This Premier League season has proven that age-old saying in football: If you’re good enough, you’re old enough.
From the talent of Alejandro Garnacho that goes from strength to strength at Manchester United to the emergence of Kobbie Mainoo at Old Trafford and the maturity of Lewis Miley at Newcastle, fans have enjoyed a showcase of youth in this campaign.
Of course, top flight stars emerging in their teens is nothing new for supporters having witnessed the likes of Wayne Rooney, Michael Owen, David Beckham, Frank Lampard and Cesc Fabregas blossom in decades gone by.
This season we could be witnessing a whole new generation of youngsters after watching a handful show their early quality after being given a chance by their managers to shine.
With that in mind, Mail Sport breaks down who the best teenage talent is at every Premier League club.
A new era of exciting youth talent is emerging in the Premier League 2023-24 season
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Arsenal: Ethan Nwaneri
The 16-year-old is in electric form for the Gunners youth side having blitzed five goals for the Under-18 team in a 7-1 FA Youth Cup win against Crewe Alexandra earlier this month.
Nwaneri, who joined the club aged nine, is one of Arsenal’s brightest sparks at the club and he recently signed a new two-year scholarship deal despite interest from elsewhere – with Arteta said to have played a key role in ensuring his future at the Emirates.
He made history by coming on in a 3-0 win against Brentford last season at the age of 15 years and 181 days. Next year he will be able to sign professional terms for the first time – and expect a raft of clubs to pop up again when he does.
Boss Mikel Arteta recently raved about Nwaneri, saying: ‘Something unique he’s got is his ability to take the ball in tight areas, to escape like Jack Wilshere used to do.
‘The personality he has, he trains with us like he trains with the Under 18s and I love that.
Arsenal forward Ethan Nwaneri, 16, is seen as one of the club’s brightest talents in years
Aston Villa: Omari Kellyman
Position: Attacking midfielder
Kellyman started his career at Derby County in 2012 as a six-year-old before joining Villa for £600,000 a decade later to help keep the Rams afloat. The highly-rated youngster has wasted no time making an impression at Villa after convincing manager Unai Emery to take him on their pre-season four of America.
Kellyman – who was described as ‘an absolute dream for a football club’ by an ex-Derby recruitment boss – has already signed his first professional deal and made his debut for the club in a 3-0 UEFA Conference League qualifying win over Hibernian – providing an assist for Leon Bailey.
The confident teen represented Northern Ireland at U17 and U18 level but backed himself enough to switch allegiances back to England – the country of his birth – as he believes he has a chance of getting in the team in future.
He has struggled with injury this season but has four goals in four games for the Aston Villa Premier League 2 side so far.
Omari Kellyman is showing huge maturity at just 18 and has already made his senior debut
Bournemouth: Michael Dacosta Gonzalez
Born in Spain, Gonzalez came through the academy set-up at Hercules before his family moved to London and eventually settled in Portsmouth.
While playing on the south coast for a grassroots team, he was discovered by the Cherries, who signed him two weeks early into his six week trial.
Immediately his trickery on the ball and pace stood out before smashing in 14 goals for the youth team in 2022-23.
That early promise was enough for ex-Bournemouth boss Gary O’Neil to name him on the bench for their 2-0 loss to Brentford, though he did not feature.
Brentford: Michael Olakigbe
The winger is enjoying a good moment at the club, having just recently penned a new long-term contract until 2028, which showed the confidence the Bees have in his ability.
The club’s director football Phil Giles hailed him for making ‘excellent progress’ over the last 18 months and vowed to ‘make him the best possible player he can be’.
This season has seen him play five times under Thomas Frank, who is well aware of his capabilities. He also started him in a 1-1 draw with Newport County in the Carabao Cup, which Frank’s side won on penalties.
Olakigbe started his career with Fulham as a schoolboy before joining the ranks at Brentford in the summer of 2022.
Brentford winger Michael Olakigbe has made quite the impression since his move from Fulham in 2022, with the club already tying him down to a new four year deal
Brighton: Evan Ferguson
A man who needs no introduction this season. He’s already make quite a huge one himself with his stunning run of goals for the Seagulls.
