Rich and poor alike, clubs around Europe dug deep in the summer transfer window hoping to strengthen their squad adhering to the cosmic law of bettering their team with every season.
From new tactics adapted ahead of the season to new arrivals lighting their respective leagues on fire, every beginning of a season excites fans.
What adds to that magic is the hope of new blood bettering the old recipes, with youth players breaking through their ranks and making it to the senior team.
The heights of competition have reached to such a pinnacle, that featuring in the domestic leagues in teenage years is not even considered laudable the European stage is the zenith.
Like Matthijs de Ligt leading Ajax to the semi-finals of last season, like Trent Alexander-Arnold sending his team to the final of Champions League with a corner, like Harry Winks and Frenkie de Jong shouldering responsibilities for their teams, this season too holds promise in boys transforming into men.
RESOLUTE AT THE BACK
Busting the myth that defenders hardly can break into first teams due to lack of experience, Matthijs de Ligt and Trent Alexander-Arnold paved the way for the new crop of starry-eyed protectors of the backline. Ajax has never shied away from giving teenagers opportunities, but the way Lisandro Mart nez has made Amsterdam his home after arriving from Buenos Aires haa filled Erik ten Hag’s face with a smile.
The 21-year-old centre-back, already comfortable stepping in de Ligt’s boots, has been trialled in a defensive midfield role too, owing more to his ball awareness and acceleration rather than his diminutive stature. Making debuts this season along with him is the 18-year-old Sergino Dest, who has put right-back Noussair Mazraoui’s position in the first team at risk with his direct and incisive showings down the right flank.
With no Filipe Luis, Atletico Madrid brought in the 21-year-old Brazilian, Renan Lodi to deputise at left-back. Having registered an assist against Eibar in La Liga already, he should be keenly kept an eye upon. Chelsea’s right-back Reece James, RB Leipzig’s centre-back Ibrahima Konat , and Benfica’s wing-back Nuno Tavares could also prove to be trouble for Europe’s elite.
SPINE OF THE TEAM
The name, Mason Mount, is on everybody’s lips now, as the 20-year-old English international consolidated his position at attacking midfield in Frank Lampard’s new-look Chelsea. Emulating his manager’s playing days, Mount has continued his form from last season whilst playing at Derby County, and has netted three times in the Premier League this season.
Going up against him in the opening day of Champions League in a Group H encounter, Valencia’s 18-year-old playmaker Lee Kang-in would threaten the Blues’ leaky defense. Scoring two goals and four assists in South Korea’s runners-up finish in the recently concluded FIFA U20 World Cup, Lee won the Golden Ball.
Dinamo Zagreb’s Spanish starlet Dani Olmo will hope to continue to shine in at least the six group-stage games, building on his four goals and four assists from six matches into the season. If the UEFA European Under-21 Championship version of the 21-year-old shows up, Manchester City’s faltering defence will not have it easy. Meanwhile, Benfica’s return to Champions League might be epitomised by the aggression and athleticism of their 20-year-old defensive midfielder, Florentino Lu s. Olympique Lyonnais’ new signing Jeff Reine-Adelaide, on the other hand, might have his breakthrough season filling in Tanguy Ndombele’s boots in the heart of midfield.
THE POINTY END THAT PRICKS
Outgrowing his father in the footballing world, FC Salzburg’s 19-year-old man mountain, Erling Braut H land hopes to shake things up against the likes of Virgil van Dijk and Kalidou Koulibaly this season, after winning the Golden Boot in the FIFA U20 World Cup, netting nine times in the same match. Ever since he started setting waves for Norway in the summer, he has carried on in that vein of form and has already registered 14 goals and 5 assists in just eight matches this season.
In H land’s exact opposite image diminutive, silky with the ball at his feet and preferring the right foot, Barcelona’s youngest-ever goalscorer, 16-year-old Anssumane Fati will be hoping to make the most of his opportunity in Europe in the absence of Lionel Messi and Ousmane Dembele. The La Masia product has already registered two goals and an assist in three matches, owing to his clever movement and swift operation from the left flank.
Replacing the attacking bites of Nicolas Pepe and Rafael Le o at Lille, Victor Osimhen has proved to be a diamond in the rough for the French side, scoring five goals in the opening five matches of the season. The 20-year-old will be up against Ajax’s Mart nez and Dest on Tuesday, and it holds promise to be an enthralling encounter.
On the other hand, Bayern Munich would look to 18-year-old Alphonso Davies this season to plug the void left by the departures of Franck Rib ry and Arjen Robben. As for the ducklings from England, while Chelsea’s Tammy Abraham has hit the ground running in Premier League with a league-high seven goals, Liverpool’s Rhian Brewster and Tottenham Hotspur’s Troy Parrott are yet to get a proper break.