For all the information and queries regarding this feature, we recommend reading this document. Feel free to contact us if you have any issues regarding the list. 100 Best Young Players to Watch-Out for in 2014 | Goalkeepers (10 – 1)
10 ) Sondre Rossbach
Who is he? At just 17, Sondre Rossbach is the youngest keeper in the Norwegian Tippeligaen and a first choice with Odds BK. The Norwegian is in his first year of senior football and has also made appearances for the Norwegian U-21 side, two levels higher than his age group
Back in 2013: Sondre Rossbach started off 2013 rather frustratingly. While failing to get a regular run of games at lower levels, he made the jump up to the senior team but found himself sitting on the bench for much of the season. It was only in late September that Rossbach got a call-up to Odds’ first team. Before this the club had won just 1 game in 7 matches. Rossbach took over from the injured Andre Hansen for the rest of the season and Odds went on an incredible run towards the end of the season, winning 4 and losing just 1 in their last 7 games.
Rossbach was the Norwegian U-17 sides first choice keeper in 2013 and oversaw some memorable results against England and Netherlands, before being promoted to the U-19 side. Here he was in between the sticks when Norway defeated Germany 2-1. At just 17 he even played four games for the U-21 side, his third different International level in one calendar year.
Looking ahead to 2014: Sondre’s chance at first-team football arised due to an injury to the regular keeper but the hope is that the young 17-year-old can establish himself in the Tippeligaen before getting a move to a bigger league. It still may be premature to judge him or even include him in our list (he is the youngest among the entire 100), but no doubt he has a bright future given his experience already.
9) Andreas Leitner
Back in 2013: Young Leitner spent the first half of 2013 alternating between the bench and the reserves. He made a couple of appearances in late 2012 for the first-team but conceded 3 goals in each of his games. Leitner was again given a chance in the early part of the 13/14 season and made the first-team spot at Admira his own. After 9 consecutive games as the first choice keeper, Leitner was sent off in a game against Sturm Graz (their second red card of the game), and he has struggled to regain his spot ever since, with fellow 19-year-old, Manuel Kuttin, occuping the position now.
Andreas Leitner has played in every International level for Austria, even receiving a call-up to the U-21 side a few years back but is yet to make an appearance.
Looking ahead to 2014: Admira Wacker are currently struggling at the bottom of the Austrian Bundesliga table and look destined for relegation. The hope for Leitner is that he manages to create enough of an impression to stay in the top division or possibly earn a move elsewhere
8) Nikolaos Giannakapoulos
Back in 2013: As mentioned, the Greek youngster made his first senior appearance back in February and has never looked back. There was a brief period when Konstantinos Peristeridis displaced him from top spot again after young Giannakapoulos oversaw a run of 3 straight defeats. But he regained his spot later in the 12/13 season and has been the first choice ever since. Arguably his best performance came in the early part of his career when he kept a clean sheet against Greek giants, Panathanaikos. He repeated this feat the following season as Panionios beat Panathanaikos 3-0 with Nikolaos in goal.
Nikolaos Giannakapoulos was part of the Greek U-20 side that got knocked out of the U-2o World Cup in the Round of 16 to Uzbekistan in mid-2013. Despite being in the squad he never played a single game, in fact, he is yet to make an appearance for a Greek national side despite being called up to even the U-21s.
Looking ahead to 2014: Now that Nikolaos has established himself in the senior team, he has to look to take it to the next level. Panionios still struggle mid-table but the keepers’ personal goal will be to reach greater heights domestically and also possibly stake a claim for the U-21 national team.
7 ) Jan Oblak
Back in 2013: Jan Oblak spent the first part of 2013 on loan at Rio Ave, gaining some valuable first team experience in Portugal’s top division. During his time there he even experience a 6-1 defeat to his parent club. Nevertheless it was experience that he was looking for, making 28 league appearances in the 2012/13 season. He did however keep a clean sheet against Sporting CP in the domestic cup. He returned to Benfica for the 13/14 season but chances have been hard to come by with Artur Moraes established at the Estadio da Luz. Manager Jorge Jesus did give him an opportunity in the last two games of 2013, both victories with a clean sheet against Maritimo.
A big plus in 2013 for Oblak was with regards to International football. Despite not getting enough chances at the U-21 level, Oblak kept for Slovenia in a friendly against Turkey, his first international cap in which he kept a clean sheet. His next appearance was against Canada and another clean sheet followed.
Looking at 2014: Jan Oblak is one of the most talented keepers in World football. The only reason he finds himself low in this list is the fact that a first-team spot isn’t guaranteed for the youngster. Both we and Jan will be hoping he can give Moraes a run for his money in 2014.
6) Sean McDermott
Who is he? Sean McDermott is an Irishman and an ex-Arsenal youngster who is currently playing in Norway’s Tippiligaen with Sandnes Ulf. Not only is he one of the youngest, but also one of the most highly rated Irish keeper.
Back in 2013: The 2013 Norwegian season is already over and McDermott spent a big bulk of it in Sandnes’ first team as the club survived relegation. The Irish keeper made 25 appearances for Sandnes in the 2013 campaign, including some fantastic results such as a 2-1 victory over eventual champions Stromsgodset and a clean sheet away to title chasers Rosenborg. There were some poor results as well, including 7-0 and 6-1 losses, but it was a memorable year for the Norwegian born Irishman, who returned to the Scandinavian country over going to the Dutch Eredivisie.
McDermott has had a stop start International career, making a couple of U-21 appearances but failing to establish himself. He did keep a clean sheet for the Irish U-21s in a very impressive 3-0 victory over the talented Dutch side.
