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What happened to the 15 young players Lionel Messi tipped for greatness in 2020?

What happened to the 15 young players Lionel Messi tipped for greatness in 2020?

Lionel Messi named 15 players that were 'on the rise' in 2020.

Lionel Messi put his neck on the line when he named 15 young players that were "on the rise" in 2020.

Four years ago, the eight-time Ballon d'Or winner partnered with trading card company Topps to create his own limited edition collection, featuring 50 specially designed cards.

These cards included the "Greatest Moments" of Messi's trophy-laden career, as well as his choices for "Top Talent" and "Youth on the Rise".

In terms of his picks for "Top Talent", there were no real surprises as Kevin De Bruyne, Harry Kane, Robert Lewandowski, Koke and Virgil van Dijk were selected by the Argentine.

But who did he think would make an impact in the future – and what's happened since?

Here are Messi's choices for those that were "on the rise" in 2020.

Trent Alexander-Arnold - "A full-back who is impressive going forward, it is the future."

The England international has established himself as one of Europe's best full-backs since Messi's prediction.

He holds the record for the most assists by a defender in Premier League history at just 25-years-old. Not a bad start, Lionel.

Christian Pulisic - "He has great balance and agility."

Pulisic joined Chelsea from Borussia Dortmund for £58 million in 2019 and many tipped the American to flourish at Stamford Bridge, including Messi, who praised his attacking qualities.

The winger went on to score 26 goals in 146 appearances for Chelsea across all competitions before joining AC Milan in 2023. Did he live up to expectation? We'll let you be the judge.

Image credit: Getty
Image credit: Getty

Mason Mount - "Having watched him play he has the potential to be one of the best."

Messi tipped then-Chelsea midfielder Mason Mount to become "one of the best" after he made such a positive impact at his boyhood club – and many felt the same.

After scoring 58 goals in 279 appearances for the Blues, Mount joined Manchester United last summer in a deal worth £55 million. He has struggled for first-team minutes of late because of injury but he's got time on his side.

Jadon Sancho - "His ability to dribble past defenders is impressive."

Another future Manchester United player. Sancho was in the form of his life at Borussia Dortmund when Messi praised the pacey winger for his "impressive" dribbling ability.

He went on to complete a move to Old Trafford in 2021 for £73 million but at the time of writing, the 24-year-old has failed to live up to expectation at United after falling out with manager Erik ten Hag. He is currently out on loan at Dortmund.

Image credit: Getty
Image credit: Getty

Luka Jovic - "A magical player who makes the impossible, possible."

You must be special if Lionel Messi, one of the all-time greats, is describing you as a "magical" player.

To be fair, Jovic was one of Europe's most sought-after young stars when he joined Real Madrid from Eintracht Frankfurt in 2019 for £52.4 million, but he struggled to hit the ground running.

In fact, Jovic endured a nightmare three-year spell at Los Blancos, scoring just three La Liga goals, before joining Fiorentina in 2022. He now plays for AC Milan.

Kai Havertz - "His composure in front of goal is so impressive for such a young player."

Havertz was ripping up the Bundesliga with Bayer Leverkusen when Messi commented on his composure in front of goal.

He soon joined Chelsea in a deal worth £62 million and showed glimpses of brilliance but the German international has enjoyed one of his best seasons to date in 2023/24 for title contenders Arsenal, scoring 12 goals in all competitions.

Image credit: Getty
Image credit: Getty

Eder Militao - "A phenomenal talent and fierce competitior."

To receive such a compliment from Barcelona's very own speaks volumes. Militao has since established himself as one of the world's best defenders at Real Madrid, lifting numerous titles including two La Liga's and the Champions League.

Ousmane Dembele - "His pace is frightening in training."

Messi may have been taken aback by Dembele's pace but the France international, who joined Barcelona in a record-breaking £135 million deal, failed to deliver on a regular basis.

After a disappointing six-year spell with the Catalan giants, Dembele penned a five-year deal with Paris Saint-Germain in 2023.

He has once again shown glimpses of brilliance, but one of the world's best? Not yet.

Image credit: Getty
Image credit: Getty

Phil Foden - "He will do amazing things in the game. He has huge talent."

Perhaps the most accurate prediction yet. Foden has notched 24 goals and 10 assists for Manchester City this season, and continues to shine for Pep Guardiola's side on the biggest stage.

In fact, Foden recently became the third player to score 50 top-flight goals under Guardiola while aged 23 or younger, after Erling Haaland and a certain Lionel Messi.

Houssem Aouar - "He is always calm with the ball at his feet with an excellent technical quality."

At the time of Messi's comments, Aouar was one of Europe's most talked about young talents.

He was a key player at the Parc Olympique Lyonnais and many top clubs, including Liverpool and Manchester United, were being linked with a potential move.

He never got his big move, and eventually joined Italian side Roma in 2023. Like the rest, the attacking midfielder has time on his hands at 25, but improvement is needed to reach Messi's expectations.

Image credit: Getty
Image credit: Getty

Frenkie de Jong - "One of the most accomplished passers I have ever seen for his age."

Another huge compliment. De Jong was tipped to flourish at Barcelona when he joined the club from Ajax in 2019 for a £65 million – and he did exactly that. A regular under Xavi, the Dutchman continues to run the show alongside Pedri and Gavi.

Joao Felix - "One of the most exciting young players in the world right now."

A year before Messi's prediction, the hype around Felix was huge after he became Atletico Madrid's club-record signing following a £112.9 million move from Benfica.

Felix went on to score 34 goals in 131 games under Diego Simeone before joining Barcelona in 2023 following a loan spell at Chelsea.

He continues to show glimpses of brilliance – with this month's overhead kick against Cadiz proving that – but doing so on a consistent basis remains a constant struggle.

Kylian Mbappe - "He is so fast and he can finish. Very dangerous."

Not much has to be said on this one. Messi got it right, as did the rest of us. A future Ballon d'Or winner.

Image credit: Getty
Image credit: Getty

Joshua Kimmich - "A hugely talented full-back who provides so many assists."

Hansi Flick described Kimmich as an "absolute professional" and a "mentality monster" after coaching the defender-turned-midfielder during his spell at Bayern.

The 29-year-old was hardly a young player on the rise when Messi praised the German international. Still, he has lived up to expectation and more in these last few years.

Benjamin Pavard - "A classy defender who can strike a ball so well."

Pavard's memorable strike against Argentina at the 2018 World Cup may well have played a part in Messi's prediction. The full-back netted the goal of the tournament that year, and would later join Bayern Munich from Stuttgart.

He currently plays for Serie A side Inter Milan after a four-year spell at the Allianz Arena.

Featured Image Credit: Getty Images

Topics: Lionel Messi, Kai Havertz, Phil Foden, Jadon Sancho, Kylian Mbappe, Joao Felix, Premier League, La Liga, Serie A