A host of talented youngsters emerged from the ranks of their respective academies in 2020 to make their mark on the first team.
Whether it was Arsenal’s brilliant youngster Bukayo Saka or Chelsea’s talented midfielder Billy Gilmour, dozens of promising youth products enjoyed a memorable year despite the four-month break in play caused by coronavirus.
Gilmour made his breakthrough 2020 – but who could next make an impact in 2021?
Bedding young stars into any first team is often a precarious proposition for a manager, with the physical and mental demands often too much for young shoulders.
Yet, every once in a while, a star emerges to dazzle and dance their way into the reckoning and announce themselves as one to watch.
In no particular order, here are talkSPORT.com’s wonderkids to watch out for in 2021…
Emile Smith-Rowe (Arsenal)
The 20-year-old has shone in his two Premier League starts and is now making himself too hard to ignore for Mikel Arteta.
The playmaker has added some much-needed adventure and creativity to the Arsenal’s ranks, and it’s no surprise his two inclusions have coincided with their recent upturn in form.
Smith-Rowe will only improve as he gets more first-team minutes, but the early signs are hugely promising.
He is tremendous with his feet and has the vision for an eye of the needle pass – something the Gunners have desperately craved this season.
Smith-Rowe has been handed his opportunities by Arteta in recent matches
Eduardo Camavinga (Rennes)
The 18-year-old midfielder has been touted as France’s next big thing for his superb performances for Rennes this year.
With a superb passing range already, whether it be long raking efforts, or the simple stuff, hes exceptional with the ball at his feet for someone who is just 18 years old.
Earlier this year he became the second youngest goalscorer for France and starred against Ukraine on his full debut.
Last season he posted up superb defensive numbers for Rennes as they made it into the Champions League, building a reputation for fine tackling, but hes also a fine technician and capable of dribbling forward.
He is already being coveted by some of the world’s most famous clubs – including Manchester United and Real Madrid – and there’s no doubting 2021 could be the year where he really bursts onto the scene.
Camavinga is already looking like being on his way to becoming an elite talent
Ryan Gravenberch (Ajax)
The Dutch youngster has been making waves in the Netherlands is already attracting interest from Premier League giants Manchester United.
Barcelona and Juventus have also been keeping tabs on the 18-year-old midfielder, who is seen as one of the Hollands top rising talents after breaking through the ranks in Amsterdam.
Gravenberch, who has been likened to Paul Pogba for his style of play, has already played 30 times for the Dutch giants, scoring six goals in that time.
The playmaker put pen to paper on a new three-year contract at the Johan Cruyff Arena in June, and it is understood Ajax are reluctant to cash in on their prized asset just yet.
Gravenberch is seen as one of the Netherland’s top rising talents
Jude Soonsup-Bell (Chelsea)
The 16-year-old is being talked up as the next big thing to come out of Chelsea’s famed academy following his remarkable goalscoring exploits for their Under-18s.
Soonsup-Bell has netted a remarkable 11 goals in 14 games this season – including a magnificent four-goal haul against Barnsley’s youth side – and it is understood Frank Lampard and his assistant Jody Morris are monitoring his progress very closely.
He has already played for England’s Under-15 and Under-16 teams and a long extension at Stamford Bridge is believed to be in the pipeline.
Right now, Sonsoop-Bell is very much unheard of but that could all change in 2021.
Soonsup-Bell has been making waves in Chelsea’s academy
Tino Anjorin (Chelsea)
The 19-year-old signed a bumper five-year contract in June to keep him at Stamford Bridge for the foreseeable future.
Having joined the academy as a six-year-old, it seems as though Anjorin looks set to continue his journey with Chelsea given how trusting Lampard was with his youngsters last season.
An England Under-19 international, the midfielder can also choose to represent Nigeria thanks to his father.
His first senior action came against Grimsby in the Carabao Cup in 2019, but Lampard also handed him a start in the Champions League against Krasnodar earlier this month.
Standing at 6ft 1ins and with a real eye for goal, the similarities between Anjorin and his manager will only begin to increase as he nears first team action.
Anjorin already has valuable first team experience
Teden Mengi (Manchester United)
United fans will tell you that this kid is destined to go right to the top of world football.
Mengi is one of the club’s brightest young talents and has been tipped to have a big future at Old Trafford.
The 18-year-old found himself training with the senior squad alongside United luminaries Marcus Rashford and Jesse Lingard, who themselves made the leap from youth to first team.
A late bloomer, Mengi, who has Angolan citizenship, only joined United in 2018.
The 18-year-old has yet to make his senior debut for the club but if his glowing reports are anything to go by, that looks set to change in 2021.
Mengi is certainly one to look out for in 2021
Hannibal Mejbri (Manchester United)
The 17-year-old signed for Manchester United in 2019, rejecting offers from Barcelona, Arsenal and Liverpool in order to move to Old Trafford.
A creative player who likes to play as a number 10, Mejbri will potentially struggle to usurp the likes of Bruno Fernandes, Paul Pogba or new signing Donny van de Beek at this moment.
However, the technical abilities and eye for goal which the France Under-17 has already shown should see him progress rapidly.
He is certainly one to look out for – especially given the fact boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer likes to hand out opportunities to kids.
Mejbri is one of the best talents in United’s academy
Folarin Balogun (Arsenal)
An instinctive striker who can finish with either foot, Baolguns achievements at youth level for Arsenal are the stuff of legend.
After rejecting Tottenham to join the Gunners at 10, the New York-born starlet scored 28 goals in 28 games en route to winning the Under-18 Premier League title in 2019.
Arsenal may have to move fast to keep the 19-year-old, who has entered the final year of his contract at the Emirates.
Bournemouth failed with a bid in January for the striker, who likened himself to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang due to his ability to play on the shoulder of defenders, while Liverpool are also considering a move next summer.
Balogun appears likely to leave Arsenal at the end of the season
The Hungarian prodigy has enjoyed a superb 2020 but is destined to elevate his name onto the world stage in 2021.
Szoboszlai was approached by Arsenal about a move to the Emirates in January but instead moved to RB Leipzig from sister club Red Bull Salzburg.
A creative midfielder with an eye for a goal, Szoboszlai will light up the Bundesliga when he completes his move in January.
It’s a shame that the Premier League will not get to see in action in the near future but a move to Leipzig to develop is probably what’s best for the 19-year-old – just look at what Erling Haaland did at Dortmund.
Szoboszlai had been a long-term target of Arsenal but joined Leipzig instead
Owen Beck (Liverpool)
Left-back Beck, 18, could be the next academy star to break into Jurgen Klopps senior set-up, Liverpool Under-23s boss Gary ONeil believes.
Beck is the great nephew of Liverpool legend Ian Rush – so Anfield greatness runs in his family.
He’s already trained with the first-team and was handed a new contract in November, just five months after signing his first professional deal.
O’Neil told talkSPORT earlier this month: Owen Beck is an amazing one. Hes a young boy, hes very small.
Hes been underdeveloped the whole way through, so hes always been the smallest in his age group, one of the youngest.
Hes played every game for us at Under-23 level this season and has done some training sessions with the first-team.
So to see things like that going on, some of the pleasure the academy staff must get from it, because I know its their job to develop players, but some of them go beyond that.
Some of the staff, theyre there on a Tuesday night working with these kids in the rain when theyre 13.
People are saying, hes a bit small, but these guys are there putting the work in. Now you see the benefits of it.
Beck could be the man to take over from Andy Robertson one day