YOUR Premier League clubs next academy star to make their first-team breakthroughGoalscorers, teenage sensations and a full-back who bases his game on Neymar. With an eye on the future, Alex Turkpicks out each top-flight teams most talented youngster
Arsenal: Reiss Nelson (winger)
Nelson appears to be one of those special players who can change the course of a game in an instant. Widely praised for his dribbling skills and defensive work-rate, the London-born right winger has been at Arsenal since 2008 and is just as effective when playing centrally because of of his quality end product.
The 17-year-old played a huge part at the 2016 European U17 Championship in Azerbaijan, helping England reach the quarter-finals with three goals, which was enough for him to finish third in the overall scoring charts.
Nelson is now established in the England U18s picture, while he also regularly features for the Gunners' U23s in Premier League 2. With fellow hot prospects Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Chris Willock having already appeared for the Arsenal first team, it seems certain that Nelson will get his chance soon.
Bournemouth: Sam Surridge (striker)
Surridge has been at the south coast club since the age of 14 and recently signed a contract extension until 2018 after impressing on loan at Poole Town in the first half of 2016/2017. The 18-year-old striker netted eight goals in 16 games for the National League South outfit, and is now being linked with loan moves to clubs higher up the English football hierarchy, with League One Gillingham reported suitors.
Bournemouth development coach Stephen Purches stated in the summer that Surridge “deserves the chance to take the next step” after successful stints with both the U18s and U21s. Other figures around the club agree that it won’t be too long before the forward features for the first team.
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Burnley: Tristan Jumeau (winger)
Burnley’s academy set-up may be modest in scale, but one talent who has excelled is Jumeau. The winger’s key traits are his speed, willingness to take on defenders and sheer range of goal-scoring methods.
Born in Canada to a French father and Canadian mother, Jumeau is reportedly being considered for a place in the England youth ranks because of the time he’s spent in Lancashire.
There’s nothing wrong with Jumeau’s engine: during the 2015/2016 campaign, the teenager held the Burnley youth record for distance covered, even matching the number achieved by first-teamer George Boyd. It seems almost certain that he has Sean Dyche’s attention ahead of next season.
Chelsea: Charly Musonda (attacking midfielder)
Musonda is one of the more well-known footballers on this list – not just due to the fact he’s at a big club, but because of the first-team experience he’s been getting at Real Betis. Born in Brussels, the 20-year-old began his career in the youth academy at Anderlecht, where he remained for 10 years before joining Chelsea in 2012. He was already an U18s regular at 15 years old and was an indispensable member of the U21s by the age of 18.
Talk about the midfielder grew after scintillating displays in 2014/2015, as Chelsea achieved UEFA Youth League and FA Youth Cup success. He then got his senior break in January 2016, when he made the move to La Liga; Musonda won the man-of-the-match award on his Betis debut and made 23 further appearances, until Blues boss Antonio Conte recalled him in December last year.
There’s a strong chance that the Belgian U21 international will become that rare creature: a Chelsea youngster who actually gets a shot in the first team.
Crystal Palace: Luke Dreher (midfielder)
After joining Palace at the age of nine, Dreher has become one of the most promising youngsters the club has seen in some time. The midfielder was quick to make a name for himself: after 14 appearances for the U18s, he developed a good reputation among the academy staff and was promoted to the reserves, where he played a further 15 times.
The Epsom-born midfielder continued to make a positive impression and was named the 2016 Crystal Palace U18 Player of the Year, while also travelling to Old Trafford with the first team at the end of the Premier League campaign. Injury niggles have disrupted his progress in the last six months, but he’s now back in action now and eyeing a full debut under Sam Allardyce.
Everton: Bassala Sambou (striker)
Sambou drew attention to himself by scoring 25 goals for Coventry's U18 and U21 teams in 2015/2016, as well as bagging an impressive eight in the FA Youth Cup for the Sky Blues. The 19-year-old was duly handed a first team run-out by then Coventry boss Tony Mowbray in the FA Cup, before being nabbed by Everton in the summer of 2016. Since that move, he’s kept up his scoring rate for David Unsworth’s U23s, with six goals in five appearances.
It’s known that Coventry were reluctant to let the starlet leave – and you can’t blame them, as the German is already being compared to current Toffees frontman Romelu Lukaku. With the Belgian seemingly set to leave Merseyside in the summer, Sambou will be fantasising about leading the line for Ronald Koeman’s side next term.
Hull: Ahmed Salam (winger/full-back)
Well liked for his versatility down the left flank, Salam has resided in East Yorkshire for more than five years after joining Hull from Leeds when he was 11. The teenager's clinical touch in front of goal earned him a promotion to the U18 side last season, where he’s widely considered the Tigers' most promising prospect.
