What really defines a midfielder? It’s a difficult question to answer given the diversity of modern-day midfielders, so in this series of Football Manager 2017 wonderkids, we’ve included a range of different types of players. We have defensive midfielders, tough tackling strongmen that like to sit deep, box-to-box midfielders and deep-lying playmakers, as well as central attacking midfielders that like to play in more advanced positions as your team’s primary creative outlet.
Again, every player on this wonderkid list is of the age of 20 or under. As per, for your ease of reference, we’ve included current ability (CA), potential ability (PA), age, current values and weekly wages.
Timothy Fosu-Mensah, 18, Defensive Midfielder, Manchester United (£11m, £15k p/w, CA 2 – PA 5)
Fosu-Mensah has only made a handful of senior appearances for Manchester United, but he’s looked confident and assured each time he has played. He’s primarily a defensive midfielder, but the 18-year-old Dutch talent can play either at centre-back or right or left back if needed. As a ball-winner, however, the talent is painfully obvious. He can tackle (14) and position himself well (12), though his marking (10) needs improving. Mentally, he’s determined (16), brave (14) and works fairly hard (13), all key attributes for a ball-winning midfielder. Athletically, he’s strong (15), naturally fit (14) and pacey (15). United scouts feel he has the potential to be a key member of their squad, so good luck trying to lure him away!
Rúben Neves, 19, Defensive Midfielder, Porto (£6m, £10.5k p/w, CA 3.5 – PA 5)
Although Neves is billed as a defensive midfielder on the game, because of his tackling (13), marking (14) and positioning (14), he’s also equally as adept as playing as a deep-lying playmaker. This is because he can pass (16), has good technique (15), has a good first touch (14), has good vision (14), is composed (15) and focussed (18). Moreover, his decision-making is impressive (17) for a youngster, plus he works hard (14), particularly in terms of teamwork (15). His physical stats aren’t as impressive as others of this group, but he is fairly fit (14) and balanced (14). Bearing in mind Neves is still only 19, he can develop into one of the world’s best central midfielders.
Riechedly Bazoer, 19, Defensive Midfielder, Ajax (£6.5m, £7.5k p/w, CA 3 – PA 5)
Ajax’s defensive midfielder, Bazoer, is another name that’s already made the rounds on previous Football Manager games and he’s continuing his impressive rise on FM17. Capable of playing as a defensive midfielder, central midfielder or centre-back, the 19-year-old Dutch prospect is a very versatile player with a diverse skillset. He can tackle (13), mark (14) and position himself well (12), but also pass (13), dribble (13) read the game well (13), which is coupled with impressive vision (14) and technique (15). Bazoer is extremely hard working (16), determined (14), composed (15) and brave (15), which add to his combative nature on the pitch. Given that he’s playing for Ajax, Bazoer won’t be too expensive and my scouting report estimated that he could be available for roughly £26.5m.
Amadou Diawara, 18, Defensive Midfielder, Napoli (£5.75m, £37k p/w, CA 3 – PA 5)
At 18-years-old, Diawara is already a solid midfielder for Italian club Napoli. The Guinean is physically impressive: his stamina is 16, strength 15, pace 15 and balance 15, which means he's a great overall athlete. Mentally, he works hard (14) and has a good level of teamwork (16). For the role that he performs in your team, as a defensive midfielder, he's technically impressive. His tackling is 15, passing is 14 and marking is 15. However, he does need to improve his positioning (10), but he is only 18 at the end of the day. Good luck prising him away from Napoli, though, as he's only recently signed for the Italians.
Renato Sanches, 18, Central Midfielder, Bayern Munich (£27m, £25k p/w, CA 4 – PA 5)
After a magnificent breakthrough tournament with Portugal at Euro 2016, Renato Sanches earned himself that illustrious move to the German giants, Bayern Munich, for £30m, so he’s likely to be staying put for a while, barring a huge offer, of course. Sanches truly is a remarkable talent. He’s strong enough (14) to play as a ball-winner; tackling (12), marking (12), teamwork (16) and work rate (18). However, he’s also creative enough to play as a roaming playmaker in the centre of your midfield; passing 13, technique 15, first touch 14 and dribbling 14. His mental stats are impressive, too; determination 18, composure 15, aggression 18 and bravery 17. Athletically, he’s balanced (18), pacey (13) and is naturally fit (17) with great stamina (17). Sanches is just one of those fantastic players that can play in a variety of different roles, similar to Paul Pogba.
