VIDEO: Five youngsters ready to set the Champions League alight
The Champions League is finally back and we are set for another fascinating tournament as Europe’s top sides go head-to-head in the group stage.
Europe’s premier club competition is the perfect stage for players to showcase their talents to the world and this season will see a fresh batch of starlets looking to make an impact.
We have picked five youngsters to look out for in the Champions League.
Dominik Szoboszlai (RB Leipzig)
Hungary midfielder Dominik Szoboszlai is gearing up for a strong season with RB Leipzig after overcoming injury troubles that disrupted his 2020-21 campaign and ruled him out of Euro 2020.
The 20-year-old joined from Leipzig’s sister side Red Bull Salzburg in January after racking up an impressive tally of 26 goals and 35 assists from the centre of midfield over 83 appearances in Austria.
But he had to wait until August to finally make his debut and has hit the ground running with three goals in his first five appearances, including two stunners on his full debut against VfB Stuttgart.
His impressive numbers are down largely to his tremendous ability to strike the ball — whether that be when spraying passes around or going for goal himself. He is also an expert from free-kicks and set-pieces.
LiveScore’s Sam Tighe said: "He is a guy you have to watch because his free-kicks — even just aesthetically — are unbelievable. He is borderline unique in the way he strikes the ball, the way operates and the way he takes free-kicks."
Wednesday’s opener at Manchester City will provide him with the perfect opportunity to test himself against some of the world’s best.
Maxence Lacroix (Wolfsburg)
Another in the seemingly endless line of impressive young French centre-backs, Maxence Lacroix will get his first taste of Champions League football this season.
The 21-year-old is already a fixture in Wolfsburg’s defence after making 30 appearances on his way to helping his side secure fourth in the Bundesliga following his move from French side Sochaux.
His 6ft 3in stature makes him a physically imposing presence but it is Lacroix’s confident demeanour and assured ability to glide out from the back and pick out passes that sets him apart.
Lacroix appears to have all the attributes to take to Champions League football seamlessly and has picked up where he left off this season, helping Die Wolf make a perfect start in their first four games.
Tighe said: "He is such a cool and composed defender which is genuinely rare to see sometimes. He is never ruffled or forced into doing anything frenetic.
"He is a breath of fresh air, really. You do not often see centre-backs operate with such an aura of calm."
Brahim Diaz (AC Milan)
At 22 years of age, Brahim Diaz is the oldest in this list and is as well-placed as any to make the 2021-22 campaign his own.
Much was expected of the Spaniard after moving from Malaga to Manchester City at 15 before Real Madrid spent £15million on him in 2019.
It did not work out at the LaLiga giants but the skilful attacking midfielder has found his feet at AC Milan and now looks set to be their main creator this season following Hakan Calhanoglu’s departure.
Inheriting Milan’s vacated No10 shirt, Diaz has a goal and an assist in three starts — including the winner in their opening day victory over Sampdoria.
Rossoneri coach Stefano Pioli said. "I’m always happy with him. He has personality and believes a lot in himself. He has everything to maintain this position."
If they are to cause 2019 European champions Liverpool problems on Wednesday evening, Diaz will need to be influential.
Karim Adeyemi (Red Bull Salzburg)
Another in the Red Bull Salzburg academy production line is 19-year-old striker Karim Adeyemi.
On the surface, losing last season’s top scorer Patson Daka to Leicester City is a big blow but Salzburg knew they had a replacement in the form of German international Adeyemi.
The diminutive striker has attracted interest from the likes of Liverpool, Chelsea and Bayern Munich in the past and it is easy to see why after netting 17 goals and providing 16 assists for Salzburg.
Despite his tender age, Adeyemi has taken on the mantle Salzburg’s main goalscorer this season and with six strikes in his opening seven Bundesliga games, that does not appear to faze him.
A goal on his full international debut for Germany against Armenia was another sign that he is ready to rise to the top.
Manfred Schwabl — who helped him develop in the youth ranks at SpVgg Unterhaching — outlined Adeyemi’s credentials to thrive in the Premier League, saying: "German football would be well advised to bring him back, but it would only be an intermediate step.
"He’ll score goals. In the long run, he is a player for England."
Mason Greenwood (Manchester United)
Undoubtedly the best-known name in this list, Mason Greenwood, 19, has already made quite an impact in his short career.
But while Greenwood is a household name in the Premier League, he is a relative newcomer when it comes to Champions League football with only 212 minutes and one goal to date.
With his form fluctuating over the previous two seasons, early signs suggest Greenwood is ready to finally nail down his place in the Manchester United side with three goals in four starts so far in 2021-22.
Tighe added: "You have got player here like this who is such an unerring finisher. He is so composed and has ability to use both feet.
"He is a freakish talent really. There are not many like him. We might know him well in the Premier League, but the Champions League is stage he has not conquered yet."