Carlos Alcaraz (Racing, Argentina, 19)
Racing’s academy is one of the most successful in Argentine football, producing Lautaro Martinez and Rodrigo De Paul in recent years and, further back, the likes of Lyon idol Lisandro Lopez and Inter’s Champions League hero Diego Milito.
Alcaraz, an attack-minded midfielder who loves to cut a swathe through the defence to goal, looks to be the next star to come up through the Academia ranks.
At 19, he is an integral part of Fernando Gago’s starting line-up and admits that he has learned a great deal from the former Real Madrid, Roma and Argentina midfielder.
Julian Alvarez (River Plate, Argentina, 22)
Julian Alvarez’s talents are no longer a secret. The River Plate striker broke a small corner of the internet when scoring six goals against Alianza Lima, is already a regular part of the Argentina squad, and will soon join up with team-mates at Manchester City after completing a deal worth an initial £14m ($17m).
It is the 22-year-old’s all-round game which makes him not only one of Argentina’s top prospects, but also a perfect fit for dynamic City.
Not only is Alvarez adept in front of the net, but his skill in possession and in linking up with team-mates also stands out, while he is versatile enough to play across the forward line.
City appear to have a real gem on their hands.
Fabricio Diaz (Liverpool, Uruguay, 19)
Montevideo giants Penarol and Nacional inevitably gain much of the attention in Uruguayan football, but there is plenty of depth to be found elsewhere.
Fabricio Diaz is proof of that. The 19-year-old is nearing 100 games with his boyhood club and has won plaudits for his energy at the base of midfield. While he can improve when in possession, his non-stop workrate, aggression, mobility and ability to recover the ball mark him out as one to keep an eye on.
Facundo Farias (Colon, Argentina, 19)
The explosive winger made his professional debut for Colon all the way back in November 2019 and already has 70 games and 15 goals under his belt, a number that would surely be far higher were it not for the prolonged hiatus caused by the pandemic in Argentine football.
Argentine giants Boca Juniors and River Plate have both fought for his signature this year, but they may well lose out to Europe, as in June Colon sold their gem to a British investment group for $12 million – almost certainly the first step towards a big move across the Atlantic, with Valencia and Porto said to be among the front-runners.
Enzo Fernandez (River Plate, Argentina, 21)
While much of the spotlight at River has understandably been focused on Alvarez these past 12 months, the Millonarios’ midfield lynchpin Enzo Fernandez is thought of just as highly as his City-bound team-mate.
Indeed, if anything, it has been Fernandez who has stood out brightest at River so far in 2022 with his barnstorming performances from the heart of midfield.
The lifelong Millonario fan (he was named after club icon and current director of football Enzo Francescoli) has scored nine goals in 24 games and contributed another six assists this year, a brilliant tally from his position, and City, Benfica and AC Milan have all been linked with a summer approach to join Alvarez in Europe.
Matheus Franca (Flamengo, Brazil, 18)
It is no mean feat to break into Flamengo’s first team, with internationals and European imports dotted around the squad.
With Gabriel Barbosa, Andreas Pereira and Everton Ribeiro on the roster, Franca’s emergence in is all the more impressive, and the attacking midfielder is now talked about as the most likely player to follow in the footsteps of Vinicius Junior and Lucas Paqueta.
An injury sustained in April against Sao Paulo kept the teenager out for a couple of months, but once back in shape Franca can expect to keep receiving first-team minutes. Real Madrid for one are said to be paying close interest to his development.
Matias Galarza (Coritiba, Paraguay, 20)
Galarza has been touted as one of Paraguay’s top prospects since he earned a move from Olimpia to Brazil’s Vasco da Gam aged 18.
After a strong season in the second-tier, the midfielder was picked up on loan by top-flight side Coritiba, where he has already broken into the first team.
The 20-year-old is also in high demand at international level. He is eligible to play for both Paraguay and Bolivia, where he was born during father Rolando’s time playing professionally in La Paz, while there was also a campaign from Brazilian admirers to claim him for the Selecao; ultimately, though, Galarza plumped for the Guarani.
Kaiky (Santos, Brazil, 18)
Barcelona are among the clubs linked to the teenage centre-half, who has already racked up more than 50 appearances for his hometown club and earned comparisons to Brazil and PSG ace Marquinhos.
