Before the start of all the football action in August, we listed down 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.
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.
Top 10 Series | Scout Reports | Talent Radar
The following list contains mid-season reports on the top Young La Liga 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 Serie A Players to watch out for (published in the summer)
10. Ishak Belfodil ( ↓ 3 )
Age: 21 | Club: Inter | Nationality: Algerian | Position: Striker | Serie A Appearances: 8
Belfodil has’t barely been given any time to showcase his talent since his move from fellow Serie A club, Parma. Ideal proof of this would be that Belfodil has managed to attain only 188 minutes of playing time in the Serie A for Inter. Although Belfodil made it to the team sheet a total of 15 times, he was given a call to the starting line up just the one time (where he was taking off after 63 minutes after failing to make a significant impact), and amassing 7 appearances off the bench. Belfodil also served a two match suspension after receiving a straight red against Hellas Verona in the dying minutes of the game. Belfodil did manage to provide one assist in the 188 minutes of playing time, coming in the away fixture against Torino. As for the Coppa Italia, Belfodil was given more game time there, playing in two matches (victorious in both), and scoring in one (against Trapani).
Unless Belfodil manages to get a few games under his belt, he won’t be having a big enough impact and quite possible will be rooted to the bottom of this list.
9. M’Baye Niang ( ↓ 6 )
Age: 19 | Club: AC Milan | Nationality: French | Position: Striker | Serie A Appearances: 8
The talented Frenchman was handed his first start of the campaign in Milan’s very first Serie A match against Hellas Verona where he failed to make an impact and was subbed off in the 64th minute. Out of the 16 games Milan have played in the Serie A this season, Niang has managed to make it to the team sheet 15 times (being injured the one other time, against Turin). Among these 15 times, Niang has failed to make the starting eleven since the first match day. Niang has made 7 seven appearances off the bench averaging a playing time of 23 minutes in those games, and 7 times as an unused sub. With this Milan side struggling, they have not been able to give Niang much time to cement a place in the starting line up. As for his contributions towards goals, Niang managed just one assist in the home game against Napoli. With a total of 243 minutes on the field, Niang wasn’t able to prove much which led to him being loaned out back to France where he will spend the second half of the campaign with Montpellier.
Niang’s time at Milan has been disappointing, and the striker has been loaned out to Montpellier till the end of the season. Given that, expect Belfodil to overtake Niang before the end of the season.
8. Mauro Icardi ( ↓ 2 )
Age: 20 | Club: Inter | Nationality: Argentine | Position: Striker | Serie A Appearances: 8
The product of the famous La Masia, Icardi was a part of the club’s line up 12 times. Although he hasn’t made a start for the club, he was called off the bench, into action, 8 times and was an unused sub on 4 occasions. Icardi missed the whole of November and half of December owing to an injury (Pubalgia) which kept him out of play for 5 consecutive games. From his 8 appearances as a substitute, Icardi managed 218 minutes of game time, scoring twice against Juventus in the 1-1 home draw as well as against Cagliari Calcio in the 1-1 away fixture. Icardi’s talent has clearly been recognised and is yet to fullfill his true potential. The Argentine is an addition to the category of Inter youngsters that are fighting for a place in the starting elven in a period where Inter are trying to attain some stability in their form.
Icardi was impressive with Sampdoria last season but has found chances difficult this time round. He has a bright future, but with Inter looking to get back into the Champions League, don’t expect Mazzarri to rotate his squad too much. Icardi might have to wait for a run of games.
7. Nicola Sansone ( ↓ 4 )
Age: 22 | Club: Parma | Nationality: Italian | Position: Striker | Serie A Appearances: 15
The young German-born striker, who is a product of the Bayern Munich youth academy, was a part of the club’s line up on 17 occasions, making it to the starting eleven 5 times and being subbed on 10 times, while being an unused sub twice. The 5 appearances in the starting line up came in the last 5 consecutive games of the first half of the Serie A campaign. As for contributions towards goals, the Italian managed to score in only one of his 16 appearances this season for Parma in a 3-3 away draw against Inter where Sansone scored a brace. Although brought to Parma as a forward, his 5 consecutive starting appearances saw him position himself on the left wing in four of those occasions. Sansone also managed a Coppa Italia appearance, unsurprisingly off the bench once again. With a total of 659 minutes of match time, Roberto Donadoni is yet to get the best out of this young exciting prospect.
