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Ranking the ten best Premier League players aged 21 or under

The Premier League is home to some brilliant young footballers right now, with some of the most promising talents in Europe in English football.

From those destined for stardom from their teens to emerging names beginning to find their feet at the highest level, we’ve attempted to rank the Premier League’s best prospects.

Here are our rankings of the best Premier League players aged 21 or under.

10. Armando Broja

Armando Broja has enjoyed a breakthrough season on loan at Southampton this season, with the Chelsea forward having stood up to the rigours of Premier League football.

The 20-year-old enjoyed a productive season on loan at Vitesse Arnhem last season to score 11 goals in all competitions, before improving once again this term as part of Ralph Hasenhuttl’s front-footed side.

Broja has provided the Saints with a focal point and his combination of robustness and cool finishing has impressed this term, with the Albania international having scored nine goals from 16 starts.

He remains raw, but has all the ingredients to develop into a quality forward at this level and Southampton will be keen to secure a permanent deal this summer. Hasenhuttl won’t be alone in his pursuit, however, with the forward’s form having piqued the interest of several Premier League rivals.

Another graduate of the Chelsea academy, Tino Livramento, also deserves a mention for his impressive first season since signing for Southampton in a £5m deal.

9. Curtis Jones

Curtis Jones has had to be patient for his chance at Liverpool given the wealth of options available to Jurgen Klopp this season, but has continued on his path from the club’s academy system to senior side.

Jones has made 14 starts in all competitions this season and has rarely looked out of place since making the step into the Liverpool first-team, with his technical talent and confidence in possession making him an ideal link between midfield and attack.

Klopp spoke on Jones’ continued development in January after a frustrating season and called on the midfielder to realise his potential.

“I love the boy, I love the potential he has, but we have to come now to where we really make the next steps and that he fulfils the potential he has on the pitch very often,” Klopp told a press-conference ahead of Liverpool’s clash with Brentford in January.

“He’s young, very young, but how I see, his potential is incredible.

“That’s where we both together have to find a way to show that much more often. We are there really in this development, let me say it like this.”

Jones faces competition from another emerging talent in Harvey Elliott for a regular role, with the 18-year-old having forced his way into Klopp’s plans this season.

8. Callum Hudson-Odoi

Callum Hudson-Odoi has struggled to command a prominent role at Chelsea since his exciting emergence in west London, with the 21-year-old continuing to battle for a first-team place under Thomas Tuchel.

The winger made 37 appearances in all competitions last season, whilst he has started 20 games for Chelsea this season as he looks to impress at Stamford Bridge.

Hudson-Odoi’s development has been hindered by a lack of continuity, both in terms of managers at Chelsea and in position with Tuchel having used the academy graduate in a wide role, centrally and in an unfamiliar wing-back position.

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His decision to turn down an England u21 call in November made headlines, and Hudson-Odoi – regarded as one of the most naturally-gifted youngsters in the Premier League – needs a regular run of games to fulfil his potential.

Leaving on loan could prove the making of him, but the Blues will be reluctant to lose a player capable of fulfilling multiple roles.

7. Pedro Neto

Pedro Neto squeezes into this list by a matter of days and it can be easy to forget how good the Portuguese winger was before his long spell on the sidelines.

Neto was Wolves’ best player last season before his campaign was cut short when he damaged his kneecap last April, a further setback then leaving the 21-year-old out for a total of 10 months.

Bruno Lage will be delighted to see the star return with Neto adding considerably to his attacking options, a gifted creative capable of isolating opponents and carrying the ball dangerously.

Neto led Wolves for league goals and assists last season, whilst he ranked among the Premier League’s leading players for carries into the final third and players dribbled past in 2020/21.

6. Gabriel Martinelli

Mikel Arteta’s patient approach with Gabriel Martinelli appears to have paid off, with the forward having enjoyed a promising season after returning from a long absence from the side.

Martinelli started just two of the Gunners first 13 league games of the season, but after netting his first goal of the season against Newcastle in November found a fine run of form.

