Despite his relative youth he’s fast become an important fixture for Diego Simeone as the Argentinian coach seeks to establish the Rojiblancos into a dominant force alongside their Spanish rivals Real Madrid and Barcelona.
Saul, though, is just one many talented midfielders under the age of 23 playing across Europe’s top five leagues at the moment.
With that being said, who are the others? We at Squawka have listed our top 10 below.
Club appearances: 98
Benassi joined Torino from Inter Milan in 2014 and has since become an integral fixture for the Maroons, so much so that since last October he’s been the club’s captain.
To date, he’s featured 98 times for the Turin-based club registering 12 goals and creating a further 10, and has represented the Italian U21 team – which he also skippers – on 26 occasions.
9. Adrien Rabiot (Paris Saint-Germain)
Club appearances: 157
A graduate of PSG’s academy, the French international has gradually established himself in the first eleven of his boyhood club’s senior team, having featured across 39 matches in the season just gone, in which he scored four goals and created a further five for his teammates.
8. Dani Ceballos (Real Betis)
Club appearances: 105
Ceballos, who came through Real Betis’ youth set-up, has played an instrumental role in Spain reaching this summer’s U21 European Championship final.
An elegant midfielder, whom Real Madrid are reportedly keen to sign, that loves to dribble, Ceballos completed 68% of his attempted take-ons (79/116) last season as well as registering a passing accuracy of 81% in La Liga.
Club appearances: 34
Although his season was cut short after sustaining a cruciate ligament rupture in March, the French U21 international played a key role behind Nice’s unexpected title challenge, which ultimately saw them finish third and secure a Champions League berth.
Across his 29 league outings, he continually impressed, averaging 42.3 forward passes per game as well as creating 26 goalscoring opportunities, three of which were converted.
Club appearances: 86 (with former club Gladbach)
A wanted man after a string of impressive performances for Borussia Mönchengladbach, the German youngster opted to swap Borussia-Park for the bright lights of Dortmund, whom he’ll represent until June 2022.
What triggered Die Borussen’s move was his immense box-to-box ability, being a threat in the opposition half, as well as being a presence in his own.
Dahoud, across 28 league appearances last season, registered 53 interceptions (1.9 per game) and 13 shots on target with two of those finding the back of the net.
5. Marcos Llorente (Real Madrid)
Club appearances: 3 (32 with loan club Alaves)
Another promising talent coming through Real Madrid’s ranks, the Madrid-born midfielder (whose great uncle is legendary Los Blancos winger Francisco Gento) was loaned out to Alaves last season, where he certainly impressed club manager Zinedine Zidane through a string of impressive showings.
Llorente, who featured across 32 league matches, contributed with an immaculate 87% pass accuracy with 1,027 of his 1,706 passes going forward as well creating 19 chances though only two of those were finished off successfully.
Club appearances: 92
If reports are to be believed, the French international will become Chelsea’s first major acquisition this summer.
His impeccable performances in the heart of Monaco’s midfield alongside Fabinho, where he averaged a passing accuracy of 87% and created 15 chances has naturally grabbed the attention of a host of clubs with the Premier League champions beating off their competition.
3. Julian Weigl (Borussia Dortmund)
Club appearances: 94
Dortmund’s metronome. Weigl, who played across 30 league matches last season, averaged 65.2 passes per game and continued to show why many have earmarked him as a future mainstay with the German national team.
His ability to retain and recycle possession is second to none among those of a similar age or experience. Growing in stature, as well as attracting attention from the likes of Barcelona, if he remains in North Rhine-Westphalia then the captain’s armband is surely his.
Club appearances: 32
A revelation in the Bundesliga last season, the all-action Guinean midfielder was at the heartbeat behind of RB Leipzig’s improbable championship push, and subsequently attracted the attention of a host of European powerhouses, notably Liverpool.
1. Saul Niguez (Atletico Madrid)
Club appearances: 211
A graduate of Atlético Madrid’s esteemed academy, the 22-year-old is a firm fan favourite courtesy of his ability to pop up with that all-important goal – most famously against Bayern Munich in the Champions League semi-final a year ago – as well as his emotional connection with the club.
Saul is destined to be a pillar of the Spanish national team going forward as well as Atlético’s leader as they embark on their journey into their new stadium, having already registered 28 goals and 16 assists across 211 matches.