UEFA.com picks out a team of young players who have broken through in the UEFA Champions League this calendar year.
In order to narrow the field, we set the following criteria: i) aged 24 or under; ii) UEFA Champions League debut in 2017 or only limited prior experience and made a major leap this year. This is what we came up with:
Goalkeeper: Ederson (Benfica/Manchester City), 24
Almost single-handedly won Benfica the first leg of their round of 16 tie against Dortmund earlier in the year and has gone from strength to strength at City. His comfort on the ball sets the tone for Josep Guardiola’s side and seldom has he erred in the day job either.
Defender: Nélson Semedo (Benfica/Barcelona), 24
Nélson Semedo has ably filled the right-back gap left at Barcelona following Dani Alves’s summer 2016 departure, the July arrival from Benfica blessed with pace, power and an eye for a killer pass.
Defender: Davinson Sánchez (Tottenham), 21
Key to Ajax reaching last season’s UEFA Europa League final, Sánchez has made the step up to the UEFA Champions League with ease. He oozes class in possession but equally thrives on the defensive nuts and bolts and is rarely cowed despite his tender years.
Defender: Niklas Süle (Bayern), 22
A summer signing from Hoffenheim, the centre-back acclimatised to Bayern’s style and pace in no time; robust and quick, he featured in five #UCL group games and is already offering more than just back-up for Mats Hummels and Jérôme Boateng.
Defender: Kieran Tierney (Celtic), 20
At 20, Tierney has already played over 100 matches for Celtic and captained Scotland. Rated the best British-born left-back of his generation, the youngster’s assist for Leigh Griffiths’ goal in the 3-0 win at Anderlecht was Tierney at his swashbuckling best.
Midfielder: Harry Winks (Tottenham), 21
Now a central cog in Spurs’ midfield, having made just three Premier League starts before this season. A deep-lying playmaker with fine control and distribution, Winks impressed in the Real Madrid double-header, earning comparisons to Tottenham old boy Luka Modrić.
Midfielder: Talisca (Beşiktaş), 23
An attacking midfielder, Talisca notched a career-best 13 league goals last term as Beşiktaş won the title, catching the eye with his forward runs, accurate shots and left-foot free-kicks. Even if the Brazilian has been slightly under par in 2017/18, he remains a real menace at his best.
Midfielder: Marco Asensio (Real Madrid), 21
This year has been a major step forward for Asensio, who turned 21 in January. His speed, directness and eye for goal helped him score against Bayern in last season’s quarter-finals and Juventus in the final. Next step: nail down a starting berth as Madrid target a European hat-trick.
Forward: Kylian Mbappé (Monaco/Paris), 19
His skill, searing pace and intelligence enabled him to fire Monaco to a semi-final last spring and subsequently earned him a move to Paris. Mbappé is particularly lethal when one on one and has already established himself as a goalscorer of real repute.
Forward: Timo Werner (Leipzig), 21
Once he has hit full speed, few defenders can keep up with the ex-Stuttgart forward, who at 21 has already made 141 Bundesliga appearances. Figured in all six of Leipzig’s games in their maiden UEFA Champions League campaign, claiming three goals.
Forward: Dimitri Oberlin (Basel), 20
The nicknames ‘Usain’ and ‘The Flash’ give a fair indication of Oberlin’s lightning pace, deployed to fantastic effect on the counter as he scored four in an impressive group stage campaign for the Swiss champions. Bigger clubs in Europe are taking notice.
This team was selected by UEFA.com reporters and editors and is not intended to rival more established awards.