What happened to the Wonderkid XI of 2016 – including Liverpool’s flop and Arsenal’s standouts

Predicting the next generation of superstars can be a thankless task.

For every Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo there is Federico Macheda and Freddy Adu, and for every Wayne Rooney there can be a Sonny Pike.

Most Wonderkid XIs have their fair share of stinks when you can look back at them years later.

Spanish outlet Marca have an annual tradition of trying to select the next set of stars, naming a squad made up of players aged 18 and under, who they believe will go on to reach the heights of the game.

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The aim was to find talented teenagers who, by the age of 20, were regulars in the upper tier, before becoming established stars by their mid-twenties.

In 2022, the players selected in 2016 are now all between 23 and 24 years old and it’s the perfect time to Football Mirror to see how the selections went in the years that followed.

Gianluigi Donnarumma – 23 (Paris Saint-Germain)

Gianluigi Donnarumma was Italy’s hero as they won the Euro 2020 final… can’t remember who he beat


POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

The Italian keeper’s pedigree has been crystal clear since breaking into AC Milan’s senior team aged just 16.

Antonio Conte opted to omit the fresh-faced teenager from his squad for Euro 2016, but he was quickly called up after that tournament and named Gianluigi Buffon’s successor following his retirement in 2018.

To say filling Buffon’s gloves was a big task would be the understatement of the century, but in Donnarumma Italy went from being one of the greatest goalkeepers of all time to a player who could possibly take that mantle. himself.

The Donnarumma legend grew again last summer, named player of the tournament and saving two penalties in the final as the Azzurri won the Euro 2020 title at Wembley.

Kieran Tierney – 24 (Arsenal)

Kieran Tierney has excelled since joining Arsenal from Celtic

Having made his senior debut for Celtic aged 15, Tierney would win the Scottish Premiership title every season he qualified for a medal.

In 2019, the £25million paid by Arsenal was a record for a Scottish international player and he proved to be worth every penny, playing a vital role in Mikel Arteta’s youthful revolution in north London.

Having previously skippered Scotland, Tierney is in talks to be named the Gunners’ next captain, a sign of his position at one of the Premier League’s biggest clubs.

Joe Gomez – 24 (Liverpool)

If that catch-up had been made in 2020, Gomez would be one of the real success stories, having won the Champions League and Premier League in back-to-back seasons with Liverpool.

Before suffering a serious knee injury while on international duty, the England international had established himself as Virgil van Dijk’s first-choice partner. Unfortunately since then, the versatile defender has slipped down the pecking order at Anfield and now finds himself at a potential crossroads in his career.

Reece Oxford – 23 (FC Augsburg)

West Ham academy graduate Reece Oxford is now with Augsburg in the Bundesliga

Having become West Ham’s youngest player at 16 years and 198 days, there were exceptionally high hopes that Oxford would become the latest product of the famed Hammers academy.

But after failing to break into east London, Oxford had loan spells in the Bundesliga, eventually ending up with Augsburg.

In the current campaign, he has made 24 appearances in the German top flight, finally getting the kind of consistent football he needs to start.

Cristian Manea – 24 (CFR Cluj)

Arguably the lesser-known name in the roster, Manea bounced around at clubs in Belgium and Romania, eventually settling in Cluj in 2020.

Still a starter for the Romania national team, the right-back has had a career, but undoubtedly not at the level of some of the other players on the list.

Renato Sanches – 24 (Lille)

Renato Sanches has changed his dropout career since joining Lille

In the six years since his inclusion by Marca, Sanches has experienced the full range of emotions that professional football can offer.

Sanches won the Youth Player of the Tournament award as Portugal made history in 2016, before moving to Bayern Munich soon after.

This however did not work out at the Allianz, never having lived up to its high expectations. After an infamously disastrous loan spell with Swansea, it looked like he could be another name added to the list of football’s biggest flops.

But he enjoyed a career renaissance with Lille, helping them win the Ligue 1 title last season and is now apparently destined for another blockbuster move this summer.

Youri Tielemans – 24 (Leicester City)

Youri Tielemans scored the goal that won Leicester the FA Cup in 2021


Pool via REUTERS)

Unquestionably one of the best midfielders in the Premier League, Tielemans has enjoyed a gradual rise that puts him on the precipice of greatness.

The Belgian midfielder spent two years with Monaco before joining Leicester, initially on loan and thriving under Brendan Rodgers.

He was named Foxes Player of the Season and Players’ Player of the Season in 2020/21, scoring one of the club’s most famous goals, helping them win the FA Cup with a stunner in the final against Chelsea .

Ruben Neves – 24 (Wolves)

Ruben Neves forged a fine Premier League career with Wolves

When the Portuguese wonderkid swapped the Champions League with Porto, for the championship with Wolves, more than a few eyebrows were raised.

At the time of his transfer to Molineux, Neves was still the youngest player to captain a team in Europe’s top competition at just 18 years old.

But the substantial risk of moving into England’s second tier paid off, playing a big part in their promotion to the Premier League – and their smooth transition to a first-half side.

Neves recently made 200 appearances for Wolves and will become one of the club’s greatest modern players whenever he decides to take the next step in his career.

Kylian Mbappé – 23 years old (PSG)

Kylian Mbappe didn’t do too badly all things considered


Getty Images)

We don’t need to spend too much time on the other worldly Kylian Mbappe.

It was also destined to be one of the best in the world and well and truly lived up to the billing.

With a World Cup winner’s medal, four Ligue 1 titles and four Coups de France, he already has a trophy cabinet that most players would only dream of at the end of their careers.

After scoring 156 goals in 205 games for PSG, he looks set to join Real Madrid and become the first true Galactico of this decade.

Dominic Solanke – 24 (Bournemouth)

Dominic Solanke forged a Championship career with Bournemouth

Having decided to jump off the Chelsea loan ring, Solanke was given a fair chance to become a Liverpool regular.

But with just one Premier League goal in a season and a half, the Reds cashed in, selling it to Bournemouth for a whopping £19million.

Now one of the best strikers in the Championship, Solanke is counting on Bournemouth for a return to the Premier League, but to say he has truly lived up to his potential would be going too far.

Martin Odegaard – 23 (Arsenal)

Martin Odegaard has found a home in North London with Arsenal


Arsenal FC via Getty Images)

Arriving on the scene aged 15, Odegaard has been in the spotlight for nearly a decade, despite not turning 24 until the end of the year.

Signed by Real Madrid in 2015, the Norway international never managed to make his mark at the Bernabeu, making just 8 La Liga appearances in six years.

His career began to turn around with positive loan spells at Vitesse and Real Sociedad, before finally finding a home with Arsenal, signing on loan in January 2021 and making the deal permanent later that year. .

Odegaard is now one of Arsenal’s most consistent players and could add the honor of being a club captain yet, to the fact that he is already the skipper of his national team.

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