SCOUTS have been out in force at the Fifa Under-17 World Cup in Indonesia as the planet’s most promising teenagers bid to follow in the footsteps of some illustrious former winners.
Neymar, Alisson, Toni Kroos and Ronaldinho have all appeared at previous editions while Cesc Fabregas (2003) and Phil Foden (2017) shone brightly enough to be awarded the tournament’s Golden Ball.
But who will be the name on everyone’s lips at the end of this month’s event?
SunSport is on hand with nine players we think have lit up the tournament and have bright futures ahead of themselves.
Estevao Willian (Brazil)
Brazil’s greatest teenage talent earned the nickname ‘Messinho’ long before he came to national prominence during an acrimonious switch from the Cruzeiro youth set-up to Palmeiras at the age of 14.
Like the famous Argentine number 10, Estevao is predominantly left-footed and insanely skilful in tight spaces with a burst that can free him from defenders.
He can also shoot, as he proved when curling a 25-yard effort home in Brazil’s 9-0 demolition of New Caledonia earlier this week.
Formerscout Andre Cury, the man who helped take both Ronaldinho and Neymar to the club, has been advising Estevao.
And while, and have also shown interest, the 16-year-old recently admitted that the Nou Camp is his dream destination.
Amara Diouf (Senegal)
Diouf – one of the youngest players at the tournament – learned his trade at the famous Generation Foot academy in Dakar, which launched the careers of current seniorstars and Ismaila Sarr
The powerfully built left-winger now looks set to follow in the footsteps of Mane and join Metz in‘s top flight, although probably not for long.
, Arsenal, Barcelona and Real Madrid were all reportedly circling before he made his decision.
Diouf’s displays in Indonesia, where he scored twice in Senegal’s 2-1 win over, suggest he may soon be ready for a bigger stage.
Claudio Echeverri (Argentina)
Overshadowed by Diouf in Argentina’s opening game, Echeverri produced a moment of magic to get his team back on track for the knockout stages when he opened the scoring with a delightful long-range free-kick against.
Like Messi, the attacking midfielder wears the captain’s armband and the famous Number 10 shirt, but Echeverri is right-footed and bears a closer resemblance to current Argentina Under-17 coach Pablo Aimar.
He came through the samefinishing school that produced Aimar, plus City’s Julian Alvarez, with the Treble winners following Echeverri closely throughout the South American Under-17 he top scored in earlier this year.
, Real Madrid and PSG are also said to be sniffing around the teenager, who will be eligible to move to Europe in January when he turns 18.
Assan Ouédraogo (Germany)
Son of a former Burkina Faso international, Ouédraogo is a box-to-box midfielder and perhaps the most physically impressive player at the tournament.
In, where he has been playing regularly for , he has already been compared to ex-Chelsea star for his ability to win the ball and drive forward.
But his liking for slide tackles and sheer size, at 6ft 3in tall, bring back memories of ex-Arsenal star.
Another of Vieira’s former clubs,, are understood to be keen on signing him but they could face stiff competition from Liverpool plus giants and .
Noah Darvich (Germany)
Barcelona beat Bayern,, Arsenal, Manchester City and PSG to the signature of Darvich in the and his displays in Germany’s first two games suggest they were right to pay Freiburg almost £4.5million.
A beautifully-balanced left-footer with an ability to glide past opponents like former Gunners idol, Darvich played a starring role with a goal and an assist in Germany’s 3-1 win over on Sunday.
He assisted again in another 3-1 win over New Zealand on Wednesday, having earlier struck an upright with a bending free-kick.
Marc Guiu (Spain)
Barcelona’s famed La Masia production line has not turned out any tall, strong centre forwards that draw comparisons tountil now.
Guiu may still be a long way from emulating the success of Haaland, but he is ahead of the curve in some respects, having scored the winner for‘s side in a 1-0 victory over Athletic Bilbao last month.
The 17-year-old was one of the top scorers at this year’s U-17 European Championship, together with Barca teammatewho he has played alongside since the age of seven.
Hamidou Makalou (Mali)
One of Mali’s many talented stars certain to be on the big clubs’ radars after the tournament, midfielder Hamidou Makalou has taken his chance to shine in front of the assembled scouts.
Playing in a double pivot with Red Bull Salzburg-bound Sekou Kone, Makalou helped Mali dominate the middle of the park againstand got on the scoresheet in their final group game against .
His clean touches and line-breaking passes are sure to attract lots of attention.
Ethan Nwaneri (England)
At the tender age of 16,is one of ‘s brightest talents.
The midfielder has dominated matches for Arsenal’s Under-18 and Under-21 sides, so much so thatrewarded him with two first-team starts last season.
Nwaneri has had to make do with one solitary first-team appearance so far this campaign.
The youngster has shown poise and versatility well beyond his years.
He may not be well known right now, but he’ll definitely be a household name come the end of the tournament.
Ishe Samuels-Smith (England)
CHELSEA signed up promising defender Ishe Samuels-Smith from Everton for £4m in the summer
The 17-year-old made the switch to Stamford Bridge after impressing for Everton Under-21s and is delighted to be a Blue.
The highly-rated teenager featured prominently for Everton’s youth sides last season and was named on the first-team bench for the 4-1 Carabao Cup defeat by Bournemouth on November 22 as well as the 3-1 defeat to Fulham on April 15.
He has also represented England at under-15, under-16, and under-17 level,
Samuels-Smith was the only Englishman named in the Uefa team of the tournament at the Under-17 European Championship last summer.
Olivia Martin is a dedicated sports journalist based in the UK. With a passion for various athletic disciplines, she covers everything from major league championships to local sports events, delivering up-to-the-minute updates and in-depth analysis.