Only a few notable FIFA U17 World Cup star players in the tournament’s history managed to thrive at the top levels.
The 2023 U17 World Cup has just begun, and the world is watching for the next best stars to emerge from the pitches in Southeast Asia’s biggest country. Barcelona’s Lamine Yamal was expected to be the best player in this year’s tournament. Unfortunately, his club has not given him permission to join the Spain U17 squad, as Blaugrana has an agreement in place with the Spanish FA. Yamal has already made his senior debut with La Furia Roja, and the U17 World Cup, which is deemed below his level of performance, is held in the middle of the season.
Fortunately, Spain managed to call up another young star from the Catalan side, Marc Guiu. Not long ago, the 17-year-old forward scored the game-winning goal against Athletic Bilbao. He also bagged the opener when Spain thumped Canada 2-0 last weekend. Guiu is unquestionably one of the anticipated stars in this year’s edition.
In the history of the U17 World Cup, plenty of top players might have been included in the tournament and given a nod in the lineup. The likes of Neymar, Emiliano Martínez, and Eden Hazard were some of them. However, only very few of them became the key men of the team, were awarded the tournament’s Golden Boot or Golden Ball, and carried on thriving at the top levels of their careers. Here are the most notable names who have checked the boxes above.
The most notable U17 World Cup stars in history
The 33-year-old midfielder was the Golden Ball winner in the 2007 U17 World Cup. He helped Germany reach third place and contributed five goals plus one assist in the competition. Kroos then went on to shine for the senior side by winning the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil.
The current Real Madrid man netted twice in the semifinal while demolishing Brazil 7-1 as well as providing two assists in the tournament. At the club level, Kroos has won it all with Los Blancos and Bayern Munich, including five Champions League titles, four of which he won with the La Liga giant.
The Nigerian forward is the first African to be awarded the Italian Serie A Top Scorer award. Such helped his current club, Napoli, win their first top-flight title in the 2022–23 season after club legend Diego Maradona, left.
Osimhen’s eye for goals has been well-known since he was in his teens. In the 2015 U17 World Cup, he not only helped Nigeria clinch their fifth title in the tournament’s history, but he also won the Golden Boot award with 10 goals. He is now considered one of Europe’s most wanted number nines. The 24-year-old striker previously played for Lille and Wolfsburg in the major European leagues.
The former Mexico international was El Sombrero’s star when they lifted their first trophy in the 2005 edition. Vela was also named the tournament’s goal scorer with five goals. The 34-year-old winger quickly drew interest from European clubs and eventually signed with Arsenal.
Unfortunately, things did not go as planned in London. Thus, he was constantly sent on loan to Celta Vigo, Salamanca, Osasuna, West Bromwich Albion, and Real Sociedad from 2006 to 2012. Vela was able to revive his form with La Real as he went on playing for them until 2018. The current LAFC skipper was Real Sociedad’s second-most-capped foreign player with 73 goals and 43 assists in 248 games. He even helped them finish fourth in the 2012–13 campaign.
The former Barcelona, Arsenal, and Chelsea man is one of two players in the U17 World Cup who was named both the Golden Boot and Golden Ball awards. He did it in the 2003 edition, as Spain advanced to the final for the second time in the competition’s history. Fabregas scored five goals, including a brace against Argentina in the semifinal.
His career did not end prematurely, despite already leaving Barcelona at a very young age. He enjoyed his spell at Arsenal and Chelsea more than his return to the Catalan side in 2010. The versatile midfielder won the Premier League twice with Chelsea in 2015 and 2017, the FA Cup twice too, one for the Blues and the Gunners each, as well La Liga and the FIFA Club World Cup with Barcelona.
Fabregas also thrived on the international stage, as he was part of the squad during La Furia Roja’s glorious years in 2008–2012, with the FIFA World Cup and two EURO trophy in hand.
Last but not least is the current Manchester City star, who was England’s hero in the 2017 U17 World Cup. Foden is an example of a near-perfect figure in the tournament’s history, as he was named the awardee of the Golden Ball while helping the Young Lions clinch their first ever silverware at this level. The Manchester City Academy graduate was able to register three goals and provided one assist.
At the senior level, he helped England reach the EURO 2020 final and Pep Guardiola’s men win the treble the previous season. Now, the versatile midfielder is a mainstay for both the Three Lions and his club.