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 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.
Having conducted this feature (with a fairly irregular frequency) throughout the season, this latest update on the Talent Radar Player Rankings will be the final one for the season before we announce the recipients of the coveted Talent Radar Young Player Awards, with these rankings and our regular Team of the Week series serving the purpose of transparency for our eventual award winners. Last season Thibaut Courtois was named as the best young goalkeeper of the season, as he was part of an unbelievably impressive Atletico Madrid side.
The following five are the leading contenders for the 2014/15 version of the award having impressed consistently throughout the season.
5. NICOLA LEALI // 22 // Cesena (on loan from Juventus) // Italy // no change
‘The replacement for Gianluigi Buffon’ is a fairly common thrown around term in Italian circles as both Juventus and the national team look to replace arguably the greatest keeper of the modern era. And while behind the scenes management look far and wide, a youngster closer to home has been making impressive strides.
Nicola Leali, having played for four different clubs prior to his 22nd birthday, has taken the chance to impress his parent club while on loan at Cesena. Though far from a keeper who a side with Juventus’ ambitions will look to put regularly in between the posts, Leali has done his chances no harm. A total of 75 saves in the Italian Serie A (at the time of writing) puts him in 3rd position in the league, a full eleven spots above Gigi, though the stats may be skewed as a result of a noticeable superiority in defence at the league leaders. A fairly reliable shot stopper, Leali still lacks in his all-round goalkeeping ability, with a clear inexperience in organising his defenece.
The Italian broke into the Top 5 of these rankings in the previous issue, back in January. Though still a way off from rising beyond the four above him, the 22-year-old has done enough to maintain his position in fifth spot.
4. ALPHONSE AREOLA // 22 // Bastia (on loan from PSG) // France // 3 ↓
Like the man before him, Bastia’s Alphonse Areola is looking to impress his parent club while experiencing regular first-team action in the country’s top division. Having impressed with RC Lens the previous season, Areola’s growth has only continued this season.
The 22 year-old was faced with a tricky situation a week ago, as he walked onto the Stade de France pitch, for arguably the biggest game of his career. Areola was in Bastia colours as he faced his parent club in the Coupe de la Ligue final, a match with a scoreline that put the loanees’ club in its place. The youngster’s confidence has never been in doubt, often considered the most vital aspect in a keeper’s play, having saved two of the six penalties he faced in the league this season.
After an impressive start to the Talent Radar Player Rankings that saw him top the opening two editions of the Goalkeepers’ list, he has dropped down the pace as others have taken aim and surpassed the Bastia man. Nonetheless, Areola has certainly done enough to convince clubs of more regular first team action in Ligue 1, before finally being ready for a bigger step-up.
3. MATTIA PERIN // 22 // Genoa // Italy // 2 ↓
Despite the references to Nicola Leali, Mattia Perin can perhaps be the true title owner of “potential Buffon replacement”. Long touted as the man to take the place of the Italian legend both for club and country, it’s easy to forget that Perin is still only 22. The 22 year-old has been involved with the first-team for five years now.
More Talent Radar Player Rankings –> Defenders // Midfielders // Forwards
Having said that, given the experience-advantage the Italian possesses over the others, he has been a bit of a disappointment this season, never topping our Player Rankings and not warranting a place at the top often enough. But the Genoa man has a strong hand, often getting the ball under control post the initial save. With an evident ability to do well in one-on-one situations, the experience clearly does tell. It’s just the inconsistency that prevents his development further.
Perin rose to as high as 2nd place in the rankings, but looked unlikely in securing the number one position. Though still well above those below him, his performances have been lacking when compared to the general expectation of his abilities.
2. TIMO HORN // 21 // Koln // Germany // 4 ↑
The young German keeper has been a very consistent performer over the course of the season. He has been a part of the top 5 Young Keepers Talent Radar list throughout the season. The German has been a major reason for Koln staying in and around mid table this season.
He had a great start to the season, but slowed down the middle. That saw him drop in our Player Rankings, but some impressive showings in the last couple of months mean that once again, Horn is moving up the rankings. The young man between the sticks performed very well in the goalless draw against Dortmund, and has kept another clean sheet as well.
The German keeper has been a fine performer for his team all season. His consistency has been key to his high ratings, and if he can improve his performances, there’s no reason why he can’t claim top spot in the rankings at the end of the season.
1. LORIS KARIUS // 21 // FSV Mainz // Germany // no change
Loris Karius has been part of this feature consistently over the season, and has finished at the top of the Talent Radar rankings for the third edition in a row now. The impressive keeper has kept 3 clean sheets since the last edition of these rankings was released.
The keeper is a chip off the old block, with strong shot stopping skills, and good organisational abilities. He has been a propelling force for FSV Mainz as they’ve made a good spot in mid table for themselves. Karius has worked hard through the season, and continue the tradition of excellent young German keepers. Die Nationalmanschaft have a lot of options to pick from, and Karius will soon be a reliable one.
Karius should be able to maintain his spot in the rankings between now and the end of the season, barring a few poor performances. It will be a well deserved award too, if he does manage to win it.