The ten teenagers who have played the most minutes in Europe’s top five leagues are below. Busy kids.
A central defender for Sporting Gijon, Mere has played 1,274 of La Liga football in his breakthrough season at the club after making his first-team debut in April. The 18-year-old has featured in every minute of Sporting’s last eight league games, including a 5-1 defeat to Real Madrid and a 3-1 loss to Barcelona. The youngster will perhaps have happier memories of Gary Neville, with his first – and only – clean sheet for the club coming against Valencia in January. Newcastle were linked with the defender in January. What has he done to deserve such punishment?
Another centre-half by trade, Baumgartl has played 1,277 of Bundesliga football for Stuttgart this season. The German youth international made his debut for the club as an 18-year-old in November 2014, and has become a mainstay since. Only two teenagers in the German league have played more often than Baumgartl, who also has the most appearances by any Stuttgart central defender. Jürgen Kramny’s side have won just three of their 23 games and 11 of their 28 points without Baumgartl starting this season.
A Spanish midfielder linked with Arsenal and Liverpool recently, Ceballos is actually in the midst of his third season with Real Betis, having made his debut in April 2014. He has played 1,283 minutes for Juan Merino’s side, featuring in all but three of their La Liga games; only three of his team-mates have played more games. Real Madrid were also linked with the 19-year-old late last year, but Ceballos rejected overtures to sign a new Betis contract. Only two teenagers have featured more often in La Liga.
Antonio Sanabria (1,307 minutes)
And Sanabria is one of them. Aged 19, the striker is already at his fourth club in professional football. Sanabria spent four years at Barcelona, winning the 2013/14 UEFA Youth League before leaving to join Sassuolo. After just two Serie A games in six months, he moved to Roma. Making his debut as a substitute for Francesco Totti in February 2015. But his current loan spell at Sporting Gijon has been by far the most successful. Only 13 players have scored more La Liga goals than the Paraguayan this season, with hat-tricks against Las Palmas and Real Sociedad boosting his goals tally to ten in just 16 starts. Sanabria became the youngest player to score a hat-trick in Spain’s top flight with his treble against Las Palmas, and is the only teenager currently outscoring Dele Alli.
Timo Werner (1,613 minutes)
Kingsley Coman has scored four Bundesliga goals at Bayern Munich this season. The only teenager outscoring him is Timo Werner at Stuttgart. Aged just 19, the forward already has 76 Bundesliga career appearances to his name, and has featured at every level of German youth football from the under-15s to the under-21s. Tottenham were credited with an interest in the summer, and although Stuttgart were willing to sell, according to Bild, they could find no club who would match their £10million valuation. Werner played just 56 minutes of Stuttgart’s first four Bundesliga games, but has started each of the subsequent 19.
Gianluigi Donnarumma (1,710 minutes)
Last Thursday, Gianluigi Donnarumma turned 17. He is AC Milan’s first-choice goalkeeper, has had his worth valued at over £130million, and has predictably been tipped as ‘the next Gianluigi Buffon’. What were you doing at 17?
Donnarumma started the season as third-choice under Sinisa Mihaljovic, failing to appear from the bench in Milan’s first eight Serie A games. But the keeper has started each of the following 19 games, impressing with his shot-stopping ability. Milan were 11th before Donnarumma’s debut, having lost four of their opening eight games. They had conceded 14 goals, the same amount that Donnarumma has conceded in 19. In a form table since the Italian was introduced to the starting line-up, Milan sit third, and have lost just twice. He’s quite good.
The ‘Croatian Messi’ made his first-team debut in 2012 and earned his first international cap a year later, but this has truly been Halilovic’s breakthrough season. The midfielder impressed at Dinamo Zagreb, becoming the second-youngest Champions League player ever, before leaving for Barcelona. Game time was predictably difficult to come by, so a loan spell at Sporting Gijon beckoned this season. The 19-year-old has played 1,786 minutes, scoring three times and assisting five goals for the relegation-embattled club. Only erstwhile team-mates Neymar and Lionel Messi have completed more dribbles per game. He plays for the team third from bottom.
Andreas Christensen (1,800 minutes)
Only two sides have conceded fewer goals in the Bundesliga this season than Borussia Monchengladbach. Relying on an 19-year-old to become a first-team regular in central defence is probably ill-advised, after all. But Andreas Christensen has impressed for Gladbach this season. The Danish international, in the first year of a two-year loan spell from Chelsea, has played 1,800 minutes for the current fourth-placed side in the Bundesliga. The teenager’s Premier League career thus far comprises of a 12-minute substitute cameo against Sunderland in the final game of last season, while Jose Mourinho crowned the defender the man of the match in the Capital One Cup final for his performance in the fourth round against Shrewsbury, despite the fact that he did not play at Wembley.
Dele Alli (1,842 minutes)
February 17, 2015: Dele Alli is substituted off against Colchester United after scoring the only goal for MK Dons in a 1-0 win in League One.
February 18, 2016: Dele Alli plays a full match for Tottenham in the Europa League against Fiorentina. The midfielder has seven goals and five assists in 25 games, and is crucial to a Premier League title challenge. He is also a full England international and goalscorer. It’s been quite the 12 months.
Two years ago, Amadou Diawara was playing for a church football team in Guinea. Fast forward to 2016, and the midfielder is wanted by both Bayern Munich and Chelsea after impressing with Bologna. The 18-year-old made his Serie A debut as a substitute in the first game of the season against Lazio, making an appearance from the bench in the subsequent two games. Diawara has since started 22 of 24 games in the league. The Frenchman has played 2,008 of a possible 2,430 minutes this season, featuring more often for Bologna – mid-table in Italy – than all but two of his team-mates.