The new year will see a fantastic crop of new footballing talent emerge, and once again the academies of Chelsea and Manchester City are leading the way, with Arsenal, Liverpool and Crystal Palace also continuing to develop highly-promising youngsters. Elsewhere the trend for young English players to make their breakthroughs in the Bundesliga is continuing, with more starlets honing their games elsewhere in Europe too. ADRIAN KAJUMBA reveals here which are the hottest players set to explode onto the scene in 2022.
Tayo Adaramola (Crystal Palace, 18)
It looks as through Crystal Palace have developed another star full-back in the making in Tayo Adaramola
Another promising full-back is on the way through from Crystal Palace’s thriving academy. After Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Tyrick Mitchell, Tayo Adaramola is the next one creating a buzz and a player Palace have big hopes for. Adaramola joined Palace at under-12 level after his parents decided to move from Dublin to London to improve his chances of becoming a professional. He played in Ireland for St Kevin’s Boys, the club which counts the likes of Damien Duff, Ian Harte, Stephen Carr and Robbie Brady among their former players. Adaramola is now a player Palace have earmarked as a long-term successor to Mitchell should he ever be prised away. Should that scenario unfold they would have no need to enter the market for a replacement when one is coming through their ranks and developing nicely.
An adventurous, quick, all-action left-back, once Adaramola gets going he is hard to stop when attacking or get clear of when he is defending. He also has the traits to play further forward and is not afraid to drive into the area or take on his man on the outside and get crosses in due to his ability on the ball.
Adaramola has been earning rave reviews for his displays from watchers of Palace’s youth teams and is making progress on the international scene too, moving up to Ireland’s under-19s this season. Midfielders Jesurun Rak-Sakyi, who made his first-team debut this season, Jack Wells-Morrison and Jadan Raymond are a few other Palace youngsters tipped to make strides in 2022.
Levi Colwill (Chelsea, 18)
Chelsea’s academy keeps producing and one of the next off the production line and into the first team could be Levi Colwill.
With plenty of uncertainty about the make-up of Chelsea’s defensive options next season his emergence could be well-timed too. Colwill is currently impressing at Huddersfield, who beat off a string of their Championship rivals to land him for his first senior loan spell.
Colwill has also captained England Under-19s and been called-up to the Under-21s this season.
The 18-year-old is a centre-half whose reading of the game for one so young has really caught the eye and he is not just feeling his way in at senior level but standing out.
Chelsea youngster Levi Colwill has impressed on loan at Huddersfield Town
As a talented left-footed centre-half Colwill is also a prized rarity, such is the demand for them across the game. One of his biggest qualities, though, is his mentality.
Colwill possesses a laser-like focus on what he wants to achieve and progressing his career. He reviews all of his games with a video analyst looking for areas of improvement and his sole priority is making sure he is playing enough at the right level to ensure he continues developing.
As a result, what the next stage of his career holds will be interesting to see, with clubs from the top two divisions already jotting Colwill’s name on their wish lists for next season.
Meanwhile, finding a route through at Chelsea is not the easiest task for young player as last summer’s departures prove, though on the flipside Trevoh Chalobah’s story should offer encouragement that Thomas Tuchel will give prospects their big breakthrough chance.
England Under-19 attacking midfielder Harvey Vale is another one to watch at Chelsea.
Callum Doyle (Manchester City, 18)
‘His passing ability is, in my opinion, the best in the division already,’ Sunderland manager Lee Johnson claimed. Team-mate Bailey Wright said: ‘You think, “I can’t wait until I’m retired on my sofa one day and Callum Doyle is captain of England.”‘
Getting into Manchester City’s first team from their academy is far from an easy task so going out on loan to start racking up senior experience is the route Doyle has taken. Starting that process so early – he only turned 18 in October – may have been a calculated risk but, as the glowing references suggest, it is one that is paying off already.
Cultured centre-back Doyle stands out for multiple reasons. Left footed, brave, vocal, over 6ft and still growing upwards and outwards Doyle is an exciting prospect doing something few of his age in his position are by playing first-team football week-in-week out. His ability and ease in possession are quickly noticeable especially for someone so big.
Doyle is an incisive long and short passer, completing the most passes per game at Sunderland, and also willing to disrupt opponents with galloping forays forwards. His positional awareness for his age is already good and improving further thanks to the challenge he has taken on.
Another benefit of his League One loan that he would not get playing youth team football is the physical and aerial test. The long-term target is, of course, City’s first-team. In the meantime, Doyle will be building up a body of work via loan spells with another higher-level one likely after his Sunderland stint to continue his development.
Back at the Etihad, centre-back Luke Mbete, who made his debut this season, and midfielder Oscar Bobb are two others to keep tabs on.
High-flying Callum Doyle of Manchester City has been tipped as a future England captain
Luke Harris (Fulham, 16)
At just 16, Luke Harris is one of the first names on the team-sheet for Fulham’s under-23s and has played for three different Wales age groups this year, the highest being the Under-19s, having also represented the U17s and U18s.
If it were not for his international duties he would already have begun training with Marco Silva’s first team, a step up that is likely to come in 2022.
