Before the start of all the football action in August, we listed some of the best young talents who you should watch out for across Europe’s top 5 leagues, in our Top 10 Series. The list lacked the obvious choices who you’d [literally] be watching anyway, but rather went ahead and listed the comparative ‘unknowns’ who at the time were 21 years and under. Over the next few weeks we will be publishing mid-season reports on each of those talents, tracking their progress and comparing it at the end of the season where we publish final performance reports.
Young Premier League Talents
In addition to this, we will continue to publish our detailed Scout Reports on talents from across the World and not restricted to those in these lists, while you can track all the updates, reports and performances of the best talents in World football in our Talent Radar feature.
The following list contains mid-season reports on the top 10 Young Premier League talents that we listed at the start of the season. Please note the players are listed in descending order with the best performer at #1, while the list we published in summer was in the order of our prediction.
Top 10 young Premier League players to watch-out for (published in the summer)
10. Marco van Ginkel ( ↓ 2 )
Age: 21 | Club: Chelsea | Nationality: Dutch | Position: Central Midfielder | Premier League Appearances: 2
The young Dutch midfielder was the subject of a lot of transfer speculation and rightly so given his ability. It was Chelsea who secured his services with a host of young Chelsea players making loan moves the other way. It’s a transfer that’s worked out well for Vitesse but not so much for the player.
Van Ginkel made his debut off the bench against Hull followed by another brief appearance against Villa. The Capital One Cup game against Swindon was a good opportunity for the youngster to get a run out but unfortunately the midfielder suffered a cruciate ligament injury early in the game. The initial verdict was that he would be out for a period of 6-7 months, not really an ideal start to life in England for the highly rated youngster.
One can only hope for a speedy recovery for the Dutchman.
9. Wilfried Zaha ( ↓ 7 )
Age: 21 | Club: Manchester United | Nationality: English | Position: Winger | Premier League Appearances: 2
Of the 10 young talents we picked in our list, perhaps Zaha has had the most disappointing time in the league thus far. He was of course one of Sir Alex Ferguson’s last signings but never got a chance to play under him. He played a pivotal role in Palace’s promotion push and subsequent playoff success before heading to Old Trafford.
Zaha featured prominently in pre-season owing largely to the absence of Valencia and Nani and followed it up with a start in the Community Shield triumph against Wigan. Since then however Zaha has found it hard to break into the starting line up in Manchester. After a couple of cup appearances, he finally got his first start in the league recently in the loss against Newcastle and another a week later against Villa.
Moyes has already indicated that the youngster could head out on loan and clubs such as Palace and Newcastle are rumoured to be interested in temporarily signing his services. Hopefully such a move will materialize and we can enjoy some of the raw talent that made United buy him in the first place.
8. Jonathan Williams ( ↑ 10 )
Age: 20 | Club: Crystal Palace | Nationality: Welsh | Position: Attacking Midfielder | Premier League Appearances: 6
Welsh football has certainly made itself felt in the Premier League in the recent years. Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey have won plenty of plaudits and this season we were treated to the Premier League’s first ever South Wales derby. To add to the growing influence, we expect big things from Jonathan Williams.
But promotion to the Premier League means that the team has a decent amount of money to spend and as a result competition for places increases. Williams made his Premier League bow against Spurs in the opening weekend of this season as he came off the bench, a recurring theme this season. After 2 more appearances off the bench, he suffered an injury which lead to him missing the next 8 league games. His return has been a bit stop start with 3 appearances off the bench.
Williams has shown glimpses of why he is so highly thought of and was a bit unlucky with the injury so early in the campaign. Hopefully he can break into the starting XI of Pulis’ side in the second half of the season and showcase his considerable talent.
7. Luis Alberto ( ↓ 6 )
Age: 21 | Club: Liverpool | Nationality: Spanish | Position: Winger | Premier League Appearances: 8
He made his debut in the win against Manchester United coming off the bench as Liverpool closed out a 1-0 win. He’s made 7 further appearances all of which were off the bench including in the 5-0 drubbing of Spurs where he recorded his 1st assist of the campaign. Alberto is yet to make a start for Liverpool in the League, a fact that he’d like to put right soon.
Wingers or wide forwards aren’t exactly a rare commodity at Anfield and Alberto may have to bide his time before he’s given a real chance to make his mark.
6. Matej Vydra ( ↓ 4 )
Age: 21 | Club: West Brom | Nationality: Czech | Position: Striker | Premier League Appearances: 8
With the takeover of the Pozzos at Watford, there’s been an influx of players on loan at Watford from Udinese. Among those was Czech striker Vydra who had a great season in the Championship last year before returning for a 2nd loan spell in England at West Brom.
One of the best players in the Championship last season, signing him up on loan was definitely a gamble worth taking for Steve Clarke. He made his first couple of appearances off the bench against Southampton and Everton before suffering an injury which led to him missing the next 6 league games. His injury opened the door for Saido Berahino and the England U-21 International took his opportunity with both hands. With Berahino in impressive form, it was tough for Vydra to get a look in on his return to fitness. He assisted a goal after coming off the bench against Manchester City and got off the mark in terms of goals just before Christmas against Hull. He was rewarded his 1st start against Spurs on Boxing Day.
As mentioned, his injury didn’t come at the best of times for him especially given Berahino’s form but there’s still plenty of time for the Czech to come good. West Brom’s search for a new manager is still on and Vydra will be hoping for increased game time come the new calendar year.
