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World Class at 20

7 young stars under 24 by 2015 who turned into world-class players by the age of 20.

By Updated on Jul 30, 2015   5990 views   2 comments


Neymar made his professional debut on 7 March 2009, despite being only 17 years old, he was brought on for the last thirty minutes, in a 2–1 win against Oeste. This was the start of a big career for the brazillian left-winger. Neymar scored the decisive goal in a 2–1 win against Palmeiras in the 2009 Campeonato Paulista semi-final first leg. In his first season, Neymar racked up 14 goals in 48 games. The next year on 15 April, he scored five goals for Santos in an 8–1 rout of Guarani in the qualifying stages of the Brazilian Cup this was a game where he got lots of media attention. He scored 14 goals in 19 games at the Campeonato Paulista. Santos won the competion and Neymar won the tournaments best player.

—South American football journalist Tim Vickery on Neymar in 2010.:
"The 18-year-old is a magnificent prospect. He is sleek and skilful, able to beat the defender on either side, capable of combining well, and full of tricks he can put to productive use in and around the penalty area."

Later he rejected offers from West Ham and Chelsea as he wanted to focus on Santos, a big help was also his unwillingness to play in England. Despite his first two seasons being highly successful, having ended the 2010 season with an impressive 42 goals in 60 games, problems had been identified, namely Neymar's apparent taste for diving when tackled, rather than attempting to continue his run, and his attitude. In December 2010, aged just 18, Neymar came third for the 2010 South American Footballer of the Year, behind Andrés D'Alessandro and Juan Sebastián Verón.

Neymar scored six goals during Santos run to the 2011 Copa Libertadores Finals, tying him for third top goalscorer, including the clinching goal of Santos' 4–3 aggregate win over Cerro Porteño in the semifinals, then in the two-legged final aiganst Peñarol they drew the first 0-0. In the second leg he scored one and was heavily involved in the second when his side won 2-1 to take home the Copa Libertadores. On 9 November 2011, Neymar and Santos agreed to a contract extension that would see the player stay with the club until after the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. He won the 2011 FIFA Puskás Award for scoring a sensational solo goal in the Brasileirão Série A against Flamengo, in a 5–4 loss. On 31 December 2011, he won the 2011 South American Footballer of the Year award for the first time, by a record margin, following in the footsteps of Diego Maradona, Romário, Pelé and Zico. At this moment he was heavily compared to Pelé.

On 5 February 2012, when he turned 20, he scored his 100th goal as a professional football player, against Palmeiras in the Campeonato Paulista. In the fixture against São Paulo on 29 April 2012, Neymar scored a hat-trick with the match ending 3–1. Thereafter, he went on to score twice in the 1st and 2nd legs in the 2012 Campeonato Paulista Finals against Guarani, which ended 7–2 on aggregate. Neymar finished the 2012 Campeonato Paulista with 20 goals and was voted the Best player and Best Forward, and Santos were crowned champions. He was joint top scorer in the Copa Libertadores with 8 goals, after Santos were beaten over two legs by eventual champions Corinthians in the semi-finals.

Neymar was voted the Best player of the 2012 Recopa Sudamericana, Neymar scoring in the second leg to win the title 2–0 on aggregate. He finished the 2012 Campeonato Brasileiro Série A with 14 goals and being voted the Best forward. Neymar finished the 2012 season, being award the Golden Ball, Arthur Friedenreich Award and Armando Nogueira Trophy. He was one of three finalists in the 2012 FIFA Puskás Award and finished runners-up behind Miroslav Stoch. He won the 2012 South American Footballer of the Year, retaining his award and winning it ahead of the likes of Ronaldinho. Reports emerged in 2011 that Santos reached an agreement with Barcelona to sign him at a later stage. However, Neymar rejected this in an interview, saying that he had "no agreement with Barcelona or anyone else".

On 3 February 2013, in the Paulista fixture against São Paulo, where Santos won 3–1, with Neymar scoring and making two assists. On 18 March 2013, Neymar told that he had a "dream of playing in Europe, for a big club like Barcelona, Real Madrid and Chelsea." But he went on to say: "There's no point in speculating when I'll leave Santos. I'll leave when I want to." At this moment all media were speculating Barcelona had made a bid for the Brazilian. Neymar scored all four goals, had another disallowed and hit the post as Santos beat União Barbarense 4–0 in the Paulista on 13 April. On 25 April 2013, his agent and father revealed that Neymar intended to leave for Europe before the 2014 FIFA World Cup. Ahead of his last match for Santos, on 26 May against Flamengo, Neymar was in tears during the national anthem.

On 24 May 2013, Santos announced that they had received two offers for Neymar. The following day, Neymar announced he would sign with FC Barcelona on 27 May 2013 and join the team after playing in the 2013 Confederations Cup. Neither Neymar nor the clubs released details on the transfer fee or personal terms, except to say he signed a five-year deal. On 3 June 2013, Neymar was unveiled by Barcelona after passing medical tests and signing a contract that would keep him at the club through June 2018.


Neymar was presented at the Camp Nou in front of 56,500 fans, a record turnout for a Brazilian player. Club vice-president Josep Maria Bartomeu said Neymar's transfer fee was €57.1 million and his release clause was set at €190 million. Barcelona's doctor suggested he might need to gain weight to be able to cope physically in Spanish football.

