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In honor of FIFA 18, here’s 5 young talents to build your squad around

With FIFA 18 dropping today, it’s time to cancel those Friday plans, grab a pack of Backwoods, and plenty of hydration for the hours (and days) to come.

You already know it’s basically going to be the same game that EA Sports have put out for years, but obviously there will be some changes to the various game modes to keep you coming back for more.

My personal favorite FIFA mode is the Manager Mode in which you take complete control over a club and lead them to world domination through clever transfer dealings and revamping their youth system. As a soccer nerd, there’s endless intrigue to finding the perfect young players to plug into your FIFA squad and take you to the promised land.

Whether you want to take over Real Madrid, PSG, or Bayern Munich and lead these legendary clubs into a new era, or hoist up the UD Las Palmas and Swanseas of the world to become new superpowers, the options for FIFA glory are endless. But you gotta know who to cop, it’s the most important damn decision you’ll make in your otherwise meaningless life.

With this in mind, I’ve gathered a list of the best and most intriguing young players in the world. While I’ve made this list in honor of the FIFA release, they are also very good in real life too, not that that matters here.

Kylian Mbappe

18-year-old Kylian Mbappe just keeps on doing ridiculous shit. He’s officially “loaned” to PSG this year, but they’ll pick up his €180 million option after next year. While it’ll be hard to actually buy him in FIFA, he’s the best young player in the world BY FAR.

He might even be in the top 10 players overall in the world. What he did on Wednesday in PSG’s 3-0 demolition of German champions Bayern Munich in the Champions League was downright ludicrous.

Starting alongside Neymar and Edinson Cavani in one of the most dangerous attacking tridents ever seen, Mbappe tore Bayern Munich apart.

He made Austrian international David Alaba (one of the best left backs in the world) look like a damn amateur.

Paris Saint-Germain are suddenly must watch TV. Even if they’re playing fuckin’ EA Guingamp or whatever, they have such a mouthwatering collection of talent. PSG are really the Warriors of European soccer.

It’s Kylian Mbappe’s world now, we’re all just living in it.

Marco Asensio

Spain didn’t have to wait long for their new generation of word class players. Just as Iniesta, Xavi, Xabi Alonso, David Villa, Pique et al. entered into various stages of retirement or the twilight of their careers, Spain has produced another round of showstoppers in Isco, Koke, Alvaro Morata, Dani Ceballos, and plenty more.

But the crown jewel of this new generation is Marco Asensio. He just signed a new contract with Real Madrid with a €500 million release clause, so he’ll be pretty expensive in the new FIFA, but a fee may be negotiable as there’s already so much world class talent at Real Madrid.

The 21-year-old attacking midfielder has a magical left foot, launching in goals from wild distances and using his quickness to easily shift past defenders. He’s kind of a more direct version of Mesut Ozil.

Zinedine Zidane must get a headache trying to pick his team for every game, and while the real life version of Real Madrid are intent on holding on to Asensio for the foreseeable future, FIFA Zidane and Real Madrid may be more forgiving.

Christian Pulisic

Oh it’s lit. We finally have THE talent that American soccer fans have been yearning for and it’s in the form of Borussia Dortmund’s 19-year-old Christian Pulisic.

This kid only turned 19 earlier in September and he’s already been given the USA’s number 10 shirt. Not that there was all that much competition for it, but still.

Playing for the high-octane attack of Borussia Dortmund, Pulisic combines his quickness and skill with intensity and a never-ending motor that has become the staple of the German side.

He’s a regular starter for Dortmund and is attracting interest from teams across Europe with the likes of Real Madrid, Liverpool, and Arsenal reportedly interested in the young American.

For now, he’s staying at Dortmund, where he’s been since he was 15, to develop under Peter Bosz. But of course in FIFA you may be able to pry Pulisic away from the Westfalenstadion. You won’t regret it.

American soccer is in safe hands with Pulisic representing the future. Now we just need a couple more Pulisics to really compete at the international level.

Ousmane Dembele

Pulisic’s former partner in crime at Dortmund, 20-year-old Ousmane Dembele was Barcelona’s replacement for Neymar and although the move was met with some skepticism, Dembele is one of the most entertaining players in the world.

He’s completely two-footed, like so two-footed that even he doesn’t know which foot is the strongest. Dembele is probably one of the best dribblers in the world already, despite his age.

He makes defenders look hilariously stupid as his sprints at them and quickly flicks it into space past them.

