Following the huge success of our 2014 list, we have compiled a list of the 100 Best Young Players to Watch in 2015 under our Talent Radar feature after careful evaluation and consultation. For more details on how we went about this and any other questions you may have, read these FAQs.
35. CORENTIN TOLISSO
FRANCE | OLYMPIQUE LYONNAIS | 20 | CENTRAL MIDFIELDER
The performances of young players in France this season have been extremely impressive and Corentin Tolisso is another example of a youngster stepping up and consistently delivering at the highest level.
Mini Analysis: The Lyon player started out as a right back, and that is still regarded as his primary position. However, Tolisso has now been employed in the midfield position, and has become more accustomed to helping Lyon in the heart of the pitch. Hubert Fournier has played the 20 year old both as a defensive midfielder shielding the back four, and as a central midfielder on the right side, helping link the defence with the attack. In the central midfielder role he has come to occupy, he dictates proceedings from the centre and has formed an impressive partnership with Maxime Gonalons. The Frenchman focuses more on the defensive side of the game as he knows what his primary job is. Standing at 5’11, he becomes a threat offensively at set pieces as well with his headers. He has scored crucial goals against Bordeaux and Reims this year. You can find a detailed Scout Report on him here.
Looking back: From the beginning of the 2013-14 season, Tolisso was regularly picked in the squad. But he started for Les Gones only in 2014, with his first one coming against Montpellier in March. A run of six consecutive games in the right back role, starting from the one against Saint-Étienne, caught everyone’s eyes as the youngster displayed understanding and skill beyond his years. The 20 year old has started 16 out of 17 games in the league this season, and is an important part of the impressive French side, which is closely competing with PSG and Marseille for the top spot. He has evidently become more mature on the pitch as well, and that is down to the fact that he has featured extensively for Lyon this year.
Write-up by Aakriti Mehrotra
34. AWER MABIL
AUSTRALIA | ADELAIDE UNITED | 19 | WINGER
Awer Mabil is quickly making a name for himself as one of the A-League’s most promising youth talents after putting in a string of outstanding performances for Adelaide United this season.
Mini-Analysis: Mabil is a pace demon, famously quick. In a game against Western Sydney Wanderers just a few short days ago, Mabil came off the bench against a 10-man Wanderers side and tore them to pieces with his direct running. However, like young most players that possess pace and dribbling as their finest attributes, Mabil needs to continue working on his finishing and composure. His two goal haul in seven matches this season would look far better if it were not for a few fluffed chances. He is raw, but Adelaide United are using him sparingly enough so that he will not burn out, but to great effect.
Looking back: This season’s performances have certainly been an improvement on last years’. Last season he had the same number of goals after 21 A-League appearances from the wing. But he had just turned 18 when he made his first Adelaide United appearance, and struggled against bigger, stronger defenders. He improved over the course of the season however, and begun to have more of an impact in the final third towards the back end of the season.
Expert Views: Tim Palmer of Australia Scout told us this about the youngster — “Awer Mabil is a blisteringly fast attacker with incredible acceleration, capable of playing on either flank. He’s also very clever in 1v1 situations, though his finishing leaves a little to be desired, though, and he’s become infamous for the number of open goal tap-ins he’s squandered.”
Write-up by Stephen Ganavas
33. EMRE CAN
GERMANY | LIVERPOOL | 20 | CENTRAL MIDFIELDER
Emre Can has shot up the popularity charts in 2014. Emerging from the Frankfurt youth ranks and ending up at Bayern (before leaving in 2013), he was looked upon as a golden jewel. After a brilliant season as the key cog in Leverkusen’s midfield, Liverpool met his release clause fee to the disdain of Bayern.