On 30 July 2013, Barcelona drew 2–2 against Lechia Gdańsk in a preseason friendly; this was Neymar's unofficial debut when he came on as a substitute. He scored his first goal for the club in a 7–1 win against a Thailand XI on 7 August.

Many said Neymar was overated and was gonna pull a ´´Robinho´´ as he had only proven himself in the brazillian league.

Neymar made his competitive debut for Barcelona during the opening game of the 2013–14 La Liga season as a 63rd minute substitute in a 7–0 win against Levante UD. On 21 August, he scored his first competitive goal for the club in the first leg of the 2013 Supercopa de España against Atlético Madrid. On 18 September, he made his UEFA Champions League debut, assisting a Gerard Piqué goal as Barça beat AFC Ajax 4–0 in their opening match of the 2013–14 tournament.

On 24 September, Neymar scored his first goal in La Liga in Barcelona's 4–1 defeat of Real Sociedad at Camp Nou. On 26 October he made his first El Clásico appearance, scoring the opening goal and assisting the team's winning goal scored by Alexis Sánchez as Barcelona beat Real Madrid 2–1 at Camp Nou.

On 13 September 2014, after appearing as a substitute, Neymar scored his first two goals of the 2014–15 season, helping Barcelona beat Athletic Bilbao 2–0. On 27 September, he scored a hat-trick against Granada in a 6–0 win and went on to score in his next three La Liga matches, including the opening goal in a 1–3 loss to Real Madrid at Estadio Santiago Bernabéu.

On 24 January 2015, Neymar scored twice and assisted two more goals in a 6–0 win at Elche. On 28 January, he scored his 20th goal of the season in a 3–2 Copa del Rey quarter-final win over Atlético de Madrid. On 4 March, Neymar scored twice in Barcelona's 3–1 Copa del Rey semi-final win over Villarreal to qualify the club for its 37th Spanish Cup final. On 21 April, Neymar took his tally to 30 goals for the season by scoring twice in Barcelona's 2–0 Champions League quarter-final win over Paris Saint-Germain to qualify the club for the semi-finals.

In May, the closing month of the season, Neymar scored the last goal in a 3–0 win against FC Bayern Munich in the first leg of the Champions League semi-final. A week later, he scored both the team's goals in a 3–2 second leg defeat at the Allianz Arena to ensure Barça would qualify for the 2015 UEFA Champions League Final aiganst Juventus. He also opened the scoring with a header in a 2–0 league win versus Real Sociedad, a result which gave Barça a four point lead over Real Madrid with only two matches remaining.

Toni Kroos

On 31 January 2009, Bayern allowed Kroos to join Bayer 04 Leverkusen on an 18-month loan to gain first team experience.

On 28 February 2009, Kroos made his first appearance for Bayer Leverkusen as a substitute in a 1–0 defeat against Hannover 96. On 12 April, he made his first Bundesliga start for Leverkusen, assisting the team's goal in a 1–1 draw with SV Werder Bremen. On 18 April 2009, he scored his first Bundesliga goal in a 2–1 loss to VfL Wolfsburg. On 30 May, Kroos appeared as a late substitute in the 2009 DFB-Pokal Final against Bremen, where Leverkusen were beaten 1–0 by a Mesut Özil goal.

During the 2008–09 season, Kroos made 13 appearances for Leverkusen in all competitions, scoring once. Kroos established himself as a regular in the Leverkusen team in 2009–10, appearing all but one of Bayer's Bundesliga matches. Between matchdays 16 and 20, Kroos registered five goals and four assists in five Bundesliga matches, earning him back-to-back "player of the month" awards from kicker for December 2009 and January 2010. He ended the season with nine goals and 12 assists from 33 matches.

During 2011–12, under Jupp Heynckes, his former coach at Leverkusen, Kroos established himself as a first choice player from Bayern, forming a strong midfield partnership with national team colleague Bastian Schweinsteiger. He played 51 matches in all competitions during the season, including the 2012 UEFA Champions League Final, where Bayern were beaten on penalties by Chelsea at the Allianz Arena.

Kroos was an important member of Bayern's treble winning team during the 2012–13 season. As the most advanced member of a midfield containing Schweinsteiger and Javi Martínez, Kroos scored three goals in the team's opening four Bundesliga matches. He also scored his first Champions League goal in Bayern's opening group match against Valencia CF. After sustaining an injury in the first leg of the Champions League quarter-final against Juventus, Kroos was unavailable for the remainder of the season, missing Bayern's successes in the 2013 UEFA Champions League Final, the 2013 DFB-Pokal Final and the last seven matches of the Bundesliga season.

On 17 July 2014, Real Madrid announced that they had reached an agreement for the transfer of Kroos, signing a six-year deal for an undisclosed fee. The press reported that Kroos had cost between €25 million and €30 million. Kroos became the ninth German player, after Günter Netzer, Paul Breitner, Uli Stielike, Bernd Schuster, Bodo Illgner, Christoph Metzelder, Mesut Özil, and Sami Khedira, to join Real Madrid. At his presentation in front of 8,000 supporters, he stated how Real Madrid are the "biggest club in the World" and are a "cut above Bayern."He played in his debut match against Sevilla FC in the 2014 UEFA Super Cup on 12 August 2014, winning his first trophy at Real Madrid.

