There’s nothing that gives us goosebumps quite as much as watching a young, talented soccer player have their first break-out season in the Premier League. These are normally homegrown kids who have worked their way through the academy of their clubs and have an enormous sense of pride to play for their badge.
The English Premier League has produced some of the best young soccer stars over the decades, and it continues to do just that. Some have been humble, others precocious, some arrogant, and some shy – what they all have in common, however, is their youthful exuberance and undoubted skill.
We’re going to take a look back at some of the best young players to grace the Premier League stage and the current crop of youngsters who are lighting up the league.
The Premier League has produced some exceptional young stars over the years who continued to shine for seasons. Here are just a few of the best youngsters from the last few decades.
There was a lot of hype around the Toxteth-born teen prodigy, Robbie Fowler, who announced his arrival to the league at 18-years-old when he scored a debut goal against Fulham in the League Cup and then scored five in the second leg two weeks on.
Fowler scored a hat-trick on his fifth league appearance and ended the season as Liverpool’s top finisher with 18 goals in all competitions. He scored 25 goals in his second season for the Reds and was the PFA Young Player of the Year at the end of it. He retained this award the following season and became a Liverpool Legend. He was undoubtedly one of the most natural finishers in the EPL for the years that followed.
Ferdinand was a West Ham academy player who was handed his debut at the tender age of 17. The sensational defender reached 100 games for the Hammers before his 20th birthday and was named as the club’s Player of the Year as a 19-year-old at the end of the 1997/98 season.
He broke the world record twice for being the most expensive defender in history when he moved to Leeds and then Manchester United. Ferdinand became part of one of the most successful teams of Sir Alex Ferguson’s reign and is still one of Old Trafford’s most decorated defenders.
Michael Owen made an instant impact for Liverpool when he scored a goal on his debut against Wimbledon in 1997 at the age of 17. He then scored 18 league goals the following season, for which he won the Premier League’s Golden Boot and Player of the Season award. He took the Golden Boot again the next season with another 18-goal haul. Owen’s best days were undoubtedly as an early adult, and he terrified defenders across the league with his trickery and lightning finishing. He goes down in the book as an undoubted Liverpool Legend.
The year was 2002, and 16-year-old Wayne Rooney opened his account in dramatic fashion – sinking Arsenal with an injury-time goal. He became the youngest player to score a goal in Premier League history.
He became the most expensive teenager in history when he moved to Manchester United at the age of 18, and he immediately captured fans’ hearts by scoring a hat-trick on his debut for the club. He was crowned PFA Young Player of the Year in his first season with the Red Devils. The talented youngster turned into one of the best players of all time, winning five league titles, the Champions League, and becoming both United’s and England’s all-time top goalscorer in the process.
There is a new crop of youngsters who are taking the Premier League by storm and while we can’t name them all, here are just a few of the standout performers.
Bukayo Saka and his young teammate Emile Smith Rowe have been the shining light in what has been an abysmal start to the season for Arsenal. The youngster burst onto the scene at The Emirates’ last season and scored 5 goals in his first full season of first-team soccer. This might not seem like a huge haul, but given that he was only 19 and plays as a midfielder and not a striker, it makes his tally even more impressive. The midfielder has had an electrifying Euro 2020 campaign, and Arsenal are undoubtedly going to rely on his talents for years to come.
Mason Greenwood is one of the most talented up-and-coming strikers in the Premier League. The striker is lethal with both his left and right foot, which means he wrongfoots defenders on a regular basis. The youngster got his debut for Manchester United at just 17-years-old and has joined the likes of Fowler, Rooney and Owen as only the fourth teenager to score 20 or more goals in the Premier League. Greenwood has now got 30 league goals to his name and is likely to be the man up front for United for the next decade.
Phil Foden is one of those players who snuck under the radar for a couple of years and then suddenly made a huge impact. He made 18 first-team appearances between 2017 and 2019 and nabbed just one goal. However, he really started to kick off in the 2019/2020 season when the midfielder scored 5 goals; he scored 9 in the next season. At just 21-years-old, he is an exciting talent that Guardiola is managing carefully, and he has become an important part of the England national team. This is a player who is going to light up the pitch for years to come.
In February 2016, 18-year-old Marcus Rashford found himself in the first team at the last minute after an injury to Anthony Martial in training. United were facing FC Midtjylland in the Europa League, and Rashford took the opportunity to announce himself to the Old Trafford crowd in style. He scored 2 goals in front of the Stretford End within 12 minutes in the second half. Rashford hasn’t looked back since, and although his form has dipped from time to time, he has 55 league goals for the Red Devils and he is only 23. Rashford is a true United fan at heart, and he should be alongside the likes of Greenwood, causing havoc for the club for many years.
Curtis Jones might be a player who you haven’t really heard of yet, and that doesn’t come as a surprise given that he only started playing regular first-team soccer for Liverpool last season. The Reds were beset with injuries, and Jones went from six appearances in 2019/2020 to 24 in 2020/2021. At 20-years-old, the midfielder has proven himself on the biggest stage and is now a mainstay in Jurgen Klopp’s team. He has 3 league goals to his name so far, but this is only going to rise over the next couple of seasons as he grows into his talent. He is certainly someone to watch for the next few years.
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