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Go big or go home? Re-evaluating young soccer stars who haven’t shined yet

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young soccer stars
Young Soccer Stars. Photo/Ace Football
  • Young soccer stars – the hype train can be a wild ride
  • One minute they’re anonymous teens juggling a ball at the park
  • The next they’re dubbed “the next Messi”

Young soccer stars – the hype train can be a wild ride! One minute they’re anonymous teens juggling a ball at the park, the next they’re dubbed “the next Messi” with sky-high potential and a million-dollar contract dangling. Talk about heady stuff for a kid still figuring out cleats!

Not every wunderkind becomes a superstar, that’s the reality check. Sure, Kylian Mbappe took the world by storm, but for every Mbappe, there’s a whole cemetery of “can’t-miss” talents who faded fast. Injuries, bad coaching, or the harsh transition to the pros – the road is paved with names once labelled as having “limitless” potential. It’s a harsh lesson: hype doesn’t guarantee greatness, so be careful with the bets, even if you use trusted 1xBet and check the review at the link.

So where do some of this generation’s most praised young players fall on the “Go Big or Go Home?” spectrum? Let’s take a look at a few who have left fans wanting more so far:

Giovanni Reyna (Borussia Dortmund/USMNT)

young soccer stars

Giovanni Reyna. Photo/Transfermrkt

The Pedigree: The son of two elite soccer players (dad Claudio was a U.S. National Team Captain), Reyna broke onto the scene as one of the brightest young talents for both Dortmund’s academy and the U.S. Youth National Teams. His elite technical ability, vision and creativity in the attacking third prompted lavish comparisons to Dortmund legend Christian Pulisic.

The Numbers: In 5 seasons with Dortmund, Reyna has logged just over 5,000 minutes across all competitions, scoring 17 goals. For the U.S. Men’s National Team, he has 26 caps and 8 goals since debuting as a teenager in 2020.

The Roadblocks: Injuries have unfortunately been the major culprit stalling Reyna’s ascent so far. He missed a big chunk of 2021-22 with a hamstring issue, and has already missed over 2 months this season due to a re-aggravation. When healthy, he’s struggled for consistent minutes as Dortmund has loaded up with other young attacking talent.

Boom or Bust? At just 21 years old, Reyna still has plenty of time to recover from the injury woes and find his groove as a front-line star. But the pressure continues to mount as Dortmund may run out of patience, and the current USMNT regime favors more veteran options in the short-term. For now, he remains a big tease of potential – but not a full-fledged Bust…yet.

Ansu Fati (Barcelona, Loaned to Brighton)

The Pedigree: Remember that feeling when Ansu Fati exploded onto the scene at 16? Youngest scorer ever for Barcelona, the world was his playground. Comparisons to a mini-Messi flew around, thanks to his killer goals at La Masia (Barca’s academy) and his fearless debut. Kid was dubbed “The Next Big Thing” faster than you can say “wunderkind.” 

The Numbers: Fati has 29 goals across 112 appearances over 5 seasons for the senior Barcelona squad. No small feat – but a fairly pedestrian return for the level of hype he entered with.

The Roadblocks: Similar to Reyna, injuries have robbed Fati of crucial developmental years, missing huge chunks of the past couple of seasons due to knee issues. He’s struggled to produce at the rate he showed as a youngster and has dealt with inflated expectations after signing a massive contract extension through 2027.

Boom or Bust? He’ll turn just 22 this season, so there’s still plenty of time for Fati to get back on track and become the true difference-maker many pegged him to be. But the Messi comparisons already look laughable, and a change of scenery may be needed if he can’t recapture his scoring magic in a loaded Barca attack. For now, he’s more of a Fading Boom than an outright Bust.

Sergino Dest (PSV/USMNT)

young soccer stars

Sergino Dest. Photo/Sky SPorts

The Pedigree: Born in the Netherlands but raised in the States, Dest chose to represent the U.S. at youth levels and blossomed into one of the world’s most coveted young outside backs. He earned a crack at Dutch power Ajax as a teenager and showed his immense attacking ability.  

The Numbers: In 72 appearances across all competitions for Ajax and Barcelona between 2019-2022, Dest tallied 5 goals and 10 assists – very solid returns for a defender. Now he’s playing for PSV, and 2 goals in 35 games this season looks good. However, his impact has tailed off when he joined AC Milan on loan at 22/23 season, where he’s been limited to just 14 appearances in all competitions.

The Roadblocks: Injuries and a struggle to adapt to differing tactical systems have taken a toll. His elite pace and skill on the ball have been offset by positioning and defensive lapses at the top level. The rise of Sergiño Dest was always going to be a process, but he has failed to demonstrate improvement year over year.

Boom or Bust? Still only 23, there’s obvious reason for optimism that Dest can figure it out and become a hugely impactful player as a modern-era fullback. But with his Milan loan expiring soon and unclear where he fits long-term, shining for the USMNT at summer’s Gold Cup and validating his potential will be critical. This Boom remains on Pause.  

While the hype trains can certainly get out of control at times, elite young talent is also the lifeblood of every major club and national team. It’s an incredibly delicate balance of properly developing and nurturing that potential versus rushing players before they’re ready. Not every “Next Big Thing” can realistically pan out when dealing with human beings, which only underscores how remarkable it is when a young phenom like Mbappe, Haaland or Bellingham actually meets the sky-high projections. For every wildly successful prodigy, there will be plenty of Booms gone Bust – and vice versa. That’s the inherent drama that keeps us all watching to see how these players’ journeys unfold.

Teresa is a journalist with years of experience in creating web content. She is a wanderlust at heart, but an outgoing sports writer with focus on tennis, athletics, football, motorsports and NBA.

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