Kroos was selected to Joachim Löw's 23-man squad for the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa. He made his FIFA World Cup debut in Germany's final group-stage match versus Ghana, coming on in the 80th minute for Bastian Schweinsteiger, with Germany leading 1–0. He made further appearances as a substitute in the quarter-finals against Argentina, in the semi-finals against Spain and in the third place play-off against Uruguay.

During Germany's 2014 World Cup qualifying campaign, Kroos scored his first two competitive international goals in a 6–1 win over Ireland in Dublin. On 6 September 2013, he scored the team's second goal in a 3–0 win over Austria.

–Joachim Löw, Manager of the Germany National Football Team:
"How Toni distributes the ball, how he receives it, is very good. He's technically excellent ... He has made progress in the last few matches, I'm extremely satisfied with the player."

Kroos was named in Germany's squad for the 2014 FIFA World Cup. In the team's opening match, a 4–0 defeat of Portugal, Kroos started in midfield and assisted Mats Hummels for Germany's second goal. In the semi-final against the host nation Brazil, Kroos scored two goals two minutes apart (24' and 26') in Germany's 7–1 win. He also recorded his fourth assist of the tournament, crossing for Thomas Müller's opening goal, and was named man of the match by FIFA. Kroos has been nicknamed Garçom ("waiter" in Portuguese) by the Brazilians for precisely delivering most passes to the strikers. On 11 July, Kroos was named on the 10-man shortlist for FIFA's Golden Ball award for the tournament's best player. The Castrol Performance Index, the official statistical analyser of the World Cup, rated Kroos as the best player at the 2014 World Cup, with a rating of 9.79 out of 10.

Christian Eriksen

On 17 October 2008 it was announced that Eriksen had signed a two-and-a-half-year contract with Amsterdam-based Ajax. The transfer fee received by OB was estimated at €1 million (£847,199). He worked his way through the youth teams, and was promoted to the first team squad in January 2010, where he was given the number 51 shirt. Within the month, he made his first team debut for the Dutch team in the Eredivisie on 17 January 2010 against NAC Breda. Ajax manager Martin Jol compared him to the likes of Ajax youth products Wesley Sneijder and Rafael van der Vaart and described him as a good reader of the game in the traditional "number 10" role like the two Dutch internationals and Danish legend Michael Laudrup, who also played for Ajax.

Eriksen started the 2010–11 season well, scoring his first Ajax league goal on 29 August 2010 in an away victory over De Graafschap. On 11 November 2010, Eriksen scored his first goal at the Amsterdam ArenA a 3–0 Cup victory over BV Veendam. In December, Eriksen was named Danish "Talent of the Year". Several days after receiving this award, Eriksen once again proved his value to Ajax by scoring the only goal in a 0–1 away league victory over Vitesse. On 17 February 2011, Eriksen scored his first goal in a European tournament, the Ajax goal to 2–0, when Ajax beat Anderlecht 3–0 in the 2010–11 UEFA Europa League. On 13 March 2011, Eriksen scored a solo goal, running from the half way line to finish it off with a strike to secure a 3–1 win over Willem II.

During the rest of the season, Eriksen became more and more important for Ajax, due to his growing capabilities as the team's playmaker, providing many assists. After a good season during which he developed himself into an undisputed starter in the side that won the 2010–11 Eredivisie (Ajax's first Eredivisie title in seven years), he was named Ajax's Talent of the Year.

–Johan Cruyff:
""He's a player I really like with all my heart, this prize is just the beginning, a stimulus to get the maximum out of his career. The talent is there, the recognition also; now it is up to the player himself. He is a typical product of the Danish school. You can compare him with Brian and Michael Laudrup. Only time will tell if Eriksen can reach the same level as them.""

On 18 October 2011, Eriksen scored his first goal in the UEFA Champions League when Ajax beat Dinamo Zagreb 2–0 in the group stage, making him the 2nd youngest player to score in the 2011–12 season. He was named Danish Football Player of the Year on 7 November after helping Ajax win the Eredivisie the previous year and guiding the national team to a successful Euro 2012 qualification campaign. Following the success of Eriksen's third consecutive Eredivisie title in the 2012–13 season, he opted not to renew his contract with Ajax, and with one year still remaining on his current contract he was permitted to search for a new club. Having come to terms with Tottenham Hotspur in England, Eriksen left Ajax having appeared in 113 league matches, scoring 25 goals and 41 assists. He played in 16 matches for the KNVB Cup, scoring four goals and making four assists. He made 30 appearances on the continental stage for Ajax, scoring three goals, and making 9 assists all together. Having also competed in the Johan Cruijff Shield three years in a row.


On 30 August 2013, Tottenham Hotspur announced that they had completed the transfer of Eriksen from Ajax, in a deal believed to be worth £11 million (€13.5 million), after Eriksen passed a medical at the club. Eriksen joined the club on the same day as Erik Lamela, who joined from Roma, and Vlad Chiricheș, who joined from Steaua București, and took the club's total spending for the 2013 summer transfer window to £109.5 million.

