London's top 50 youngsters: best academy stars across the capital

 (ES Composite)
(ES Composite)

London is a hot bed for football talent — and the next generation of academy stars could spark a golden era of homegrown players.

Youth development has never been so valuable. Academy players have always been important to the identity of clubs, but new spending rules mean they are now more focused than ever on developing assets.

The ultimate aim is to unearth talented juniors and develop them into superstars, in the same way Bukayo Saka, Reece James, Harry Kane and Declan Rice have come through the ranks at some of the world-class academies in London in recent years.

But now, more than ever, homegrown players are key commodities to clubs. Selling academy players represents pure profit on balance sheets, unlike other players who have transfer fees on their cost base, and can help clubs keep their finances on track.

While fans may be upset at seeing homegrown players leave, generating cash from academies can allow clubs to keep spending big. As a result, the battleground for the brightest talents has never been as fierce.

Brexit restrictions on clubs signing players aged between 16 and 18 from Europe has further intensified the competition between clubs in the capital.

The talent in Premier League academies is, arguably, stronger than ever and more players developed in elite English proving grounds are showing themselves to be good enough to thrive in the top flight.

Kobbie Mainoo is just one to break through this season, and the Manchester United midfielder was on Tuesday rewarded for his fine form with his first England call-up. There is also the group of young Liverpool players, and this season the number of minutes accrued by players aged 21 and under has climbed by about 25 per cent.

Value placed on youth has never been higher and London continues to produce an astonishing amount of talent

The value placed on youth has never been higher, and the playing fields, streets and cages of London continue to produce an astonishing amount of talent.

Arsenal’s 16-year-old midfielder Ethan Nwaneri became the youngest player in Premier League history in 2022 when he made his debut, aged 15 years and 181 days. Tottenham’s 16-year-old forward Mikey Moore is also tipped for a big future, while Chelsea’s new owners are committed to investing in their hugely successful academy. West Ham won the FA Youth Cup last season, beating Arsenal in an all-London final.

Even outside the top-flight, a talented Millwall Under-18s side has reached the FA Youth Cup semi-finals this season.

From the goalscoring machines and midfield maestros to the defensive prodigies and one goalkeeping kingpin, here are 50 academy talents, aged 18 and under, who look set to make their mark in the capital.

 (Arsenal FC via Getty Images)
(Arsenal FC via Getty Images)


Amario Cozier-Duberry (18, Forward)

A late bloomer who joined Arsenal when he was 14 but has become a star at academy level. Helped the Gunners reach the FA Youth Cup Final last season and Arsenal Under-18s manager Jack Wilshere has compared his playing style to Bukayo Saka. Has regularly been on the bench for the first team.

Myles Lewis-Skelly (17, Midfielder)

A skilful midfielder who senior coaching staff at Arsenal think could become a left-back in the mould of Oleksandr Zinchenko. For now, he feels he is best at No6 or No8 and looks to learn from Declan Rice. His mum has a podcast to help parents in the industry.

Ayden Heaven (17, Defender)

A tall and rangy player capable of playing in defence or midfield and likes to impose himself on matches with his physical presence. Joined Arsenal aged 13 after being released by West Ham and was on the bench for their Champions League defeat in Porto last month.

Josh Nichols (17, Defender)

A right-back who had spells at Chelsea, West Ham and Tottenham before moving to Hale End. Has developed his game to tuck inside from the right — like Mikel Arteta has Ben White do for the first team — and has worked hard on the attacking side of his game.

Ethan Nwaneri (16, Midfielder)

Became the youngest player in Premier League history in 2022 when he made his debut aged 15 years and 181 days. Best at No8 or No10, he likes to get on the ball, glide past players and make an impact in the final third. Is set to sign his first professional contract after Arsenal fought off interest from Chelsea and Manchester City.

Chido Obi-Martin (16, Forward)

Went viral in November after scoring 10 goals as Arsenal Under-16s beat Liverpool 14-3. Already more than 6ft tall, he is a striker from Denmark who has caught the eye with his physique, pace and finishing ability. Big European clubs are already tracking him, including Ajax and Borussia Dortmund.

