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Opinion

The best A-League players 26 and under

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Roar Guru
14th April, 2021
11

Everybody loves Toy Story, right?

You know, the first fully computer-generated feature film about toys coming to life when humans aren’t present?

If you want to feel old, it was released 26 years ago! Something else that is about to turn 26 is me.

Now, my football dream ended when I was six and found out you just can’t register to play for Liverpool like I did my local club in the neighbourly suburbs in Newcastle – so I’ve been trying to live vicariously through professional footballers ever since, and now they’re all pretty much younger than me.

Rather than wallowing in self-pity (it doesn’t need to be my birthday for me to do this), I’ve decided to sit down on my two-seater lounge and rank the eight best A-League players under the age of 26.

8. Al Hassan Toure
Adelaide have a plethora of fantastic players under the age of 26; hell, they have plenty of quality players named Toure under the age of 26. But it’s Al Hassan who makes my list.

I first saw the eldest Toure play in Adelaide’s 5-1 win over Melbourne Knights in the Round of 32 of the FFA Cup in 2019. In that game, it took him 12 minutes to find the back of the net, and it was a good finish too.

He went on to score five goals on his way to winning the Mark Viduka Medal as the Reds cruised to a 4-0 win over Melbourne City in the final. While injuries have hindered his progress, he’s still one of the brightest the A-League has on offer.

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7. Dylan Pieras
In 2017, Dylan Pieras became the first person born in the 21st century to play in the A-League. So there’s that.

But he’s more than just an answer to an obscure trivia question (I’m still waiting for this question to appear) – he’s developing into quite a player under Mark Rudan at Western United.

Only Besart Berisha has scored more than Mambo.. I mean United’s number five (that was a reference to a song released 21 years ago for those playing at home). Pieras’s versatility, and overall quality, will likely keep him around for many years to come.

6. Dylan Wenzel-Halls
I really thought under the tutelage of Robbie Fowler, Dylan Wenzell-Halls was going to become one of the A-League’s prolific goal scorers. He is scoring at a decent rate but he will have to turn more chances into goals if he is to catapult Brisbane to a title they haven’t won since 2014.

He’s already doubled his career tally this season with seven goals and only Jamie Maclaren has had more sights of goal than the Ipswich local – but only 26 per cent of his shots have been converted.

He’s still young, though. His 24th birthday isn’t until December so there’s still plenty time to become an even better striker.

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Dylan Wenzel-Halls of the Roar celebrates after kicking a goal

Dylan Wenzel-Halls (Photo by Daniel Pockett/Getty Images)

5. Daniel de Silva
When Daniel de Silva made his A-League debut, he was four days shy of his 16th birthday.

On my 16th birthday I failed my Ls test (I rushed and misread a question – can you drop it, Mum?).

His debut was eight years ago, so he’s likely one of the youngest veterans in world football, if, like me, you want to feel old.

De Silva has grown up in front of Australian football fans and after a couple of stints overseas and on-loan at Sydney FC, it appears we’re finally seeing the best out of the diminutive attacker.

For ego purposes, at least I grew taller than 5’5, but his small stature has seen him win 24 fouls this campaign. He’s also made 23 key passes – three of those have led to goals and he’s turned in three of his own. Not bad.

4. Tate Russell
When I inevitably do this list again in 10 years, Tate Russell will have over 50 Socceroos caps to his name and will be a Wanderers legend. Watch this space.

One of the best up-and-coming players in the league, right back or otherwise. Whether he will transition further up the pitch or remain a wingback, get used to seeing Tate Russell play, because we’re going to be seeing a lot of him over the years.

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3. Alou Kuol
If you’ve read any of my pieces on The Roar in the past week you’ll know how much I love Alou Kuol, despite being a Newcastle Jets fan.

Kuol has taken to the A-League like a duck to water with seven goals in his opening 20 matches. It’s more than his goals, it’s the fear he implants in the mind of opposition defences when he’s running with or challenging for the ball.

He also has the confidence and charisma I wish I had.

Alou Kuol of the Mariners reacts during the A-League

(Photo by Ashley Feder/Getty Images)

2. Stefan Mauk
The oldest player on this list, Stefan Mauk captains his home town club, the same club he won the A-League premiership and championship with back in 2016.

While this season his reputation has been battered a bit like the fish and chips I like to order on a lazy Saturday arvo, there aren’t many players in the A-League who can say that.

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1. Jake Brimmer
I hate Jake Brimmer.

Nothing personal. Just envy.

Pure, sour jealousy.

Despite it feeling like he’s been around forever, the Victory midfielder somehow only turned 23 last week. He signed for Liverpool, my favourite club, back in 2014 and got to see the likes of Joe Gomez and Trent Alexander-Arnold before they became European, World, and English champions.

While he hasn’t gone on to those heights, he’s forging quite a career for himself.

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Brimmer has been a glimmer of hope in an otherwise dark season for Grant Brebner’s men and since he is younger than I thought he was, we’ll certainly see his career simmer in the next decade.