The Irishman turned heads with a hat-trick for Brighton in their 3-1 win over Newcastle in September, having bagged his first of the campaign in their season opener against Luton Town.
He added to his tally by netting against Fulham and Nottingham Forest for his sixth goal of the season – levelling his entire total from the last campaign – bringing his overall goals to 16 since joining Brighton in 2021.
Even before the campaign got going, he was being linked with some of the biggest clubs in the Premier League – including Tottenham, Arsenal and Chelsea.
With the forward only going from strength to strength, expect more interest in the coming months.
Evan Ferguson has emerged as one of the best young strikers in the league this season
Burnley: Luca Koleosho
The United States-born winger joined Turf Moor in a £2.6m deal this summer from LaLiga outfit Espanyol and he’s been a huge hit so far – starting 13 times, scoring one goal and providing one assist.
The 19-year-old, who qualifies to play for Italy and has represented the Azzurri’s youth sides, suffered a long-term injury in Burnley’s 1-0 loss to Wolves in early December – a huge blow for the player but one that showed his value to manager Vincent Kompany.
‘He was achieving a level of his own, you don’t replace that simply by putting another person in,’ he said.
‘They’ve got to bring something they can do. We have good options, we have to rely on them to bring something. Versatility is important.’
Luca Koleosho was running the show for Burnley before his injury – with boss Vincent Kompany claiming he had ‘achieved a level of his own’
Chelsea: Romeo Lavia
Position: Central midfielder
He’s only just played his first game for Chelsea, but there’s no doubt about the player’s talent.
Signed by the Blues from Southampton for £58m after a tug of war with Liverpool, it’s a daunting figure and heavy burden placed on a 19-year-old, who generated interest after his sparkling displays in the middle of the park for the Saints last season – where he played 34 times.
It was his rugged displays in midfield that earned him admirers after being the only teenager to have made 50 tackles, while also making 7.8 recoveries per 90 minutes.
Having began his career with Anderlecht and Man City, Lavia has received excellent football schooling and it didn’t take long before his ability was recognised by his new Southampton team-mates – with now-Barcelona star Oriel Romeu saying: ‘If you’re that young and playing that well, you’re going to be special.’
Lavia has been frustrated after spending four months on the sidelines with an ankle injury, but after making his return for the Blues this month, he’ll be eager to showcase why Chelsea spent so much on him as soon as possible.
Lavia has played once since joining Chelsea for £58m, but there’s no doubt about his ability
Crystal Palace: David Ozoh
Position: Central midfielder
The exciting midfielder made his Premier League debut for Palace as a 17-year-old by coming on as a late subsitute in a 0-0 draw against Newcastle in January this year – which was a statement of the confidence the Eagles have in the youngster.
Now 18, Ozoh – born in Spain to Nigerian parents – has been an ever-present for the Crystal Palace U21s in the Premier League 2 and is being tipped for big things after also being called upon by boss Roy Hodgson as a sub during games against Man United, Newcastle and Liverpool this season..
Former Palace boss Patrick Vieira – the man who handed Ozoh his debut – sung his praises early in 2023.
‘He has really grown since he’s been with us,’ he said. ‘He is adjusting himself to the tempo of the game but he has the strength, power and technical quality to train with us every day.
‘He still has a long way to go. He’s training with the first team and found it tough the first few weeks, but is getting used to it. We have to give him time to grow.’
Crystal Palace starlet David Ozoh has already made his breakthrough with the first team
Everton: Jenson Metcalfe
Position: Central midfielder
After joining the Toffees academy aged five, big things are expected of the midfielder, who was named on the bench for their 2-0 win over Burnley on December 16 – his first call-up to the senior squad.
It was a big compliment to Metcalfe given Everton’s incredible form that there was room for him on the bench, and while he didn’t come on – it didn’t spoil a memorable day for the 19-year-old. He posted a picture of his No 86 shirt that was signed by first team players.
