The evolution of CSGO has gone through a number of distinct stages, of that there is no doubt, and in the early years the bigger teams were guilty of recycling the same old names time and again, often for good reason. The records of some of the old gods stand the test of time, but today they are looking over their shoulders to see where their replacement is coming from.
Now, though, as the proven winners from days gone by can no longer get the job done, there is a new generation coming through, with talent honed in CSGO alone and the hunger to prove they deserve a place at the top. We've run down six of the best CSGO players with youth on their side, from six different nations, for you to watch over the coming months and years to show just how exciting things are looking for the future of the greatest esport.
1. Ludvig “Brollan” Brolin | Sweden | Fnatic | 16
Right now, there is no doubt that Brollan has more pressure on him than anyone else on this list, both beacuse of his nationality and the team he plays for. At just 16 years old, he has left Red Reserve to join Fnatic, one of the most storied teams in world CSGO, to play alongside the likes of KRIMZ and JW. As if that weren’t enough to carry on his young shoulders, he's also the shining light for Swedish CSGO, which has fallen by the wayside after dominating the early years of the game.
His team situation is not perfect, as we’ve already seen a number of players leave Fnatic for what seem like interpersonal reasons, rather than pure gameplay issues, but he's young enough to learn from this experience if it does end up going wrong. It seems like Swedish CSGO is finally realising they need new blood after years of recycling, and Brollan is the newest kid on the block at a time when Sweden desperately needs a new hero to cheer.
2. Ali “Jame” Djami | Russia | Avangar | 20
Jame is one of the names on this list you might not know as well, but at 20 he's already shown himself to be a player with a bright future. His team, Avangar, had a disappointing time in the FACEIT Major qualifiers, but since then they have racked up an impressive list of achievements, including wins over teams that are far more fashionable and fancied and Jame has been at the heart of a lot of what has worked.
Over the past three months Jame has a 1.21 rating over 130 maps played, which includes series wins over Heroic, Gambit, ENCE and compLexity among others, with the latter coming on stage at ESL One New York as part of a partnership between MSI and ESL. His team don't get as much attention as the likes of ENCE, partly due to being a CIS group, but there is no doubt Jame has talent, and with his region in a state of flux there may be opportunities for the young man to move onward and upward soon.
3. Mathieu "ZywOo" Herbaut | France | Team Vitality | 17
ZywOo is one of the hottest young players to come out of France since, well, the last time the region produced a top young sniper, and we all know how that worked out. As is the case in so many other games and sports, he has to carry some weight on his shoulders with comparisons to the likes of kennyS, but so far he's shown a maturity about waiting for the right time to enter the scene, with Team Vitality able to provide him with a platform to go to the very top, as well as some extremely experienced team mates.
Playing with Happy, NBK-, apEX and RpK on the new French org could obviously go either way, with the former notorious for his divisive effect on teams, but equally his team has the potential to go a very long way, and he can learn on the journey. If things work out then he's already set for a few years, but if the Vitality experiment fizzles out, playing alongside legends like NBK- and apEX will only benefit ZywOo down the line, and at 17 years of age he's got plenty of growth ahead of him.
4. Jere “Sergej” Salo | Finland | ENCE | 16
ENCE's young star has played 90 maps in the past three months, with an average rating of 1.16, but that only tells half the story. He isn't just grinding out the games on the all-Finnish team, but already taking tournament wins with his compatriots, including a victory at Starladder Season 6 that saw his team finish ahead of such media darlings as BIG, NRG and mousesports to take the $125,000 first place prize.
ENCE struggle for consistency at times, but their peaks have already shown what they are capable of, and there is no doubt that Sergej is one of the most talented 16-year-olds we've seen in a long time. Whether it's in ENCE, or elsewhere, he has the skills to make it to the top echelon of the game and the mental strength he's shown to this point suggests it will be near-impossible to stop him.
5. Tsvetelin “CeRq” Dimitrov | Bulgaria | NRG | 18
Possibly the most famous player on the list right now, the Bulgarian sniper is just 18 years old, but already has an impressive list of accomplishments to his name, and all while living in a foreign country. His team were disappointed not to make the London Major earlier in the year, and the level of shock their absence created is a good sign of just how highly rated the likes of Cerq and co are, even at this early stage in their time as a team.
In a game where other legends have struggled to adjust to a change of scenery, Cerq has already proven he can hang with the best in North America, and if NRG cannot provide him with the platform he needs to continue his development we could see him moving up a level in terms of size of org very soon. He has the potential to be a top AWPer for the next decade, and has already proven his mental strength.
6. Rokas "EspiranTo" Milasauskas | Lithuania | The Imperial | 17
In some ways, it’s a shame that EspiranTo came to our attention in the way that he did, as part of a power struggle in his team that ended up with his team-mate kRYSTAL leaving The Imperial under something of a cloud. The talent the young Lithuanian has is undoubted, but he has struggled to adjust to his place in the team, it seems, and the management of the org has left something to be desired.
At the moment his team is down to three, with rumours legendary IGL pronax and young Finnish star OttoNd are set to join soon. The addition of pronax may not seem that sensible from a fragging perspective, but his ability to guide and develop young talent could be vital to The Imperial's chances of progressing with this team, or parlaying the talent they have into decent buyouts at the very least, and if EspiranTo can work on his people skills he has the potential to go to the highest level of CSGO.