Mini-Analysis: Versatile would be an understatement – if you wanted a one word description for Can – for the young Turk, as his technical and physical abilities give him the ability to deputise for his team in various different positions on the field such as: left and right back, defensive midfield, central midfield, attacking midfield, left and right midfield… and he even played a game for Leverkusen at centre back (!) against Hamburg last season in a 2-1 loss. The predominant role he plays in is as an anchor in defensive midfield – alone in a Diamond, or supporting Allen/Gerrard/Henderson in a 4-2-3-1 – or he can be utilised as a shuttler in a 4-3-3 or the 4-4-2 Diamond. You can find a detailed Scout Report on him here.
He displays all the qualities to become an all-round football player. His ability to drive forward with the ball and take on players, subsequently becoming a one-man counter attack is vital in his playing style as a box-to-box midfielder. The sheer tenacity, determination and heart Can puts into his tackles and interceptions are a thing of beauty as he shows his guile in defence at the tender age of 20. Those qualities are marred by his lack of discipline – 14 yellow cards and 1 suspension due to an excess of yellow cards last season and his poor positioning during transition phases. Emre can easily get caught out high up the pitch, especially when playing as an anchor.
Looking back: 2014 was a great year for Can as he produced a solid season in Leverkusen’s midfield and earned a move to the Premier League, where his fierce, high tempo and physical game will be welcome. Chances have been hard to come by, but as the season progress, rotation becomes key and hopefully Can can make his mark.
Expert Talk: Paul Tomkins of The Tomkins Times told us this — “Emre Can appears to have it all to become a real midfield enforcer: the size and strength, as well as ability on the ball. Sometimes he looks quick, other times a bit sluggish, but once fully adapted to the Premier League he should become a regular for Liverpool. He’s possibly where Nemanja Matić was six years ago – not quite experienced enough for football at a top club, but full of potential.”
Write-up by Hamoudi Fayad
32. JEAN-PAUL BOËTIUS
NETHERLANDS | FEYENOORD | 20 | WINGER
Another prospect from the Feyenoord pool of young talent, Jean-Paul Boëtius is an exciting winger who made his debut in De Klassieker in October 2012, scoring a first half equalizer. He has since made nearly 60 appearances for the club and has established himself as a key first team player.
Mini-Analysis: Boëtius is blessed with great pace and technique, however unlike many young wingers, he is composed on the ball and has excellent anticipation and off the ball movement. Usually operating as an inverted winger on the left flank, Boëtius is able to cut inside the full back towards the penalty area on his stronger right foot, or use his improving left foot to go outside the full back. His crossing ability is developing and he is difficult to defend against due to his trickery and acceleration. Physically Boëtius could improve; he could benefit from more upper body strength and as such is fairly ineffective in the air, with there being occasions where he has been physically marked out of matches at key times. You can read a detailed Scout Report on Jean-Paul Boetius here.
Talent Radar accolades:
Looking back: Boëtius has made an impressive start to his Feyenoord career, despite the fact his breakthrough season was ended prematurely by a knee injury. This injury also ruled him out of the beginning of the 2013/14 campaign but he scored on his return and provided 10 goals and 9 assists from an inside forward position throughout the season. Boëtius’ blistering form did not go unnoticed as he was called up to the full National squad having represented the Dutch youth teams, and he made his debut in a friendly against France in March 2014. This year, the winger has featured heavily, cementing the left wing position as his own, appearing 22 so far in all competitions.
Expert Talk: Here’s what Michiel Jongsma of Benefoot.com told us — “When you debut with a goal in ‘De Klassieker’ things can’t much better. For Boetius however it was just the beginning. An intelligent dribbler, he instantly commanded a place in the Feyenoord team, making his debut for Oranje earlier in 2014 and only just missing out on a spot in the World Cup squad. After a poor start to 2014/15, Boetius is quickly finding his form again. One to watch for years to come.”
Write-up by James Hardwidge
31. JOAQUIN CORREA
ARGENTINA | ESTUDIANTES | 20 | ATTACKING MIDFIELDER
oth Geronimo Rulli and Jonathan Silva made the move to Europe from Estudiantes and Joaquin Correa looks like he could be the next diamond to be snapped up. One of the most eye catching and skillful players in Argentina, ‘Tucu’ is certainly one to get pulses racing.
