Tomorrow's stars

today 

The UEFA Champions League has featured some exciting new talents this season, including the "Stockport Iniesta' and the future of Turkish football.

SELECT A PLAYER TO VIEW THEIR PROFILE:

Trent
Alexander-Arnold

Cengiz Ünder

Phil Foden

Marcus Rashford

Dimitri Oberlin

Achraf Hakimi

Giovani Lo Celso

Cengiz Ünder

Club AS Roma     |     Age 20     |     Position Forward

Story so far:

Roma sporting director and renowned talent scout Monchi led the effort to bring Cengiz to Roma last summer, though the former İstanbul Başakşehir winger was hardly an unknown quantity having already made his Turkey debut. Roma fans now liken the left-footed prodigy to Mohamed Salah, and it was his run of five goals in four games that helped turn the club’s fortunes around in February. The last of those was a UEFA Champions League debut strike against FC Shakhtar Donetsk. Cengiz also delivered the corner for Kostas Manolas’s dramatic quarter-final clincher against FC Barcelona.

Strengths:

Comfortable on either flank or playing through the middle, the skilful southpaw is a real handful thanks to his speed, control, eye for a dribble and habit of cutting inside. He also packs a powerful shot from distance and a gift for serving up quick passes and threatening crosses. Ünder, who is busy learning Italian, has been praised by coach Eusebio Di Francesco for his humility – a mindset that should ensure he keeps improving. 

They say:

"I'll be counting on him a lot in the future. Cengiz will become a pillar of the new national team." 
Mircea Lucescu, Turkey Coach

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Phil Foden

Club Manchester City FC     |     Age 17     |     Position Midfielder

Story so far:

What a dizzying year it has been for the ‘Stockport Iniesta’. On target in the 2017 UEFA European Under-17 Championship final last May as England lost to Spain on penalties, the  midfielder then scored twice as the Young Lions beat the same opponents 5-2 in the FIFA U-17 World Cup decider five months later – ending that tournament named as best player. For City, Foden made his UEFA Champions League debut against Feyenoord in the group stage and became the youngest English player to start in the competition when selected at Shakhtar on matchday six. He also found the time to help the Sky Blues’ under-19 side reach the UEFA Youth League finals.

Strengths:

Able to operate in the middle or out wide, Foden has vision, superb close control and a low centre of gravity, allowing him to burst past opponents. Described as “a gift” by coach Josep Guardiola, he is also a threat in the final third, thanks to his passing range and shooting ability. 

They say:

"Phil Foden is fantastic. He is the future. He has a chance to learn from the big players like David Silva, Kevin De Bruyne, İlkay Gündoğan and Fernandinho. They are going to give him more experience and more confidence for the rest of his career. I hope we’ll see a great player." 
Yaya Touré, Manchester City midfielder

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Dimitri Oberlin

Club FC Basel 1893 (on loan from FC Salzburg)     |     Age 20     |     Position Forward

Story so far:

Oberlin is unlikely to forget his 20th birthday in a hurry – and nor are the SL Benfica players left trailing in his wake as he scored the first of two goals in Basel’s 5-0 group stage win on 27 September. The former FC Zürich player headed away a corner in his own area and sprinted the length of the pitch in just 12 seconds to turn in a pass from Renato Steffen, adding another goal later on and going on to finish the group stage with four. The Cameroon-born forward’s breakthrough performance earned him the nicknames ‘Usain’ and ‘the Flash’, and caught the eye of scouts around Europe.

Strengths:

Pace, in a word. Oberlin was clocked at 38km/h during his sensational surge up the pitch against Benfica and is devastating when counterattacking chances open up. That goal also showcased his work rate and willingness to help out defensively.

They say:

"No matter how Dimitri plays, always and everywhere in the box he offers me one thing: a high degree of intensity. Players like Oberlin act instinctively. Dimitri will become calmer and clearer as he grows with experience." 

