In Depth

#TBT: What happened to last year's teenage transfer targets?

Hailed as the wonderkids of the future, the class of 16 have had mixed fortunes

It's easy to be a young footballer in the modern game, isn't it? A handful of goals for some South American side (or, y'know, Bolton) and you're bang in there.

Every summer, a new generation of teenage superstars find themselves thrust into the limelight as the big guns go in search of the next big thing. The problem is, though, that after the hype and headlines comes the requirement to deliver.

So how did the class of 2016 fare after their 15 minutes of fame?

Renato Sanches

Age: 19

Moved: Benfica to Bayern Munich

Fee: €80m (€35m down payment)

When Bayern Munich made more than half the €80m fee for Sanches clause-dependant, it looked as though they might be hedging their bets slightly.

However, the player then made only six league starts for the German side. At this point, it feels less like a hedge and more like a - what's bigger than a hedge? Kew Gardens? You get the idea.

Unsurprisingly, Sanches has been heavily linked with a move away from the Allianz Arena this summer, although it looks as if he'll get another chance to prove himself before being booted out the door.

Gabriel "Gabigol" Barbosa

Age: 20

Moved: Santos to Inter Milan

Fee: €29.5m

Chased by most of Europe's top clubs last summer, Gabigol landed at the San Siro two games into the season and made Inter's matchday squad for all but two of their remaining league games - an impressive ratio for a young and relatively unproven player.

But hey, you can prove anything with stats - and of his 3,060 minutes of Serie A game time, Barbosa spent 2,949 of them sitting on the bench, scoring one goal in the other 111.

Las Palmas are among the clubs sniffing around the Brazilian striker this summer.

Breel Embolo

Age: 20

Moved: Basel to Schalke

Fee: €20m

Linked with about 60 per cent of the Premier League last summer, Embolo ended up going to Bundesliga side Schalke for around €20m.

He started with five league defeats in a row, scored a double in the next game against Borussia Monchengladbach and then promptly broke his leg in the following game against Augsburg and missed the rest of the season. It could, all told, have gone better.

Reece Oxford

Age: 18

Moved: On loan from West Ham to Borussia Monchengladbach

Back in 2015, putting Mesut Ozil in your pocket was considered quite an achievement, so great things were predicted of Oxford when he marked the Arsenal man out of the game on his debut for West Ham. 

The new Bobby Moore was linked with a summer move to Manchester United with a fee of around £15m expected to change hands.

But to the surprise of absolutely nobody, nothing happened.

Oxford's only first-team action last season came in Europa League qualifying games against NK Domzale and Astra Giurgiu. A loan to Reading followed, which saw him start two games - the second a 7-1 defeat to Norwich. He did not feature again and has now gone out on loan to Borussia Monchengladbach.

Ben Chilwell

Age: 20

Moved: Stayed at Leicester

Benjamin James Chilwell is, if nothing else, a left-back with a pulse and two functioning legs - which is why Liverpool spent at least ten weeks of 2016 resolutely failing to buy him.

However, for someone who started last season as a teenage defender with zero top-flight experience, playing for the reigning Premier League champions, Chilwell acquitted himself magnificently. Never more than a rotation option, he registered a solid first season in the top flight and laid down a marker that his talent may not be transient.

Gabriel Jesus

Age: 20

Moved: Palmeiras to Manchester City

Fee: €33m

Seven goals in ten top-flight games either side of a broken ankle temporarily displacing the talented striker as the leading man in the Premier League's strongest attack - yes, it turns out Gabriel Jesus is quite good at football and City have identified a star of the future.

Rob Holding

Age: 21

Moved: Bolton to Arsenal

Fee: Undisclosed

Cult hero. FA Cup winner. Future England captain (and not in the Mike Atherton way). The absolute boy.

If you ask Arsenal fans, that is.


Maradona and the ‘simple homicide’ trial
Diego Maradona pictured in 2019
Why we’re talking about . . .

Maradona and the ‘simple homicide’ trial

A perfect storm of ‘injury, fatigue and déjà vu’ for England? 
England captain Harry Kane reacts after Hungary’s third goal at Molineux 
View from the terraces

A perfect storm of ‘injury, fatigue and déjà vu’ for England? 

Should Gareth Southgate be sacked?
Gareth Southgate reacts to England’s 4-0 defeat to Hungary in the Uefa Nations League
View from the terraces

Should Gareth Southgate be sacked?

A guide to the Fifa World Cup Qatar 2022
The Fifa World Cup trophy on display at the draw for Qatar 2022
The big match

A guide to the Fifa World Cup Qatar 2022

Popular articles

Are we heading for World War Three?
Ukrainian soldiers patrol on the frontline in Zolote, Ukraine
In Depth

Are we heading for World War Three?

Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 29 June 2022
10 Downing Street
Daily Briefing

Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 29 June 2022

The Mediterranean cities preparing for a tsunami
A tsunami in 2011 in Japan
Fact file

The Mediterranean cities preparing for a tsunami

The Week Footer Banner