Mini-Analysis: What immediately stands out is the repertoire of flicks and tricks that make Correa so dangerous. His lightning quick step overs and close control mean he’s a nightmare for defenders and loves to beat his man, which also results in winning many free kicks too. Physically he is impressive too and would suit the European game. Tall, quick both with or without the ball with good balance and burst of pace, Correa prefers to start on the left and cut in onto his favoured right. Perhaps one criticism is that he doesn’t score as many goals as he should but he has all the raw attributes to add the end product to his game. His wonder strike vs Penarol shows he certainly knows how to hit a ball so it should be a formality.
Looking back: It has been a solid start to Correa’s career and last season marked his proper breakthrough into the Estudiantes first team. 26 appearances – the majority of which were as a starter – as a teenager is a good return and Joaquin quickly became an important attacking player for an Estudiantes side battling for the title. Linked with a $7.5m move to Monaco in the summer, it is clear that a number of European sides are monitoring his progress keenly. However a move failed to materialise which was probably best for a player who though phenomenally talented is still quite raw. He has gained some continental experience with a run to the quarter finals of the Copa Sudamericana and has continued to be a regular for Estudiantes in the league so far this season, chipping in with two goals. The decision to stay in Argentina may prove all the more fruitful as Premier League champions Manchester City are the latest rumoured suitors.
Expert Talk: Paulo Freitas, Sky Sports correspondent and head researcher at Football Manager, told us this about Joaquin Correa — “Joaquín Correa is a tall technically gifted attacking midfielder with good speed, he can also play as a left winger. He is not a prolific goalscorer though. Despite his young age, he already starts often for Estudiantes, he has the talent to at least become a regular member of Argentina’s national team.”
Write-up by Tom Robinson
30. CARLOS MANÉ
PORTUGAL | SPORTING CP | 20 | WINGER
The latest alumnus in a long line of explosive wingers from the Alcochete Academy, Carlos Mané is growing and gaining more and more importance in the team after debuting last season, and he’s one of the figureheads of Sporting’s resurgence in the Portuguese football.
Mini-analysis: Born in Lisbon in 1994, Mané joined Sporting’s famous academy at the age of seven, going through the ranks like so many before him. But unlike the many, the youngster showed a potential last seen only in his current teammate Nani; a breed of explosive, mercurial winger that made the youth set up of the Leões so renowned. His quickness of feet, skill arsenal and direct approach make him a constant menace to opposition defenders. Mané is still very much a diamond in the rough, but a diamond nonetheless, and with the correct polishing can become a force to be reckoned with. With Nani very much owning one of the spots on the wings, it’s up to Mané to prove he has what it takes to grab the other side, and he’s increasingly showing he’s the man for the job.
Looking Back: He was already starting matches in the B team at the age of 18, and last season manager Leonardo Jardim called him up to the big league as part of a batch of young Portuguese talent making it in the senior green-and-white squad. He quickly electrified the crowd, showing everyone his great potential, and never looked back. He’s been a growing presence since, and new boss Marco Silva has been rewarding him with even more minutes, starting him even ahead of Carrillo, and the young gun has already had a taste of Champions League football, even scoring once against Maribor earlier in the season.
Write-up by Filipe Ribeiro
29. HUMAM TARIQ
IRAQ | AL-AHLI | 18 | ATTACKING MIDFIELDER
Touted as one of the finest talents to ever emerge from Iraq, Humam Tariq is an 18 year old attacking midfielder currently playing for UAE pro league side Al-Dhafra on loan from Dubai’s Al-Ahli FC.
Mini- Analysis: Think Angel Di Maria, then add a distinct ability to dictate play from the middle of the park and an impeccable vision for the through ball. Humam Tariq is an electric left-footed midfielder capable of playing across the attacking midfield positions. His preferred position is out on the left where he looks to wreak havoc on opposition defences, his mazy runs and unexpected little pieces of skill often leaving defenders in his traces. Not one to shy away from a shooting opportunity, Humam perfects the art of an outside of the boot shot cutting inside from the left flank. A skill that has served him well to overcome his apparent over-reliance on his left foot. Defensively, he is no pushover either, his ability to track back has endeared him to his coaches as well. You can find a detailed Scout Report on him here.
