10 talents to look out for in 2017: Ben Woodburn, Marcus Edwards, Ryan Sessegnon and more

A run-down of the best young players to keep an eye out for next year

Jack Pitt-Brooke
Saturday 24 December 2016 16:12
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Marcus Edwards made his Tottenham first-team debut in September
Marcus Edwards made his Tottenham first-team debut in September

Olufela Olomola, Southampton, 19

Olomola grew up at the Arsenal academy but did not see a pathway into the first team there and decided in 2014 to leave. He had trials at Newcastle United and West Ham, but chose to move to Southampton because of their success at bringing through youngsters.

Soon enough he was captaining the Under-18s and this year he has nine goals in 13 games for the Under-23s. A powerful, hard-working forward who can play up front or on the right, he has impressed Claude Puel and made his first-team debut in October. Likely to get more chances in the second half of the season.

Liam Cullen, Swansea City, 17

Cullen has been at Swansea from the age of eight and is thought to be their best young talent since Joe Allen. The left-footed forward from Kilgetty, just outside Tenby, has already starred with Swansea’s Under-18s and is now impressing with the Under-23s too.

He is a quick, clever player with a good left foot who Swansea signed to a two-year professional deal as soon as he turned 17 back in April. Has performed well for Wales at Under-16 and Under-19 level already.

Ben Woodburn, Liverpool, 17

A team-mate of Cullen’s for Wales Under-19s, Woodburn has already made his first-team debut and became Liverpool’s youngest ever goal-scorer in the EFL Cup earlier this year. It was a remarkable start to senior football for a young player who has been carefully protected by the club and around whom Jurgen Klopp is keen to minimise the hype as far as possible.

Now he is in the public eye already, along with Trent Alexander-Arnold, and the whole club will have to manage their integration into the first-team as carefully as possible.

Joseph Colley, Chelsea, 17

Signed from Swedish club Brommapojkarna in 2015, Colley has already impressed in his 18 months at the Chelsea academy. A tall, powerful centre-back, Colley plays international football for Sweden Under-19s although is also eligible for Gambia, the country of his birth.

He has played for Chelsea Under-23s in the Checkatrade Trophy this season and has been pencilled in for a loan to play first team football next year, if his development continues.

Phil Foden, Manchester City, 16

Phil Foden was named on the bench for City's recent Champions League tie with Celtic

The crown jewel of Manchester City’s academy, Stockport-born Foden has starred for Lee Carsley’s Under-18 side this year, so much so that he made Pep Guardiola’s bench for the Champions League game against Celtic in early December.

Foden is a supremely gifted left-footed midfielder who can pass incisively, drive forward with the ball and has nine goals for the Under-18s already this season. Guardiola is a huge admirer of his and a first-team debut in 2017 is very likely.

Eberechi Eze, QPR, 18

Another youngster who started off at Arsenal, Eberechi Eze struggled to settle in his early teens because he was simply too small. He had unsuccessful spells at Fulham and Reading before moving on to Millwall, where despite his obvious promise as a number 10 he was still eventually released by Neil Harris.

Chris Ramsey was willing to take the chance, and Eze has started to show how dangerous he can be for the Under-21s this season. Now grown to 5 foot 10, he is a dangerous attacking midfielder who will certainly get his first-team break later this season.

Ezri Konsa, Charlton, 18

Konsa is the latest young player to emerge from Charlton's academy

Whatever else happens at Charlton Athletic, they still have one of the best academies in the south, and could make an eight-figure sum in January from the sale of Ademola Lookman to Everton. Their next man to watch is Ezri Konsa, 18-year-old centre-back who will go on to play at the very top.

Konsa has started 17 games this season already for Charlton and is unlikely to be in League One for much longer the way he is going. He started off at famous east London side Senrab, as did John Terry and Ledley King in their day. The comparisons have already begun.

Marcus Edwards, Tottenham, 18

The Spurs academy is geared towards producing creative, inventive players who can beat opponents with ease. No-one sums this up better than Marcus Edwards, the brilliant little left-footer who made his first team debut in the EFL Cup in September.

He is the most talented youngster of his generation at Spurs, and even though he was difficult to tie down to a professional deal, Mauricio Pochettino is a huge admirer of his. He even compared him to a young Lionel Messi recently, however helpful that was.

DJ Buffonge, Manchester United, 18

The creative midfielder from north London is probably the likeliest to break into Jose Mourinho’s team in 2017, although that has not proven to be an easy task for talented teenagers in the past.

Signed from Fulham in 2015, Buffonge has already shown that he has the technical and physical skills to run games for United’s Under-18s sides. United’s Under-23s is not currently especially strong, and Buffonge is already impressing, more than players older than him, when he has been training with the first team.

Ryan Sessegnon, Fulham, 16

Ryan Sessegnon is already being monitored by leading Premier League clubs

Sessegnon only turned 16 in May but he is already featuring for Slavisa Jokanovic’s Fulham team in the Championship, not exactly an easy place for a young left-back learning the game.

But Sessegnon’s skill and power stand out already, which is why so many of the big Premier League teams want to sign him, with Arsenal especially keen. But Fulham are confident that Sessegnon will not leave as young as Patrick Roberts did, and will continue to develop there for a few more years.

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