Our Talent Radar Player Rankings, along-with our Talent Radar Team of the Week documents the progress of youngsters across Europe, with those featuring in these regular pieces, eventually being recognized 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.
After another minor break, the Talent Radar Player Rankings return, with the men in the middle of the park the focus of our attentions. A lot has changed since the last time the rankings were out, Borussia Dortmund’s fall was only just starting, Liverpool were still in the Champions League and the Italian Serie A race actually looked interesting. While the rankings itself saw Marco Verratti on top, with a couple of challengers looking to dethrone him. Here’s who continue to impress us as we move into the business end of the football season.
10. HAKIM ZIYECH // 21 // Twente // Netherlands // 8↓
Despite continuing to fall in the rankings, Hakim Ziyech remains one of those Eredivisie based midfielders who has gone below the radar with some of the more familiar names publicized. The Dutchman had a good start to the campaign, either scoring or assisting in every other game but developed a lean streak after Match Day 13. The FC Twente attacking midfielder has been at the wrong end of results in recent weeks, despite chipping in the odd goal and assist. While we wouldn’t point fingers and criticize his performances, it is fair to say that he has been outdone by other young players who play in the same position as him.
9. HAKAN CALHANOGLU // 21 // Leverkusen // Turkey // 4↓
Dropping off a couple of ranks since our last player rankings, Calhanoglu has eased off the pace since the turn of the year. With the return of the Bundesliga, the team has had quite a big on their plate; keeping up in the race for Europe as well as competing in it. A busy period for the club, Roger Schmidt sees Calhanoglu as an important part of the team during this time. Schmidt’s faith in him seemed like good judgment when the youngster scored an all important goal against Atletico in the Champions League Round of 16.
8. LUCAS MOURA // 22 // PSG // Brazil // new entrant
A new entry in our player rankings, Lucas Moura has been a regular feature in PSG’s attempt to retain the Ligue 1 title this year. With consistent performances through the season, Lucas has risen up the Talent Radar rankings steadily and will be required to keep up the pace as the capital club have started to gather some momentum in their quest to topple Lyon from the top of the table. Its just the beginning of March and yet, Lucas has featured for the French champions 37 times this season.
7. GOTZE // 22 // Bayern Munich // Germany // 2↓
World Cup medal in his pocket, the German has stepped up two ranks in our latest rankings. The youngster has already pitched in with 14 goals and 5 assists this season in all competitions. Despite having a quiet couple of months since the turn of the year in a purely statistical sense, Gotze has been a big part of Pep Guardiola’s style of tactical play. 2 goals and an assist in the 8-0 thrashing against Hamburg broke his barren spell and with the Champions League games in the coming months gaining further importance, the boy wonder will definitely be tested to see if he lives up to his price tag.
6. PAUL POGBA // 21 // Juventus // France // new entrant
The Frenchman has played a significant role in Juventus’ campaign this season. Pogba has had multiple midfield partners this season and has had no trouble whatsoever delivering results time after time, no matter who lined up beside him. 8 goals and 6 assists so far this season, his performances has bumped him up in our rankings to 6th place as a new entry in the top ten. The Serie A champions may have sufficient breathing room in the league but their European quest has been far from convincing. Pogba provided an assist in their Round of 16 home win against Dortmund and should they advance to the next round, the Frenchman will be under the microscope to grind out performances to take Juventus even further in the tournament.
5. RAHEEM STERLING // 20 // Liverpool // England // 10↑
Pressure has never been more on the boy as the red half of Merseyside looked to him to deliver during the absence of Daniel Sturridge and his rise in our ranking do deliver a sound judgement of that. Liverpool’s recent form has been largely helped by the youngster who has been incrementing his goal and assist tally every passing week, which now stands at 10 goals and 8 assists for the season. With Sturridge back and fit again, the partnership with Sterling will be one that England will have its eyes fixed on as Liverpool cast their attempt to make it to the Champions League for a second straight year.
4. DAVY KLAASSEN // 22 // Ajax // The Netherlands // 6↑
Ajax may have significantly fallen behind in the Eredivisie but one of many youngsters who has performed individually well is Davy Klaassen who has risen to fourth place in our midfield rankings. Missing just two games all season, the youngster has produced some splendid performances this campaign. 7 goals and 11 assists across all competitions shows how valuable he is to Ajax as well as an individual to have in your team. Along with Schone and the Ajax forwards, Klaassen’s quality has often been highlighted owing, not exclusively, to the fortune of players of the same wavelength around him.
3. NABIL FEKIR // 21 // Olimpique Lyonnais // France // 7↑
Ligue 1 has provided us with an exciting race for the title, a pleasant surprise for all. The current league leaders, Lyon have had an excellent season so far and are currently the side with most goals scored (51) will much thanks to the contribution of Nabil Fekir. The massively talented youngster has been a player Lyon have largely relied on this season and has delivered time after time. 11 goals and 9 assists this season has seen him rise up our rankings to the third spot. His ascent in our rankings as well as Lyon’s to the top of Ligue 1 is far from a coincidence.
2. GIANELLI IMBULA // 22 // Marsielle // France // 3↑
While this top 10 list may be predominantly of attack minded midfielders, we stress on the value a defensive midfielder is to a team. Imbula has taken a step closer to the top of the rankings, moving in to second position now. Marseille make the Ligue 1 title race a three way battle and while they may come all guns blazing with the second highest goal tally in the league (1 shy of Lyon), the defensive duties of Imbula have been a massive contribution to the results Marseille have obtained until now. Playing every game of the season so far, Imbula has a very good shout as one of the best young defensive midfielders currently out there.
1. MARCO VERRATTI // 22 // PSG // Italy // no change
PSG many have had their ups and downs this season but one player who has been the epitome of consistency in their squad is Marco Verratti. The Italian is unchanged in his position at the helm of our midfield rankings and if PSG have their intentions focused on retaining the Ligue 1 title, Verratti is bound to play a significant role in their attempt. The composure this lad possesses is clearly well beyond his years. Verratti has passed many a stern test in the career so far (despite being only 22) but the game against Chelsea would be one of those nights he will need to have the game of his life.
Here’s what the rankings currently look like:
Razim Refai is a co-founder and editor of Outside of the Boot.
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