On 19 September 2013, Eriksen "clipped a wonderful dipping shot" over the goalkeeper to score his first Tottenham goal and complete a 3–0 win over Tromsø IL in the Europa League. He added to his Tottenham goal tally with a goal from a free kick in a 1–1 draw against West Bromwich Albion on Boxing Day 2013, and the second goal in Spurs' 2–1 win against Manchester United on 1 January 2014. On 23 March, after goals from Jay Rodriguez and Adam Lallana had given Southampton a 2–0 lead against Tottenham at White Hart Lane, Eriksen scored twice to level the score and assisted Gylfi Sigurðsson who Eriksen was thought to be a great friend with to score the winning goal. On 12 April, he scored a stoppage-time equalizer as Spurs came from 3–0 down to draw 3–3 at West Bromwich Albion. By the end of the season, Eriksen had scored 7 goals in the Premier League.

David Alaba

In summer 2008 he moved to the youth department of FC Bayern Munich. There initially provided for the U-17 in the B-Youth Bundesliga, but he played from the beginning of October a regular for the U-19 in the A-Youth Bundesliga, where he in his second on 25 October 2008 on 90 played minutes and the last goal for 8: 0 victory against SSV Jahn Regensburg contributed.

The announcement by Hermann Gerland intention to integrate Alaba for the 2009/10 season in the second team, was completed by his successor, Mehmet Scholl. After getting over lighter injuries early in the season Alaba debuted 16 August 2009 at 0: 0 draw at home to Dynamo Dresden in the On August 29, he scored 1 in the home win over the Wuppertaler SV Borussia his first goal. He rapidly developed into a regular player, Alaba trained sporadically even with the first team of Louis van Gaal and played in many friendlies.

Three days later he was in the Champions League in the first knockout round against Fiorentina in the starting XI. . He is the youngest player used the Bayern in the Champions League [10] Bavaria chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge praised Alaba, who had the most ball contacts: "He played very well. It has not looked at him that it was his first game for Bayern Munich from the outset. "

Alaba was not used in the play with the pros of coach Louis van Gaal to his ancestral position in midfield, but as a left defender. "He's a left-back, even if he does not think he is," said van Gaal. He lost the Champions League final with 0: 2 lost to Inter Milan. Shortly after his 18th birthday signed Alaba on 30 June 2010 at Bayern a professional contract over three years.

During the winter break 2010/11 Luiz Gustavo joined FC Bayern München from TSG 1899 Hoffenheim. In return Alaba joined on loan for the second half to Hoffenheim. On 23 January 2011 he scored his side's lead to 2: 2 in his first Bundesliga home game against FC St. Pauli. For Hoffenheim he completed 17 games in the 1. Bundesliga and scored two goals.

In the summer break of 2011 extended his contract with Alaba Bayern Munich until 2015. For the season 2011/12 he returned to Bayern, playing in the first round in all competitions where he often appeared as a substitute. That changed in the second half in which he pushed Rafinha from the starting eleven. On December 5, 2012 Alaba scored in the game against FC BATE Borisov in the 83rd minute when the score was 3: 0 he scored his first Champions League goal. In Bundesliga game on February 9, 2013 against FC Schalke 04, he scored his first brace in the Bundesliga. He was German Cup winner Champions League winner, he became the first austrian to play in a Champions League final.

In the Champions League match against AS Roma on 5 November 2014, David Alaba pulled to a partial tear of the medial collateral ligament and a medial meniscus injury in his right knee. He underwent surgery on November 7, 2014 and started training on 12 January 2015. In January 2015 Alaba was chosen for the second time in a row in the official UEFA team of 2014. Alaba received a total of 354 067 votes, and was elected for the position of left-back.

Mario Götze

Götze is a product of Dortmund's youth academy, first entering the club as an eight-year-old. He made his Bundesliga debut on 21 November 2009 in a scoreless draw against Mainz 05, coming on as a substitute for Jakub Błaszczykowski in the 88th minute. During the winter break of the 2009–10 Bundesliga season, Dortmund manager Jürgen Klopp promoted Götze to the first team. Götze took his chance and was an important player in Dortmund's Bundesliga-winning squad of the 2010–11 season. He finished 2010–11 season with 8 goals and 11 assists in all competitions.

He played in the 2011 German Super Cup' losing to Schalke 04.[11] In January 2012, Götze was diagnosed with a hip injury. Cartilage in Götze's hip had inflamed under stress. On 27 March 2012, Götze signed a new contract with Borussia Dortmund, keeping him at Borussia Dortmund until 2016. His contract, however, contained a release clause from Dortmund, triggered by a fixed transfer fee of at least €37 million. Götze spoke about his contract extension. In April 2012, Götze made the squad for the first time since his hip injury but was an unused substitute against rivals Schalke 04. He played his first game since his hip injury when he came on as a substitute against Borussia Mönchengladbach.

Götze won the Bundesliga with Borussia Dortmund in 2012 as Borussia Dortmund set a Bundesliga record scoring the most points in a season in the Bundesliga with 81 points (which was later broken by Bayern Munich in 2012–13). Götze also won the DFB-Pokal with Dortmund (5–2) against rivals Bayern Munich in 2012. Götze finished the season with seven goals and eight assists in all competitions.

Former German captain and head coach Franz Beckenbauer on Reus and Götze partnership, December 2012:
At Barcelona Lionel Messi, Andres Iniesta and Xavi are building a triangle, but as a classic duo there is nobody better than the prolific Reus and Götze. How they split Ajax in the Champions League impressed me. I hope they do not succeed in Munich.

