Several players in Europe's top-five domestic football leagues were enjoying breakthrough campaigns when play was halted, with no certainty domestic leagues and continental competitions will be completed. Here, we rank the 10 most noteworthy examples.
There are no guarantees that starring in Manchester United's academy will ensure first-team escapades. Just ask David Healy, Ravel Morrison, and countless others. That said, striker Mason Greenwood looks the part. Skilled with both feet and a lethal finisher, Greenwood has bagged a dozen goals across four competitions while becoming the first United teen to score on five-plus occasions in a single European campaign.
This was unexpected. Gabriel Martinelli went from relative obscurity at Brazilian club Ituano to vying for a starting spot at Arsenal in the blink of an eye. Able to play out wide or as a center-forward, Martinelli is an adept scorer and tireless worker with or without the ball. He's the youngest player to reach double digits in goals across all competitions for Arsenal since Nicolas Anelka. Fellow Gunners teen Bukayo Saka merits a mention, too.
Versatile attacker Ansu Fati's astonishing arrival came at precisely the right time for Barcelona. Then 16, Fati burst onto the scene in September as the club reeled during Lionel Messi's absence. Fati's winner at Inter Milan in November saw the Spaniard become the youngest-ever scorer in the Champions League, prompting Barcelona to table a new deal featuring a release clause that could balloon to €400 million when he turns 18.
Widely considered one of Spain's brightest budding talents, Valencia star-in-waiting Ferran Torres' third campaign with Los Che is proving to be his best. The astoundingly gifted and technically adept right-winger became Valencia's youngest Champions League goalscorer after bagging one versus Lille in November. He's also tops in La Liga among players 21-or-younger in successful dribbles (80) and assists (four), and Torres is second in key passes (21).
Ilicic is an outlier on this list due to his age, and he's among a handful of Atalanta players enjoying a great campaign for Gian Piero Gasperini's Champions League darlings. Like Duvan Zapata last season, Ilicic has been the focal point of La Dea's relentless attack. Against Valencia, he became the fourth player to score a quartet in a knockout clash and the first to do it away from home. His 14 tallies in the calendar year are the best among Europe's top five leagues. Ilicic has always been talented, but nobody saw this spectacular season coming.
Real Madrid were adjudged to have erred in not signing a midfielder to help cover for the aging duo of Toni Kroos and Luka Modric. Well, Kroos has been fantastic, and Uruguayan Fede Valverde has become a high-energy revelation. Valverde has given Zinedine Zidane's lot some much-needed moxie, contributing at both ends of the pitch while performing box-to-box duties. Suddenly, the capital city side's midfield appears refreshed.
An assortment of ailments for Javi Martinez, Niklas Sule, and Lucas Hernandez forced David Alaba into a central defensive role, leaving a vacancy for Bayern Munich at left-back that Canadian teen Alphonso Davies has masterfully occupied. The winger-turned-defender was near-flawless during the Champions League against Tottenham while completing seven successful take-ons, the highest from any Bayern player in four years until he increased that number in a world-class display versus Chelsea. Davies is a megastar in the making.
Real Madrid property Martin Odegaard didn't quite fulfill his potential during loan spells at Vitesse and Heerenveen, but he's emerged this season at Real Sociedad. He's third in La Liga in total key passes (54), second in key passes per match (2.3 while Lionel Messi is at 2.5), and the Norwegian is second behind only Messi in free-kick goals. Odegaard has been the engine driving his side's shocking fourth-place standing.
The youngest-ever player to make a first-team appearance for Rennes, Eduardo Camavinga is a composed and tireless worker who sits in front of the backline in the mold of a modern-day holding midfielder. Camavinga announced himself to the world with his awe-inspiring display during an August win over PSG, and the teenage talent leads all under-21 players in Europe's top five leagues in duels won, tackles made, and fouls won.
Not even Erling Haaland himself could have made this prediction. Following a €20-million move from Red Bull Salzburg in January, the Norwegian wunderkind registered a 20-minute treble as a sub during his Borussia Dortmund debut. He then scored nine more in BVB's next seven outings, becoming the first teenager to record goals in five straight Champions League matches, and the second teen to bag 10 tallies in the competition. Utterly absurd stuff.
Honorable mentions: Samuel Chukwueze (Villarreal), Bukayo Saka (Arsenal), Reece James (Chelsea), Victor Osimhen (Lille), Dejan Kulusevski (Parma)