Updated: Jan 10
The fan-favorite, inspiring story at every top club is seeing a young teenager score or have a great performance and then move on to become a regular starter at such a young age. Today, we are seeing more and more teenagers given these opportunities as average squad ages are lowering more and more around Europe's top leagues. Here is a look at a handful of the top clubs' best academy products of all time.
Bayern Munich: Franz Beckenbauer
As one of only three defenders to win the Ballon D'Or in history, and only one to win it twice, Franz Beckenbauer is undoubtedly the most decorated player to come out of Bayern's academy. He played 546 games for Bayern, ending his career as one of the best defenders of all time alongside the likes of Maldini.
Manchester United: Paul Pogba
At times a love-hate relationship with his academy team, Paul Pogba makes our top spot as the best academy graduate at Manchester United. A maybe controversial decision with the likes of David Beckham, Ryan Giggs, and Marcus Rashford, etc. all being in contention, but his skill is undeniably unmatched in the Manchester United ranks when he's in form. 218 appearances for the club coupled with a Europa League and World Cup trophy gives his resume a significant boost.
Liverpool: Steven Gerrard
Mr. Liverpool, Mr. Longshot. Steven Gerrard has been the face of Liverpool ever since he stepped on the field in 1998 as an 18-year-old. Countless moments of greatness separate the midfielder from any other player in the academy. With186 goals in an impressive 710 appearances for Liverpool, Gerrard is a clear icon at the club.
Dortmund: Marco Reus
A forever loyal player at Dortmund as top players have come and gone, Marco Reus will go down as a great model for loyalty in soccer. Despite the countless injuries in his career, his ability is undoubted as he has recorded 143 goals and 101 assists in just 329 appearances. His recognition as Bundesliga Player of the Year three times is well deserved.
Real Madrid: Iker Casillas
For our generation growing up, no goalkeeper came close to this man. At the peak of the Real Madrid vs. Barcelona competition for trophies, Iker Casillas seemed to be a constant brick wall in front of the Spaniard's net. 264 clean sheets in 725 matches for Real Madrid and a 2010 World Cup with Spain is impressive for any goalkeeper in history. Eight consecutive seasons of 10+ clean sheets in La Liga is just another statistic in his repertoire.
Arsenal: Cesc Fabregas
Even though he moved to Arsenal's rivals Chelsea later in his career, Cesc Fabregas's impact at such a young age for the Gunners is significant. At just 16 years and 177 days old, Fabregas made his debut and became Arsenal's youngest-ever first-team player. His most impactful season came six years later when he contributed 15 goals and 15 assists for Arsenal. With exciting young players like Saka and Smith-Rowe making their name at the Emirates this season, Fabregas's title might not hold for much longer.