Our Talent Radar Player Rankings, along-with our Talent Radar Team of the Week documents the progress of youngsters across Europe’s top six leagues, with those featuring in these regular pieces, eventually being recognised in our end of season Talent Radar Young Player Awards and 100 Best Young Players to Watch list. Read this document for all your queries on Talent Radar and explanation of the features under it.
10. ARKADIUSZ MILIK // 20 // Ajax (on loan from Leverkusen // Poland // new entrarnt
His signing raised a couple of eyebrows but Arkadiusz Milik has proved doubters wrong, managing to find his feet in the Dutch Eredivisie more efficiently and quickly than critics imagined. One of three new entrants into the ranking, Milik made his second Talent Radar Team of the Week appearance since the previous issue having scored a brace in a win over Cambuur.
A stunning free-kick followed in midweek for his national side Poland which will do his confidence no harm. The 20 year old has taken the step up from an inexperienced young striker to potential league winner and Champions League performer quite well in Amsterdam, with the early signs being of things to come.
9. DIVOCK ORIGI // 19 // Lille (on loan from Liverpool) // Belgium // —
Although for many Liverpool supporters Divock Origi has become the solution to all their problems, his on-field play has been rather disappointing. Though retaining a spot in the top 10 of the best young forwards across Europe, Origi has been far from convincing and most often guilty of going invisible in games, a problem shadowed by his ability to score out of nothing (and literally do nothing before/after) and often from the spot.
But with the pressure and focus building on the teenager, it’s important he keeps it together with expectations from Ligue 1 and the Premier League only expected to rise. He handled the World Cup pressure well, but this is a whole different level of the beautiful game.
8. HEUNG-MIN SON // 22 // Leverkusen // Korea Republic // new entrant
Asia’s brightest young star makes his first appearance in the Talent Radar Top 10 Young Forwards rankings after a good spell of performances aided by consistency. Two of his most notable games recently include the 3-3 draw with Stuttgart where Son created all three goals for his side in a game they should have won. That performance was followed by an impressive display away to Zenit with the German side winning 2-1.
The Korean is often deployed in a wide capacity and made to cut inside and make runs into the box. His combination play with his fellow attackers has been excellent but his composure on the ball shows how far he’s come since his Bundesliga debut.
7. ANWAR EL-GHAZI // 19 // Ajax // Netherlands // 5 ↓
After an initially explosive start to the season, El Ghazi’s influence on the defending Eredivisie champions began fading away as the 19-year-old struggled to live up to the hype he created by exploding onto the first team scene. Manager Frank de Boer does rate the youngster highly, but doesn’t seem to trust him enough yet for regular appearances in the starting XI. Having said that, the club are now on a run of three straight wins, all of which saw El Ghazi start and either score or assist in each of those games.
The recent game against Cambuur again showed what the youngster is capable of, managing to make runs from out wide in behind the defence using his pace and control to perfection. More consistency is crucial to ensure he remains in the Top 10 as the last two editions of the Top 10 Young Forwards rankings has seen him in free fall, from a high of 2nd place in the beginning of September.
6. PAULO DYBALA // 21 // Palermo // Argentina // new entrant
It’s been a strange season for Palermo; while they’re doing alright in a mid-table position, the fact that no manager has been sacked yet has surprised many given owner Maurizio Zamparini’s history. And while most predicted the side to struggle following Abel Hernandez’ sale in the summer, the side have done well to compensate with young strikers Andrea Belotti and particularly, Paulo Dybala.
The 21-year-old has thus far started every game for the Serie A side and since the last issue of the rankings, racked up a return of 3 goals in 5 games that has seen the side pick up 10 points including an away win at the San Siro against Milan. The Argentine is a throwback on pure goal-scorers of previous errors, and an art thought to be lost in modern football.
5. MAURO ICARDI // 21 // Inter Milan // Argentina // 10 ↑
Controversy never seems to evade Icardi. After the public dispute with ex-team mate Maxi Lopez, his wife Wanda Nara and their children, the 21-year-old has stomped up controversy again questioning the home support and their boos recently. But for all his cons off the field, Mauro Icardi is quite an exceptional footballer on it. He’s by far been the stand-out performer at Inter, along with fellow youngster Mateo Kovacic, at a struggling Inter side that recently sacked manager Walter Mazzarri.
Mauro Icardi has needed stability in terms of a coach and having Roberto Mancini in charge (a forward in his day) could be just the figure to take him further. With a return of 7 Serie A goals, the youngster is one behind top spot, making him one of the most prolific strikers in the league with the expectation that he will only grow further.
4. PAUL-GEORGES NTEP // 22 // Stade Rennais // France // —
I’ve personally been impressed with Paul-Georges Ntep to a reasonable level, but what completely sold me to his incredible ability was the game against Lille. Both his assists were a thing of beauty, epitomising the type of player he is. The confidence to play the ball past an opponent and trust his own pace to recover it is remarkable, and to manage a cross of that perfection is truly something spectacular.
Though Ntep has been deployed in a wide capacity as opposed to a pure forward, his tendency to influence the attacking part of play warrants a place in this category as opposed to the midfield. Though all games haven’t been as spectacular, he’s certainly proving to be a quality individual in Ligue 1 but one that has to ensure consistency given he’s at the age where ‘potential’ isn’t touted anymore.
3. SAIDO BERAHINO // 21 // West Bromwich Albion // England // —
Saido Berahino is at that stage of his career where the fact he’s performing so well, may be his downfall. He’s currently only behind big money signings Alexis Sanchez, Sergio Aguero and Diego Costa in the Premier League scoring charts, and the fact that he’s English will only act as a catalyst in the media to a) raise expectations b) expect regular England appearances and c) force a move to a bigger club. But the reason Saido is maintaining his position in 3rd place in the Top 10 Young Forwards rankings, is because of the club he is at and the lack of pressure going with it thus far.
Berahino can best be described as pure technical skill, one that’ll surprise you with his strength and who’s vastly complemented by his composure on the ball. He has thus far played nearly every minute of every game for West Brom, a positive to see but the risk of over-playing is always looming.
2. PACO ALCACER // 21 // Valencia // Spain // 1 ↓
The young Spaniard has been having an incredible season, carrying on from the previous campaign. After successfully making the Spanish senior side and scoring, the Valencia striker is seen as the next big striker that Spanish football has lacked since the days of Raul, David Villa and Fernando Torres (not so long ago) while Diego Costa struggles to live up to expectations.
Another one in that breed of pure goal-scorers, Paco Alcacer is your dictionary definition of a poacher. In a world of tricks, step overs and backheels, it’s a welcoming change to see a youngster sticking to the traditions of a goal-scorer. But after a run of 7 games that saw him score 4 and create 4, the 21-year-old has gone on a barren run with nothing in the last four games that sees him relinquish top spot.
1. MEMPHIS DEPAY // 20 // PSV Eindhoven // Netherlands // 2 ↑
The Dutch international started the season with three successive Talent Radar Team of the Week appearances, establishing himself in top spot in the Talent Radar Player Rankings and making it unlikely to be displaced. Sadly, a groin injury kept him out for weeks and saw him drop a place into 2nd as a result.
But having now returned, Depay has picked up from where he left-off. A remarkable return of 13 goals and 12 assists this season, despite missing over a month of football tells you just how incredible this youngster has been. His exploits have seen PSV maintain a gap of 4 points atop the Eredivisie standings while he also seems to be holding an important role in the Dutch national team as they try to prepare for life beyond Arjen Robben.
TALENT RADAR PLAYER RANKINGS → Goalkeepers // Defenders // Midfielders
Written by Sami Faizullah