Hailing from England with Egyptian parents, he’s commonly utilised as a left-back but prefers playing in a more attacking role on the wing, and models his attacking flair on Barcelona superstar Neymar. Nothing like aiming high. Hull are already extremely thin in terms of squad depth and it wouldn’t be too much of a surprise if Salam appeared in a first-team squad sooner rather than later.
Leicester: Hamza Choudhury (defensive midfielder)
This English midfielder with an Indian background has bags of talent and a hairstyle which is just as impressive. He also has first-team experience to his name: Choudhury was the engine of Burton's midfield in League One last season and in the Championship this time around.
The Loughborough-born midfielder is an anchorman, sitting in front of the defensive line and using his brilliant reading of the game to sweep up loose balls. The role also enables him to show off his long-range passing, as he quickly distributes the ball to more attacking teammates.
A contract extension until 2020 was signed in August, and there’s no reason why he can’t contribute at the King Power Stadium next year.
Liverpool: Rhian Brewster (striker)
Since arriving at Liverpool, Jurgen Klopp has emphasised his desire to develop the club’s younger players - and in Brewster he has a terrific prospect on his hands. The 17-year-old, who joined the Reds from Chelsea in 2015, starred for the U16s in his first season on Merseyside, before bursting onto the international scene when the England U17s came calling.
Brewster made a name for himself by scoring six goals at the 2016 Croatia Cup, with his poaching qualities and his ability to move rapidly onto the wing catching Klopp’s attention. Those exploits resulted in him playing against Bradford and Accrington in behind-closed-doors games soon after.
He’s still regularly netting goals, but now for the U23s. After fellow youth talent Ben Woodburn became the youngest player to ever score for Liverpool earlier this season, 2017 could well provide Brewster’s big break.
Manchester City: Jadon Sancho (winger)
The development of 17-year-old Jadon Sancho is something to get excited about if you’re a fan of the English game. Watford allowed the winger to move to Manchester in 2015 for an eventual sum of £500,000. The youngster hasn't looked back since, playing a key part in City U16’s undefeated 2015/2016, when he scored seven goals in four starts - including a brace on his debut.
Sancho has looked even stronger this season. He’s now a regular starter in the Manchester City U23 Premier League 2 attack, despite not yet being 18. He’s even rumoured to be on the verge of signed a jaw-dropping £30,000-a-week contract to halt interest from Arsenal and Chelsea.
It’s also worth noting that the forward hasn’t just done the business for City: Sancho has already represented England at U16 and U17 level, scoring 12 goals in 16 games.
Manchester United: Angel Gomes (attacking midfielder)
Manchester United captured Portuguese sensation Gomes at the age of 13. By 14, he was already playing for the U18s.
“There is a lad coming through called Angel Gomes, who could play tomorrow,” said Clayton Blackmore, the former United player turned academy coach, of the 15-year-old Gomes last year. “I think he’s that good.”
Now 16, the cousin to ex-United player Nani has shown no signs of slowing down. Having served as the England U17 captain, he stepped up to skipper the U17s to Croatia Cup glory, scoring three times in seven matches.
Most comfortable in the No.10 role, Gomes has the ability to both score goals and provide assists, while he’s also technically sound with a great deal of strength for a player with a small frame. United won’t rush his development, but Angel’s future looks heavenly.
Middlesbrough: Harry Chapman (winger)
After signing his first full-time contract with Middlesbrough in January 2015, Chapman played a huge part in their 2015/16 UEFA Youth League campaign. He completed the most assists in the whole tournament (eight), as well as scoring three goals, despite Boro only reaching the last 16.
Now 19, the winger spent time on loan at Barnsley last season, with the south Yorkshire club’s manager Paul Heckingbottom admitting that they were “very lucky” to have him. Chapman moved on to League One high-flyers Sheffield United this term, with the Hartlepool-born star scoring his first professional hat-trick against Leyton Orient in the FA Cup.
He’s also played twice for England’s U18s and is now an U20 international. Perhaps this youngster could help ease Boro’s goalscoring woes? He could hardly do much worse than the current side.
Southampton: Yan Valery (full-back)
Physical, fast, composed and strong in the tackle: 18-year-old Valery has impressed since he arrived on the south coast at the start of 2015/16. The Saints, famed for their talented youth products, captured the Frenchman from Rennes and predominantly use him as a right-back – although he’s just as effective further forward thanks to his excellent crossing ability.
