Talent Radar: Koke’s exceptional performance and Watford’s incredible transfer coup

Talent Radar is our latest feature, you can know more about it here. Updates and Performance Report on young talents is one of it’s features as we track the progress of their early careers.

KokeMerkel

Koke’s performance helps Atletico keep pace at the top

Koke has been attracting attention of the top clubs from across Europe, week in and week out he shows exactly why. He was also this week named as the La Liga’s best youngster in this list published by Inside Spanish Football.

Atletico Madrid were away at Malaga on the weekend in a game that would always prove to be difficult to call. A close game was expected between the two sides, and it proved to be just that, a solitary goal separating the two sides. The result saw Atletico, albeit temporarily, move to the top of La Liga with Koke proving to be the winner with a goal, 20 minutes from time.

His performance against Malaga is an epitome of his overall ability, he’s a complete midfielder. Besides scoring the goal, Koke was exceptional throughout the game contributing in both defensive and attacking areas.

His goal itself came from a late run that he made into the box. After some good work from David Villa down the left which resulted in a neat through ball to Adrian, Koke found himself running onto the path of a lose ball after Willy Caballero saved from Adrian’s initial shot. A well placed shot from the centre of the area.

Koke was positioned in the center of midfield, beside Tiago, both of whom are generally more defensive minded. Playing alongside a similar player automatically requires one to develop a more attacking mentality and Koke took the initiative against Malaga. He made runs into the box, and further applied Atletico’s pressing strategy. Koke was seen joining in attacks whenever possible as well, one of which led to a goal.

He took 2 shots, both of which were on target. Interestingly, his 2 shots on target was the highest on the pitch among all the players (the game never really got going). The midfielder even created 2 goal scoring opportunities, which again, was more than the other players on the field. But as is with Koke, his best comes out in the defensive part of the game.

The youngster made an impressive 6 tackles, most of which were down Malaga’s left flank as Atletico looked to put an end to Samuel Garcia’s threat down the flank. Besides making the most tackles, Koke even played the most amount of passes (62) at a decent 82% completion rate. A good solid midfielders’ performance from the youngster who’s going to be 22 in two days time.

For a more detailed report on the midfielder, read this Scout Report on Koke.

Watford pull off an incredible coup

Watford’s smart working of the loan system has been well documented. Ever since the Pozzo’s took over the English side, they have taken advantage of the system and have seen some top talents come in on loan from the other Pozzo owned clubs, Udinese and Granada. You can read more about the Pozzo’s at Watford in this piece.

But this past week, Watford pulled off arguably their best transfer coup of recent times. Two new players will be available for new manager, Giuseppe Sannino. With Watford struggling in mid-table in the Championship, recreating their run last season into the play-offs seems unlikely. But Sannino will have the help of a Sweden International striker and a young German U-21 player who has experience in the Champions League with an Italian giant. Pretty amazing huh?

The young German in question is one Alexander Merkel. The Kazakhstan born central midfielder is still only 21 years old, but has made a fair amount of appearances in the Serie A and the Champions League.

He made a couple of substitute appearances while at Milan, both domestically in Italy and in Europe’s grandest stage. It was here that he earned his first experience of football in England, coming on as a substitute against Tottenham Hotspur.

He was later transferred to Genoa and put in some impressive performances in the few chances he got at the Italian club. He made 3 assists during his first season there, including setting-up back-to-back goals in games against Juventus (which earned them a draw) and Roma (a 2-0 victory). In fact against Roma, he set up an 89th minute winner for Kucka. The following season he scored his first goal on the opening day of the season; Genoa’s first goal of the season. But despite appearances, he failed to establish himself at the club and moved to Udinese in January 2013.

The Italian clubs are now looking for a larger emphasis on young talents, Inter & Roma being the prime examples, thus having proven youth players is the new strategy for many of Serie A’s clubs. Chelsea have done well with their partnership with Eredivisie side Vitesse, and Udinese are the leaders for a similar strategy it Italy.

Now at Udinese, Merkel is yet to make a big impact having not made a single appearance this season. A move for regular first-team football seems apt for the talented young midfielder. One can expect him to be thrown right into the first-team. Despite his young age, Merkel will be bringing a lot of experience to Vicarage Road. Football League, beware!

We will soon be publishing a list of the Best Young Players to Watch-Out for int 2014 (Under-20). We recommend reading this to better understand how we created the list, criteria used etc.

Sami Faizullah

Sami Faizullah

Co-founder and Chief Editor here. Obsessed with tactics. Keen follower of young players. Creator of #TalentRadar. Appeared in A Football Report's list of "Best in Football Writing 2012".
Sami Faizullah