A NXGN 2022 award winner who started life as a central midfielder before stepping backwards, Kaiky has been described as “one of the pearls of South American football,” and Barcelona hold an option on him as settlement for the dispute with Santos over Gabigol signing for Inter.
Marcos Leonardo (Santos, Brazil, 19)
Santos’ latest attacking sensation, Marcos Leonardo will inevitably draw parallels with fellow Peixe alumni Neymar and Rodrygo, but it is Cristiano Ronaldo whom the 19-year-old most looks up to.
“[He] has always been my idol, and I always dream of playing with him. The first is him,” the youngster, who has smashed 12 goals in 29 games for Santos in 2022 to announce himself as a real promise, told GOAL.
“The King [Pele], there’s no way, I don’t even have words. If I played with him, I would learn a lot. And [Lionel] Messi.”
Nicolas Marichal (Nacional, Uruguay, 21)
Uruguay are famed for their tough, uncompromising defenders, and Nicolas Marichal looks to be cut from exactly the same cloth as national heroes Diego Lugano and Diego Godin.
The 21-year-old has bounced back from a shaky start at Nacional and is now an assured presence in the middle of the Montevideo giants’ defence.
He has only missed one game for the club in the whole of 2022, and his tally of five yellows and a red card in 21 games points to a player who is more than willing to adhere to the old Uruguayan tradition of taking down the man at all costs.
Marcelino Nunez (Universidad Catolica, Chile, 22)
The last few years have been difficult ones for Chilean football, with neither the national team nor the country’s clubs making an impression on the continental stage.
Universidad Catolica are hoping to buck that trend in this year’s Copa Sudamerica after dominating on a local level recently, and young midfield star Nunez is central to their hopes.
Nunez came to the fore with a stellar Primera Division campaign in 2021, scoring six and assisting seven in 28 games as Catolica took the title, a record which helped him break into the senior national team.
His aspirations match his burgeoning talent, telling Tribuna Andes: “I’d like to make it some day to Real Madrid, Barcelona, Manchester City or Bayern Munich and fight for the Champions League.”
Moises Ramirez (Independiente del Valle, Ecuador, 21)
Independiente del Valle have done fine work both at the professional level and at the grass-roots over the last 10 years, regularly competing for honours while also grooming the stars of the future.
Brighton midfielder Moises Caicedo is one of their best-known graduates, but 21-year-old goalkeeper and Caicedo’s namesake Ramirez could well follow in his footsteps.
Ramirez already has experience in the European game following a one-year loan with Real Sociedad and his accomplished keeping has also seen him break into the national team. If he continues to impress between the posts, a second stint across the Atlantic Ocean will surely not be far away.
Rubens (Atl. Mineiro, Brazil, 20)
Rubens has proved one of the revelations of the Brazilian season to date.
Having made just a single first-team appearance in 2021, the 20-year-old has impressed Mineiro coach Antonio Mohamed enough to hold down a regular spot in one of the nation’s top clubs, and all indications suggest he is there to stay.
Mohamed has utilised the youngster primarily as an attack-minded left-back, but he has also turned in strong displays on the wing and in the middle of the pitch. Wherever Rubens plays, his technique on the ball and electric turn of pace makes him a nightmare for any opponent to stop.
Daniel Ruiz (Millonarios, Colombia, 20)
Colombian giants Millonarios have invested a lot of faith in Ruiz, entrusting the playmaker with the No.10 shirt when he is still barely out of his teenage years.
Ruiz joined the Bogota giants from second-tier Fortaleza in 2021 and quickly established himself in the club, scoring four league goals and assisting a further seven from midfield in his debut season.
He looks set to comfortably surpass those numbers this term, but may not get the chance – Porto have been strongly linked with a move for the young star, who would have the opportunity of emulating the likes of Radamel Falcao, James Rodriguez and most recently Luis Diaz in excelling at the Portuguese club.
Gabriel Veron (Palmeiras, Brazil, 19)
Palmeiras have enjoyed one of the finest spells in club history under Portuguese coach Abel Ferreira, winning the last two Copas Libertadores.
But the Verdao are not just focused on short-term success. Young talents such as Gabriel Menino, Danilo and Gabriel Veron have all broken through in recent years, with the latter rated as one of Brazil’s best prospects.
Veron’s attacking ability has invited comparisons with Neymar, and in 2022 he has taken on an even bigger role in a Palmeiras team which has excelled in both the Libertadores and Serie A, where they currently lead rivals Sao Paulo at the top of the standings.