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England’s Jude Bellingham, USMNT’s Yunus Musah named most promising U21 players

The CIES Football Observatory has issued a new report ranking the Top 200 U-21 players in the world, and there’s plenty to discuss for both Premier League and United States men’s national team fans alike.

More than 26,500 players were observed for the study, including 567 players from the United States, meaning less than one percent of players made it into the top 200.

The study uses what it calls “experience capital” in official adult matches played in 2022 to rank the top 10 players in 20 different categories.

Eighteen-year-old Gabriel “Gaga” Slonina is ranked fourth on the table for goalkeepers, two slots behind Southampton’s Gavin Bazunu, and is the first USMNT player to forge his way into the discussion (by virtue of the CIES study listing ‘keepers first!).

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It comes as little surprise that RB Leipzig and Croatia star Josko Gvardiol is named the top ball-playing center back, while current Burnley and former Man City back Taylor Harwood-Bellis is also among the top ten in that category.

New York Red Bulls left back John Tolkin is 20 years old and is listed as the most promising “defensive left back” amongst U21 players, ahead of Barcelona’s Alejandro Balde. Mexico’s Emilio Lara makes the top ten promising “defensive right backs,” while Brentford’s Aaron Hickey is the third-rated two-way left back under 21.

Two-way right backs have two huge pats on the back for New York City FC’s academy, as Borussia Monchengladbach’s Joe Scally is ranked behind only Salzburg’s Amar Dedic and current NYCFC man Tayvon Gray is just two spots behind Scally (who made the USMNT’s World Cup roster but did not play). Colombian international Juan David Mosquera of Portland Timbers is fourth amongst attacking right backs.

Back to the USMNT, Valencia’s Yunus Musah is ranked fourth in attacking midfielders, behind Jude Bellingham, Jamal Musiala, and Gavi but ahead of Liverpool duo Harvey Elliott and Fabio Carvalho.

Leeds’ Wilfried Gnonto is named as a top 10 promising shot-oriented right winger, while Man United’s Anthony Elanga is fourth amongst all-around left wingers. Another NYCFC talent, Talles Magno, makes the latter list.

Is there hope in the center forward pool for the USMNT? It seems so, as 18-year-old Jackson Hopkins of DC United is listed as the fifth-best all-around CF.

Top Twenty “experience capital” U21 players (via CIES Football Observatory)

  1. Jude Bellingham, CAM, Borussia Dortmund -- 58.3
  2. Gavi, CAM, Barcelona -- 51.2
  3. Pedri, CDM, Barcelona -- 46.6
  4. Josko Gvardiol, CB, RB Leipzig -- 45.2
  5. Jamal Musiala, CAM, Bayern Munich -- 43.9
  6. Piero Hincapie, CB, Bayer Leverkusen -- 42.0
  7. Marcos Leonardo, CF, Santos -- 37.8
  8. Nuno Mendes, LB, Paris Saint-Germain -- 35.1
  9. Quentin Merlin, LB, Nantes -- 31.3
  10. Pablo Maia, CDM, Sao Paulo -- 34.3
  11. Castello Lukeba, CB, Lyon -- 34.4
  12. Yunus Musah, CAM, Valencia, 31.3
  13. Eduardo Camavinga, DM, Real Madrid -- 31.0
  14. Adam Hlozek, LW, Bayer Leverkusen -- 29.3
  15. Taylor Harwood-Bellis, CB, Burnley -- 29.1
  16. Nicola Zalewski, CM, AS Roma -- 28.4
  17. Ansgar Knauff, LW, Eintracht Frankfurt -- 28.3
  18. Arsen Zakharyan, CAM, Dynamo Moscow -- 28.3
  19. Valentin Gomez, CB, Velez Sarsfield -- 27.6
  20. Nico Williams, LW, Athletic Bilbao-- 27.3

Follow @NicholasMendola