#TalentRadar | Part of our Talent Radar feature involves looking ahead to the new season and informing readers of just who they should watch. Our lists across Europe’s Top 6 leagues of the Best Young Players (under 21) serves this purpose.
Before we jump into it, there are some important FAQs that will clarify readers on this feature.
What is Talent Radar? And who is ‘eligible’ under it? You can read this for details on what is Talent Radar and what we have planned in it for the 2014-15 season. Players that are eligible under this feature are those that were 21 years old and below on June 1st 2014. We’ve used this date to refer to ‘start of the season’ as it’s ideally when the previous season comes to an end.
On what basis has this list been made? This list is a combination of our opinion and prediction on who we think will be the best young players in the league in the 2014/15 season. So we have combined what we have seen, and what we expect to see, taking into account various factors such as ability, potential, playing time etc.
In what order is this list? Is it a countdown? No, this isn’t a Top 10 countdown, but instead just the 10 best young players in the league based on what we stated above. Players are listed in alphabetical order, and NOT a ranking basis.
What if a player transfers from the club? Or gets injured? If a player does transfer to another league after the list is published and before the transfer window closes, he will be removed and replaced by another. If he gets a long-term injury during the course of the season, then no update will take place.
How many players from one club are featured? We have tried to maintain maximum diversity in terms of clubs, so each club has a maximum of 2-3 representatives, no more.
How many leagues are being covered and how many parts does each league have? We will be covering the Top 6 European League (Premier League, Bundesliga, La Liga, Serie A, Ligue 1 & Eredivisie). Articles will be divided into two parts for each league, making information easier to take in.
Here we go!
Ricardo Kishna | Ajax Amsterdam
Who is he? Teenage winger at Ajax who only made his first-team debut late last season and made an immediate impact, scoring within 15 minutes of coming on. He missed only two games since then as Ajax won their 4th Eredivisie title, gaining popularity among Ajax faithful and convincing Frank de Boer of his quality.
Why him? While Ricardo Kishna definitely deserves his shot at the first-time on merit, the injury to popular youngster Viktor Fischer means he has no competition for the left-wing position and has the opportunity to make it his own until his team-mate remains on the sidelines. Though still very raw in terms of ability, Ajax and the Eredivisie in general follow the ‘experience makes perfect’ policy, either forcibly or by choice. They won’t waste any time grooming him, he’ll be thrown right in and will have the chance to showcase his talent.
What can we expect? Others around them have lost a few players while Ajax themselves have lost the important figure of Siem De Jong, the onus now is on the youngsters to rise in attack and combine. One should expect Kishna to be prominent in the final third, more in setting goals up than finishing himself.
Ryan Thomas | PEC Zwolle
Who is he? Young Kiwi Ryan Thomas had an average Eredivisie but showed glimpses of his ability on occasion. His most notable contribution came in the last game of the season as Zwolle against all odds overcame the mighty Ajax 5-1 in the KNVB Cup final with Thomas scoring a brace.
Why him? Admittedly, Thomas is possibly the weakest members of this list of 10 but the sky is the limit for his side Zwolle who have been pushing well above their weight. They enter European competition for the first time as well and may certainly prove to be the surprise package of the Dutch Eredivisie season. With wingers aplenty in the league, Ryan Thomas could be another one of those typical wide men cutting inside often and potentially growing into a striker.
What can we expect? Still rather inexperienced and not one who has really shown what he is capable of, Thomas has a lot to prove to viewers, us as well who hesitatingly include him in this list. But diversity is the winner here and we hope to see a youngster from a non-traditional powerhouse (both club and country) impress Talent Radar.
Terence Kongolo | Feyenoord
Who is he? Capable of playing both at left-back and in the centre of defence, Terence Kongolo is another one of those Eredivisie youngsters who became a regular feature in the second half of the season. His exploits then earned him a call-up to the Dutch World Cup squad, though he made just one minor appearance against Chile in the last group game.
Why him? Feyernoord have lost two of their key central defenders with Bruno Martins Indi joining Porto, and Stefan De Vrij signing for Lazio. Both those individuals were key to Feyernoord, as shown by their prominent place in the Dutch squad as well. In their absence, players like Kongolo will need to step-up to the plate. Though it is likely that he will play on the left more often, he can expect regular shifts into central defence too.
What can we expect from him? It’s that versatility that makes Kongolo stand out and possibly what prompted Van Gaal to call him up for his World Cup team, in place of others. We can expect similar traits in his general game as well, an attacking option, but crucially able to slot in well in a defensive phase.
Valeri Qazaishvili | Vitesse Arnhem
Who is he? Georgian part of the Vitesse side that looked capable of actually ending Ajax’ dominance and claiming a maiden Eredivisie side, Qazaishvili is the one youngster among many that stood out and impressed viewers.
Why him? The 21-year-old Qazaishvili is capable of playing anywhere across the attack having turned out on either wing, in the hole and even as the centre-forward last season. Personal opinion is that he’s best suited for a central attacking role in midfield. Vitesse’s “dependence” on their relationship with Chelsea and the loanees that come in from the English club has been questioned and widely discussed. And although they do still have players from there, they’ve crucially had Lucas Piazon & Christian Atsu return to their parent club. With a clear weakening of quality in attack, Qazaishvili will be relied on far greater this season.
What can we expect? It’s perfectly reasonable to think that we may just see Qazaishvili take his performance levels to the next stage as he now plays a more prominent role in the side. It will be interesting to see if he is used as a striker, as that too could further develop his game, but a deeper role from where he can influence play better would be ideal.
Zakaria Bakkali | PSV Eindhoven
Who is he? At the time of writing, apparently against all odds, he’s still at PSV Eindhoven. Bakkali’s a permanent fixation in the rumour mills after being linked with the likes of Atletico Madrid, Liverpool & Lille.
Why him? A gifted winger with quick pace and the ability to fit in on either flank, Bakkali is arguably one of the brightest young individuals in World football and still only 18 years old. Comparisons have been made but Bakkali is far from the finished product. His potential though is incredible. Though linked with top clubs, one should hope he sticks to PSV for the foreseeable future, a side which currnetly relies largely on it’s young contingent, developing them into mature individuals.
MORE READING | Detailed Scout Report on Zakaria Bakkali.
What can we expect? Provided he stays in the Eredivisie, Bakkali can have a huge impact this season, further enhancing his reputation. He has the qualities, there is no reason why he can’t become the next big thing in the sport. But we must remember he is still only 18 and yet to be moulded into what he is capable of. Pressure and expectations should be kept minimal.
Written by Sami Faizullah. He is the Chief Editor of this website. Follow him on Twitter @SamiFaizullah