Champions League football makes its return this evening with football’s finest beginning their quest for European glory, the superpowers of the continent doing battle once again for the biggest prize in club football.
Bayern Munich begin the tournament as favourites following their flawless run to a sixth title last season and begin their campaign with an intriguing clash against Atletico Madrid, whilst Premier League heavyweights in Manchester City and Liverpool will both be fancied to make an impression in the latter stages.
The Champions League pits together the game’s greatest players and whilst the likes of Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Robert Lewandowski will all be hoping to make a major impact, there are a host of emerging stars also preparing to showcase their skills in this season’s competition.
We’ve decided to pick out some of the premier prospects who are set to be on show, and here are six talented teenagers we hope rip it up in the Champions League this season:
Ansu Fati’s has enjoyed a rapid rise to prominence since bursting onto the scene at Barcelona, setting a whole host of records including becoming the youngest goalscorer in the history of the club, the Champions League and the Spanish national side.
The teenager has emerged as one of the most exciting talents in world football and has started the new season in brilliant form for the Catalan side, scoring three times in three league starts and continuing to grow in status at the Camp Nou.
Fati does not turn 18 until the end of the month, but is already emerging as key figure for Ronald Koeman, thriving in a position on the left-hand side of a new-look Barcelona attack this season.
Ansu Fati has been named La Liga player of the month.
The 17-year-old grabbed three goals and an assist in just three games 👏 pic.twitter.com/VBcZE1vQnY
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) October 10, 2020
Quick, skilful and possessing a maturity that has seen him take each step in his stride during his fledgling career to date, Fati has fast become his side’s shining line during a turbulent period for the Spanish giants.
Barcelona begin their campaign with a clash against minnows Ferencvaros tonight and Fati will be hoping to continue his recent momentum with yet another star showing.
The son of two former US internationals in Claudio and Danielle Egan Reyna, it is perhaps little surprise to see Gio Reyna following in the footsteps of his sporting parents.
The 17-year-old has risen to public consciousness in recent months following a superb start to life at Borussia Dortmund, making his senior debut for the Bundesliga side earlier this year and swiftly making an impression at a side famed for handing opportunities to young talent.
Dortmund manager, Lucien Favre, has publicly spoken of how the youngster possesses ‘something special’ and the attacking midfielder has wasted little time adapting to the demands of European football, his impeccable first touch and slaloming dribbling style marking him out as a future star.
Dortmund this season:
Gio Reyna this season:
— Bundesliga English (@Bundesliga_EN) October 15, 2020
Reyna has risen quickly from exciting prospect to first-team regular and scored his first senior goal with a stunning effort against Werder Bremen last season, before beginning the new campaign in fine style with a goal and three assists in just four league appearances.
Despite his tender years, the playmaker already has the talent and ability to unlock defences at the highest level and will be keen to prove himself on the Champions League stage this season, a Dortmund side brimming with youthful exuberance a daunting proposition of any of Europe’s elite.
There are few academy systems in world football quite as revered as that of Ajax, the Dutch side taking immense pride in their ability to continually produce elite talents.
Matthijs de Ligt and Frenkie de Jong are just two of the talents to come off the Ajax conveyor belt in recent seasons before moving on to pastures new, and teenage midfielder Gravenberch looks like the next player ready to make an impact in Amsterdam.
Gravenberch eclipsed the great Clarence Seedorf as Ajax’s youngest ever Eredivisie player when making his first-team bow as a 16-year-old two years ago, but has had to be patient since that record-breaking moment despite the obvious hype surrounding his talent.
The 18-year-old made five league starts last season, scoring twice, but has been introduced into the team this season, starting three times during Ajax’s opening fixtures of the new campaign and impressing with his mature displays as deep-lying midfield screen.
He has a strong physical presence despite his youth and has been compared in style to Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba.
Ajax shocked Europe to reach the semi-finals with a team packed full of young talent two years ago, a new generation including the teenage Gravenberch, and exciting 20-year-olds in Antony and Mohammed Kudus ready to make their own impression this season.
It takes a special talent to break into the world champion’s side at just 17-years-old, but newly-capped France international Eduardo Camavinga stands as one of the most promising players in the game.
Camavinga is a unique and complete midfield talent with a wide-ranging skillset and has starred since bursting onto the scene with Rennes, as comfortable as a defensive screen as he is further forward, using his athleticism and technical talents to pick passes in opposition territory.
World football’s biggest clubs are monitoring the 17-year-old who will this season be handed a chance to test himself on the Champions League stage, Rennes qualifying for the group stages for the first time after a third-placed finish in Ligue 1.
— UEFA Champions League (@ChampionsLeague) October 13, 2020
Camavinga has become France’s youngest player and youngest goalscorer in more than a century over the past month and there are few who expect the midfielder to remain with Rennes for much longer, Real Madrid reportedly amongst his biggest admirers ahead of a potential summer move.
Rennes face fellow debutants Krasnodar in their group stage opener before meeting Sevilla and Chelsea, their hopes largely pinned on a player seemingly destined for the very top.
Manchester United make their return to the Champions League this season after a one-year absence as they bid to re-establish themselves at this level, with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side possessing plenty of potential including the precociously talented Mason Greenwood.
The academy graduate became the first player in more than two decades to score 10+ goals in a Premier League season aged 18 or under last season, and just the third in history after Robbie Fowler and Michael Owen.
Greenwood’s senior debut came as a late substitute during United’s memorable Champions League victory at Paris Saint-Germain two years ago, but he returns to Europe’s biggest stage as a player who can undoubtedly make an impact.
Greenwood finished his maiden campaign with a hugely impressive 17 goals in all competitions and is already regarded as the best finisher at the club despite only turning 19 earlier this month, his finishing ability with both feet a frightening prospect for opposition defenders.
United face a difficult-looking group with clashes against last season’s runners-up PSG, semi-finalists RB Leipzig and Istanbul Başakşehir, and will hope Greenwood can bounce back from a difficult start to the campaign in style as they bid to reach the knockout stages.
From Championship debut to the Champions League in a little more than a year, Jude Bellingham is another player who has risen rapidly since becoming the youngest player in Birmingham City’s history at the start of last season.
The midfielder instantly made himself a first-choice and enjoyed an excellent debut season at senior level, attracting interest from clubs such as Manchester United before ultimately deciding to tread the increasingly popular path to Germany and sign for Borussia Dortmund.
Arriving in a new league, new culture and new country may have proved unsettling for a player who only turned 17-years-old during the summer, but Bellingham has taken his game to new heights since moving to the Westfalenstadion.
The youngest-ever England U21 international has started three of Dortmund’s first four league fixtures and also became their youngest ever goalscorer in a competitive match against MSV Duisberg, being named as the Bundesliga’s Rookie of the Month following his fast start to life at the club.
Likened to former Liverpool star Steven Gerrard by club teammate Erling Haaland, Bellingham is set to feature as part of one of Europe’s most youthful and exciting attacks in the Champions League this season alongside the Norwegian, Gio Reyna and Jadon Sancho