Predicting the future stars of the footballing world has long been a past-time of those in the know. It has also almost always been an impossible task to pull off with any great accuracy.
For every Wayne Rooney or Lionel Messi touted for stardom when barely in their teens, there are countless ‘wonderkids’ and ‘prodigies’ who have flopped at the senior level. We’re looking at you Freddy Adu.
Despite the dangers of being made to look foolish, the Guardian took up the challenge back in 2014 when they attempted to predict the next big stars for each Premier League club. The only rule? They had to be born between 1 September 1997 and 31 August 1998.
So, how did they get on when it comes to the league’s so called ‘top six’ – Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester United, Manchester City, Liverpool and Tottenham? Let’s take a look…
ARSENAL | CHRIS WILLOCK | FORWARD
Touted back in 2014 as “quick and extremely skilful”, Willock played for the Gunners in pre-season that year and once again in 2015.
This year has seen the tricky forward make his greatest stride yet, though, after making his first-team debut in Arsenal’s EFL Cup clash against Nottingham Forest.
Jack Wilshere predicted he could be the next Arsenal youth product to break into Wenger’s regular plans.
CHELSEA | DOMINIC SOLANKE | STRIKER
Jose Mourinho claimed in 2014 that Solanke would be a future England international but, despite boat loads of goals at youth level, he has become one of the dozens of Chelsea players out on loan over the past two seasons.
He scored seven goals in 26 games for Vitesse Arnhem last year and, after appearing on the bench for the Blues in the EFL Cup this year, is currently in talks over a new deal at Stamford Bridge.
With Chelsea seeking cover up front, his prospects remain good.
LIVERPOOL | ADAM PHILLIPS | MIDFIELD
Having joined the club aged 11, the all-around midfielder played a part in Liverpool’s tour of the USA back in 2014 after catching the eye of Brendan Rodgers.
Playing regularly for the under-18 side last year, Phillips’ progress hit a road block after a stress fracture in his back in March kept him out for two months. He is back fit this season and regularly features for the Anfield club’s under-21s thanks to his ability to fill in in many positions.
With Klopp never afraid to give youth a chance, the 18-year-old’s first team debut may not be too far off.
MANCHESTER CITY | TOSIN ADARABIOYO | DEFENDER
Described by The Guardian as “a ball-playing, fluid defender”, Adarabioyo started playing for City’s under-18 team when he was just 14-years-old.
He went on to be named captain of that side in 2015, aged just 16, and things have got even better under Pep Guardiola. The Englishman has already appeared in the Champions League and EFL cup for the new City boss.
For those expecting to see Kelechi Iheanacho’s name here, the Nigerian striker didn’t qualify as he was born in 1996.
MANCHESTER UNITED | MARCUS RASHFORD | FORWARD
A round of applause for The Guardian. They couldn’t have got this one more spot on.
Rashford’s rise up the ranks from youth team prospect to United and England star has been meteoritic, but those in the know always expected big things.
As The Guardian wrote in 2014:
“As with the club’s Alpha no.10, Wayne Rooney, Marcus Rashford loves to drop deep and collect the ball and ignite attacks and is comfortable in central or wide positions.”
With 12 goals in his first 25 first-team appearances over the past 18 months or so, the United striker is more than comfortable.
TOTTENHAM | CAMERON CARTER-VICKERS | DEFENDER
Named in USA’s under-23 squad for a fixture against Brazil in 2014 when only 16-years-old, Carter-Vickers’ physical playing style was already catching the eye.
He progressed to Spurs’ under-21 team last year and made 10 appearances at that level and has continued trending upwards this season.
A regular member of Mauricio Pochettino’s first-team squad, the 6 ft tall 18-year-old made his full debut in the EFL Cup against Gillingham in September. Pochettino has already predicted Carter-Vickers will be one of the best centre-backs in England at some point down the line.