Valery represented France’s talent-packed U17 side seven times before moving up to the U18s, where he made his first appearance last month. While most players his age still play for their club’s academy, the defender from Champigny-sur-Marne is a permanent fixture in Southampton's U23 squad, and is thought to be one of the next players set to make the leap into Claude Puel’s first team.
Stoke: Tom Edwards (full-back)
“He will run through a brick wall for you,” reckons Stoke’s academy director Gareth Jennings of a young player who’s been at the club since the age of nine. The 19-year-old full-back captained the club’s U23s to an FA Youth Cup semi-final for the first time since 1984 this term, while he also scored a brilliant solo goal to equalise in a game against West Ham.
Mark Hughes included Edwards in the senior squad when Everton visited the bet365 stadium at the start of February, and has invited the Stafford-born defender to train with his squad on numerous occasions. The 2016/2017 campaign is his 10th at the club and, despite having not yet been handed a professional contract, he’s already being tipped to challenge for the right-back spot next term.
Sunderland: Ethan Robson (midfielder)
Robson has risen through the Sunderland ranks since joining the Wearside club when he was eight, and is currently excelling in the U23s. The 20-year-old has been a formidable individual to come up against in the Premier League 2 this term, and won the first ever Player of the Month award in the newly-established competition last August.
Born in the north-east, the central midfielder has also heavily contributed to Sunderland’s superb 2016/2017 Premier League International Cup run, which has seen them reach the final to face Porto. His clear potential earned him a new deal until 2018 in April last year and, with David Moyes’ first team squad set for a huge overhaul in the summer, Robson’s big chance could be on the way.
Swansea: Joe Rodon (central defender)
Just 19 years old and in his third season in south Wales, Rodon is a regular member of the U23s' starting 11 and has been included in the senior squad on several occasions.
The Morriston-born defender is comfortable with both feet and can therefore play as either a right or left-sided centre-back, which makes him even more valuable to the development side. With 23-year-old Alfie Mawson a vital part of Paul Clement’s defence at present, Rodon will be looking up to him as inspiration ahead of next term.
Tottenham: Kyle Walker-Peters (full-back)
After joining in 2013, Walker-Peters (no relation to Kyle Walker) impressed Spurs' U18 coaches and could challenge for the first team's right-back spot in the near future. The 19-year-old was quickly promoted to the U21 side after helping the London side win the Premier League U18s Champions Cup in 2014, the same year in which he obtained an U18 international cap for England.
December 2015 was a memorable month for Walker-Peters, who won the U21 Premier League Player of the Month and signed a new long-term contract at White Hart Lane, before being included in the first-team squad to face Bournemouth three months later. The full-back has his heights set high, and is using the rise of former youth team colleague Harry Winks as his motivation.
Watford: Reece Stray (midfielder)
The Hornets brought Stray to the club when he was eligible for the U9s, and the midfielder whose boyhood role model was Steven Gerrard has developed steadily ever since. The 17-year-old hasn’t quite cemented a place in the U23s yet, but he has made a few substitute appearances and is a key player in the middle of the park for David Horseman’s U18 side.
Horseman thinks that Stray “leads from example on the pitch” and “chips in with a fair amount of goals” for a central midfielder. Stray can operate as a box-to-box midfielder and boasts fine long-range passing and strong tackling, which makes him seem like a perfect player for Walter Mazzarri. Don’t expect him to feature for the first team just yet, though, as there’s still a bit to go in his development as a player.
West Brom: Callum Morton (striker)
Morton hit a magnificent strike against West Brom in Yeovil's 3-2 FA Youth Cup victory at The Hawthorns in December. A month later, he became a member of the Baggies’ youth setup. If you can’t beat them, sign them - right, West Brom?
Morton moved miles away from the comfort of his home in Torquay to pursue his dream of Premier League football at the start of 2017, and the teenager has already made a handful of appearances for the U23s in the Premier League 2.
Lightning fast and an ace finisher, Morton told the media shortly after arriving in the West Midlands that he bases his game on the likes of Jamie Vardy and Shane Long.
West Ham: Toni Martinez (striker)
The Hammers clearly recognised Martinez’s potential when they prised him from Valencia's youth ranks for £2.4 million last summer. The Spain U18 international was sent on loan to Oxford United a few months after arriving in England he's made a good impression after being thrown into first-team football in League One, scoring five goals for Michael Appleton's charges.
The young Spaniard also made four appearances for his country's U17s, before moving up to participate in both the 2015 UEFA U19 Championship in Greece and the 2016 edition in Germany. The Hammers need a new striker next season and it’s likely that Slaven Bilic will be keeping tabs on Martinez' development.