5. Gerard Deulofeu ( ↔ 5 )
Age: 19 | Club: Everton/Barcelona | Nationality: Spanish | Position: Winger | Premier League Appearances: 12
After featuring for Spain in the U-20 World Cup, Deulofeu made the temporary switch to Everton. Martinez took his time before integrating Deulofeu into the 1st team set up at Goodison Park as he was an unused substitute in the 1st 2 games of the season. This was followed by brief substitute appearances against Chelsea and Cardiff. He continued to feature from the bench and was impressive on almost every occasion when called upon. He finally got his first start against Stoke in November and duly delivered with a goal and an assist in a 4-0 victory. His only other goal came in more dramatic circumstances as he equalized late in the game to give Everton a share of the points at the Emirates stadium. He was rewarded with a start against Fulham, a game in which he picked up a hamstring injury that has kept him out since.
Everton’s strong first half of the campaign has surprised a few people but full credit to them and Martinez. One can only hope that the brilliant youngster returns from injury and continues to turn heads in England with his skill.
4. Nathan Redmond ( ↓ 3 )
Age: 19 | Club: Norwich | Nationality: English | Position: Winger | Premier League Appearances: 17
The U-21 European Championships last summer wasn’t exactly what you’d call a raging success for England. They were thoroughly outplayed and the disappointing tournament marked the end of the road for Stuart Pearce’s reign. The only real positive to emerge from the tournament was the form of Nathan Redmond.
Redmond made the move up from Birmingham City in the Championship to Norwich and has featured heavily since the start of the campaign. He was drafted straight into the starting line up by Chris Hughton and started all of the first 5 games of Norwich’s campaign even netting his 1st goal for the club in a 1-0 win against high flying Southampton. He was dropped from the team for a run of games featuring mostly off the bench but soon reclaimed his spot in the starting XI. He’s started every one of Norwich’s last 8 games chalking up 3 assists and generally impressing for the Canaries.
Norwich spent quite an amount in the previous transfer window and I think it’s fair to say that in the case of Redmond at least it was money well spent. Hughton has shown faith in the youngster and will hopefully continue to do so for the remainder of the season
3. Raheem Sterling ( ↑ 8 )
Age: 19 | Club: Liverpool | Nationality: English | Position: Winger | Premier League Appearances: 14
Another player who made his big breakthrough the previous season was Liverpool’s Raheem Sterling. The diminutive winger featured heavily in the first half of last season before tailing off a bit in the 2nd half.
With the success of January signings Coutinho and Sturridge, Sterling has taken a bit of a back seat with Rodgers admitting that he might have been overplayed to an extent at the start of last season. This has been remedied this season with his first 5 appearances all from the bench. He did finally get his first start in the 3-1 win over Crystal Palace and finished the game with an assist to his name. Sturridge’s injury opened the door for the Jamaican and he’s rewarded the manager with a good run of form. Suarez has undoubtedly been the main man for the Reds and Sterling has certainly done a good job as a member of the supporting cast. A goal and assist against Norwich followed by goals against Spurs and Cardiff and an assist against Manchester City capped off a run of good performances to end the calendar year.
Liverpool have a promising group of young talent at the club and Sterling is very much a central figure amongst them. He’s certainly done well up to now and the Liverpool faithful will hope that he can kick on and become a real star for them.
2. Luke Shaw ( ↑ 9 )
Age: 18 | Club: Southampton| Nationality: English | Position: Left-Back | Premier League Appearances: 15
The left back spot for the next World Cup is one of the main spots of contention for England. Ashley Cole seems to have been usurped in that spot by Azpilicueta for Chelsea and Baines has continued churning out impressive performances in Merseyside. Not too far behind the duo is Southampton’s Luke Shaw.
Having made the step up to the 1st team last season, Shaw has well and truly nailed down the 1st team spot in this campaign. He’s started 15 times for the club in the league and has been quite impressive in a majority of them. The attack minded left back started the season with an assist at West Brom securing a 1-0 win for the Saints. He has progressed admirably this season and perhaps his most impressive statistic is that he’s only picked up a solitary booking this season, not something you’d expect from your regular 18 year old defender.
Shaw has also featured for the England U-21s 3 times this season chalking up an assist in the process. Shaw’s impressive performances have more than justified his inclusion in our list. He’s been linked to a host of big clubs but he’s signed a new contract at Southampton. It’s a good move by both club and player as regular football at this stage will only hasten his development.
1. Ross Barkley ( ↔ 1 )
Age: 20 | Club: Everton | Nationality: English | Position: Attacking Midfielder | Premier League Appearances: 17
The English media are notorious for their over the top praise for any youngster who has the potential to be a half decent player but in the case of Ross Barkley, we’re only too happy to join the bandwagon. Why? Simply because the boy is a serious talent.
Barkley’s hardly an unknown talent who’s risen from nowhere as Moyes had handed him his debut a couple of seasons ago. After a handful of appearances and loan spells in the lower divisions, Barkley’s really made the step up this season. Martinez started him in the 1st game of the season against Norwich and the midfielder duly obliged with a goal. Barkley’s added further goals against Newcastle and Swansea to his tally. He’s been pretty much a constant in the team since and has played a crucial role in Everton’s eye catching style of football. He’s started 14 games in the campaign thus far and is now a genuine option for this summer’s World Cup.
Barkley represents the new Everton and given his tender age should go on to have a great career. Given his ability, it’s only a matter of time until he’s wanted by bigger clubs but for now he’s an Everton player and quite a good one at that.
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Stay tuned for the remaining Mid-Season Reports in this series as we assess progress of talents across Europe’s other leagues. Don’t miss our Final Performance Report at the end of the season. We will continue to publish detailed Scout Reports on these and other young talents, and of course continue to track the progress of World talents in our brand new #TalentRadar feature.