Abdoulaye Doucoure replied to a post of the shirt simply saying: ‘Deserved,’ and it’s hard to argue.
The boyhood Blues fan has been impressive under Paul Tait in the U21 side in recent years – this season he has nine appearances in Premier League 2, with one goal and three assists.
Fulham: Luke Harris
Position: Central midfielder
Hailed as an ‘unbelievable’ talent by Wales U21 boss Matty Jones, central midfielder Luke Harris is making all the right steps after being integrated into the Fulham and Wales first teams.
Harris, who joined the Cottagers in 2014 at Under-10 level, eased his way through the U18 side and was fast-tracked into the U23 squad at the age of just 16 and scored on his debut against Sunderland.
He finally made his first team debut for the Whites in 2022, playing the first half of their 2-0 loss to Crawley Town in the Carabao Cup and has made numerous appearances on the bench without coming on.
Fulham prospect Luke Harris has been hailed as an ‘unbelievable talent’ by his youth team boss
In total last season, he made three appearances, making his Premier League debut by coming on late in the game during a 3-0 win over Aston Villa last October.
The next step for Harris is to go out on loan to ensure he gets regular minutes – according to Jones – but the important thing is that he is knocking on the door.
Liverpool: Ben Doak
There is a lot of hype around Doak – and for good reason. The Scottish winger is only 18 and he is already being tipped for a bright future having signed for the Reds in a deal worth around £600,000 last year.
Manager Klopp called him a ‘special boy’, while club captain Virgil van Dijk dubbed him ‘the Tasmanian Devil’ – high praise for a player who hasn’t even had his 18th birthday and is already being tipped for big things.
He signed a new long-term contract with the club earlier this season and has already made nine appearances for the first team.
He started Liverpool’s 3-1 Europa League win away at LASK in September, playing 61 minutes before being subbed off for Dominik Szoboszlai, and was also picked to start their 3-1 win over Leicester in the Carabao Cup the following week, playing 61 minutes.
Doak was then named in the starting XI of Liverpool’s 3-2 defeat to Toulouse in early December before being subbed off at half time.
Liverpool winger Ben Doak is firmly in Jurgen Klopp’s thoughts after making a handful of senior appearances this season
Luton: Joe Johnson
The left-back is well on England’s radar, having already featured in the Three Lions youth teams at Under-17 and Under-18 level and was part of the England U17 World Cup squad in Indonesia this year.
Luton have wasted no time getting him up to speed with the first team, having fielded him twice in the Championship last season during their run towards promotion to the Premier League.
And this season he has already made his first start, playing 64 minutes of Luton’s 1-0 lsos to Exeter in the Carabao Cup in September.
Luton boss Rob Edwards – speaking after Edwards was later called up to the U18s – said his ability to push barriers was setting example to other youngsters at the club that it was possible to keep reaching a higher level.
‘They need to be able to see that carrot there, see that he’s done it, or he’s in and around the first team, he’s training there, he’s on the bench, he’s come on.’
Man City: Rico Lewis
With England crying out for more quality at left-back, the emergence of Lewis will be positive news for Gareth Southgate, who gave the promising youngster his first cap in a 1-1 draw against North Macedonia on November 20.
It continues a memorable 12 months for academy graduate Lewis, who played 23 times for City in his breakthrough year last season, winning five trophies and scoring his first ever goal for the club in a 3-1 win against Sevilla in the Champions League group stages.
Rico Lewis has enjoyed an incredible first year at City – making 39 appearances and winning five trophies
This season he’s played 11 times, starting three games in the Premier League and five in the Champions League – his last three games resulting in a 3-2 win over Red Star Belgrade, where he picked up an assist and played the full 90, a 2-2 draw with Palace – in which he scored and the Club World Cup final against Fluminense, whch he started.
Lewis has played a total of 39 games in all competitions since being called up from the youth sides.
Raving about his progress this month, Pep Guardiola said: ‘He’s just 19 years old last month. It’s incredible that he is always seven or eight out of 10.