Raphaël Wicky, Basel coach

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Trent Alexander-Arnold

Club Liverpool FC    |     Age 19     |     Position Defender

Story so far:

Singled out as one of Liverpool’s top prospects by his idol Steven Gerrard in 2015, the right-back made his first-team debut the following year and has shone in the UEFA Champions League this season. A Liverpool native, he became the club’s third-youngest European debutant to find the net when he converted a free-kick against TSG 1899 Hoffenheim in qualifying. He also struck
against NK Maribor during the group stage before a starring role in the Reds’ 3-0 first-leg defeat of Manchester City in the quarter-finals, when he snuffed out the threat of German international Leroy Sané.

Strengths:

Alexander-Arnold is very much a modern attacking full-back, blessed with speed, stamina, dribbling ability, a dangerous cross and an incisive passing range. Impressively mature and composed for his age, he has also worked closely on his defensive skills after some early lapses, developing his focus, discipline
and tenacity.

They say:

"He’s going to get fitter, he’s going to get stronger, he’s going to get more experienced. He’s going to get better and better, which is a very exciting thought for all Liverpool fans." 

Steven Gerrard, former Liverpool captain

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Achraf Hakimi

Club Real Madrid CF    |     Age 19     |     Position Defender

Story so far:

Born in Madrid but a Moroccan international, the right-back is a product of the club’s La Fábrica academy and a UEFA Youth League regular before his promotion this term. ‘Arra’, as he is known by team-mates, came close to joining Deportivo Alavés on loan last summer but stayed at the Bernabéu after Danilo’s departure – and has seized his first-team chances since. These included two full games against Tottenham Hotspur FC during the UEFA Champions League group stage, with Hakimi especially impressive in the 1-1 home draw. His Liga strike against Sevilla FC in December made him the first Moroccan player to score for Madrid.

Strengths:

Hakimi is strong, quick and possesses the stamina to run up and down his flank all day – a perfect combination, given his grounding in Madrid’s attacking philosophy. He comes equipped with a natural ability to weave past opposition players, meaning he can also fill in as a right winger. Nor does his versatility end there, the youngster playing as a left-back for Morocco.

They say:

"He was outstanding. Achraf has shown that he can play and I am not scared to throw him in going forward." 

Zinédine Zidane, Madrid coach

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Giovani Lo Celso

Club Paris Saint-Germain    |     Age 22     |     Position Midfielder

Story so far:

Snapped up from CA Rosario Central two years ago, Lo Celso spent the first half of 2016/17 back on loan with the Argentinian side before a smattering of appearances for Paris in the second. It has been a very different story this season, the versatile midfielder earning more and more playing time thanks to his decisive performances. He served up two assists during the UEFA Champions League group stage and, although disappointment beckoned in the round of 16, Lo Celso struck twice in the 7-1 defeat of AS Monaco FC that wrapped up Paris’s seventh Ligue 1 title.

Strengths:

Signed for his vision and passing high up the pitch, the Argentinian international has also been deployed as a defensive midfielder at the Parc des Princes, surprising many with his strength, tenacity and tough tackling – while maintaining an ability to launch and finish attacks.

They say:

"His progress has been incredible since he arrived. He has everything he needs to become a great player, not just for the club but on the world stage." 

Thiago Motta, Paris midfielder

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Marcus Rashford

Club Manchester United FC    |     Age 20     |     Position Forward

Story so far:

It may seem as if the England striker has been terrorising defences for years, but this season brought his first taste of the UEFA Champions League – and he rose to the challenge in typical fashion. Having scored on his debuts in the UEFA Youth League, Premier League, UEFA Europa League, English League Cup and for England’s U21s and senior side, Rashford took just seven minutes to do the same in Europe’s premier club competition, rising off the bench to register against Basel on matchday one. That came after he helped United clinch the UEFA Europa League last term, with goals in the quarter and semi-finals.

Strengths: 

Rashford brings speed and composure – and, with three goals and an assist in his first UEFA Champions League campaign, he has quickly settled at the highest level. Although keen to play centrally, recently he has featured on the left, using his close control and ability to cut inside to good effect.

They say:

"I’ve seen Marcus play since he was 14 or 15 and you always knew the talent was there. He brings pace and excitement to the team. He can go either way, he can fly past people, he runs through and he scores goals." 

Paul Scholes, former United midfielder