He kicked off his 2012-2013 season by losing the 2012 German Super Cup. On the first day of the 2012–13 season, Götze came on as a substitute and scored the winner against Werder Bremen in a 2–1 win for Dortmund. On 19 December, he netted a hat-trick, powering Dortmund to a 5–1 defeat of Hannover 96 in the third round of the DFB-Pokal.

Götze provided an assist and netted a goal in Dortmund's 3–0 second leg defeat of Shakhtar Donetsk on 5 March 2013, completing a 5–2 aggregate victory over the Ukrainian champions as Dortmund progressed to the quarter-finals of the Champions League. The result meant that Dortmund had advanced to the quarter-finals for the first time in 15 years. Götze was ruled out of the final against Bayern Munich at Wembley Stadium, London, as he suffered thigh injury against Real Madrid in the second leg of the semi-final, which his side lost 2–0 but still progressed to the final through an aggregate score of 4–3. His Dortmund side lost the final 2–1 after a late Arjen Robben goal sealed Bayern's victory.

On 23 April 2013, it was announced that Götze was moving on 1 July 2013 to rivals Bayern Munich after they had triggered Götze's release clause of €37 million. The transfer made Götze the most expensive German player of all time. Mesut Özil eventually broke the record later in the summer, transferring to Arsenal for €50 Million. Dortmund coach Jürgen Klopp claimed that the reason behind Götze's transfer to Bayern was the playmaker's wish to play under manager Pep Guardiola, formerly of FC Barcelona. Klopp admitted his annoyance at the timing of the announcement of Götze's move, as it was barely 36 hours before Dortmund's Champions League semi-final with Real Madrid. Klopp later said that Dortmund had no chance of convincing Götze to stay with Dortmund, as he claimed, "He [Götze] is a Pep Guardiola favourite.


On 11 August 2013, Götze made his Bayern Munich debut, coming on as a substitute for Mitchell Weiser in the 60th minute. Götze netted two goals to help Bayern get a 1–4 win against Hungarian champions Győri ETO in a friendly match. He made his league debut for the club in a Bundesliga home match against 1. FC Nürnberg on 24 August 2013, which Bayern won 2–0. On 19 October 2013, Götze came on as a substitute and made two assists to help Bayern from a one-goal deficit to get a 4–1 win against 1. FSV Mainz 05.

On 23 October 2013, Götze scored his first competitive goal for Bayern in a 5–0 Champions League group stage win over Viktoria Plzeň at the Allianz Arena. He also assisted Bastian Schweinsteiger in the game. On 26 October 2013, Götze came on as a substitute for Toni Kroos in 25th minute and scored his first Bundesliga goal for Bayern Munich with a header in a 3–2 win against Hertha BSC. On 2 November 2013, he made his return to starting line-up in a 2–1 away win of Bayern against TSG 1899 Hoffenheim. On 23 November 2013, Götze came off the bench and scored the first goal of a 3–0 away victory over his former team and now a rival Borussia Dortmund. In the team's next fixture against CSKA Moscow, Götze scored the second goal of 3–1 away win in the 2013–14 UEFA Champions League group stage. On 7 December 2013, Götze helped Bayern by netting a goal in the closing minute, as well as assisting Thomas Müller in a dominant 7–0 away victory over Werder Bremen. On 17 December 2013, Götze scored a long-range goal in the 47th minute against the AFC champion Guangzhou Evergrande. Bayern Munich won 3–0 to advance in 2013 FIFA Club World Cup Final where he came on as an 80th minute sub. Bayern won the match 2–0.

On 24 January 2014, Götze started as a "false 9" and scored his first goal in the second half of the season against Borussia Mönchengladbach, Bayern won the match 0–2. On 25 March, he scored in a 3–1 win over Hertha BSC as Bayern were confirmed as Bundesliga champions. On 3 May 2014, he scored a brace and assisted two in their 4–1 away win against Hamburger SV. On 17 May 2014, he played the full 120 minute match against his former club Borussia Dortmund in 2014 DFB-Pokal Final. Bayern won 2–0 in extra time to win their second major title this season.Götze's debut season with Bayern has yielded a mixture of success and frustration, scoring 15 goals and providing 14 assists in all competition.

He was named in the starting line-up against Portugal in the team's opening match, winning the penalty kick for Germany's opening goal on his FIFA World Cup debut. In the team's second match, he scored the opening goal and was named the Man of the Match in a 2–2 draw with Ghana.Götze played just 14 minutes in 0–1 win against the United States, half of the Round of 16 win against Algeria and seven minutes in their Quarterfinal 0–1 win against France. The fact that the German coach Joachim Löw brought on Julian Draxler for his first minutes of the World Cup in Germany's Semi-final 7–1 hammering of Brazil, keeping Götze benched throughout, perhaps was a wake-up call for him.

In the World Cup final against Argentina, Löw substituted 36-year-old Miroslav Klose after 88 minutes with Götze and told him "Show the world you are better than Messi and can decide the World Cup". Götze scored the only goal of the match in the 113th minute, controlling André Schürrle's cross on his chest before volleying the ball into the net, giving Germany their fourth World Cup. He became the first substitute to score a World Cup winning goal, and the youngest player to score in a World Cup Final since fellow German Wolfgang Weber in 1966 (who was also 22).


