Our latest Talent Radar feature involves us listing out the Top 5 young performer of the month, divided between a goalkeeper, defender, midfielder, winger and forward.
5 Best Young Footballers
Goalkeeper | Loris Karius
With Heinz Muller’s injury, a perfect opportunity presented itself to Loris Karius to get a shot at the first-team; and the youngster has made a serious claim for the number one spot. Mainz sit comfortably in the top half of the table, well clear of relegation and a decent shot at the Europa League. Thomas Tuchel has done a fantastic job and in February, he was helped by a rock solid defence and a confident Loris Karius.
The 20-year-old German keeper has kept three clean sheets in four games for Tuchel’s side, with the most recent being an impressive 0-0 draw away to Schalke. Mainz fans have been pleasantly surprised by Karius and Mainz’ form as the Bundesliga once again boasts of another quality young keeper.
Loris Karius featured in our list of 100 Best Young Players to Watch-Out for in 2014, coming in at #5 in the list of goalkeepers. View the entire list here.
Defender | Joel Veltman
After starting off the season with some injury problems, Joel Veltman has become a regular with Ajax Amsterdam. He has started and finished 15 of Ajax’s last 16 Eredivisie games including playing each and every minute of their games in February. Despite dropping points against PEC Zwolle and Utrecht, the defending Dutch champions currently have a six point lead at the top and finished the month with two big wins over Heerenveen and AZ Alkmaar scoring seven and conceding none.
Veltman had particularly good games against Zwolle and Alkmaar. While defensively he did his fair bit, Veltman featured constantly in De Boer’s system which involves every move to start from the goalkeeper playing the ball out to his centre-backs. Veltman averaged 100+ passes in these games even topping it with a good 95% pass completion (although you don’t expect a defender to misplace his short pass to the midfielders). Going forward he wasn’t a threat but he makes the list due to his contribution to the side overall.
Midfielder | Tolga Cigerci
After getting into the side midway through the first-half of the season, an Achilles injury kept Cigerci out for the start of the year. He returned in February, rejuvenated, and impressed Bundesliga followers with his performances. Hertha Berlin won two of their four games, drawing another as their surprise run continues with their bid for European football next season. Both of Hertha’s February wins were away from home – against Hamburg and Stuttgart – and it was in these two games against the relegation strugglers that Cigerci impressed.
What was impressive about Cigerci’s two performances were the difference in roles which he played with equal efficiency. Against Hamburg he played a more withdraw game, playing deep in midfield. He performed like a true midfield general, making 4 interceptions, taking 4 shots, creating a goal and another chance. Against Stuttgart he was deployed further forward and again showed his universality in both phases of play. He made an impressive 6 interceptions as he closed down the opposition and again created 2 chances while having a go himself. Note that he made the most passes for his side as well, in both the games.
Winger | Jean-Paul Boetius
Feyernoord were unbeaten in February, winning two and drawing two as they continue to chase Champions League football and make an outside attempt at the title. Jean Paul-Boetius was the star man of the month, as he has been for much of the season. The 19-year-old scored three and set-up another in the four February games. He was particularly fantastic in the games against NEC Nijmegen and Twente.
Rather than a pure winger, Boetius plays more of a wide-forward’s role cutting inside and always looking to get involved. He’s not wasteful with his shots, but rather quite clinical for a young man. As and when called up, he puts in a defensive shift, which is where his winger tendencies stem from. When he isn’t attacking, he’ll contribute defensively. Against Twente he scored one and set up another while making 6 interceptions, and against NEC he scored twice from three shots on target, set-up another and made 2 tackles as well.
Jean-Paul Boetius featured in our list of 100 Best Young Players to Watch-Out for in 2014, coming in at #8 in the list of attackers. View the entire list here. Here is a detailed Scout Report on Jean-Paul Boetius.
Forward | Paco Alcacer
With the appointment of Juan Antonio Pizzi, Valencia’s fortunes have taken a positive turn as well with the side now having an outside chance of European football, something that looked highly unlikely earlier in the season. Part of this change has been helped by Paco Alcacer’s form. In February, Valencia were unbeaten and won three of their four games scoring 10 and conceding 3 in that time. Their wins included an impressive victory at the Nou Camp and a 5-0 hammering of Real Betis. Alcacer scored 4 goals in Valencia’s 4 games, even having an assist to his name.
Against Barcelona, Paco Alcacer scored what proved to be the winner in a 3-2 victory. It was his only shot of the game with Valencia largely pegged back. His superb performance against Betis which yielded a brace was subject of our Talent Radar feature, which you can read here. Most recently, as Valencia were heading for a shock loss against Granada at home, Paco Alcacer came on in the second half and scored within 11 minutes of doing so, before a late winner Vezo secured the three points.