Looking Back: Having made his full international debut as a 16 year old, becoming the youngest ever player to don Iraq’s shirt, Humam already has over 20 caps. 2014 saw Humam earn a transfer to Dubai based Al-Ahli for a reported fee of $ 600,000. Subsequently he was loaned out to UAE league minnows Al-Dhafra to continue his development there closely monitored by Al-Ahli management.
Write-up by Wael Jabir
28. SERGI SAMPER
SPAIN | BARCELONA | 19 | CENTRAL MIDFIELDER
Sergi Samper is a 19 year old Spanish midfielder currently playing for FC Barcelona’s reserve team – Barcelona B. Born in the city of Barcelona, Samper joined the Catalan giants’ famed youth setup in 2001, aged 6, after a successful trial. And over the years he has played at every youth level team culminating in his debut this year for the FC Barcelona first team.
Mini-Analysis: Samper is a ball playing midfielder with immense potential. At just 19 years of age he has been compared in one aspect of his game or another to each member of the holy trinity of the Barcelona midfield i.e Xavi, Iniesta and Busquets. Which more than anything speaks about his versatility and extensive skill set that he possesses. It is yet another testament to his ability that he is not exactly like any of the three and brings quite another dimension to the midfield.
Looking back: Still a member of the Barcelona B team; at the start of the current season he was called to train with the first team as some of the senior members of the squad struggled with injuries. In the pre-season friendly against Leon he was one of the standout performers and assisted a Sandro goal, the few matches he played with the senior side he greatly impressed with his positioning and vision to find a pass. Luis Enrique handed Samper his debut against Apoel in the opening match of the Champions League campaign where he played the deepest of the midfield three and thoroughly impressed with his performance, showing no weaknesses in his game. This year he also made his debut for the Spain U-19 and U-21 sides.
Expert Talk: Bostjan Cernensek, manager of Barca Blaugranes, told us this about Sergi Samper — “Following the footsteps of Sergio Busquets, Samper has shown incredible confidence when on the ball and positional awareness when he’s not. His accurate passing and good vision are perfect for Barcelona’s style of play, but with Busquets and Javier Mascherano ahead of him, the youngsters will be forced to wait for his big break.”
Write-up by Wasi Manazir
27. KEKUTA MANNEH
GAMBIA | VANCOUVER WHITECAPS | 19 | WINGER
Kekuta Manneh burst onto the scene in 2013 with a hat-trick in Vancouver’s 4-1 win over the Sounders at Century Link Field, and has spent this past year in sharp pursuit of that calibre of performance. His electric pace is an enthralling facet of every game he features in, resonating much in the same way as a 100 metre sprinter at the Olympic Games. He is adored by supporters at BC Place and his first-half finish in the Whitecaps’ return to Seattle signalled the beginning of the club’s playoff push, representing a key difference maker once again when it really mattered.
Mini-Analysis: Over short distances there isn’t anyone currently plying their trade in Major League Soccer who can match Manneh for speed, even the likes of DeAndre Yedlin have suffered from his phenomenally quick movement in the past. He is still progressing and remains rather raw with the ball at his feet, however observers have witnessed clear growth as he’s matured, handling time spent on the bench with aplomb while impressing when presented with the opportunity to do so off of it. Kekuta is the epitome of flamboyancy, his step-overs at the death of Vancouver’s 2-0 victory over FC Dallas in October made Michel, a seasoned and highly regarded veteran, look helplessly amateur and this occurrence was by no means an isolated incident during 2014.