Max Dowman (14, Midfielder)

A left-footed playmaker who made his debut for Arsenal Under-18s this season despite being just 13 years old at the time. Continues to play above his age group and is already part of the England Under-16 set-up. Is well-regarded for his close control and eye for a pass.


Andre Grey (18, Defender)

Described by coaches as a well-balanced and forward-thinking centre-back. A product of the Kinetic Academy Programme, which gives young footballers the opportunity to stay in education while pursuing a career in football. Joined Brentford last year from non-League side Corinthian Casuals, who have a partnership with Kinetic.

Ollie Shield (17, Forward)

Compares himself to Mo Salah due to his direct play and ability to beat a player in one-versus-one situations out wide. Joined Brentford from Southampton last summer and has impressed in his first season for the Bees. Has a twin brother who is at Plymouth Argyle.

Omaru King (17, Forward)

The most exciting prospect in the Brentford Under-18s side, which was reformed in 2022 when the Bees reopened their academy. A winger who idolises Eberechi Eze and plays in a similar way to the Crystal Palace star, taking on defenders out wide with close control. Like Grey, another product of Kinetic who came from Corinthian Casuals.


Tyrique George (18, Forward)

A pacy and direct wide player who is one of the stars of the Chelsea academy. Known to score thunderous long-range goals with either feet and could soon make his senior debut, having trained with the first-team squad multiple times and made a positive impression on Mauricio Pochettino.

Somto Boniface (18, Defender)

An energetic and versatile left-sided player who can play at full-back or wing-back. Was named Chelsea Academy Scholar of the Year last season after impressing with his lung-bursting runs from deep, while delivering pinpoint crosses into the box. Among the talented players highly rated by coaches at Cobham.

Donnell McNeilly (18, Forward)

Another fast, powerful forward who is a regular provider of goals and assists. Diminutive in stature but clinical in front of goal, he is in the running to be named top scorer at Under-18s level, with the Blues challenging for the South Division title.

Michael Golding (17, Midfielder)

The youngest player to make his first-team debut under Pochettino this season. An attacking midfielder who possesses good leadership skills and has captained England at Under-16 and Under-17 level, he almost scored and assisted in his nine-minute cameo against Preston in the FA Cup at Stamford Bridge.

 (Chelsea FC via Getty Images)
(Chelsea FC via Getty Images)

Kiano Dyer (17, Midfielder)

A stylish, bright and intelligent midfielder who can play in a number of positions across midfield. Progressed quickly at Chelsea after he joined from West Brom in 2020, making his debut for the Under-18s as a 15-year-old, and has trained with the first-team squad this season amid the injury crisis at Stamford Bridge.

Kai Crampton (17, Goalkeeper)

An exciting goalkeeping prospect who has already played senior football for Isthmian League side Concord Rangers during a short-term youth loan this season. Has also been part of the Chelsea side that has reached the Under-17 Premier League Cup Final after beating Manchester City earlier this month.

Ollie Harrison (16, Midfielder)

The youngest player to make a Chelsea matchday squad under Pochettino, he was named on the bench for their 1-1 draw at Manchester City in February. A tall midfielder who joined from Newcastle last summer and has been likened to Michael Carrick.

Landon Emenalo (16, Midfielder)

Left-footed midfielder is the son of former Chelsea technical director Michael Emenalo. Can play as a holding midfielder, in a box-to-box role, at No10 or at left-back and has been fast-tracked through the Blues academy after impressing coaches at Cobham.

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Crystal Palace

Zach Marsh (18, Forward)

A lethal frontman who has been in blistering goalscoring form this season, registering 16 goals in 12 games in the Under-18s Premier League. Those 16 goals have included hat-tricks against Southampton, Fulham, Tottenham and most recently West Ham.

David Ozoh (18, Midfielder)

Probably the best prospect in the Palace academy. Has already made nine first-team appearances this season and has shown he has the physical edge and presence on the ball to cut it, including when he came on in first half against Manchester City in December and helped the Eagles earn a 2-2 draw at the Etihad.

Mofe Jemide (17, Defender)

A commanding, modern-day centre-back who is comfortable on the ball and has an eye for an accurate long pass. An imposing presence in defence, he has captained Palace Under-18s on occasions this season and was part of the England squad that reached the quarter-finals of the Under-17s Euros last year.