Once he is playing for the first-team, Fulham youth coach Steve Wigley says: ‘The world is his oyster.’
Attacking midfielder Harris is a player Fulham have huge hopes for.
The finishing ability of Luke Harris has been compared with the great Frank Lampard
He can play anywhere across midfield but is at his best either playing as a No 10 or just a little deeper as an orthodox central midfielder and he excels when it comes to scoring goals.
Four in 10 games at Premier League 2 level and three in four for Fulham’s under-18s are an example of why he has been likened to Frank Lampard because of his ability to arrive late in the box and find the net.
Harris has been at Fulham since he was 12 and progressed quickly, a journey that is likely to gather pace over the next 12 months. It would be no surprise if he is in and around the Wales senior set-up in the next 18 months too.
Ethan Laird (Manchester United, 20)
Manchester United have been on the lookout for a new right-back in the last 18 months or so. Step forward Ethan Laird? By the end of this current season Laird could be that alternative, more attacking option United have been looking for in the position.
A product of their academy, who made a pair of first-team appearances two seasons ago, Laird has made some big strides forward in the last two seasons while on loan at first MK Dons and Swansea.
Laird remains the same exciting, skilful, two-footed and tenacious full-back with the infectious personality and style of play that United will already be familiar with from his journey through the ranks.
But his time in the EFL, where he has quickly become a fans’ favourite at both clubs, has added a robustness to his game and helped him prove his Premier League potential.
Ethan Laird’s development in the Championship couldf leadf to his Man United breakthrough
Given United’s need – especially under Ralf Rangnick who puts plenty of onus on his full-backs to be attacking outlets – Laird looks tailor-made for the role. Even if Rangnick is only in charge for six months he will still be shaping things at Old Trafford in his consultancy role.
Intriguingly Laird’s development is being watched by some of the biggest clubs in Europe who, after seeing the likes of Jude Bellingham (now Borussia Dortmund) and Omar Richards (Bayern Munich) display their qualities in the Championship, view England’s second tier as an ideal breeding ground.
Laird now looks ready to make his step up too.
Clinton Mola (Stuttgart, 20)
Among the raft of English players now plying their trade abroad, Clinton Mola is a name to keep an eye on over the next 12 months.
The former Chelsea youngster is getting back on track after long-term injury and his promotion to England Under-21s this season is an encouraging step in the right direction.
Mola helped Stuttgart gain promotion from Germany’s second tier after joining from Chelsea, where he played alongside the likes of Billy Gilmour, Reece James and Callum Hudson-Odoi, in January 2020.
A hip problem kept him out for the whole of last season but he has worked his way back to fitness and impressed in the Bundesliga opportunities he has received, ones that have not been easy to come by having been out for so long.
More regular football is next on the agenda for Mola which could see him go out on loan, potentially returning temporarily to England. Mola is a versatile and technical operator who can play as a holding midfielder but also a centre-back and left-back.
Allied with his positional flexibility, Mola is good on the ball, in one v one defensive situations and also a leader. Sven Mislintat drove Stuttgart’s move for Mola and is happy with how he is developing.
The 20-year-old is now eyeing more opportunities to show why the former Arsenal chief pushed hard to prise him away from Chelsea.
Clinton Mola is honing his game in the Bundesliga at Stuttgart having left Chelsea
Mateusz Musialowski (Liverpool, 18)
Arsenal could regret letting Liverpool beat them to Mateusz Musialowski
Jurgen Klopp is not afraid to dip into Liverpool’s academy and hand opportunities to deserving youngsters and Mateusz Musialowski could be one who gets the tap on the shoulder in 2022.
He is certainly has all the attributes when he gets on the ball to catch Klopp’s eye.
The 18-year-old Polish youth international is a gifted two-footed winger with tricky feet and blessed with balance who enjoys travelling with the ball and dribbling past defenders.
There’s an awareness and unselfishness to his game too, with Musialowski capable of getting his head up and finding team-mates with a clever pass. His reputation for being a big-game player will also do his chances of making the grade at Liverpool no harm.
Next year could be a significant one for Musialowski and see him get his first taste of senior action, either at Liverpool or on loan. And, as his career progresses, he may be one Arsenal regret letting slip through their fingers.
Musialowski was on course to join the Gunners in 2020 after they had followed him for years before all the changes in their academy and scouting set-up led to that proposed move fizzling out.
When alerted to his availability Liverpool, in contrast, had no hesitation when it came to sealing the deal and snapped him up from Polish side SMS Lodz. After one year at Liverpool, they handed Musialowski his first professional contract in July tying him to the club until 2024. Arsenal’s loss could well be Liverpool’s gain.
Charlie Patino (Arsenal, 18)
For Charlie Patino it was not a matter of if, but when. Mikel Arteta resisted the clamour to play him for as long as possible but he could hold him back no more, handing the teenager his debut against Sunderland in the Carabao Cup and watching Patino justify all the hype by marking it with a goal.
The midfielder has been at Arsenal since the age of 12, is considered one of the best talents they have produced and 2022 is expected to be a defining year for the youngster.