After helping Germany win the 2014 FIFA World Cup, Götze started his 2014–15 season on 13 August 2014. He came on as substitute in a 2–0 loss against his former club Borussia Dortmund in 2014 DFL-Supercup. On 17 August 2014, Götze opened his scoring account in their first 2014–15 DFB-Pokal win against SC Preußen Münster. On 22 August 2014, he started and played for 62 minutes in their 2–1 home season opener victory against Vfl Wolfsburg. On 23 September 2014, he scored twice in Bayern's 4–0 home win against SC Paderborn. On 18 October 2014, Götze netted another brace in their 6–0 home win against Werder Bremen. On 28 October 2014, FIFA announced that Götze is included in the 23-man shortlist for 2014 FIFA Ballon d'Or. On 22 November 2014, Götze scored a stylistic long range goal in their 4–0 win against Hoffenheim and it was voted as the Bundesliga goal of the week. On 14 February 2015, Götze scored his third brace of the season and assisted one in their dominating 8–0 win against Hamburger SV.

On 28 April 2015, Götze was one of four Bayern players to miss in a 2–0 penalty shootout defeat to Borussia Dortmund in the DFB-Pokal semi-final. He ended the season with 15 goals in 48 appearances for all competitions.

Thibaut Courtois

After progressing through the Genk youth system, Courtois, aged 16 years and 341 days, made his first team début for Genk on 17 April 2009 against Gent. He was a key figure in Genk's title victory in the 2010–11 season in the Belgian Pro League whilst living in Belgium. He received the Goalkeeper of the Year and Genk's Player of the Year award, only conceding 32 goals over the course of 40 league matches and keeping 14 clean sheets for Genk.

In July 2011 Courtois joined Premier League club Chelsea for an undisclosed fee, signing a five-year deal. Within weeks of joining Chelsea, Courtois was sent on a season-long loan to Atlético Madrid. He was given the number 13 shirt by Atlético, which had previously been worn by David de Gea prior to his transfer to Manchester United in June 2011. Courtois made his debut for Atlético in a 4–0 UEFA Europa League victory over Vitória de Guimarães on 25 August, and three days later kept a clean sheet on his La Liga debut, a goalless draw against Osasuna at the Vicente Calderón Stadium. Courtois became first-choice goalkeeper over Sergio Asenjo, keeping four clean sheets in his first six La Liga games.

On 26 November 2011, Courtois received his first red card of his professional career after fouling Real Madrid's Karim Benzema for a penalty in the Madrid derby. Cristiano Ronaldo put the penalty past substitute goalkeeper Asenjo as Atlético lost 1–4. Atlético reached the 2012 UEFA Europa League Final, and Courtois kept a clean sheet as the club won 3–0 over fellow Spanish side Athletic Bilbao.

Courtois' loan to Atlético was extended to cover the 2012–13 season. His first game of the loan extension was against parent club Chelsea in the 2012 UEFA Super Cup final in Monaco, which ended in a 4–1 victory for Atlético Madrid. Later in the season Courtois set a new Atlético Madrid record of 820 minutes without conceding a goal at the Estadio Vicente Calderon, ended by being beaten in a 1–0 loss to Real Sociedad. Atlético reached the 2013 Copa del Rey Final, and Courtois was named man of the match in a 2–1 victory against Real, the first time that Atlético had beaten their city rivals in 14 years.

For the 2013–14 season, Courtois' loan to Atlético was extended by a further 12 months. When Atlético were drawn to play Chelsea in the Champions League semi-final, it was reported that a clause in Courtois' contract required Atlético to pay Chelsea €3 million per match if they selected him against his parent club, and that Atlético could not afford such a sum. UEFA made it clear that considerations of sporting integrity made such a clause "null, void and unenforceable", and confirmed that Atlético were free to select Courtois without making any such payment.

By conceding the fewest goals in a substantial amount of matches during the 2013–14 season, Courtois made an important contribution to Atletico's 2013–14 La Liga title, their first since 1996. Thus, he was nominated as the best goalkeeper in the league, alongside Willy Caballero of Málaga CF and Keylor Navas of Levante UD. Atletico, however, lost the UEFA Champions League Final 1–4 against neighbours Real Madrid on 28 May in Lisbon.

In June 2014, Chelsea manager José Mourinho confirmed that Courtois would return to Chelsea for the upcoming season. He was assigned the number 13 kit number, last worn by Victor Moses. On 18 August, Mourinho announced that Courtois would start the Premier League opener against Burnley in place of Petr Čech. Although he conceded the first goal to Scott Arfield at Turf Moor, Chelsea won 3–1. Courtois kept his first Premier League clean sheet in his second game, making several crucial saves in a 2–0 home win over Leicester City.

On 11 September 2014, Courtois signed a new five-year contract with Chelsea, keeping him at the club until 2019. Upon signing Courtois said: "It’s really nice to have signed this new contract for five years." Courtois suffered a head injury in the first half of Chelsea's 2–0 home win over Arsenal on 5 October due to a collision with Alexis Sánchez; he was substituted and then taken to hospital. He was then treated for a minor cut to his ear and released from hospital that night.