Looking back: The aforementioned winner in Seattle sticks out as the most significant high point of Manneh’s campaign, but on a larger scale it reflected his return to prominence over the Autumn months. His starts total more than doubled this year, rising from six to thirteen, and the focus opposition coaches afforded him in their preparation increased drastically; the ultimate compliment, arguably. Consequently, he has encountered more difficulties in his efforts to impact proceedings directly and that is mirrored by his inability to better his tally from last term. With that being said, this will contribute to his progression and put him in the good stead for the future, something fans should see signs of very soon. In addition, Manneh was listed in 12th place in MLS’ 24 Under 24 ranking.
Expert Talk: Kasey Shandow, writer with Total MLS, told us this — “After his career suffered a slight set back due to injuries in 2014, Manneh is poised to make a big impact in 2015. Vancouver suffered from a worrying lack of offence last campaign and a healthy Manneh will go a long way to improving this problem. His blazing speed will be a huge asset on the wing or as a late substitute.”
Write-up by James Bufton
26. ANWAR EL GHAZI
NETHERLANDS | AJAX | 19 | WINGER
After having travelled through the academies of Sparta and their fierce Rotterdam rivals, Fyeenoord, he ended up with the country’s most ssuccessful football club, Ajax Amsterdam. While the club has seen future football stars debut in their first team, one player who will hope to emulate them is Anwar El Ghazi, having made his first senior appearance mid-way through 2014..
Mini-Analysis: Blessed with raw pace, remarkable agility, and impressive close control, Anwar El Ghazi is the archetypal winger-cum-attacker. Equally comfortable on the right as he is on the left, the Dutch starlet has the ability to bypass defenders with ease. His unpredictability and directness make him a danger for any defense. El Ghazi, who is of Moroccan descent, always looks for space to get his shot away; with six goals so far in his debut season, he is proving to be a potent goal-scoring threat. As with any young attacker, decision making, selfishness, and wastefulness are the main weaknesses in his game, but these are kinks that can be ironed out with experience. You can find a detailed Scout Report on him here.
Looking back: The 19 year old was entrusted with a first team spot this season by Frank de Boer, and he burst on to the scene with an assist in his first league appearance, followed by a goal in each of the next two games. His subsequent performances haven’t lived up to the standards he set in his first few games, as the winger has been plagued by inconsistency. While he hasn’t been able to command a regular starting XI spot, El Ghazi has cemented his status as a member of the first team squad, even appearing in Champions League. His form picked up again in November with three goals in his last four league appearances, and the Dutchman is set to feature prominently in his debut first-team campaign.
Expert views: Elko Born, whose work can be found on The Blizzard, FourFourTwo, The Daily Telegraph, Mirror Football, ESPN FC etc, told us this about Anwar El Ghazi — “Manager Frank de Boer has Ajax playing a methodological, possession based style of play. According to some, that can get a little bit boring sometimes. Luckily, there’s Anwar El Ghazi. The youngster, who forced his way into the first team at the beginning of the season, has been providing Ajax with an unrivalled creative spark. He is an absolute joy to watch.”
Write-up by Rahul Natarajan
25. ARTURO GONZALEZ
MEXICO | ATLAS | 20 | WINGER
Arturo Gonzalez is 20 years old and is already being called Rey Arturo by fans of Atlas in Mexico. Also called Ponchito, the right winger has become an absolute menace to opposing defenses. He was a member of the 2011 U-17 World Cup Squad which came away champions. A pacey, skilled winger with a penchant for cutting onto his left foot from the right in a Robben-esque manner, he’s ripped his way into the top 100 Young Players to Watch.
Mini-Analysis: I don’t use the comparison to Robben lightly. Ponchito is a very skilled winger who is less likely to cross than shoot, because he is mainly left footed but plays on the right. His ability in the box is impressive for a winger and his ability to keep his composure and finish is vital to his side. He also has a decent head on his shoulders and isn’t afraid to get on the end of a cross to find the back of the net. The inside forward role suits him very well. On top of all of this, he can take free kicks as well. His ability to conjure up the spectacular makes him one to definitely watch this year.