Dembele is still pretty raw, but his speed and dribbling skills make him a very intriguing option for prospective FIFA buyers. Maybe you’ll want to take over Barcelona and usher them into this new Neymar-less era.

Regardless, Ousmane Dembele is one to watch. Unfortunately in real life, he’s sidelined for a couple months with a hamstring injury. But he’ll be at the top of the soccer world for years. The French national team is going to be an absolute force.

Gabriel Jesus

No list of fire, fun, young soccer players is complete without a Brazilian, so taking that necessary spot here is Manchester City’s 20-year-old Gabriel Jesus.

The striker is a mix of power, speed, and skill that makes him one of the most dangerous young goalscorers in the world.

Man City have a glut of talent in the attacking positions, but manager Pep Guardiola has shown he’s willing to lean on Jesus to provide goals against opponents in the Premier League and Champions League.

Other teams in FIFA career mode always undervalue young talent, especially if they’re lower in the pecking order than an established star.

So Sergio Aguero’s presence at Man City might mean you can pluck Gabriel Jesus away from FIFA Pep’s clutches for a reasonable fee. So if you choose a lower-level team in FIFA, building your attack around Gabriel Jesus could be the ticket to the promised land.

In real life, Aguero’s recent rib injury will mean we’ll be seeing plenty of Gabriel Jesus.

Happy FIFAing, people.

The weekend in soccer: Neymar debuts, Cristiano sent off, and Juve in trouble?

This weekend saw the return of England’s Barclays Premier League, the second week of France’s Ligue 1, and cup games in Spain and Italy.

For serious soccer fans this means that the long, gruesome summer is over. There are matches to analyze, new players to see on new teams, and endless sources of intrigue across Europe.

And for casual fans of the sport, it means you can wake up on the weekend and be greeted by soccer games between teams with names like West Bromwich Albion and Huddersfield Town and you can make fun of your hipster soccer friends.

What better way to nurse your hangover than a pulsating between Swansea City and Brighton Hove Albion?

Personally, the Premier League is the league I follow closest, mostly because of access.

NBC Sports has the exclusive rights to the league and every single game is broadcasted on their networks or streamed online (legally!).

But the Spanish league has the best players in the world, the French league now has Neymar and some of the best young talent, Italy’s Serie A looks set for a reawakening (Juventus may actually be dethroned this season), and Germany has some of the most interesting tactical setups (as well as the young American stud Christian Pulisic).

Let’s dive into some of the highlights from a full weekend of soccer.

Neymar scores on debut

PSG started their Ligue 1 season last weekend with Neymar watching in the stands.

This weekend, against Guingamp, Neymar took the field in the number 10 shirt for PSG for the first time since his $265 million transfer to the Parisian giants.

The Brazilian did not disappoint.

Starting on the left side of an attacking trident with Uruguayan Edinson Cavani and Argentinian Angel Di Maria (same nationalities as Neymar’s former partners Suarez and Messi, for whatever that’s worth), Neymar often drifted into the center of the pitch (he may have picked up a couple things from Lionel Messi) and pulled the strings for PSG.

His unique style and deft touch were on full display as he tore apart Guingamp (who finished 10th in Ligue 1 last year). Neymar assisted Cavani’s goal with a beautiful through ball.

Then Neymar added a goal himself off a layoff from Cavani.

PSG are going to be an absolute force to be reckoned with this season. They should regain their throne in France after losing the title to an upstart Monaco last season.

But the real prize for PSG is the Champions League, after all that is why Nasser Al-Khalifi brought the Brazilian to Paris.

There are rumors swirling in France that PSG are about to spend another $200 million on Monaco 18-year-old forward Kylian Mbappe, the next great talent in the world.

Mbappe was benched this weekend for Monaco, but the Principality side still won as Falcao scored a hattrick.

Ligue 1, often a one-horse race, is definitely one to watch this season.

El Clásico

Gotta love El Clásico.

Real Madrid versus Barcelona. Some of the best players in the world, passion, sublime goals, and of course, ridiculous dives and plenty of controversy.

This edition of El Clásico featured in the Spanish Supercopa, a matchup played over two legs between the previous year’s La Liga winners (Real Madrid) and last season’s Copa Del Rey winners (Barcelona).

La Liga doesn’t start until next week, but this was a fashionable and dramatic kickoff to the Spanish soccer season.

Barcelona’s Gerard Pique kicked off the scoring with an own goal in the 50th minute. Then Luis Suarez took a ridiculous dive in the penalty box, giving Barcelona a penalty.