He won his first trophy with Chelsea on 1 March 2015, as they defeated Tottenham Hotspur 2–0 in the League Cup Final, but Čech played that match and Courtois remained on the substitutes' bench.

Paul Pogba

On 31 July 2009, Pogba announced that he was departing Le Havre to join the youth academy of Manchester United in England. The move stunned his parent club, as it allegedly had a "non-solicitation agreement" with Pogba, which was agreed to by not only the player but also his parents in 2006. The agreement, which was in place until the end of the 2009–10 season, allowed Le Havre to sign Pogba to an aspirant (youth) contract once the player met specific age and scholarship requirements. On 1 August, Le Havre released an official statement on its website criticising Manchester United and the Pogba family. Le Havre also announced its intent to ask FIFA to probe the situation.

In response to Le Havre's accusations, Manchester United threatened to sue the club, while Pogba denied he was leaving Le Havre for monetary reasons, which Le Havre president Jean-Pierre Louvel had alleged to be £87,000 and a house. Le Havre was also accused by Pogba's former club Torcy of using the same tactics it purported Manchester United to have used when the club acquired Pogba from its youth academy. On the same day of Pogba's announcement to depart for England, Torcy released a press release on its official website criticising Le Havre's accusations, stating, "We will not use the term 'steal,' but the recruiters of Le Havre acted the same way with the club in Torcy."

The club cited Le Havre's acceptance of allowing Pogba to sign an amateur license with the club without notifying Torcy as its primary reason why. On 7 October, Manchester United were cleared of wrongdoing by a judge appointed by FIFA, with the declaration that Pogba was not contractually linked to Le Havre. Despite having the option to appeal, on 18 June 2010, Le Havre officials confirmed that the club had reached an agreement with Manchester United for the transfer of Pogba. The terms of the agreement were confidential.

Pogba completed his transfer to Manchester United on 7 October 2009 and made his debut with the club's under-18 team on 10 October against Crewe Alexandra in a 2–1 defeat. He finished the 2009–10 under-18 campaign with seven goals in 21 appearances. The team finished first in their group, but lost to Arsenal 5–3 on penalties in the play-off semi-finals. In April 2010, Pogba was a part of the under-18 team that successfully defended their title at the Torneo Calcio Memorial Claudio Sassi-Sassuolo in Bologna, Italy. In the 2010–11 season, Pogba remained on the club's academy team in the Premier Academy League and played with the team during the first three months of the season. In November 2010, he was called up to the club's reserve team and made his debut on 2 November 2010 in a 3–1 win over Bolton Wanderers. On 10 January 2011, in the FA Youth Cup, Pogba scored a long-range goal, described as a "piledriver", in the team's 3–2 victory over Portsmouth. The win allowed the team to progress to the fourth round of the competition. A month later, Pogba scored a similar goal in a 3–2 defeat to West Bromwich Albion in the Academy League.

On 19 February 2011, Pogba was one of four academy players promoted to the first-team squad by manager Alex Ferguson ahead of Manchester United's FA Cup fifth round match against Crawley Town, for which he was assigned the number 42 shirt.[33] He continued in the under-18s for the rest of the season, helping the team to a lengthy run in the FA Youth Cup; in the semi-final encounter against Chelsea in the competition, Pogba converted a goal in the first leg, a 3–2 defeat, and provided the assist for the opening goal of the second leg, a 4–0 win. In the final, Manchester United defeated Sheffield United 6–3 on aggregate to win their 10th Youth Cup title; Pogba started and played the entire match in both legs.

Ahead of the start of the 2011–12 season, Ferguson confirmed that Pogba would feature with the senior team during the season, stating: "I mean if we hold Pogba back, what's going to happen? He's going to leave. You know, in a couple of years' time when his contract is going to finish. So we have to give him the opportunity to see how he can do in the first-team and he's got great ability".

Pogba was promoted to the club's reserve team permanently for the 2011–12 season and made his first appearance of the season on 15 August 2011 in the team's opening Premier Reserve League match against Arsenal.[39] On 25 August, in the team's second league match against Swansea City reserves, Pogba scored the second goal in a 6–0 rout. On 19 September, he was named to the first team to participate in their Football League Cup tie against Leeds United the following day, with Ferguson proclaiming: "I intend to play him [Pogba] against Leeds United". Pogba appeared as a half-time substitute to make his professional debut as Manchester United won the match 3–0. Pogba made his second appearance against Aldershot Town in the Fourth Round of the League Cup on 25 October 2011.

Pogba made his Premier League debut against Stoke City on 31 January 2012, replacing Javier Hernández in the 72nd minute. He made another substitute appearance against West Bromwich Albion on 11 March. Four days later, he made his European debut in the second leg of the team's UEFA Europa League round of 16 tie against Spanish club Athletic Bilbao; he appeared as a substitute in the 2–1 away defeat, coming on for Michael Carrick in the 63rd minute as Manchester United lost the tie 5–3 on aggregate.

