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As club football at winds up in France, we look back at some of the best young players that have stood out this season. Amongst the many that have impressed, we pick out league’s XI best young performers to create the U-22 Ligue 1 Team of the Year. You can read this to know more about Talent Radar to see who is eligible for this player tracking feature.
PSG have emerged as a force to be reckoned with in European football on the back of some impressive spending power but one would hope that the talented youngsters at the club are given opportunities, youngsters such as Alphonse Areola. The 22 year-old ‘keeper has spent the season on loan to Bastia and has certainly impressed. Whether his next move would be to go out on loan once again or stay at the capital club and fight for the no. 1 spot remains to be seen. Regardless, Areola is definitely one to watch for the future.
Monaco have been known for their big money moves in the recent past, but one of their most solid performers this season has been Fabinho, a player who hasn’t really shattered the bank. The Brazilian was on loan at the Principality club until a few days ago, and the move to make his position on the roster permanent comes as no surprise. Fabinho isn’t spectacular like some of his compatriots, but offers a quiet assurance and consistency, which is what some of the best full backs do. His versatility is also an asset, as he can also step into the middle of the park.
For someone so young, it’s amazing that Marquinhos is now finishing his second season as a regular for PSG, a top club in France, and Europe too. He was a big money signing when he arrived, but has lived up to the hype, with impressive displays. Marquinhos is nominally the back up to David Luiz and Silva, but has been deployed at right back too, from time to time. Astonishingly, this hasn’t affected him too greatly, as he’s put in equally solid performances from the wider position. If he can keep this consistency going, the world is at his feet really.
Led by a host of terrific young players, Lyon have had a great season, despite finishing short of the eventual champions PSG. One of the stellar performers has been the strong center back, Samuel Umtiti. Umtiti’s playing style is very cautious – a trait rarely found in young center backs- and calm. He’s a defender who pays careful attention to the game and his man, and uses his physical endowment to good effect. Lyon have garnered a lot of attention for attackers like Lacazette and Fekir, but they have a real gem in Umtiti.
Kurzawa is a youngster who has had an exceptional season. His performances have been consistently close to excellent, and was rated as the 4th best young defender in Europe in our last edition of Player Rankings. The left back has even broken into the national team on the back of his displays. Kurzawa has developed well as an attacking left back for Monaco, doing well to balance out Fabinho on the right. While the defensive side of his game could do with some fine tuning, as of now, he’s prime property for anyone looking to bring in an energetic attack minded player on the left.
One of Talent Radar’s most regular players in the last couple of years, Marco Verratti has expressed his quality in pretty much every season for the Ligue 1 champions. Pivotal to PSG’s title charge this season as well as PSG’s European campaign, Verratti has repeatedly shown maturity beyond his years, his composure and positional sense quit exceptional. The Italian has been the calming entity in PSG’s midfield and having been branded to take over Andrea Pirlo for the national team, big things are certainly expected from the little man.
The Ligue 1 title race promised a lot but in the end PSG wrapped it up with a few games to spare. However, as a neutral it was hard not to support Lyon who were up there with a young and exciting team. There are a number of academy products in the squad who have prospered this season, including Corentin Tolisso. His versatility has meant that he’s enjoyed plenty of first team action. Having said that, he looks the most comfortable in midfield and could well have a bright future in front of him.
Not often do you see faith placed in young players to handle deeper midfield roles, balancing both defensive and offensive duties well. This past season, Marcelo Biesla trusted Giannelli Imbula to do that job for Marseille; the Frenchman certainly lived up to the role. The 22 year old proved to be a calm figure in Marseille’s midfield, with quality passing and dribbling on display. His importance to the team can be held in the fact that Imbula missed just one game in Marseille’s entire league campaign.
One of Ligue 1’s stand out performers this season, Nabil Fekir’s 15 goals and 13 assists have set him on course to bag multiple individual awards. The youngster has been vital in Lyon’s excellent attempt to dethrone PSG as Ligue 1 champions this past season. Fekir has shown quality in his all-round attacking ability with his passing, through balls, shots on goal, finishing and holding the ball all been pulled out of the top drawer. Much will be expected of the Frenchman next season, having already proved that he is capable of performing amongst the big boys when it counts.
Diego Rolan isn’t the most high profile Uruguayan attacker in Ligue 1 but he’s certainly made a mark in France this season. The 22 year-old who can play both out wide and through the middle has been excellent for Bordeaux throughout the campaign. For a youngster, productivity is often a problem but Rolan’s numbers stand him in good stead with 13 goals and 4 assists to his name this season.
Lyon’s 4th representative in the XI is none other than young striker Clinton N’Jie. Much of the focus has been on Alexandre Lacazette, and rightly so, but the emergence of N’Jie has been particularly pleasing for us Talent Radar enthusiasts. Enjoying his breakthrough season in France, the striker has impressed with his raw talent. His direct style of play and speed were valuable assets to Lyon especially on the counter attack. There’s plenty of room for improvement of course but the Cameroonian certainly possesses raw talent.