Looking back: 2014 was a fantastic year for Ponchito. He has started to make more of an impact in the Atlas first team and finished the Liga MX Apertura having made 17 appearances and scoring 4 goals. Atlas benefited as a result, finishing the Apertura in 3rd place and setting themselves up for a potentially all-time great season in the league, especially given cross-town rivals Chivas’ recent struggles. Gonzalez also made his debut for the senior Mexican national team immediately following the 2014 World Cup. 2014 was strong and 2015 is looking like it could be better.
Expert Talk: Nayib Moran, producer of Mexican Soccer Show, told us this about Arturo Gonzalez — “Ponchito is one of the best midfielders in Liga MX, has a good left-foot, can score goals and give great passes. Has been in the National Team’s last two call-ups, which is a sign that he’s climbing up the ranks.”
Write-up by Phil Baki
24. SAUL NIGUEZ
SPAIN | ATLETICO MADRID | 20 | CENTRAL MIDFIELDER
Atletico’s last season La Liga success, which also marked the end of a decade-long Barcelona – Real Madrid duopoly reign, increased appetites in rojiblanco part of Madrid. But, to remain competitive while playing on multiple tracks, they need to have more than a few options in their team rotation. Saúl Ñíguez, Atletico’s young midfielder, is not only a rising star in Los Rojiblancos’ march to further glory, but also a player that is more than capable on coping with top demands required to find a place in the Spanish national side.
Mini-Analysis: Dubbed as “the next Busquets”, Ñíguez is most familiar with his sturdy defensive midfielder role, though he tends to be placed in the heart of the midfield as well. Well-known for his great tackling and sense for the game, Saúl is everything that you seek in a complete modern intercepting midfielder. Albeit his age, his physical presence on the pitch is extremely dominant. He is also showing signs of improvement when it comes to his poor discipline (last season he collected 14 yellow and one red card in 37 matches for Rayo, as opposed to only one yellow card in 14/15), meaning that he matures and focuses more when going into duels.
Looking back: After his more than succesful loan spell in Rayo Vallecano last season, Diego Simeone decided that Saúl Ñíguez has got what it takes to try and find himself a place in the first team this season. With Gabi and Thiago both not getting any younger, it’s not impossible for Saúl to squeeze one of them out already. Alongside eight appearances in La Liga this season followed by two goals, he also made the field in both Champions League and the two Supercopa games against Real Madrid. If last season in Rayo was his first real glance of senior football, Ñíguez is currently making a big step forward towards Atletico’s first XI.
Write-up by Juraj Vrdoljak
23. DERLIS GONZALEZ
PARAGUAY | FC BASEL | 20 | WINGER
Picked from the B team of Portuguese side Benfica, Derlis Gonzalez is another shrewd purchase in what is turning out to be a highly successful transfer model at Basel. The Paraguayan may have been forgotten into European obscurity, but the move to Basel and their consistent performances domestically and in Europe have brought the incredible ability of the youngster to the forefront.
Mini-Analysis: There’s a stereotype attached to attacking players from the South American continent which is still apt in the case of Derlis Gonzalez. Quick speed, fancy footwork and the tendency to show-boat a little more than what is required, the 20-year-old is an explosive player to watch, one you’d regret facing. In a Basel side that relies on high pressing up the pitch, has helped the youngster to develop his skills beyond just on the ball play and instill a level of intelligence that youngsters from his continent lack without the ball. The Swiss move has put a level of maturity and control to a rather raw talent, waiting to be coached the right way. You can find a detailed Scout Report on him here.
Looking back: The move to the Swiss Pro League has certainly been a fascinating turn of events for Derlis in 2014. On the books of Benfica but loaned to Club Guarani in Paraguay, the 20-year-old may have remained an unknown to most viewers (certainly us!), but a few months later the Paraguayan is rubbing shoulders with Cristiano Ronaldo and enjoying memorable nights at Anfield. The only way is up for the winger who is set to excite more enthusiasts in the next 365 days or so.
