Five of the best under-21s in the world today.

As Francesco Totti recently celebrated his 40th birthday and 24th year in Roma’s senior side, it got me thinking how there are some supremely gifted up-and-coming players that are half his age – or in some cases, even younger.

Youri Tielemans (Anderlecht)
A sublime midfielder, the 19-year-old Belgian is already into his fourth season with the Brussels side. Having made his debut in summer 2013, Tielemans became the youngest ever Belgian to play in the Champions League in October 2013. All the big clubs around Europe have been keeping an eye on him – he definitely won’t be at Anderlecht forever.

 

Gianluigi Donnarumma (AC Milan)
When Diego Maradona famously said that he watched his “successor in Argentine football” in Leo Messi, I do wonder if Gigi Buffon thought the same of Donnarumma. The 17-year-old is a phenomenon to put it frankly. His athleticism for his 6 foot 5 frame is phenomenal, and he possesses the agility and footwork of any world-class ‘keeper today. He will become the world’s best between the posts, mark my words.

 

Carles Aleña (FC Barcelona)
Many Catalan-based journalists have for some time praised Sergi Samper as the heir to Xavi’s throne in the centre of the pitch. An intelligent holding midfielder with a eye for glorious key passes. The truth is, the most complete young player Barcelona have in that position for the next generation is 18-year-old Carles Aleña. Irish fans had a glimpse of the midfielder as he made his debut against Celtic here at the Aviva Stadium. He will without question be a big player for the Blaugrana.

 

Viktor Kovalenko (Shakhtar Donetsk)
The 20-year-old has with ease filled the void left by China-bound Alex Teixeira at the beginning of 2016, and has wowed crowds at most grounds he plays in. Widely regarded as one of the top young promising players, fans, critics and former pros rate the Ukrainian to go as far as Shevchenko did and even better it. A top player who will play for a huge club no doubt about it.

 

Kingsley Coman (Bayern Munich)
The French winger is, of all the people on this list, possibly the most complete and uniquely gifted players. Currently with Bayern on loan from Juventus, 20-year-old possesses all the attributes and more to become one of the world’s best. His pace, skills, touch, and vision, combined with his diversity to play on either wing or, if needed, as a centre forward. A phenomenon with a massive future.

 

Follow Rob Smith on Twitter (@robsmithireland)