FIFA Under-17 World Cup is an opportunity to catch footballing talents early. While football federations use the tournament to spot the future contenders for the national team. For fans, it’s all about witnessing the brilliance on the pitch of future stars.
Indian fans now have the opportunity to catch the prodigies as the nation gets ready to host its first FIFA tournament from October 6. We take a look at top 10 players from previous U-17 World Cups, who went on to make it big at the senior level.
1. Luis Figo (Scotland, 1989)
The Portuguese legend and 2000 Ballon d’Or winner was a U-17 World Cup participant before becoming a household name. Figo was part of the Portugal team which finished as the third best team in the 1989 edition. Once a ‘galactico’ at Real Madrid, Figo is considered one of the best Portuguese players of all time, who led the national team to the fourth spot at the 2006 World Cup and runners-up position at Euro 2004.
2. Alessandro del Piero (Italy, 1991)
U-17 World Cup was just the beginning for Del Piero. The forward went on to become one of the greatest players of his generation. The former Juventus player is the second-highest all-time Italian scorer in all competitions, with 346 goals. He also won the World Cup in 2006.
3. Francesco Totti (Japan, 1993)
Modern day great and one of the greatest Italian footballers of all time, Totti participated in the U-17 World Cup in 1991. The player also won the World Cup with the national team in 2006. With 250 goals, the former Roma player is the second-highest scorer of all time in the Italian Serie A.
4. Esteban Cambiasso (Ecuador, 1995)
The former Real Madrid and Inter Milan player was part of the Argentina team that finished third in the 1995 event. Cambiasso won a treble with Inter in 2010 and also featured at the World Cup in 2006. He also played for Leicester City in English Premier League.
5. Xavi Hernandez (Egypt, 1997)
The former Barcelona player was part of the Spanish national team which finished third in Egypt. Xavi would then go on to have a highly successful club and national career. The midfielder won the European Championship in 2008 & 2012 and the World Cup in 2010. With Barcelona, Xavi won eight La Liga titles and four Champions League titles.
6. Ronaldinho, (Egypt, 1997)
Before winning the 2002 World Cup, Ronaldinho tasted international success at the U-17 level in Egypt in 1997. He’s the only player to win the U-17 and World Cup title. The winner of two FIFA Footballer of the Year awards, Ronaldinho has also won Champions League, La Liga and Serie A.
7. Andres Iniesta (Trinidad & Tobago, 2001)
Xavi’s partner in crime, Iniesta, could not guide Spain past the group stage in 1997. But at the senior level, Iniesta is part of the Spain and Barcelona teams which have dominated world football in recent years.
8. Francesc Fabregas (Finland, 2003)
Fabregas had a highly successful campaign at Finland as Spain finished runners-up to Brazil. The midfielder won the Golden Boot and Golden Ball award for his stellar performances. With the senior national team, Fabregas has won the 2010 World Cup, 2008 and 2012 Euros. At the club level, the diminutive player has won both the EPL and La Liga title.
9. Toni Kroos (South Korea, 2007)
Kroos was the star of the 2007 edition as he won the Golden Ball award. He won the World Cup in 2014 with Germany and was also part of the team that reached 2010 World Cup and 2012 Euro semi-finals.
10. Neymar (Nigeria, 2009)
The world’s most expensive player was part of the Brazilian team which failed to go beyond the first stage in 2009. He was also part of the team that won Brazil’s first Olympic men’s football gold medal in 2016.
Feature image: AFP