Write-up by Sami Faizullah
22. RUBEN NEVES
PORTUGAL | FC PORTO | 17 | CENTRAL MIDFIELDER
The teenager on everybody’s lips in Portugal’s start of the season is one of the most promising Portuguese midfielders of the past decade. The future looks bright but Rúben Neves’ quick rise to stardom may just as quickly be turned on its head, like so many before him.
Mini-Analysis: The industrious, Mozelos-born 17 year-old is the prototype of the modern day defensive midfielder. He can play both as lone anchorman and as the box-to-box help throughout the field, but it’s in the former that he gave us his best exhibitions in the stellar start of his career in the senior squad; it’s from that deeper position that his defensive work rate and positioning work best, but the youngster’s composure on the ball and vision give him that extra level so needed in the first phase of construction, particularly in a possession based outfit like FC Porto. His range and accuracy of passing link perfectly with those other qualities, allowing Neves to quickly find the best options around him. If he plays higher up, that quality of passing comes up even more with excellent through balls in the last third. You can find a detailed Scout Report on him here.
Looking back: Rúben Neves’ rise to stardom was almost as fortuitous as it was quick. At the start of the 2014-15 season, new boss Julen Lopetegui called Mikel Agu, a promising defensive midfielder from Porto’s B team, to the senior squad. Unfortunately for Mikel, an injury left him out for most of the season, which prompted the manager to reach for the young Neves, who had already been promoted from the under 19 team to fill Mikel’s in the B squad, and give him a spot in his main roster. Luckily, Neves made an impression like nothing in recent memory and quickly earned several starting spots even in Lopetegui’s much discussed rotation policy. His records for youngest Portuguese player to play in the Champions League as well as the youngest to score for FC Porto in the domestic league just help emphasize the promising rise to the spotlight that Neves has had.
Write-up by Filipe Ribeiro
21. GIORGIAN DE ARRASCAETA
URUGUAY | DEFENSOR SPORTING | 20 | ATTACKING MIDFIELDER
With only a population of around 3.3 million, Uruguay continues to produce a huge amount of footballing talent and Giorgian de Arrascaeta looks set to follow in that fine tradition. Having impressed at the 2013 U-20 World Cup, the classy playmaker had another stellar year, cementing his reputation as one of the most exciting talents still plying his trade in South America.
Mini-Analysis: A diminutive number 10, de Arrascaeta is best as the creative focal point of his side. Blessed with excellent vision, imagination, dribbling and passing ability, the Defensor Sporting man is capable of breaking down the most stubborn of defences with the eye of a needle pass. He also weighs in with his fair share of goals, having netted 20 times in around 70 games for los Tuertos. Though his lack of height means he isn’t great in the air, he makes up for it in bucketloads with sublime technique and the ability to find pockets of space. In short, de Arrascaeta is the kind of player who makes things happen, and more often than not with an artistry that makes him an absolute joy to watch.
Looking back: After his breakthrough with club and country last year, this year has seen de Arrascaeta not only become a regular for Defensor but already one of their key players. The youngster from Nuevo Berlin ended the 2013/14 season with 7 goals from 28 games in the league but it was in the Libertadores that he really shone, as the youthful Defensor side surprisingly reached the semi-finals. Sparkling displays against Brazilian champions Cruzeiro were a particular highlight. There were calls for the playmaker to be included in the Uruguay World Cup squad but he just missed out but he has been included for recent friendlies and made three appearances and looks to be slowly integrated into the setup. It was a surprise that he didn’t make a move to Europe in the summer but has not let that disrupt his game, scoring 6 goals in 11 games this term.
Expert Talk: Juan Arango of Al-Jazeera and Talk Sport, told us this — “His vision as well as technical capability make him a player to be doubly cautious with because of the plethora of opportunities he can generate near the opposing goal. He can challenge Nicolás Lodeiro and Gastón Ramírez for the starting spot between Luis Suárez and Edinson Cavani. Although, as he’s mentioned before, there’s still lots of work to be done before getting to that stage.”
Write-up by Tom Robinson