‘Always his ability is unbelievable, he can play in multiple positions, left, right and centre and in the pockets and defensively he is so good. We are not scared when we ask him to play.’
Man United: Alejandro Garnacho
Arguably the most talented teenager in the Premier League – if not among the best prospects in world football.
If fans weren’t convinced of his ability already, he erased any doubt with a sensational overhead kick in Man United’s 3-0 win over Everton. And not just a spectacular overhead kick – one that is talked about as one of the best of all time. As his club United continue to falter, Garnacho’s talent is only going up and up.
He has five goals in all competitions this season and has been picked to start by Erik ten Hag in 16 matches. Such is the dramatic rise in his quality, Real Madrid have been touted as a possible suitor for the Argentinian.
Alejandro Garnacho is enjoying his best season in a Manchester United shirt aged just 19
Garnacho has come a long way since being criticised by Ten Hag and Bruno Fernandes for showing poor attitude – now he has become a regular face in the first team squad.
Speaking about his ability this month, Ten Hag said: ‘There’s big potential and a lot he can build on, but we are happy with his performances and his contribution.
‘The base, the foundation is always the defending part, but now also attacking-wise he has the key actions – the assists, the goal threat, he scores goals, so that’s of course very important for an offensive player.’
Newcastle: Lewis Miley
Position: Central midfielder
What a breakthrough year it’s been for the local lad – who took advantage of an injury crisis at Newcastle to become one of the staples of the team.
At just 17 years old, he’s started five Premier League games, including a run of eight in a row over the course of a month between November 11 and December 16 – when he scored his first senior goal in a 3-0 win over Fulham, becoming the club’s youngest ever Premier League goalscorer.
His incredible season has also seen him play three matches in the Champions League – assisting once against AC Milan – and featuring for 90 minutes away at PSG in a 1-1 draw.
Miley is just 17 but has earned his place as a key member of the first team – featuring in three Champions League games too
Miley could still improve significantly but it’s his mature and composed displays in the middle of the park that have impressed most – including manager Eddie Howe.
Speaking after Miley turned heads during their US tour, he said: ‘I haven’t come across many 17-year-olds at his level,’ he said. ‘I’ve coached some really good players at that age who you think could go on and have exceptional careers, but sometimes that doesn’t happen.
‘The biggest challenge for Lewis will be mentally. He’s going to get a lot of press coverage from this moment and a lot of exposure. It’s handling and dealing with that. It’s then waiting for his opportunity while keeping his head.’
Nottingham Forest: Kristian Clarke
Position: Central midfielder
The City Ground has a great reputation for breeding talent but with many of their brightest prospects recently turning 20, the club’s academy offers the next best selection of the future for their teenage prodigies.
Clarke – who has made five appearances in the Under-18 Premier League this season – is a player who has been earmarked for greatness after arriving at Forest as a 12-year-old. He recently featured on The Guardian’s pick of best talent for the next generation where they hailed his mobility and speed.
‘Clarke has all the attributes required to make him a fine central midfielder – he is very mobile, quick over short distances and comfortable on the ball,’ the report says.
‘He will not shy away from a tackle, a decent trait for a central midfielder. Alongside his abilities, his attitude is something that stands out and he is a popular member of the team, but there is still work to be done with his physical and technical skills.’
Sheffield United: Ryan Oné
A club that has produced players like Kyle Walker and Harry Maguire is always going to have some quality prospects coming through and Ryan One is one that is certainly turning a lot of heads.
The 17-year-old – who came through the ranks at Hamilton Academical – has already made his Premier League debut for the Blades, coming on as a substitute in a 5-0 loss at Arsenal in October, and has also been on the bench a handful of times.
He earned the trust of Hamilton last season and played 35 times for the club across the last two seasons – scoring twice. His ability was instantly noticed by former Sheffield United boss Paul Heckingbottom, who was impressed with how quickly he had adapted to playing with the senior squad in the top flight.
‘We like what we have seen,’ he said in October. ‘He has a good football brain and has shown moments where he handles the ball well. Physically we can see what he can potentially be but he’s nowhere near where that is yet.