Despite his level of experience, Sansone is still struggling to get into the side. Although only winning 4 games, Parma are in a good position in the Serie A table. Donadoni will have to ensure a safe second half, one wonders if Sansone will feature in his plans.
6. Brayan Perea ( ↑ 10 )
Age: 20 | Club: Lazio | Nationality: Colombian | Position: Striker | Serie A Appearances: 11
At Lazio, in his debut season, Perea has made 11 appearances so far. The Columbian made his first appearance coming off the bench in 3-1 home victory against Catania. Perea has been on the team sheet a total of 14 times with 6 of them having him in the starting eleven and 5 substitute appearances. Perea managed to get his first goal for the Rome based club in the match against Atlanta which they lost. His only other contribution in the campaign so far has been an assist against the 2-4 home loss against Napoli. As for the Europa League, Perea has featured for Lazio a total of four times, with two starts and two appearances off the bench. Perea has more of an impact for Lazio in the Europa League, racking up 2 assists (both against Trabzonspor) and a goal against Legia. Both these contributions have been when Perea has started the game.
The Colombian is one of the most talented youngster in the Serie A. Lazio have been underperforming and this hasn’t helped Perea’s cause. More substitute appearances are expected, and we may yet have to wait to see his true potential.
5. Mateo Kovacic ( ↑ 7 )
Age: 19 | Club: Inter | Nationality: Croatia | Position: Midfielder | Serie A Appearances: 16
The Croatian, who is a product of the Dinamo Zagreb youth academy where he broke into the first team and won 2 consecutive league titles before making a move to Inter, was a part of the club’s line up 17 times, managing 6 starting appearances, 10 appearances off the bench. Kovacic, hasn’t been able to contribute directly in terms of goals but as for assists, he has managed on in the Serie A against Livorno.Kovacic has been deployed in different positions, central midfield, attack midfielder as well as a second striker along the course of the season so far. With Inter trying their best to stabilize their league campaign, Kovacic has predominantly been limited to appearances of the bench, averaging 30 minutes of playing time in those substitution appearances.
The highly rated youngster is still fighting for his place in the starting line up and has high standards to live up to after being given the no. 10 jersey which was previously worn by Wesley Sneijder.
4. Mattia Perin ( ↑ 9 )
Age: 21 | Club: Genoa| Nationality: Italian | Position: Goalkeeper| Serie A Appearances: 17
Perin, was first promoted to the first team as the third choice goalkeeper, being given the no. 88 jersey. After being sent out for two loan spells, first of which was to Serie B club Pandova and next to then newly promoted Pescara. Upon his return to Genoa, the Italian has managed to prove himself first team worthy at the club. Perin has started all 17 of Genoa’s games this season. He has managed to keep 5 clean sheets in the Serie A while letting a total of 20 goals past him. Perin did pick up two yellow cards in his 17 appearances, first of which was on the opening day of Genoa’s campaign against Inter followed by another yellow against Sampdoria. The 21 year old keeper has managed to cement his place in the first team line up, earning the no. 1 jersey. Perin also played in a 3rd round Coppa Italia match which was a goalless game that was decided by penalties in which Perin was at the losing end.
It’s hard enough for a young goalkeeper to get a run of games but Perrin has managed to establish himself. The guys above him in the list have caught the most attention, but Perrin has quietly gone on with his duties, not getting the recognition he deserves.
