Nestory Irankunda has brought wow factor to the A-Leagues and his jaw-dropping exploits have been recognised on a global scale.
The teenage Adelaide United sensation has been named among The Guardian’s Next Generation 2023, a prestigious annual list of 60 of the best young talents in world football, having already scored eight goals as a substitute before the age of 18.
Each year, The Guardian identifies the best young talent coming through around the world and the 17-year-old is on the latest list which also includes Palmeiras’ Real Madrid-bound prodigy Endrick, Paris Saint-Germain’s Warren Zaire-Emery, Paris Brunner from Borussia Dortmund and Udinese teenager Simone Pafundi.
Noa Skoko – the son of Socceroos legend Josip – is also on the list as he continues to impress with Croatian giants Hajduk Split. He has represented Croatia at youth level.
Irankunda, who has been linked with Bundesliga juggernaut Bayern Munich, is not the only Australian to have made it on The Guardian’s list.
Here is a look at the other Aussies to have been identified and how their careers have played out since.
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2014: Daniel De Silva
De Silva was the first Australian identified by The Guardian, which initially featured 40 of the best players.
He had debuted for Perth Glory as a 15-year-old in the A-League Men and was one of the players of the tournament at the 2013 FIFA Under-23 World Cup as Manchester United and Barcelona reportedly circled.
After a brief stint abroad with Dutch outfit Roda JC, the talented 26-year-old has been prominent in the A-Leagues and is now preparing for his third consecutive season with Macarthur FC.
2015: Panos Armenakas
With an eye for goal, Armenakas signed for Serie A club Udinese in 2014 having caught the eye of Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal and Chelsea, and he was named among the world’s best players born in 1998.
He was in the company of French defender Dayot Upamecano, who is now playing for Bayern Munich, Italian Manuel Locatelli, Martin Odegaard – who has gone on to become the captain of Arsenal – Dani Olmo, Federico Valverde and Christian Pulisic.
A former Sydney Olympic youth player, Armenakas is now on the books of Phoenix Rising in the USL Championship – the second tier of American football, after spells with Greek giants Panathinaikos and Zulte Waregem in Belgium.
2016: Sebastian Pasquali
Imagine making your senior debut as a 16-year-old and scoring against Italian powerhouse Juventus. Pasquali did just that as he burst onto the scene with Melbourne Victory.
On the same list as Kai Havertz, Gianluigi Donnarumma, Matthijs de Ligt, Brahim Diaz and Alexander Isak, he quickly earned a move to Dutch giants Ajax in 2016.
After three years within the Ajax set-up, he returned Down Under via Western United, where he remains.
2018: Jacob Italiano
Italiano is now playing for Borussia Monchengladbach but five years ago, the 17-year-old was part of The Guardian’s Next Gen list. Also among the 60 in 2018was Rodrygo, who has gone on to play for Real Madrid, Mason Greenwood, Liverpool’s Curtis Jones, Napoli superstar Khvicha Kvaratskhelia, Japan’s Takefusa Kubo and Billy Gilmour.
The attacking midfielder had made a name for himself thanks to his performances for Perth Glory in the Isuzu UTE A-League. At the time, an agreement was in place for him to swap Western Australia for Germany.
2019: Noah Botic
Looking back at the class of 2019, it had Josko Gvardiol and Jeremy Doku – who have both gone on to join English and European champions Manchester City in big-money deals. There was also Eduardo Camavinga before a career-changing transfer to Real Madrid, Pedri prior to joining Barcelona, Karim Adeyemi, Ryan Gravenberch, Ansu Fati and Giovanni Reyna.
Then there was also a young Australian striker – Noah Botic.
At the time, he was playing for German club Hoffenheim, having trialled for Manchester United. The 21-year-old has since returned to the A-Leagues and he has quickly established himself as a focal point for Western United after scoring six goals in 21 appearances during his first full season in 2022-23.
2020: Alexander Robertson
Robertson has been capped by the Socceroos after opting to turn down England, Scotland and Peru in favour of representing Australia. Prior to that, the exciting midfielder was on a list that boasted Bayern Munich and Germany star Jamal Musiala, Bayer Leverkusen’s Florian Wirtz, Xavi Simons, Benjamin Sesko and Yusuf Demir.
Robertson – the son of former Sydney FC player Mark – enjoyed great success with Manchester City’s youth teams while training with the senior side, having caught the eye of Pep Guardiola.
He is currently on loan with fellow Australian Kusini Yengi at Portsmouth in England’s League One.
2021: Joshua Rawlins, Mohamed Toure
There were two Australians recognised two years ago and both were playing in the A-Leagues at the time.
A graduate of Perth Glory’s academy, Joshua Rawlins impressed with his versatility across the pitch – either in defence or midfield. The 19-year-old joined Jong Utrecht in 2022 and he has called the club home since.
As for Mohamed Toure, he remains the youngest goalscorer in the history of A-League Men at 15 years and 326 days after finding the back of the net in 2020.
The 19-year-old, who is part of the Socceroos’ squad as a train-on player ahead of friendlies against England and New Zealand, is currently on loan at Paris FC in Ligue 2 from Stade de Reims.
2022: Max Caputo
The Melbourne City teenager looksset for a breakout campaign in the Isuzu UTE A-League, 12 months after earning a spot on The Guardian’s list along with the likes of Mathys Tel, Arda Guler, Paul Wanner and Iker Bravo.
One of the brightest prospects in Australian football, he recently became the youngest Aussie to score in an AFC competition and the fifth youngest scorer ever in the AFC Champions League since Opta began collecting data in 2013 after finding the back of the net in Wednesday night’s 2-1 win over Zhejiang FC.
It was another slice of history for Caputo, who became City’s youngest ever men’s goalscorer when he struck against Newcastle Jets in Round 22 last season.