Patino is an elegant left-footed operator who can play in any of the central midfield positions – his best role being box-to-box – regularly produces ‘wow’ moments and possesses a lengthy list of qualities – maturity, composure, vision, touch, technique, passing range and comfort on the ball.
As well as Jack Wilshere he has been likened to Liam Brady while Andres Iniesta is his favourite player. Patino only turned 18 in October but is well ahead of schedule, a regular in Arsenal’s 23s while training – and now playing – with Arteta’s first-team. squad. There he has proved he deserves to be fast-tracked and in such company, quickly earning the respect of Arsenal’s senior pros.
‘I would maybe say Charlie Patino is one of the biggest talents there [in the academy],’ Martin Odegaard said this season. Many others would agree. Patino seemingly has the world at his feet and the right temperament and network around him to handle the hype. That includes links with Barcelona as well as interest in the England Under-19 starlet from Spain, who he is also eligible for.
Also at Arsenal, watch out for Khayon Edwards, a prolific forward they are battling to keep hold of as clubs from home and abroad circle to sign him.
Charlie Patino scored for Arsenal in the recent Carabao Cup quarter-final against Sunderland
Jeremy Sarmiento (Brighton, 19)
There is never a good time to get injured but Jeremy Sarmiento’s setback was especially cruel.
Just over 10 minutes into his Premier League debut against West Ham in December, winger Sarmiento suffered a serious hamstring injury that halted his progress just as he was really gathering momentum.
Still he is hoping to be back in March giving the 19 year-old plenty of time in 2022 to pick up where he left off. Sarmiento was making big strides before he pulled up at the London Stadium.
Jeremy Sarmiento was on the verge of the first team at Brighton before injury struck
He joined Brighton from Benfica in the summer and his talent has forced him into the first-team picture sooner than expected after impressing both Graham Potter and his team-mates since his arrival.
Sarmiento is described as a typical, dynamic winger – good on the ball in tight spaces, at beating defenders one-on-one, creative, capable of unlocking defences and good in front of goal too.
Sarmiento was born in Spain, moved to England when he was seven and wore the Three Lions at youth level having started out in Charlton’s academy before moving to Portugal. But he has since committed his international future to Ecuador, who he is also eligible for, and started two World Cup qualifiers, another indication of his ability.
Brighton, who rate him highly, will be looking forward to seeing more of it when he returns to fitness.
The Seagulls have a number of other prospects to be aware of along with Sarmiento including defender Haydon Roberts, midfielder Andy Moran and striker Evan Ferguson.
Charlie/Tommy Setford (Ajax, 17/15)
When it comes to the Setford brothers you cannot have one without the other as their stories are so interlinked. Two boys, close in age, with an English dad and Dutch mother who have both become promising goalkeepers now playing for Ajax and England’s youth teams.
Charlie, 17, is the older sibling who has made the Ajax first-team bench already, plays regularly for Jong Ajax and England Under-18s. Tommy is two years younger but already reached under-17 level for Ajax and England. Their upbringings have exposed them the best of both worlds as goalkeepers. Coming through at a European club, especially one like Ajax, has helped them develop a comfort on the ball to rival an outfield player. The English side of them, meanwhile, means they have no qualms about the physical side of the game and coming through bodies to claim crosses.
Charlie and Tommy have both represented Holland and England and while the former has committed to the Three Lions the latter is still undecided and continues to be selected for Dutch training camps. How that situation develops will be worth keeping an eye on, along with their club futures with clubs here certain to be aware of two talents who are in Holland but could also call England home.
Young English goalkeeper Charlie Setford is developing nicely at Dutch giants Ajax
Born to a Dutch mother, his younger brother, Tommy, is also a promising goalkeeper at Ajax
Alex Scott (Bristol City, 18)
In a disappointing season so far for Bristol City, the rise of exciting attacking midfielder Alex Scott, aka ‘The Guernsey Grealish’, has been one reason to be cheerful.
After joining the Robins’ academy aged 16, club staff knew he was good but have realised just how good since he started displaying it regularly at first-team level this season.
Bristol City’s Alex Scott has been compared to both Jack Grealish and Steven Gerrard
Guernsey-born Scott, who previously trained with Southampton and Bournemouth, has all the tools for a bright future in the game. He loves running at opponents and is capable of going past them on the inside or out.
Scott is two-footed and confident finishing with either. Physically strong too, standing at almost 6ft, Scott possesses the right level of confidence in himself and his ability.
That has only been enhanced by his displays in the Championship, which have earned him England Under-19 recognition, where he has more than held his own alongside players from the biggest academies in the country. England staff have been impressed with Scott, who has played in a more central, Steven Gerrard-style role for his country.
But his style, in appearance with his socks rolled down and on the ball – clever, committing players and winning free-kicks in dangerous areas – have contributed to the Grealish comparisons.
Premier League scouts have described him as the best from a batch of youngsters coming through at Ashton Gate and foreign clubs are watching too. But he would not come cheap having signed a new four-year deal in August, just five months after penning his first professional deal.