence at both ends of the pitch.
DC – Josko Gvardiol (RB Leipzig, on loan at Dinamo Zagreb)
Gvardiol has a growing reputation as an assured and versatile defender and could slot in nicely to Leipzig’s Wonderkid-laden squad when he links up with them at the end of the season. For now, Gvardiol continues to impress for Dinamo Zagreb. His performances at the heart of defence have been a significant factor in the club’s form this season where they sit top of their domestic league.
Gvardiol was imperious in continental competition too as Dinamo sailed through their group, breaking the record for the longest time without conceding in Europe in the process. It’s safe to say he’ll receive a boost to his attributes in the next FM data update. Gvardiol reads the game well, is comfortable with the ball at his feet and is a highly competent tackler – what more could you ask for?
DC – Tanguy Nianzou (FC Bayern München)
Nianzou showed a tantalising glimpse of what he’s capable of when he broke into the Paris Saint-Germain first-team in the 2019/20 season. Now, Nianzou looks to build on that with the German champions who he joined last summer. After making his Bundesliga debut against VfB Stuttgart in November, injury has hampered his progress but at just 18-years-old, time is on his side and he seems to have all the tools to emerge as a World-Class defender. Strong, quick and excellent in the air, Nianzou is a difficult opponent for any attacker to get the better of.
DL – Owen Wijndal (AZ Alkmaar)
Wijndal has cemented his place in the AZ starting line-up, looking assured at left-back and providing a creative outlet going forward with three assists to his name in the Eredivisie this season. Wijndal is starting to make his mark at international level too having made his debut in October last year and retaining his place in the Netherlands’ two most recent fixtures. Wijndal has excellent stamina which allows him to contribute effectively at both ends of the pitch over the 90 minutes and is a superb tackler who isn’t easily intimidated.
MC – Maxence Caqueret (Olympique Lyonnais)
Maxence Caqueret plays with a Gallic swagger in the centre of the park that you simply love to see. Caqueret is another product of the renowned Olympique Lyonnais academy, whose graduates are fanning out across Europe’s elite clubs and leagues. However, Caqueret is one talent that the Ligue 1 Uber Eats outfit won’t want to lose anytime soon. He’s started to make occasional first-team appearances having shone at youth level, both domestically and for the French national team. Caqueret is a player who loves to dictate the tempo of a game, fighting to win the ball back at the earliest opportunity and then utilising his deft touch and superb eye for a pass to unlock opposition defences.
First Touch: 15
MC – Kenneth Taylor (AFC Ajax)
The standard bearers for youth development, AFC Ajax have a rich history of producing elite players across every area of the pitch. By now, we all know the name Ryan Gravenberch but his De Godenzonen team-mate Taylor could be just as good. At youth level this season, Taylor has consistently delivered the goods and has been rewarded with a couple of cameo appearances for the first-team which look set to be a more common occurrence in the second half of the season. Taylor’s technical skill and passing ability fit perfectly with the Ajax ethos but it’s his Determination – that key Wonderkid ingredient - that could set him up as a mainstay of the Dutch side’s midfield for seasons to come.
AMR – Jeremy Doku (Stade Rennais)
Doku was on the radar of many of the European giants during the last window but it was Stade Rennais who pulled off something of a Deadline Day coup to secure his signature back in October. He’s gone straight into the first team at Roazhon Park and has got himself up to speed with the rigours of the French top flight. Doku’s outright speed and technical skill should see him develop into a consistent attacking threat over the coming years and Stade Rennais will be hoping he can become an integral part of the team.
AMC – Jamal Musiala (FC Bayern München)
Having been born in Germany, Musiala moved to England at a young age before returning to the country of his birth when FC Bayern München snapped him up last summer. He has already set a number of impressive records in his fledgling career, including the distinction of being the youngest player ever to represent FC Bayern in the Bundesliga as well as being the Bavarian side’s youngest ever league goalscorer. The rangy attacking midfielder has already notched three Bundesliga goals in his first season in Germany against Schalke 04, Eintracht Frankfurt and a sumptuous, curled finish against RB Leipzig. Musiala has also looked entirely at ease playing against some of Europe’s best in continental competition as well. He has all the attributes you’d want from an AMC – a good all-round technical game, good off-the-ball movement and plenty of speed.