The 20-year-old has scored four goals and provided two assists in 12 league starts in 2021/22, with the Brazilian’s boundless energy and willingness to chase lost causes resonating with the Arsenal fans.

Having spent several seasons bemoaning the lack of character within their ranks, Arteta’s overhaul of the side with youthful energy has provided Gooners with a team they can relate to.

Few symbolise the new regime better than Martinelli, a whirlwind of running and energy with the quality to match.

5. Wesley Fofana

Wesley Fofana is another budding talent whose progress has been halted, a horror injury sustained in Leicester’s final pre-season friendly ruling out the defender for the majority of the 2021/22 campaign.

The 21-year-old is closing in on a return in what will represent a huge boost to Brendan Rodgers, with the centre-back having won the Foxes’ Young Player of the Season accolade last season following an excellent debut campaign at the King Power Stadium.

Fofana is aggressive in the challenge and and a fine reader of the game, whilst his recovery pace and athleticism adds a dynamic at centre-back that Leicester have lacked in his absence.

Having challenged for a top four finish last season, Leicester are languishing in the Premier League’s bottom half this season. Rodgers’ side have struggled badly defensively in Fofana’s absence, their 13 goals conceded from set-pieces the joint-most in the division.

4. Emile Smith Rowe

Since an impressive introduction to the side against Chelsea on Boxing Day 2020, Emile Smith Rowe has gone from strength to strength at Arsenal.

The midfielder has cemented his place in Mikel Arteta’s plans and taken his game to new levels this season, with the 21-year-old the Gunners’ leading scorer with nine Premier League goals for the campaign.

Smith Rowe is a wonderful technician and has shown his improving finishing with a number of well-taken goals this season, his performances having earned him a first England inclusion – and goal – during November’s World Cup qualifiers.

He has improved with almost each passing performance and oozes confidence when in possession, a homegrown talent that Arteta will look to build around in an improving Arsenal team.

3. Bukayo Saka

Arsenal’s third inclusion on this feature, Bukayo Saka has enjoyed a career-best season after returning from an impressive European Championship with England.

The 20-year-old has featured predominantly from the right for the Gunners and has scored eight goals across all competitions, in addition to providing four assists as his numbers continue to improve.

Saka has performed in multiple roles since breaking into the senior side at the Emirates, possessing a footballing intelligence that belies his age.

Already established for club and country as a key asset, he has a huge ceiling and will hope to form part of an Arsenal side that can return to a status as challengers for major trophies.

2. Jadon Sancho

Jadon Sancho’s first season at Manchester United has proven challenging, but there are few 21-year-olds who possess his level of pedigree and success.

Sancho was signed in a £72.9m deal last summer and has taken time to find his feet in England, though there have been positive signs from the winger who is beginning to grow in influence under Ralf Rangnick.

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The 21-year-old’s return of four goals and two assists is a modest return given the excitement that greeted his arrival, but hopes remain high that Sancho can reach the levels that saw him provide 114 goal involvements in just 137 appearances across four seasons at Borussia Dortmund.

Already a two-time inclusion in the Bundesliga’s Team of the Season and owner of 23 caps for England, it can be easy to forget that Sancho does not turn 22 until later this month.

1. Phil Foden

Phil Foden’s development had been a major talking point as the forward found himself on the fringes of the Manchester City first team, but there are few now doubting Pep Guardiola’s judgement in allowing the 21-year-old time and patience to develop under his guidance at the Etihad.

Foden is already one of the most watchable footballers in the Premier League and appears to be getting better and better, the England international exceptional in tight spaces and fast improving his instinct around goal.

Whether used as a false nine, out wide or in a deeper role, the multi-facet talents of Foden have enabled him to flourish and develop into a footballer capable of thriving in arguably club football’s best side at present.

He has 10 goals and six assists from 23 starts in all competitions this season and will be central to City’s hopes of success in multiple competitions this season.

Capable of producing world-class moments, it won’t be long until he’s considered in that company.

Read – Ranking the five players to score the most Premier League goals after their 30th birthday

Read Also – Big Rom, Ronnie & Ramos – Five headline grabbing summer transfers not going to plan

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