‘He has come in and found the level and the intensity a big step but I have seen in the games that I have already watched him in that he is quickly coming to terms with that. We are pleased with what we have got.’
Tottenham: Jamie Donley
Spurs fans might be hoping the club have unearthed the next Harry Kane after teenage forward Jamie Donley was called up to the first team for a handful of appearances on the bench this season, but there will need to be some patience.
Donley – who has four goals and nine assists for the Spurs youth team this season – has come off the bench for two brief substitute appearances for the first team under Ange Postecoglou – against Man City and Newcastle.
The 18-year-old has steadily moved his way up to the U21 side after a stint of solid goalscoring form for the U18s and is now fully in the first team picture. He has represented England at U17, U18 and U19 level – and has also played twice for the Northern Ireland U19s.
Young Spurs striker Jamie Donley is being integrated into the squad by Ange Postecoglou
Spurs U21 boss Wayne Burnett was left raving about Donley after he scored a brace against Chelsea U21s to spark a 4-2 win in October – before he was then named on the first team bench in a 2-1 win over Liverpool.
‘He was on the bench for the first team on Saturday and we’re all very, very, very proud of him,’ he said.
‘Everyone is so proud when one of our academy graduates gets near our first team because that’s important to us, really, really important to us. It’s important that the players are aware of that as well. His energy, his enthusiasm, his ability – if you have those things you’ve got an opportunity to perform well.’
West Ham: Lewis Orford
Position: Central midfielder
Being a rising West Ham star and tipped as ‘the next Declan Rice’ is a lot to live up to, but it seems Orford’s fate as one of the best young talents is inescapable.
Orford joined the Hammers at the age of five and has already worked his way up to the club’s Under-21 side – with David Moyes selecting him in his first team matchday squad for the first team last November during a UEFA Conference League clash against Steaua Bucharest. That same season he was part of the Hammers group that won the FA Youth Cup
In this campaign, Orford has continued to make waves after two goals and one assist from ten games in the Premier League 2 – while Moyes has called on him again for the travelling squad to Serbian side FK TSC in the Europa League.
Lewis Orford is the next big talent coming out of West Ham and has been compared to Declan Rice
The boyhood Hammers fan is determined to reach the top after growing up idolising club legend Mark Noble and Rice as he now aims to emulate them.
‘I have been watching Mark Noble all my life and to see him retire was sad last year,’ he said in February 2023. ‘I obviously look up to him and Declan Rice too. I want to be as good as Dec is at the moment.
‘This Club has a good history of graduates from its Academy over the years, going back 50 years and even further. It’s a good moment for me, and I hope to kick on and get near the first team as soon as I can.’
Wolves: Enso Gonzalez
The man from Paraguy who can play on either wing stoked up interest from Wolves after his valiant and energetic displays for local side Libertad in his homeland, where he featured in the Copa Libertadores and lifted the league title.
Gonzalez’s style is very easy on the eye, with the player known for his clever footwork, trickery on the ball and low centre of gravity.
He has no issue taking a man on and after making 39 appearances for Libertad last season – scoring three times – it’s clear he’s someone you can depend on.
Wolves signed young Paraguan talent Enso Gonzalez in the summer but he is yet to make his debut
Wolves paid around £5m for Gonzalez, signing him up to a six-year deal – but he has been kept waiting for his full first team debut. So far he’s had to contend with Under-21 appearances and being on the bench for the senior side – and he’s admitted that he’s struggled to adapt to life in England – but is confident his time to shine is coming soon.
‘To be honest, it was a bit difficult at the start to get adapted to the pace and the weather,’ he told Paraguayan outlet Versus in November. ‘But I’m conscious that everything will happen with time because the same thing happened to Julio (Enciso) who had to wait to make his debut [at Brighton]. I’m relaxed and just waiting for my debut.
‘I am conscious that this is a huge process and it actually keeps me relaxed even if I’m not playing for the first team. It’ll be what God wants. I’m always training hard every day.’