Jesse Derry (16, Forward)

A two-footed winger who is adept off either the left or the right flank. Made his Under-18s debut on the final day of last season, earned a scholarship last summer and has established himself as a regular for them. He made his England Under-17s debut in September.

Samuel Lusale (16, Forward)

A tricky winger with an eye for goal who has just made his debut for Slovakia Under-17s. He assisted their winning goal off the bench in a Euros qualifier against Switzerland, having played for the Palace Under-18s this season.

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)


Luc de Fougerolles (18, Defender)

Not the tallest centre-back but what he lacks in heights he makes up for with a fearless approach in the air. His consistency stands out to Fulham coaches and he made his senior debut in a Carabao Cup win at Ipswich in November. In October was called up by the Canada senior team, who he is eligible to represent through his father.

Callum Osmand (18, Forward)

A pacy, skilful forward with an eye for goal who has scored 17 times this season for Fulham Under-18s, who have one of their best generations in years. Known for his searing pace, he caught the eye when he scored a sensational bicycle kick against Brentford last year.

Josh King (17, Midfielder)

A consummate dribbler who can play anywhere across the midfield but prefers the No10 role. Presses intently and has added more goals to his game. Captained England at Under-16s level and recently signed his first professional contract, having become a key player for Fulham Under-21s.

Jonathan Esenga (17, Defender)

A left-back who has shone for Fulham Under-21s this season, having made the position his own after moving up age groups in pre-season. Despite that, some expect him to eventually end up at centre-back. Suffered a hamstring injury last month which might have ended his season.

Seth Ridgeon (16, Midfielder)

An unpredictable attacking midfielder who tends to play off the left but can also be deployed centrally and is difficult for opposition defenders to pin down. Has scored goals regularly at every level. Only turned 16 in January but has been pushed up an age-group to test him at Under-18s level in recent weeks.

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)


Tyrese Hall (18, Midfielder)

A deep-lying creative midfielder who has just received his first call-up to the England Under-19s squad, where is joined by older Spurs academy players Alfie Dorrington, Jamie Donley and Will Lankshear. Strong with either foot, an excellent dribbler and a goal threat, his brilliant form for Spurs has led to interest from Manchester City.

Leo Black (18, Defender)

Enjoying a brilliant season in which he has demonstrated his versatility and comfort in possession by playing as an inverted right-back. Ange Postecoglou take note! One of the most improved players in the Spurs academy over the past 18 months and has just been named in the England Under-18s squad for the first time.

Callum Olusesi (17, Midfielder)

A rangy attacking midfield who is building a reputation in youth circles as a prodigious goal-scoring talent. Part of Spurs Under-17 and Under-18 Premier League Cup Double-winning side last season, he is expected to sign a new contract with the club soon after catching the eye of a number of leading European clubs.

 (Tottenham Hotspur FC via Getty Images)
(Tottenham Hotspur FC via Getty Images)

Mikey Moore (16, Forward)

Widely considered one of the best young talents in the capital. A strong, skilful player with a powerful build who has caught the eye with his dribbling and finishing. Starred in Spurs' Premier League Cup Double last season, scoring a brilliant brace in the Under-17 Final against Nottingham Forest at the City Ground.

Malachi Hardy (16, Defender)

Already over six foot, the England Under-16s captain has the makings of a commanding centre-back. Made his first start for Spurs Under-18s last week and has won plaudits at youth level for his maturity and calmness both in and out of possession.

Junai Byfield (15, Defender)

A tall and powerful centre-back who is still a season away from starting as a scholar at Spurs but already plays up for their Under-16s on a consistent basis. Another defender who is comfortable in possession, he has been called up by England youth sides and is highly rated.

Luca Williams-Barnett (15, Forward)

An attacking midfielder who typically plays from the left wing and is already known for his skills, dribbling and spectacular finishing. Regarded a top youth prospect by both Tottenham and England, and is starring for Spurs Under-16s this season.

