5 Youngsters who enjoyed a breakthrough season in 2022-23 UCL
The 2022-23 UEFA Champions League season threw a number of blockbuster stories this time around. With some big clubs dropping down to the Europa, the Champions League saw multiple “dark horses” make it to the deeper stages of the tournament.
This in turn paved the way for multiple youngsters to make telling impacts, leading to some memorable performances and results. Some youngsters, such as the likes of Erling Haaland, Jamal Musiala, Rodrygo, and Rafael Leao have been excluded from this list, considering their established profiles.
On the other hand, a range of new young faces also introduced themselves at the biggest European competition this season. Here, we look at five youngsters who enjoyed breakthrough seasons with their respective clubs in the 2022-23 UCL season.
#5 Ferran Jutglà (Club Brugge)
A product of the famous Espanyol Academy, Jutgla joined Barcelona at the start of the 2021-22 season. The forward played just 9 times the entire season which led to a €5 million to Brugge in June 2022.
This season, Jutgla has 15 goals and 7 assists for Brugge across all competitions. In the UCL, he scored twice and set up 2 goals in 4 appearances. This includes a penalty that he converted in the 2-0 win over Atletico Madrid in the group stage.
A highly versatile forward, Jutgla can play in multiple attacking positions, and can be expected to join a bigger league in the coming time. The 24-year old attacker’s impressive performances helped Brugge qualify for the Round of 16 where they were eliminated by Benfica with a 7-1 loss on aggregate.
#4 Antonio Silva (Benfica)
Coming through the youth side of Benfica, Antonio Silva has had a season most teenagers can only dream of. The Portuguese central defender was an integral part of the Benfica youth team that won the UEFA Youth League 2021-22.
Manager Roger Schmidt then promoted him to the first team this term, and Silva grabbed the opportunity with both hands. A ball-playing defender with an intense tackle, Silva started 10 UCL games this season, scoring twice in the process. He was critical to Benfica’s quarter-final run and has been linked to multiple big teams already, including Real Madrid and Chelsea.
When Benfica was drawn into a group with Paris St. Germain, Juventus, and Maccabi Haifa, everyone expected the Portuguese side to drop into the UEFA Europa League but Benfica’s defensive solidity paired with Juve’s bad form saw Benfica knock out the Serie A giants.
#3 Diogo Costa (Porto)
While 23 is a tender age for goalkeepers, the Spanish Diogo Costa looked like a seasoned veteran through Porto’s UCL campaign this season. Porto conceded 4 penalties in the group stage, and Costa saved 3 of them. He was the major reason why his side was able to reach the Round of 16, making innumerable crucial saves through the process.
His shot-stopping and reach aside, Costa is the ideal modern goalkeeper, capable of staying calm and passing his way from the back. Diogo Costa has been linked with a move to the Premier League, with the likes of Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur said to be interested.
#2 Mohammed Kudus (Ajax)
To be fair to the Ghanaian international, Kudus has been playing at a high level for several seasons, now. He was linked to a move to Arsenal in the January window and still might end up at the Emirates in the summer.
Still, Kudus was unproven in the Champions League, registering just 3 appearances and no goal involvements before this season. While his team failed to make it out of the group stages, he scored 4 goals and had 3 assists, including strikes against Liverpool and Napoli.
The bigger clubs would have been forgiven to think twice before paying the big bucks for him until this season. However, with some top-class UCL performances now under his belt, the 22-year-old is certain to command a huge transfer fee when he does end up moving from Ajax.
#1 Khvicha Kvaratskhelia (Napoli)
Kvaratskhelia, or “Kvaradona,” has played like a legitimate superstar this season. Signed from Ukrainian club Dinamo Batumi, Kvaratskhelia cost Napoli just €10-12 million. With 14 goals and 14 assists across all competitions, the results have been phenomenal.
Khvicha is a dynamic two-footed winger capable of picking out passes, scoring on his own, and getting past players from inside and outside. The 22-year-old scored twice and had 4 assists in Napoli’s UCL run, which was cut short in the quarter-final by rivals Inter.
Kvaratskhelia might not be the quickest, but his game awareness and decision-making make him a top-class attacker capable of hurting the best teams. Under contract until 2027, a big money move might not be on the horizon anytime soon. However, the player is already making waves in Europe and is only going to improve his status in the coming years.