Dele Alli may have seen his hopes dashed, but Leicester’s Demarai Gray is on his way to joining an elite club of players to have won the Premier League title in a season they started as teenagers. Honourable mentions also go to Anderson, Kurt Zouma and Wes Brown…
Ryan Giggs – Manchester United 1992/93
Despite the challenge of fellow promising youngster Lee Sharpe, Giggs cemented his place as United’s first-choice left winger, playing 41 matches in the inaugural Premier League campaign. Aged just 18 at the start of the season, Giggs scored nine times in total, including a match-winning brace against Southampton. Sir Alex Ferguson’s first title in England was won at a canter, as United finished ten points ahead of second-place Aston Villa.
Somewhat surprisingly, Giggs is the only member of the ‘Class of 92′ to have picked up a Premier League winners’ medal as a teenager. Another 12 titles later, it’s probably fair to suggest the Welshman turned out to be better than Sharpe.
Nicolas Anelka – Arsenal 1997/98
Signed as a 17-year-old in February 1997, Anelka only made four substitute appearances in his debut campaign at Arsenal. But the following season Arsene Wenger showed a huge sign of faith in the starlet by handing him the number nine shirt. And after Ian Wright suffered a long-term injury, Anelka caught the eye with six goals in 16 league starts, bagging his first for the club in a 3-2 win over Manchester United at Highbury.
After the Gunners had beaten United to the title by a single point, the Frenchman scored the second goal in a 2-0 FA Cup final victory over Newcastle to help Arsenal to the double. But Anelka would have to wait 12 years before lifting the Premier League trophy once more, as part of the Chelsea squad under Carlo Ancelotti to finish top of the pile in 2009/10.
Gael Clichy – Arsenal 2003/04
Acting as understudy to one of the best left-backs in the world in Ashley Cole, the previously-unheard-of Clichy was expected to barely feature in his first season for the north Londoners. But an injury to the England defender gave the 18-year-old the opportunity to write his name in the record books as the youngest player to have won the Premier League.
Clichy went on to play 12 league matches in total, making nine consecutive appearances in the absence of Cole, and can claim to have played his part in Arsenal’s ‘Invincibles’ season. Although so can Pascal Cygan.
Rafael – Manchester United 2008/09
We’re not saying Mr and Mrs Da Silva have a favourite son, but Rafael does have two more Premier League winners’ medals than his twin brother Fabio, and the first of which earns the right-back his place on this list. With Gary Neville and Wes Brown both injured, a pathway opened up for Rafael to enjoy an unexpected run in the United first team, playing a total of 16 league matches and registering his first goal for the club with a superb volley in a 2-1 defeat at Arsenal.
Alongside team-mate Jonny Evans, the Brazilian was nominated for the PFA Young Player of the Year, but lost out to future United left-back/right-back/winger/striker Ashley Young, before earning a new contract at Old Trafford.
Daniel Sturridge – Chelsea 2009/10
Sneaking into the list as he was briefly 19 at the start of the season, Sturridge enjoyed a successful debut campaign at Stamford Bridge, helping the Blues to a league and FA Cup double. Having made his first appearance for the club in a 3-1 victory at Sunderland in August, Sturridge went on to play 20 matches in all competitions, scoring five times, and was Chelsea’s top scorer in the FA Cup.
While he only made two league starts that season, Sturridge produced a vital contribution in the 1-1 draw at West Ham, coming off the bench at half-time to win a controversial penalty which Frank Lampard converted. Chelsea went on to win the title by a single point ahead of Manchester United.
Luke Chadwick – Manchester United 2000/01
“It was a massive thing to be involved in that squad, but I felt it wasn’t because of me that we won the title that season.” Chadwick may be the only player on this list not to go on to become a full international, but his modesty cannot be questioned.
Chadwick, who like Sturridge qualifies as he was 19 when the campaign began, made a total of 16 league appearances that season, and scored two goals. Given United won the league by ten points, the midfielder’s two strikes probably weren’t crucial, but supporters undoubtedly cherished his goal in a 1-1 draw at Leeds.