Age is just a number in football, so to speak.
However, with the younger generation coming up at a quick pace, you say that the future of the game is oh so bright.
With the World Cup fast approaching, it would be interesting to see five of these players below or just in the age of 23, that are in contention for a spot in their respective squads when Qatar 2022 kicks off in November.
Aurélien Tchouaméni (FRANCE)
The incoming Madridista is another proof of the great work that AS Monaco has in developing youthful talent, as it was known to be the first club of World Cup winner Kylian Mbappe.
Only aged twenty, Tchouaméni moved up the ladder of the Les Bleus set up since his youth career, in which he was rewarded with eleven senior caps and scored once against Ivory Coast. Despite missing out on the Euro squad in 2021, he was later part of the French side that won the Nations League in Italy.
With that kind of form, it is expected that the competition in the midfield that will give Didier Deschamps a selection headache, as it has Paul Pogba and N’Golo Kante on its ranks to contend with should he make it into the plane to Qatar.
He’s just 19 and he’s not yet at his peak. The midfield maestro for Barcelona and Spain had a marathon 2020-21 where he has been everywhere.
Known for his iron body, Pedri has been doing it all both for the Blaugrana and for La Furia Roja, winning the Copa Del Rey, an Olympic silver in Tokyo and a Euro semifinal appearance in the process while roaming free in the middle of the park.
Despite having his 2022 season curtailed by injuries, there’s no way that this man will not be forgotten by Luis Enrique, as he will have to think long for his squad announcement.
Phil Foden (ENGLAND)
This midfielder from Stockport has almost won it all for his boyhood club Manchester City, ever since he was given a break by Pep Guardiola way back in 2017 where he made his first team debut in the Champions League, no less.
Internationally, the now-22-year-old Foden knows how to be on the big stage at an early age, as he was part England side that won the U17 World Cup in India five years ago, with Jadon Sancho, Callum Hudson-Odoi and Emile Smith Rowe being his teammates. He won the Golden Ball for his memorable second-half performance in the final against Spain, scoring twice there (three overall) as the Young Lions won 5-2.
Three years later, he earned his senior debut away at Iceland in the Nations League, which was followed by his inclusion to the Three Lions side in the Euros, where he picked up a runners-up medal after three tournament appearances at Wembley.
Darwin Nuñez (URUGUAY)
The soon-to-be Liverpool man has made his waves on his second season with Benfica, where he fired in a league-leading 26 goals in 28 matches with the two-time European champions finished third behind Porto and Sporting Lisbon at the end of the campaign.
He then made his senior debut in 2019, about the same year he featured in Uruguay’s U20 to U23 teams. In 11 caps, he scored twice, including once in a vital away win at Colombia in a World Cup Qualifier in 2020.
Aged 22, Nuñez is already in the pipeline of its forward factory in Uruguay’s Proceso, as he was touted alongside Maxi Gomez and Facundo Pellestri to succeed the likes of Edinson Cavani, Luis Suarez and Stuani in the Celeste squad.
Rafael Leão (PORTUGAL)
The 23-year-old still has time to contend for spots in Fernando Santos’ final 26 ahead of the showpiece event. He is a multiple threat as a winger, in which he can score or facilitate when needed.
After graduating from the Sporting Lisbon academy, he did not have an ideal start to his senior career in 2018 despite a League Cup win.
He then moved to Lille for a season, before he signed with AC Milan in 2019 where he has been ever since. In 2022, he won his first silverware in four years when the Rossoneri won the Scudetto on the final day.
A product of the Portugal setup since he was 15, he progressed through their youth ladder and won the 2017 Euro U17 in Azerbaijan, before making three appearances in their U20 World Cup stint in 2019.
Following that, he then made 9 caps for the senior team, including four World Cup qualifiers, but he had yet to play a full match as his spot had intense competition, as he had to duel with Goncalo Guedes for that spot.