AML – Naci Ünüvar (AFC Ajax)
Another of Ajax’s current crop of wonderkids, Ünüvar has been touted as a player who could make the step up to the first-team sooner rather than later. He enjoyed a decent first season for Jong Ajax in the Keuken Kampioen in 2019/20 and he has carried that form into this campaign. At just 17-years-old, time is very much on Ünüvar’s side and – if he can keep delivering at youth level – we can expect to see him featuring in the Ajax first-team in the not too distant future. Ünüvar fits the bill for the archetypal Ajax product with sublime technique and mental attributes combined with decent finishing ability.
ST - Yousouffa Moukoko (Borussia Dortmund)
That’s right, the one-man goal machine is coming to FM21. If you aren’t aware of Moukoko then let’s just go through his, frankly, ridiculous stats at youth level: in 88 games for Borussia Dortmund’s youth teams, he scored 141 goals. Those numbers make Erling Haaland look (almost) human. Just before Christmas, he broke the record for the youngest ever player to appear in the Bundesliga and became the youngest ever Bundesliga goalscorer with a goal against Union Berlin last month, so his form has translated to the senior level. It’s safe to say that Moukoko’s going to be one of the highest rated young players in the game when he makes his debut in the post-January data update.
We can’t wait to see how he develops in the real world and, of course, how you get on with him in your FM21 saves.
GK - Charlie Setford (AFC Ajax)
Yes, we’re picking a goalkeeper on the bench – don’t judge us. This is no ordinary ‘keeper though, Setford is just 16-years-old but is already being earmarked for greatness at the Wonderkid production factory that is Ajax. Setford was born in The Netherlands but is also eligible to play for England and represented both at youth level before pledging his future to England last year. He’s already nailed down the first-choice goalkeeper role for Ajax’s under-18 team and looks set to progress through the ranks in the coming seasons.
DL – Riccardo Calafiori (AS Roma)
Calafiori has bounced back from an horrific knee injury two years ago to become one of the most highly regarded young defenders in Italy. He recently put pen to paper on a new deal with the Giallorossi that runs until 2025 and has broken through to the first-team this season, looking particularly comfortable in the club’s European campaign. Calafiori commits to getting up and down the left flank to support his team’s efforts in attack and defence, is comfortable with the ball at his feet and is an accomplished crosser of the ball.
DM – Boubacar Kamara (Olympique Marseille)
Kamara has become a regular fixture in the Olympique Marseille starting XI in recent seasons and has developed into a leading prospect in Ligue 1 Uber Eats. The versatile 21-year-old plays predominantly as a defensive midfielder but is equally comfortable in the heart of defence. His defensive awareness and confidence with the ball at his feet has made many top clubs sit up and take notice and they’re sure to be monitoring his progress carefully over the coming months.
AML – Mikkel Damsgaard (Sampdoria)
It feels like Damsgaard is on the cusp of breaking through in a big way. The 20-year-old Dane joined Sampdoria last summer and has already impressed in his short time in the Italian top flight. He’s notched two goals and three assists at the time of writing and his performances earned him an international debut for Denmark back in November. Damsgaard’s agility, strong passing ability and off the ball movement look set to make him a consistent attacking threat for years to come.
AMR/L – Jamie Bynoe-Gittens (Borussia Dortmund)
Bynoe-Gittens is hoping to follow in Jadon Sancho’s footsteps as a highly-rated English winger looking to break through at Borussia Dortmund. Bynoe-Gittens is playing beyond his years by turning out for Dortmund’s under-19 team at just 16 years of age and already has an assist to his name which suggests he’s not out of his depth against more experienced opponents.
ST – Myron Boadu (AZ Alkmaar)
Boadu enjoyed a breakthrough season in 2019/20 for AZ, netting 14 times in the Eredivisie and scoring on debut for The Netherlands national team. His form has been mixed this season but he’s still scored four times and he continues to be firmly in the sights of some of the world’s top clubs. His raw speed and deft touch make him a nightmare opponent for even the most miserly of defences and he reads the game well which gives him a good grounding for further development in the next few years.
ST – Calum Kavanagh (Middlesbrough)
16-year-old Kavanagh shone in Middlesbrough’s under-18 team last season with six goals before the season was curtailed in March. He’s picked up right from where he left off though with five goals in nine games this campaign and a goal at international under-17 level for the Republic of Ireland too. He’s a versatile forward, capable of playing anywhere across the front line and with obvious goalscoring prowess it’s surely only a matter of time before he’s making his EFL debut for The Teesiders.
So, there you have it. A whole 18-man squad of nothing but Wonderkids - and not just the best around - those that are currently hiding under the surface ready to pierce through into first-teams, create headlines and light up television sets across the world.
Let us know our social channels which players from this list you’ll be rushing out to sign and who you think is going to make the biggest impact in seasons to come.
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