As the cherry on top of our Football Manager 2017 series on ‘wonderkids,’ we’ve created a wonderkid XI so you know some of the best young players in every position available. To have some variety in our choices, we’ve tried to opt for players that haven’t yet been mentioned in previous articles. As per the other FM guides, we’ve included current ability (CA) and potential ability (PA) and all players are aged 21 or under.
For the purposes of this ‘XI,’ we’ve opted for a 4-2-3-1 formation. This is because it allows us to choose a defensive ball-winning midfielder, coupled with a deep-lying playmaker or a box-to-box midfielder. It also allows us to choose a number ten, two wide men and a striker.
You have the choice here of playing with either a goalkeeper or the more modern ‘sweeper-keeper,’ though my personal preference is to use a regular goalkeeper. This is because more ‘keepers on the game are of this mould and sweeper-keepers are generally too unreliable.
Gianluigi Donnarumma, 17, AC Milan (£7.5m, £4.9k p/w, CA 2.5 – PA 5)
AC Milan’s 17-year-old prodigal goalkeeper has already been touted as the long-term successor to Gianluigi Buffon and it’s easy to see why. He’s still a teenager, yet he’s starting for the Italian giants and his attributes are impressive already. His reflexes are strong (16), he’s confident in one-on-one situations (14) and he has a good command of his area (15). Moreover, he’s determined (17), brave (15) and focussed (14), which will only aid in his development in the future. He can protect your goal for years and would be worth the outlay.
When it comes to defenders, it’s all about your tactics. If you like to play attacking, possession-based football, you should look for wingbacks and ball-playing centre-backs. Teams that employ more direct tactics need not worry about their defenders’ passing abilities and focus soley on the base attributes of tackling, marking and positioning and, in the case of fullbacks, crossing.
Felix Passlack, 18, Right back, Dortmund (£10.75m, £11.25k p/w, CA 2.5 – PA 5)
At right-back, we’ve picked Dortmund’s young defender Felix Passlack. The 18-year-old German is versatile enough to play anywhere on the right or left side, from wingback to inside forward, though for the purpose of this article, he’s a right back. This is because he’s naturally fit (17) and has good stamina (15). Moreover, he can cross (15), dribble (11) and finish (15). His defending does need some improving, however; tackling 10 and marking 9. Mentally, he’s determined (17), works extremely hard (17), is brave (17) and has great off the ball movement (15).
Jonathan Tah, 20, Central Defender, Bayer Leverkusen (£15.5m, £20k p/w, CA 2.5 – PA 5)
Another young German defender with bags of potential is Leverkusen’s 20-year-old Jonathan Tah. He’s already a known name amongst FM fans and for good reason. He’s a great athlete in terms of his strength (17), balance (16), jumping reach (17) and, surprisingly his speed (17). In terms of his defending, he can tackle (14), mark (15) and his positioning is also decent (13). He’s also composed (16) and reads the game well (14). He’s young, sure, but Tah needs to improve on his work rate (9) and concentration (10).
Niklas Süle, 20, Central Defender, Hoffenheim (£9.75m, £16.5k p/w, CA 2.5 – PA 5)
Surprise, surprise, we have another young German defender in our backline. This time it’s Hoffenheim’s rising starlet Niklas Süle. The 20-year-old would make an ideal partner for Tah given that he’s primarily a centre-back by nature and doesn’t like to dwell on the ball. Whilst he would not fit with a possession tactic, he offers great defensive security. This is because of his tackling (15), marking (15) and heading (16). He’s also a resilient character in terms of his bravery (16) and determination (15). Like Tah, he’s very fast for a centre-back (17), strong as you’d expect (17), balanced (16) and will be a threat from corners with his jumping reach of 17.
Alex Grimaldo, 20, Left back, Benfica (£5m, £13.25k p/w, CA 2 – PA 5)
A product of Barcelona’s ‘La Masia’ academy, the 20-year-old Spanish left-back is yet to really hit the ground running, but, now at Benfica, he has bags of potential just waiting to be fulfilled. Like Passlack, Grimaldo is able to play as a left-back, a wingback or a winger, but he’s best suited to playing as a fullback. This is because he can cross (15), dribble (15), pass (14), tackle (14) and mark (12). He also has good technique (15) and a high level of flair (16), which aids his skilful attacking play. Mentally, Grimaldo is determined (14), brave (15) and reads the game well (14). All in all, Grimaldo is an extremely well rounded defender in a world where good fullbacks are hard to find.
Playing a 4-2-3-1 formation is all about balance, particualrly with the two holding midfielders. This formation compliments an attacking style of play in which the wingbacks like to play beyond the halfway line. Therefore, you’ll need a defensive midfielder, a ball-winner, to pick up some of the defensive slack. To partner this midfield machine, a roaming playmaker or a deep-lying playmaker would be a good fit. You could even opt for a box-to-box midfielder if you feel that suits you best.