Looking to 2014: The realistic goal for McDermott would be to continue with his game and stake a more meaningful claim at the Irish U-21 squad. But if we were to be more ambitious, we’d say McDermott has a chance at making a run for the Irish National team who lack a reliable keeper. A move away from Norway could benefit the ex-Arsenal & Leeds youngster.
5) Loris Karius
Back in 2013: Loris Karius didn’t have as impressive a 2013 as some of the others on the list. Injury struck the youngster at a crucial moment in the season, as he failed to make any appearances in the latter part of the 12/13 campaign and early part of the 13/14 season. It was only in November 2013 that he was given his chance, keeping a clean sheet in his first game against Frankfurt. He has kept in all of Mainz’ matches from then till the winter break, losing just one game (to Dortmund) and earning impressive victories over the likes of Hamburg and even keeping a clean sheet against currently 3rd placed, Gladbach.
His only International appearance was in a friendly for the German U-20 team, coming on at half time and conceding one goal in a 2-1 loss to Poland.
Looking at 2014: Karius has shown that he has the confidence to play in the Bundesliga in the few appearances that he has made. The fact that he plays in one of the top leagues makes him a candidate to watch-out for in 2014. We hope that he is able to hold down his place in Mainz and follow in the foot steps of ter Stegen, Leno and Trapp as young first-team keepers in the Bundesliga.
4) Jack Butland
Back in 2013: Butland spent the early part of 2013 with Birmingham City in the Championship, helping them in their promotion push. They didn’t get through but Butland found himself in the Premier League with Stoke City. A frustrating time so far as he has played second fiddle to Asmir Begovic, being restricted to League Cup and Fa Cup starts. He was briefly loaned out to Barnsley in the Championship to keep touch with first-team football.
He has been called up to the senior England side without making any appearances. He is the first-choice keeper for the U-21 side, keeping 5 clean sheets out of 6 games in the U-21s Euro qualifying campaign which includes 5-0 and 9-0 victories. He was also the keeper when they beat Scotland 6-0 in a friendly.
Looking at 2014: Most recently, injuries to Begovic and Sorensen allowed Butland to make his first Premier League appearance, on New Year’s Day. It also means that Mark Hughes will be giving Butland a regular run of games as the youngsters’ personal ambition is to make it to England’s squad for the World Cup in Brazil. This push makes him 4th in our list of keepers.
3) Alphonse Areola
Who is he? PSG’s Alphonse Areola was born in the Philippines but has French nationality. He is currently on loan at RC Lens. Please note that Areola is the ONLY player in the entire 100 who is, at the time of writing, not playing for a top division side.
Back in 2013: Young Alphonse has spent most of 2013 in France’s 2nd division with RC Lens, gaining some valuable first-team experience. Lens are currently in a fantastic position to earn promotion to Ligue 1. He has played the entire 90 in 17 of Lens’ 18 games. The only game he didn’t feature in, Lens conceded 6 goals (with Rudy Riou as the keeper). Earlier in 2013, towards the end of the 12/13 campaign, Areola played 4 first-team games for PSG, not losing any of them and keeping a clean sheet against Lyon at the Stade de Gerland in a 1-0 victory.
His most valuable International contribution was with the U-20 side. Areola was the first choice keeper of the French side that won the U-20 World Cup in 2013 summer. The only game that the French lost was to the talented Spaniards.
Looking at 2014: The reason we’ve included Areola, despite him playing at a second division club, is because we expect him to be playing Ligue 1 football, one way or another, in the second half of 2014 and that would be Areola’s hopes as well. He’s a talented keeper, who needs a move away from PSG, albeit temporarily.
2) Oliver Zelenika
Who is he? Croatian champions, Dinamo Zagreb, have been dominating their domestic league for quite sometime. The current man in between the posts as they continue to do so, is 20-year-old Croat, Oliver Zelenika.
Back in 2013: A large part of Zelenika’s 2013 was spent in the Croatian second division with NK Rudes. It’s amazing that in the second half of the year he was playing first-team football for the defending Croatian champions. Besides dominating at home, Dinamo Zagreb had European competition to contend with as well. Zelenika got first-hand experience of the Champions League, albeit in three qualifying rounds as Zagreb were knocked out by Austria Vienna. Zelenika kept all of Dinamo’s Europa League games as well, another disappointing performance but priceless experience at such an early age.
We first heard of Zelenika at the U-20 World Cup, as Croatia topped their group and got knocked out in the Round of 16 to Chile. Oliver Zelenika was their first choice keeper for the tournament.
Looking at 2014: Zelenika will continue to improve as an individual as part of Dinamo Zagreb’s campaign as they look to win their 9th straight HNL title. It can be a great advantage for a youngster to be at the best clueb in his country at just 20. Oliver will be hoping he could grab some more attention and earn a call-up to Croatia’s 23-man World Cup squad.
1) Stefanos Kapino
Back in 2013: Kapino’s first significant experience in 2013 came on the last day of the 12/13 campaign as he made his debut in the Super League. He started the next season from where he left off, first-choice for Panathanaikos, a club chasing the Greek title and looking to stop Olympiakos. A huge responsibility for someone still in his teens. But Kapino has shown his immense quality this campaign, playing the full 90 minutes in Panathanaikos’ first 12 games before losing his place to the experienced Stefanos Kastolis.
Although he hasn’t played for the National team since 2011 (he made his senior team debut at 17), Kapino has regularly been called up for the Greek National Team. Kapino is another who we took note of at the U-20 World Cup. With Kapino in goal, Greece squeezed through their group but were knocked out in the Round of 16.
Looking at 2014: It isn’t entirely impossible that Kapino goes to the World Cup. With more experience in the next few months, he could realistically be considered for the first-team spot in Greece’s World Cup campaign. His talent and progress will only further attract attention towards Kapino and this makes him our #1 Keeper to watch-out for in 2014.
Stay tuned for the next few parts of this series.