Football Manager boffins have been busy assembling their sides ever since the game’s release in November, with the very best young players always a source of great interest.
Signing youngsters with huge potential is the best way to build a trophy-winning machine, or reap profits for any side looking to improve their current standing in the game.
We all know that the likes of Kylian Mbappe and Erling Haaland are the very best young players in world football, but for those still struggling or interested in starting a new save, we’ve picked out some attainable and affordable prospects who can become the cornerstone of your side for seasons to come.
Here is our Football Manager 21 Wonderkid XI:
Goalkeeper: Maarten Vandevoordt – KRC Genk
Goalkeepers tend to mature much later than outfield players and in FM21 that is no different, but in Genk teenager Maarten Vandevoordt you have a player who can be a reliable last line of defence for more than a decade.
The 18-year-old is the youngest goalkeeper ever to feature in the Champions League and starts the game valued at just £925,000, though already has some solid base stats with 14 for reflexes and impressive kicking (14) and passing (15).
𝐖𝐨𝐧𝐝𝐞𝐫𝐤𝐢𝐝: Maarten Vandevoordt
𝐂𝐮𝐫𝐫𝐞𝐧𝐭 𝐜𝐥𝐮𝐛: Genk
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) November 25, 2020
With 12’s across the board for Aerial Reach, Command of Area, Communication and Handling, the youngster has a strong foundation on which to build and will develop into one of the world’s best shot-stoppers with the right tutelage.
Alternatives: Illan Meslier (Leeds), Alejandro Iturbe (Atletico Madrid)
Right-back: Max Aarons – Norwich
Aarons impressed in the Premier League despite Norwich’s relegation last season and starts FM21 as one of the Championship’s most exciting prospects, the 20-year-old a player who will take little time in becoming one of the game’s best.
With ratings of 15 for pace, agility, acceleration and stamina, Aarons will be flying forward from full-back and has some decent enough defensive stats including 14 for both tackling and anticipation.
Don’t be fooled by Norwich’s position in the second tier, however, the Canaries will drive a hard bargain for a player whose starting value is £14.75m and it will take a sizeable bid to prise him from their promotion push.
Alternatives: Takehiro Tomiyasu (Bologna), Tomas Esteves (Reading – on loan from Porto)
Centre-back: Josko Gvardiol – Dinamo (On loan from RB Leipzig)
Any players looking for a long-term option at centre-back should look no further than Josko Gvardiol, the Croatian teenager a defender destined to reach the very top in FM21.
Leeds were reportedly interested in the centre-back during the summer before he ultimately signed for RB Leipzig in a €16m deal, becoming the most expensive Croatian teenager in history before being loaned back to Dinamo to continue his development.
You will have to wait a season before making an offer for the 18-year-old whose best role is as a ball-playing centre-back, possessing ratings of 14 for passing and composure alongside a string of defensive attributes including 16 determination and 15 anticipation.
Like the aforementioned Aarons, Gvardiol won’t come cheap but there are few betters options to become the bedrock of your backline in seasons to come.
Alternative: Jean-Clair Todibo (Benfica – on loan from Barcelona)
Centre-back: Nehuen Perez – Granada (On loan from Atletico Madrid)
Atletico Madrid’s defensive strength has been famed for some time and in the club’s ranks they have another emerging stalwart, Neheun Perez amongst the most highly-rated young centre-backs in FM21.
The Argentine is on loan with divisional rivals Granada for the 2020/21 campaign but will be worth the wait for any sides seeking a centre-back, the 20-year-old possessing elite mental attributes including marks of 17 for aggression and determination and 16 for both bravery and decisions.
Perez is more in the mould of a traditional centre-back and his technical attributes leave a little to be desired, but he has room for further growth and could become the lion-hearted leader of your side’s defence.
Alternatives: Zinho Vanheusden (Standard Liege), Boubacar Kamara (Marseille)
Left-back: Nuno Mendes (Sporting Lisbon)
A teenager who looks more than capable of making an immediate impact at senior level, Nuno Mendes shapes as a must-have for players searching for a modern flying full-back.
Mendes begins the game valued at £6m and whilst he will certainly cost more than that, he looks the perfect long-term solution at left-back and you will need to move quickly before Europe’s elite come circling.
The 18-year-old is the latest exciting graduate of the Sporting Lisbon academy and already possesses impressive stats for a player so young, boasting 14+ for crossing, dribbling, acceleration, pace, stamina and natural fitness.
He’s likely to cost in excess of £15m, but he’s an investment well worth the price tag.