Messi slotted home the penalty and the tie was back on.

Then Cristiano Ronaldo, who subbed on later in the game, scored an absolute stunner on a break away, exposing Gerard Pique further.

(That pass from Isco was also astounding).

I mean…

Just goes to show you, dude still has it.

Ronaldo got yellow-carded for taking his shirt off and replicating Messi’s jersey-flaunting celebration from last season’s Clásico.

Ronaldo was then red-carded 3 minutes later for a supposed dive in the box.

I’m all for referees cracking down on diving in soccer, it’s a total joke, especially in El Clásico with tensions and dramatics at their peak, but the referee’s decision here was frankly ridiculous, especially after awarding a penalty for Suarez’s theatrical dive earlier in the game.

However, Ronaldo compounded the issue when he pushed the referee out of frustration.

Ronaldo will now serve a 5-game suspension for his actions, but that referee should be banned for eternity.

After the red card it looked like Barca would get back in the game but Madrid’s 21-year-old Marco Asensio, one of the brightest young players in the world, ended the game with a rocket of a goal.

(Yes, Gerard Pique looked helpless once again).

Real Madrid will be upset they lose Ronaldo for 5 games. But with a healthy Gareth Bale, Real Madrid’s attacking options are completely stacked even without Ronaldo.

Along with Bale, Zinedine Zidane can select from Isco, Marco Asensio, Lucas Vasquez, Dani Ceballos, and Karim Benzema to plug in for the time being.

Ronaldo can get a further vacation and come back with a vengeance.

Barcelona on the other hand might be in trouble. Their most important players look old and tired (besides Messi) and their backline looks especially vulnerable.

If Barca president Josep Bartomeu doesn’t bring in some fresh blood in the two and a half weeks before the transfer window closes at the end of August, it could be a disastrous season in Catalunya.

The second leg of the Supercopa will come on Wednesday with Real Madrid holding a 3-1 advantage. It will surely get testy. I’d bet on more red cards.

Premier League returns

Oh, Premier League, how we’ve missed you.

Arsenal and Leicester got us started on Friday in a wild 4-3 game. Arsenal did what Arsenal do: get off to a good start and score, give up two ridiculous goals, tie the game, give up another ridiculous goal, then score two goals after the 80th minute to win.

Sigh (this writer is an Arsenal fan).

The rest of the Premier League weekend saw the familiarity of a totally wacky league.

Liverpool continue to have significant defensive frailties but a dynamic attack, as they gave up a late equalizer to Watford in a 3-3 draw.

Chelsea saw their bad summer get worse with two red cards in a a 3-2 defeat at home to Burnley (who won one (1!) away game all of last year).

Manchester United got off to a hot start with new addition Romelu Lukaku netting twice on his debut in a 4-0 victory over West Ham.

Tottenham cruised to a routine 2-0 over Newcastle.

Manchester City looked ruthless and terrifying in a controlled 2-0 victory over Brighton Hove Albion.

City look to be the favorites this year, but they won their first six games last season and then stuttered in the middle of the season, so we know not to get hung up on starts.

The Premier League season is full of twists and turns, this may be the best one yet.

Lazio and Juve square off

After a record six-straight title wins for “The Old Lady” Juventus, this year’s race in Serie A looks to be one of the most competitive in years. As I wrote back in May, Serie A is back.

AC Milan have added significantly to their side and look ready to challenge again after years of disorganization.

Napoli, led by head coach Maurizio Sarri, are one of the best attacking sides in Europe and a joy to watch.

Roma should once again end up near the top of the table.

But it was Roma’s rival Lazio that grabbed the headlines in the Italian Supercoppa during the first weekend of Italian soccer. Like in Spain, the Italian Supercoppa is a matchup of league and cup winners from last year before Serie A officially starts next week.

After a summer that has seen Juventus lose Dani Alves and Leonardo Bonucci, two critical players in last year’s Champions League runner-up performance, Juve got absolutely beat up by Lazio.

Juventus’ Paolo Dybala, fresh off being given the famous Juventus number 10 shirt, was able to will his team back from a 2-0 deficit, but Lazio scored a late winner to take the cup.

Lazio are a young team led by Simone Inzaghi and they will have something to say about this season’s Serie A title race.

Between Juventus, Roma, Napoli, AC Milan, Internazionale, and Lazio, Serie A will be a league to watch this season.