On 3 July 2012, Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson confirmed that Pogba had left the club after not signing a new contract.Ferguson stated that Pogba had signed for Italian club Juventus "a long time ago as far as we're aware." Ferguson also accused Pogba of disrespecting Manchester United, saying "It is disappointing. I don't think he showed us any respect at all, to be honest. I'm quite happy that if they [footballers] carry on that way, they're probably better doing it away from us." On 27 July, Juventus confirmed on their official website that Pogba had undergone a medical at the club, and the transfer was completed on 3 August, when he signed a four-year contract. He made his first appearance for Juventus in a pre-season friendly against Benfica in Geneva on 1 August, coming on as a 78th-minute substitute for Andrea Pirlo.

Pogba's first competitive appearance with Juventus came in the Serie A match against Chievo on 22 September 2012, where he played the full 90 minutes. On 2 October, Pogba made his first appearance in the UEFA Champions League in a 1-1 home draw against Shakhtar Donetsk, and on 20 October, Pogba scored his first goal for the club in a 2–0 win over Napoli. On 31 October, he started against Bologna and scored the game-winning goal in a 2–1 victory. Pogba also contributed to the opening goal scored by Fabio Quagliarella.The midfielder was subsequently praised for his performance in the match by several Italian media outlets such as la Repubblica, Il Messaggero, and La Gazzetta dello Sport.

On 19 January 2013, Pogba scored two goals against Udinese. Both goals were scored from outside the box, with one of them being a spectacular 40-yard goal. On 5 May 2013, Pogba was sent off in Juventus' Scudetto clinching game for spitting towards an opponent after being slapped in the face.

On 18 August 2013, Pogba was a key protagonist of Juventus' 4–0 win over Lazio, the match that won Juventus the 2013 Italian Supercoppa. During the match, Pogba replaced Claudio Marchisio and scored the first goal of the game; he was elected "Man of the Match". In December, Pogba was named 2013's Golden Boy for the best young player in Europe.

On 22 December, Paul Pogba scored a goal and contributed to Juventus's 1–4 away win against Atalanta. In January 2014, Pogba was named by The Guardian as one of the ten most promising young players in Europe. On 18 January 2014, Pogba was decisive in Juventus's 4-2 victory over Sampdoria, as he scored and assisted for the team. Three weeks later, Pogba assisted a goal as Juventus drew 2-2 against Verona. On 20 February, Pogba scored his first goal in UEFA club competitions as Juventus defeated Trabzonspor 2-0 at home in the first leg of the round of 32 of the 2013-14 UEFA Europa League. On 14 April, Pogba produced a beautiful assist in Juventus's 2–0 win over Udinese, the same team that Pogba scored two magnificent goals against in the previous season. Later that week, Pogba scored the only goal in Juventus's 1–0 win over Bologna. Pogba was also named the man of the match for his performance. Pogba would finish the season as a key player for the club, breaking into the starting line-up, winning his second consecutive Serie A title under manager Antonio Conte, and reaching the semi-finals of the Europa League.

On 20 September, under new Juventus manager Massimiliano Allegri, Pogba contributed to Juventus's win against Milan by providing the assist for the only goal of the game, scored by Carlos Tevez. Later that month, on 18 October, Pogba saved Juventus from a defeat against Sassuolo by scoring a decisive equaliser; he was later named man of the match.

On 24 October, Pogba renewed his contract with Juventus, tying him to the club until 2019. On 4 November, on his 100th appearance with the club, Pogba scored Juventus's third goal against Olympiacos in the Champions League, helping them to win the match; this was his first ever Champions League goal. On 22 November, he scored his first brace of the season, in a 3-0 win against Lazio at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome.

On 28 October, Pogba was named as one of the 23 shortlisted candidates for the 2014 Ballon d'Or; at 21, he was the youngest on the list. In 2014, Pogba was awarded the Bravo Award, by the Italian sports magazine Il Guerin Sportivo, which is awarded to the best under-23 player who has participated in European competitions.

On 11 January 2015, Pogba helped Juventus secure their first win against Napoli at the Stadio San Paolo in 14 years as he scored a stunning volley that helped Juventus beat Napoli 3-1. On 15 January, he scored his first goal in the Coppa Italia as Juventus defeated Verona 6-1 in the round of 16 of the tournament. On March 9, Pogba scored the only goal in a 1-0 victory against Sassuolo to put Juventus 11 points clear of Roma at the top of the table. In the second leg of Juventus's round of 16 match-up against Borussia Dortmund, Pogba was taken off during the first half after injuring his hamstring, and was later ruled out for two months. He returned to the starting line-up on 9 May, scoring in a 1-1 home draw against Cagliari, as Juventus celebrated winning their fourth consecutive Serie A title since 2012.

On 13 May, Pogba set up Alvaro Morata's equaliser against Real Madrid, in the second leg of the Champions League semi-final; the goal allowed Juventus win the tie 3-2 on aggregate to advance to the Champions League Final for the first time in 12 years. On 20 May, Pogba set up Juventus's first goal as they defeated Lazio 2–1 at the Stadio Olimpico in the 2015 Coppa Italia Final.

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Discussion: World Class at 20

2 comments have been posted so far.

  • Icarus's avatar
    I disagree with Justice, if even the great Cruyff spends words of admiration for Eriksen shouldn't that alone be enough credentials to the player to be sitting in a prestigious list along the likes of Pogba and Kroos?
  • Justice's avatar
    Wonderful players but it would be a sin to include Eriksen in that list, in my opinion. He's a great player but the others are truly a class above.
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