SunSport have put together a young XI of the year from this season.
The criteria is simple — all players had to be 21 or younger on the first day of the season back in August last year (so no Gareth Bale).
GOALKEEPER: David De Gea, Manchester United
THE young Spaniard has come of age this season.
No one questioned his shot-stopping ability but whether he had the physicality to deal with the hustle and bustle of the Premier League was in doubt.
However, a stellar performance at the Bernabeu against Real Madrid put paid to all of that — and the youngster has gone from strength to strength since.
SLOWLY but surely, Clyne has made a smooth transition from the Championship with Crystal Palace to the top flight with Saints.
His buccaneering runs from deep have helped Mauricio Pochettino’s young side blossom into an attractive team with bundles of potential.
Manchester United’s samba star Rafael would have been selected but his birthday falls in July meaning he is ineligible — just.
CENTRE-BACK: Phil Jones, Manchester United
JONES can be the greatest player in Manchester United’s history, according to Alex Ferguson.
High praise indeed from the retiring Scot but what is certain is the 21-year-old England ace has the world at his feet.
However, he is lucky to make this list considering he has only played 23 times this season due to injury — it just so happens there are few other contenders.
CENTRE-BACK: Matija Nastasic, Manchester City
CITY may have had a poor season by their high standards but Nastasic has taken to the Premier League seamlessly.
The Serbian was just 19 when he made the move from Fiorentina last summer and was thrown straight into the first team — putting Joleon Lescott’s nose out of joint.
But the youngster fully justified his selection under now axed Roberto Mancini, and looks set to become one of the top centre-backs in world football.
LEFT-BACK: Ben Davies, Swansea
NO ONE had heard of Davies last summer — barring the Swansea coaches and his family.
Yet the young Welshman has arguably been this season’s most improved player, going from obscurity to Capital One Cup winner and first-team starter.
An honourable mention goes to Southampton’s Luke Shaw who has made an incredible 24 Premier League appearances at the tender age of 17.
RIGHT-MIDFIELD: Callum McManaman, Wigan
THE former Everton academy product has come from nowhere to become one of the most exciting players in England.
He announced himself with a stunning goal in the FA Cup quarter-final against his former team and was rightly crowned man of the match in the incredible final win over Man City.
One thing he could work on though is his tackling, as poor Toon defender Massadio Haidara will attest...
CENTRE-MIDFIELD: Phillipe Coutinho, Liverpool
WHEN Gareth Bale scored his amazing hat-trick against Inter in 2010, the Welsh wizard’s performance overshadowed another impressive turn from a young Brazilian named Coutinho.
The midfielder lost his way a bit in Italy in the following years but his January move to Liverpool has reinvigorated him.
His creativity, pace and ability to pick a pass suit him perfectly to the Prem and we can expect much more from the 20-year-old in the 2013-14 campaign.
CENTRE-MIDFIELD: Jack Wilshere, Arsenal
FOR most players, spending 17 months out injured would seriously impact your ability as a footballer.
But Wilshere is not most players — if anything, he’s come back even BETTER.
England’s great hope has helped Arsenal put together a fine run in the second half of the season and will look to kick on next year.
LEFT-MIDFIELD: Eden Hazard, Chelsea
HAZARD exploded onto the Prem scene with goals and assists coming out of his ears in August.
His level dropped as Chelsea’s season began to unravel but in recent months the Belgian has been back to his best.
With a grace and speed on the ball matched by few others in the global game, the Blues have a potential Ballon D’Or winner on their books.
CENTRE-FORWARD: Christian Benteke, Aston Villa
ALL hail Paul Lambert the visionary.
For when Lambo decided to axe England striker Darren Bent for the untried Benteke, most though he was mad.
Roll on eight months and Benteke has 23 goals to his name, is valued at £30million and is wanted by the big boys of European football.
CENTRE-FORWARD: Romelu Lukaku, West Brom
HERE’S proof that the loan system can be very beneficial — or very unfair.
Either way, Albion have capitalised on the rules to bring the burly Belgian who has been nothing short of sensational.
Surely Chelsea will want him back next season? If not, a queue of teams will be forming to take him off their hands.