Youri Tielemans, 19, Central Midfielder, Anderlecht (£9.5m, £24k p/w, CA 2.5 – PA 5)
Like Sanches, Anderlecht’s Youri Tielemans is a versatile player able to play in defensive midfield, central midfield or even central attacking midfield because of his array of different talents. He’s 19-years-old only, but he’s already a well-known name versed in top-flight football. Although he’s not strong (6), he’s fairly pacey (13) and agile (15). It’s his technical ability that stands out, however. He can pass (15), has great technique (16), a solid first touch (15) and he’s even somewhat threatening from range with his long shots (12). Mentally, he’s brave (14), composed (13), has flair (15) and decent enough vision (13) for a youngster. He’s been linked with a host of top European clubs, so move fast if you want to secure his signature. My scouting reports estimate that the Belgian will cost roughly £30m, which isn’t too expensive in today’s inflated market.
Dele Alli, 20, Central Midfielder, Tottenham (£30m, £50k p/w, CA 3.5 – PA 5)
Tottenham’s young English starlet is fast rising to prominence after recording ten goals and eleven assists in his debut season in the Premier League after moving from MK Dons for £5m. He’s already a key player for Spurs and it’s going to take near double his £30m value to pry him away from North London. He’s a fantastic young player capable of playing in central midfield or attacking midfield. He’s best served, however, as a roaming playmaker. This is because he can pass (16), dribble (15) and finish (16). He also has great technique (15) and a good first touch (14). His tackling (15) and marking (14) are also solid enough to make Alli a great all-round midfielder. In terms of his mental attributes, he anticipates the game well (16), is brave (15), composed (15), has flair (16), works hard (16) and is determined (14). Overall, if you do manage to sign Alli, you’d be signing a player capable of achieving an 8.0 average rating year-on-year.
Thomas Lemar, 20, Attacking Midfielder, AS Monaco (£8.75m, £40.5k p/w, CA 3 – PA 5)
It's surprising to me that Lemar is only a rotation option at AS Monaco, given that he's good enough to step into most first teams around the world. However, his status as a rotation option may aid you in your quest to sign him from the French club. On FM16, Lemar turned into one of the best attacking midfielders in the world, scoring and assisting upwards of 40 goals each season. This is because of his technical attributes: dribbling 16, first touch 15, technique 17 and passing 14. Remembering that he's only 20-years-old, this makes these numbers even more impressive. In a mental sense, Lemar is also ready for regular first team football. His flair is 16, work rate 15 and determination 15. He's also pacey (15) and agile (16). Lemar is a personal favourite of man from last year's game and he's well worth the outlay.
Maximilian Meyer, 20, Attacking Midfielder, Schalke (£16m, £51k p/w, CA 3.5 – PA 5)
At 20-years-old, the German playmaker, Maximilian Meyer, is already very accomplished, having made 63 appearances for the senior side at Schalke already. He’s a great athlete, in terms of his acceleration (14) and agility (17), though he isn’t the speediest (11). Mentally, he has flair (17), excellence vision (17) for a youngster, off the ball movement (15) and anticipates situations well (16). He isn’t however, determined enough as of yet, which could inhibit his chances of maximising his potential. Technically, furthermore, Meyer is fantastic. His first touch and technique are astounding for a young player (both 18) and he can pass (14) and dribble (17). If you manage to steal him from under Schalke’s noses, it’ll be money well spent, though they’re unlikely to want to sell.
Martin Ødegaard, 17, Attacking Midfielder, Real Madrid (£2.3m, £81k p/w, CA 2.5 – PA 5)
Real Madrid’s 17-year-old playmaker began rising to prominence as a 16-year-old in the Norwegian league, before making the move to the Spanish capital’s famed Castilla academy. However, he’s yet to make an impact on the first team and could become available at the right price a season or two into the game. First thing’s first, Ødegaard needs to be put on a gym programme to improve his overall athleticism, namely his strength (5) and stamina (9). He is, however, agile (17) and can accelerate well (15). Technically he’s gifted, that’s for sure. His first touch is 17, dribbling 15, passing 14 and technique 17. Furthermore, he has a good level of flair (15), vision (15) and composure (14), especially for a young talent. Overall, it’s debatable whether he can achieve his five-star potential, but he’s a great wonderkid signing nonetheless.