Julian Weigl, 20, Defensive Midfielder, Dortmund (£23.5m, £8.25k p/w, CA 2.5 – PA 5)
In fairness, Dortmund’s German defensive midfielder is already a somewhat established name in European football, but at 20-years-old, he’s a wonderkid nonetheless. His standout attributes are his anticipation (20), his decision-making (20) and his level of teamwork (19). All of which give him the makings to become a world-class player. Moreover, he’s composed (18) and focussed (18). In terms of his technical attributes, he can pass (14), tackle (14) and mark (14). He also has a great first touch (16) and technique (16) to boot! That’s not to mention his high level of natural fitness (16) and stamina (17).
Dele Alli, 20, Central Midfielder, Tottenham (£30m, £50k p/w, CA 3.5 – PA 5)
Ultimately, there are numerous central midfield wonderkids I could’ve chosen, namely Bayern’s Renato Sanches, but I’ve opted for Dele Alli as he has the potential to become one of the best all-purpose central midfielders on the game. This is because he can do it all, essentially. He’s only 20-years-old, remember, but he already can finish (16), dribble (15), pass (16) and tackle (15). Moreover, his first touch (14) and technique (15) are impressive. Mentally, Alli works hard (16), has a good level of flair to beat his marker (16), plus he’s brave (15), composed (15) and determined (14). It’s for these reasons that he’s staved off some tough competition to make it into the wonderkid XI.
I’ve always found the most effective way of playing with three attacking midfielders, especially for possession-based games, is to use an advanced playmaker in the middle, flanked by two inside forwards. This is because they’re fluid enough to interchange positions and technical enough to be involved in the passing game, rather than hugging the touchline solely looking to play crosses into strikers. If, however, that’s how you play then opt for traditional speedy wingers with high crossing, dribbling and flair attributes.
Domenico Berardi, 21, Winger, Sassuolo (£16.5m, £30.5k p/w, CA 3.5 – PA 5)
Sassuolo’s Italian winger is another longtime favourite of Football Manager players because of his versatility as a right winger or a striker. This is because, not only is Berardi pacey (15), he can finish (15), dribble (14) and cross (15). Moreover, he can pass (14) and his technique and first touch (both 15) are impressive. He’s also a threat from the spot (penalty taking 18). He has a good level of flair (15), though if Berardi really wants to succeed, he needs to better his determination (13) and work rate (10). Nonetheless, Berardi remains a much-coveted wonderkid on FM17.
Bernardo Silva, 21, Attacking Midfielder, AS Monaco (£23.5m, £83k p/w, CA 3.5 – PA 4.5)
Monaco’s 21-year-old central attacking midfielder is bordering the very upper limits of our selection criteria, but, frankly, he’s far too good to not include in the XI. Players of FM16 will already know the Portuguese fairly well as he always achieves great things in the future. This is because his stats are phenomenal for such a young player. He can dribble (18), finish (14), pass (15) and cross (14). In addition, his first touch (17) and technique (18) are outstanding. Mentally, he has great vision (16), flair (17), determination (16) and work rate (17). He’s also extremely agile (17) which underpins his tricky style of play. It’ll cost a fair bit to sign Silva, but, believe me, he’s well worth it.
Jeisson Vargas, 18, Winger, Bologna (£300k, £3.9k p/w, CA 2 – PA 5)
Perhaps a little out of left field (well, he is playing on the left-side of our attacking midfield!), but Bologna’s on-loan Chilean winger has five-star potential to become a world-class player. Of course, with the right guidance, though. He’s best as an inside forward because of his finishing (12), dribbling (13), crossing (12) and passing (11). He’s also determined (15), which will aid his future development. In terms of athleticism, Vargas is fast (14) and agile (14). However, if you’re serious about signing the Chilean 18-year-old, do it quickly as he’s doing his own development no favours by playing in the sub-standard Chilean league.
Playing with a lone striker requires that special someone that can do it all. Therefore, opt for a complete forward; one that can shoot, pass, dribble and hold the ball up. Another effective option would be to play with a false nine (supported by a shadow striker in behind). Once you start experimenting with pairings, that’s when you can start using target men, advanced, deep-lying and defensive forwards.
Kelechi Iheanacho, 19, Striker, Manchester City (£24.5m, £50k p/w, CA 3 – PA 5)
I know we’ve tried to vary our choices, but, hands down, Iheanacho is the best wonderkid striker on the game and it’s for this reason that he bags the starting berth in the wonderkid XI. It’s going to be hard to tear him away from Manchester City, however. Iheanacho is obviously technically gifted (finishing 15, technique 13 and dribbling 13), but it’s mental attributes that are the most important when determining if a wonderkid has what it takes to succeed. City’s 19-year-old Nigerian striker certainly does. He’s determined (16), works hard (15), composed (14) and focussed (15). Moreover, he’s a great athlete; pace 16 and acceleration 16.
Agree with our Wonderkid XI? Think we missed out any Wonderkids who should have been in our lineup? Let us know in the comments below!
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