I was never going to make it as a footballer. I’m short, not very fast and could rarely make it off the bench for my local under 15s team. But there are some 17 year olds around the world who have been blessed with sensational ability, and a couple are already making waves in Europe’s big leagues. So here’s my countdown of the top five players that are all my age. Quite scary really…
5. Alban Lafont – France & Toulouse
- Date of Birth: 23rd January 1999
- Age difference to me: 24 days younger
Originally an attacking midfielder, Alban Lafont converted to become a goalkeeper and joined Ligue 1 side Toulouse in 2014. He made his debut for the French club against Nice last November, becoming the youngest ever goalkeeper to play in the country’s top flight at the age of 16 years and 310 days, and helped his side keep a first clean sheet since April.
Lafont went on to become Toulouse’s #1 and keep eight clean sheets in 24 league appearances in 2015-16 as Les Pitchouns survived relegation on the final day of the campaign. The 17 year old was born in Burkina Faso but has featured for France’s U16s and U17s, and surely will be a future number 1 for the senior team in the future.
He has demonstrated a surprising level of maturity for a teenager, proving remarkably assured under high balls and when forced to act as a sweeper. As such, Toulouse have just rewarded him with a new contract lasting until 2020.
As of July 21st, Lafont has a FIFA 16 rating of 70 and potential of 86.
4. Christian Pulisic – USA & Borussia Dortmund
- Date of Birth: September 18th 1998
- Age difference to me: 103 days older
At the age of seven, Christian Pulisic lived in England for a year with his family and it was in Oxfordshire that he caught the football bug for good his father said, who took him to see Manchester United and Tottenham play.
10 years later, and he has played against both of these teams as his dramatic rise at Borussia Dortmund continues. Since being promoted to the German club’s senior team after he scoring 10 goals and assisting 8 in just 15 games with the Dortmund youth teams, Pulisic has made nine Bundesliga appearances and netted twice at the age of 17. In doing so, he became the youngest foreigner to score a goal in the Bundesliga and the youngest player to ever score two goals in the top flight.
The Pennsylvanian born midfielder also has six caps for the USA national team, and by scoring in the 4-0 win over Bolivia in May, he become the youngest player in the modern era to hit the back of the net for the States.
As of July 21st, Pulisic has a FIFA 16 rating of 65 and potential of 83.
3. Victor Osimhen – Nigeria & Ultimate Strikers Academy
- Date of Birth: December 29th 1998
- Age difference to me: 1 day older
Born just a day before me over 4,000 miles away in Nigeria, Victor Osimhen won the golden boot at the 2015 U17 World Cup as his country lifted the trophy. He scored in every single one of his country’s games on the way to glory, and also picked up the Silver Ball for the tournament’s second best player.
His exploits at the competition of course generated a huge amount of hype around Osimhen, who plays for the ‘Ultimate Strikers Academy’ in his homeland, and it was Wolfsburg who beat Arsenal to sign the striker, and he’ll move to Germany when he turns 18 at the end of the year.
The 17 year old was also part of the Nigeria side that won the Under-23 Africa Cup of Nations in Senegal in November, and he was named the 2015 Confederation of African Football Youth Player of the Year.
2. Martin Odegaard – Norway & Real Madrid B
- Date of Birth: 17th December 1998
- Age difference to me: 13 days older
Martin Odegaard became an internet sensation when at the age of just 15, he became the youngest ever to play and score in Norway’s top flight with Stromsgodset in 2014. He soon became the hottest prospect in Europe, training with Liverpool, Bayern Munich, Manchester United and Manchester City before joining Real Madrid in January 2015 for approximately €4 million.
It’s fair to say it’s not gone quite to plan since his move to Spain. Odegaard has made just one La Liga appearance, and is officially classed as a player for the Los Blancos reserve team. But having worked under Zinedine Zidane who is now the first team coach, could we see more of Odegaard in 2016-17?
His talent is undeniably still there, and the attacking midfielder continues to feature for the Norwegian national team who he has nine caps for. He made his debut in August 2014, becoming the youngest player to do so aged 15 years and 253 days, breaking an 104 year old record.
As of July 21st, Odegaard has a FIFA 16 rating of 69 and potential of 82.
1. Gianluigi Donnarumma – Italy & AC Milan
- Age difference to me: 57 days younger
- Date of Birth: 25th February 1999
When legendary Italian goalkeepers Dino Zoff and Gianluigi Buffon are lavishing a shot-stopper with praise, you know that he’s pretty good, and Gianluigi Donnarumma has been tipped to be the best in the world in a few years by the pair.
He broke into the AC Milan team last season, beating veterans Diego Lopez and Christian Abbiati to the number 1 shirt (Donnarumma actually wears the number 99 – the year of his birth), and kept 11 clean sheets in 30 appearances.
The teenager stands at nearly 2m tall, and his agent Mino Raiola (who also has the likes of Paul Pogba and Zlatan Ibrahimovic as his clients) says that the young keeper is already worth €150m and while that is a gross exaggeration, we are talking about a 17 year old blessed with great feet, excellent reflexes and ice-cold composure. Donnarumma could be Milan’s first-choice shot-stopper for years to come.
As of July 21st, Donnarumma has a FIFA 16 rating of 73 and potential of 86.