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

West Ham

Oliver Scarles (18, Midfielder)

A versatile player who can play at left-back or in midfield. Made his West Ham debut as a 16-year-old in the Europa Conference League in 2022 and has been on the bench in the Premier League several times this year. With Aaron Cresswell likely to leave in the summer, first-team opportunities may lie ahead.

Lewis Orford (18, Midfielder)

Talented on the ball and with an eye for goal, was part of the highly-rated crop that won the FA Youth Cup last season. A lifelong West Ham fan who joined the club as a five-year-old. Is yet to make his senior debut but, like Scarles, has recently featured in matchday squads.

Josh Ajala (17, Forward)

A pacy striker who can play off both feet and moved to West Ham from Chelsea last summer. Was a prolific goalscorer through the youth ranks at Chelsea and quickly impressed for the Hammers. Has 11 goals already this season for the West Ham side that sit top of the Under-18 Premier League South.

Daniel Rigge (17, Midfielder)

An attacking midfielder who describes himself as a "risk-taker" and someone who likes to get on the ball and create things. Also has a fine goalscoring knack, showcased in his hat-trick in a 4-2 win for the Under-18s against Aston Villa this month. Has stepped up this term to become a key figure in Kevin Keen's side this season.

Emeka Adiele (17, Defender)

A dynamic left wing-back who is considered a standout prospect for his attacking threat. Has already contributed four goals and four assists in what is his first full season for the Under-18s. There are high hopes for him in the Hammers academy.

Chinaza Nwosu (15, Midfielder)

A powerful midfielder with a good passing range who has impressed academy staff with his attitude to learning. The youngest of the West Ham contingent on this list has been a regular for England Under-16s this season, including when winning the Val-de-Marne Tournament in November.

Romain Esse playing for Millwall (Getty Images)
Romain Esse playing for Millwall (Getty Images)


Romain Esse (18, Midfielder)

An attacking midfielder who is adept at playing in a variety of positions behind a striker. Agile, a good dribbler and good technically, has established himself as a regular in the Millwall first-team squad since he scored a late winner in their 1-0 win at Middlesbrough on the opening day of the Championship season.

Josh Stephenson (18, Midfielder)

Captained Millwall Under-18s to a shock win over Chelsea in the FA Youth Cup quarter-finals at the Den last month. The Lions will face old rivals Leeds in the semi-finals. A left-footer who is quick, good on the ball and combative in midfield.

Kavalli Heywood (17, Forward)

The main attacking threat in the talented Millwall side going for FA Youth Cup glory and punching above their weight in academy football. A good finisher who can also carry the ball to help take pressure off the team if they are under the cosh.


Charlie Street (15, Defender)

A centre-back who has just been called up to the Wales Under-16s squad and is known for his range of passing. Has impressed for Rangers academy teams this season and his eye for a goal means he can also play in midfield


Patrick Casey (18, Forward)

A prolific frontman who scored 42 goals for Charlton Under-18 and Under-21s last season. Has scored a further 31 goals this season and made his senior debut when he came on as a late substitute against Oxford on New Year's Day. Descried by one of his former coaches describes as "a throwback" due to the way he harasses defenders.

Micah Mbick (17, Forward)

Another talented finisher who has played five times for the Addicks this season and scored his first senior goal just three minutes into his debut in their FA Cup win against Cray Valley Paper Mills. Like Casey, is looking to continue the good record Charlton have of producing talented players.

Leyton Orient

Dan Carter (16, Midfielder)

A clever and skilful attacking midfielder who is the star in an Orient Under-18s side that has been in blistering form this year. The O's went unbeaten in 2024 in the Youth Alliance League to earn promotion to the Under-18s Merit League 1, a level they have not played at for seven years.

AFC Wimbledon

Kai Jennings (17, Midfielder)

Captain of Wimbledon Under-18s and has broken into the first-team set up this season, making three senior appearances after impressing Johnnie Jackson. Loves to get on the ball, play forward and create. Was first spotted 12 years ago after playing at one of AFC Wimbledon Foundation's sessions in Wimbledon Park.

Justin Clarke (15, Forward)

Became the youngest-ever Wimbledon first-team debutant in November when he was 15. Had a spell at Chelsea before moving to the Dons and scored a bundle of goals of their Under-16 so has been pushed up age groups.