Alternative: Riccardo Calafiori (Roma)
Midfield: Gustavo Assuncao (Famalicao)
Whilst the likes of Eduardo Camavinga and Sandro Tonali are well-known FM wonderkids, both players are difficult to prise away from their respective clubs and will cost huge fees.
Our alternative selection takes us to the FM wonderkid hotbed that is Brazil, with Gustavo Assuncao shaping as a shrewd signing for any team needing an upgrade in midfield.
The 20-year-old can be purchased for less than £8m and possesses strong stats across the board, boasting 16 for composure and decisions and 15 for passing, technique and teamwork.
Assuncao’s current wages are just 2k-per-week and he won’t cost a huge amount to secure, a player whose value will sky-rocket with regular first-team football at a higher level.
Alternative: Marco Kana (Anderlecht), Florentino Luis (Monaco – on loan from Benfica)
Midfield: Dominik Szoboszlai (Red Bull Salzburg)
Young, versatile and brilliantly talented, Dominik Szoboszlai has made headlines this season with his performances in the Champions League for Red Bull Salzburg, scoring a number of spectacular goals and building on a 2019/20 campaign that saw him named as the Austrian Bundesliga’s Player of the Season.
The Hungary international is comfortable in a variety of midfield roles both centrally and out wide, with his key stats including impressive speed (17 pace, 15 acceleration) and set-pieces (15 free-kick taking, 15 corners).
The teenager begins the game valued at £7.25m and will likely cost you around double that fee, though his versatility and potential make him a sensible signing for any team in need of a creative spark.
For those of you considering a new save following the January update, be warned that Szoboszlai will initially be unattainable after completing a winter window move from Salzburg to sister-club RB Leipzig.
Alternatives: Mohamed Ittaren (PSV Eindhoven), Illaix Moriba (Barcelona)
Right-wing: Antony – Ajax
Ajax moved quickly to secure the signing of promising winger Antony from Sao Paulo last February, the youngster brought in ahead of the impending departure of Hakim Ziyech to Chelsea.
The Brazilian has made a brilliant start to life in the Eredivisie and has provided seven goals and eight assists in just 14 league starts, with the 20-year-old amongst the most promising wide players in FM21.
Antony begins the game with strong bases stats including 16 for dribbling and technique and 15 for first touch, whilst his ability to play on either flank and as a central forward will appeal to FM managers.
Ajax will be reluctant to let one of their prized assets go, but the Dutch side have often proven they are willing to sell if a suitable offer is made.
Alternatives: Yusuf Demir (Rapid Vienna), Samuel Chukwueze (Villarreal)
Left-wing: Jeremy Doku (Rennes)
Doku left the talent factory that is Anderlecht to take the next step in his career with a move to Rennes during the summer, the Ligue 1 side splashing a fee of €26m on the precociously talented teenager.
He’s valued at significantly less than that on FM21, however, beginning the game at £5.25m and possessing a host of attributes that could see the 18-year-old emerge as one of the game’s global stars.
Opposition full-backs are likely to dread facing Doku given his 17 pace and acceleration, whilst marks of 15 for dribbling and 16 each for flair and technique mean the youngster could evolve into an elite wide talent.
Comfortable playing across the front three, Doku should be on the radar of any FM manager with funds to spend.
Alternative: Diego Lainez (Real Betis)
Forward: Sebastiano Esposito (Inter Milan)
A firm favourite on last year’s game, the Inter Milan prospect remains a formidable forward option and a hugely attainable signing for any side on a limited budget.
Inter will accept a fee between £8m-£12m for a player who begins the game on loan at SPAL, and whilst the 18-year-old’s initial stats look unremarkable he will develop into a goalscoring machine within just a couple of seasons.
Esposito is a well-rounded forward and his physical stats will improve to an elite level as he matures, whilst his initial stats of 12 for finishing and 13 for composure can increase sharply with the right training.
Don’t miss out on the signing of the talented teenager, or you’ll likely regret it should you come up against the prolific forward in future campaigns.
Alternative: Alexander Isak (Real Sociedad)
Forward: Myron Boadu – AZ Alkmaar
Valued at just £9.25m at the start of FM21, Boadu’s price-tag will rise swiftly on the game with the one-cap Dutch international predicted for a huge future.
The 20-year-old can play wide but is best used as a central forward, where his 17 acceleration and 16 pace making him a nightmare for opposition defenders when running in behind.
His finishing (13) and composure stats (13) are solid without being spectacular for a player of his age, though regular first-team football will see the youngster flourish into a star capable of banging in the goals in any of Europe’s major leagues.
Alternative: Joshua Zirkzee (Bayern Munich)
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