3. Manolo Gabbiadini ( ↓ 1 )
Age: 22 | Club: Sampdoria| Nationality: Italian | Position: Striker | Serie A Appearances: 15
Gabbiadini is another youngster that is currently co-owned by Juventus (the other party being Sampdoria). The Italian has been exposed to a fair amount of game time during his loan spells at Cittadella and Bologna. Once Atlanta’s 50% rights to the player had been bought by Sampdoria, the Italian moved to the Genoa based club in July 2013. Since his move to Sampdoria, Gabbiadini was a part of the club’s line up 15 times out of the 17 games that took place before the winter break. Out of these 15 times, he was in the starting 11 for all of them. Gabbiadini has scored 4 times in the Serie A so far, with goals against Bologna, Cagliari Calcio, Florenz and Cagliari Calcio once again. As for his disciplinary aspect, Gabbiadini has managed to gather 4 yellow cards resulting in a yellor card suspension for the final game before winter. His one appearance in the Coppa Italia saw him score a brace in the third round match against Benevento.
Gabbiadini caught our attention at the U-21 Euros (click here to read Player Reports from the tournament), and has been impressive since. He’s been a regular in a Sampdoria side looking to avoid another disaster this season. Expect him to make a real case for himself in the second-half of the season.
2. Domenico Berardi ( ↑ 8 )
Age: 19 | Club: Sassuolo (on loan from Juventus) | Nationality: Italian | Position: Striker | Serie A Appearances: 12
Berardi, who is currently on loan from Juventus at Sassuolo has managed a total of 15 appearances this season among the league, Coppa Italia and Campionato Primavera. In the 12 appearances that Berardi has made in the league, he was a part of the starting eleven a total of 11 times, making just the one appearance off the bench. Berardi was unable to be added to the line up or the team sheet for the first four games of the season due to suspension. Given the 12 appearances in the league, Berardi has managed an impressive 7 goals including a hattick in November’s game away at Sampdoria. Apart from this goal tally, Berardi has managed to provide 5 assists as well. Although this contribution to the goals has been massive, he has managed to pick up 4 yellow cards along the campaign so far, with an additional 2 more, one in each of the other two competitions. This resulted in him serving a suspension for which he had to sit out the game against Juventus. He has managed to score a goal in the Campionato Primavera against Sampdoria as well.
Berardi has come out of nowhere and surprised many with his performances. We’d like to think we discovered a gem with this talent, but he has even surpassed our expectations as you can see with the rise in places. He will only continue to grow as the season continues.
1. Jorginho ( ↑ 5 )
Age: 22 | Club: Hellas Verona | Nationality: Italian | Position: Midfielder | Serie A Appearances: 16
Jorginho had previously already cemented his place in the Hellas Verona starting line up and now it was up to him to improve on his promising performances. The Brazilian born Italian was a part of the club’s 17 matches a total of 16 times; the one odd missed game due to an illness. Out of these 16 times, Jorginho featured in each and every single game until now. From these 16 games, Jorginho managed a commendable 7 goals including a 4 match streak in which he scored 5 out of his 7 goals, inclusive of a brace against Parma. As for assists, the youngster has provided 4 assists (one of which was in the same game that he scored his brace i.e. against Parma). 2 of those assists came in the final game before the winter break in the 4-1 win against Lazio. As for the disciplinary aspect, Jorginho is 2 yellows away from a suspension.
Hellas Verona have been the surprise package of the season, challenging for a European place against all odds. Jorginho has arguably been their best performer, and it’s no surprise that he finds himself at the top of our list. Seen how he has performed so far, we expect him to remain at the top, come the end of the season.
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Young Serie A Talents
Stay tuned for the remaining Mid-Season Reports in this series as we assess progress of talents across Europes 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 ofcourse continue to track the progress of World talents in our brand new #TalentRadar feature.
Top 10 Premier League Talents: Mid Season Report
Top 10 La Liga Talents: Mid Season Report
Top 10 Ligue 1 Talents: Mid Season Report
Top 10 Bundesliga Talents: Mid Season Report
Razim Refai is a co-founder and editor of Outside of the Boot.
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