Judging the calibre of a young player is often a tricky task. Perceived potential has an important bearing in any consideration and is just one of the many parameters to consider when trying to quantify the ability of football’s young stars. To add a basis to what may be a leap of faith, it is useful to look back and trace the growth, or indeed lack thereof, in young players.
Our Talent Radar Player Rankings, along-with our Talent Radar Team of the Weekdocuments 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.
[Eligibility: As of 1st June 2015 – 21 years old and below]
10. JONATHAN TAH // 19 // Bayer Leverkusen // Germany
With a growing reputation within the German game and after a impressive loan spell with Fortuna Dusseldorf, Jonathan Tah was snapped up by giants Bayer Leverkusen. Manager Roger Schmidt made Tah and fellow summer signing Kyriakos Papadopoulos first choice centre-backs with the duo starting each and every fixture thus far. It hasn’t all been entirely rosy though, after an impressive start, Tah and his defensive partner endured three consecutive losses where the side conceded 7 goals and scored none. It’s always difficult for a young defender to cement a solid defensive performance for a side that prefers playing with a risky high line; but Tah seems to be improving under his new managers’ guidance.
9. CHANCEL MBEMBA // 21 //Newcastle United // Democratic Republic of Congo
Mbemba caught Talent Radar’s attention fairly early on, with the young defender named in the inaugural 100 to Watch feature back in 2013. It’s widely been said Newcastle took a risk signing inexperienced individuals, much like online slots and other online casino games, though we particularly championed the choices they made. Having said that, the 21-year-old’s opening phase in England has been less than cheerful, not merely through any fault of his own but the fortunes of the club. While the club languish in the relegation zone, Mbemba has been a rare shining light and one of few positives during Steve McClaren’s stint thus far.Not afraid to take the ball forward, Mbemba is proving to be a solid modern day defender. Whilst the Magpies may struggle, Mbemba is certainly doing his fortunes no harm.
8. LUKE SHAW // 20 // Manchester United // England
The 20 year old England international has covered leaps and bounds during the transition from last season. Despite having put up an excellent show for Southampton, Shaw’s early days at Old Trafford were a bit slow with Louis van Gaal stating that he was a tad bit over weight and had work to do. Come the end of last season clubbed with the off season, the youngster has pulled up his socks and upped his game, the results of which were seen in the current season so far. Shaw has had a really good season to date, and could easily be labelled as one of United’s most consistent performers this campaign. It’s quite unfortunate that he will not feature in our Defenders Power Rankings for the next several months at the very least, given the horrible leg break he suffered during the Champions League outing while facing PSV Eindhoven.
7. SVEN VAN BEEK // 21 // Feyenoord // Netherlands
The 21-year-old Dutchman is no stranger to the Talent Radar Defender Rankings, having finished 2nd in last season’s version of the rankings, narrowly missing out on top spot having held the position earlier. Van Beek has continued to thrive under new Feyenoord boss, Giovanni van Bronckhorst, starting every game thus far with Feyenoord experiencing just the solitary loss. With a confident edge to his game, Van Beek is quite clearly portraying the leader in him with his defensive action. The youngster who made our Team of the Season at the 2014-15 Talent Radar awards, has an impressive leap on him, making him the ideal man to handle opponents aerially. You can read a detailed Scout Report on Van Beek here.
6. HECTOR BELLERIN // 20 // Arsenal // Spain
The Spaniard’s rise from La Masia to Arsenal’s first team has been impressive. He got his break-through last season, impressing supporters and demanding a spot in Arsene Wenger’s first team plans. The 20-year-old is now the first choice right sided full-back in the side, despite two others (Mathieu Debuchy & Calum Chambers) providing competition for the role. Bellerin has started and completed 6 games this season, during which the side conceded just three goals (including two with 10 men against Chelsea). The energy in attack and maturity in his positional sense never fail to amaze one, with a constant sense of development engulfing the youngster. While Wenger tries to navigate through a golden period for the club, after years of disappointment, Bellerin is certainly playing a major part in it.
5. BENJAMIN MENDY // 21 // Marseille // France
Despite being only 21 years old, Benjamin Mendy has already experienced nearly 120 senior league games in French football. While the Frenchman does appear to be awkward with the ball at his feet, advancing forward and swinging crosses in make the youngster stand-out. But his reading of the game cannot be ignored. Mendy is averaging 2.1 tacklers per game this season, a number not mirrored by too many other full-backs this season. He also has a goal to his name this season, scoring a long ranger in Marseille’s 4-1 win over Bastia. Mendy was also in our 100 Young Players to Watch in 2015 feature, coming in at #7 in the defenders’ category. With more performances of this sort, whilst being a part of an exciting generation of footballers in France, Mendy has set the stage for eventual stardom.
4. MATTHIAS GINTER // 21 // Borussia Dortmund // Germany
One of the easiest picks for the first edition of this season’s Talent Radar Power Rankings for Defenders is Dortmund’s right back, Matthias Ginter. Many would want to forget Dortmund’s horrendous campaign from last time around but Ginter will look back to it as a stepping stone for a more permanent position in the starting XI. With the new season under Thomas Tuchel beginning in an explosive fashion, Ginter has been one of those sparks in the new looking Dortmund. So far, with a total of nine competitive games played this season, the German international has scored twice and turned provider seven times. While it is still early in the season, national team manager Jochim Loew will be one of many to keep an eye on him with the 2016 European Championship in mind.
3. SAMUEL UMTITI // 21 // Lyon // France
It’s remarkable that Umtiti remains eligible for Talent Radar. We wrote a Scout Report on him way back in April 2013, with the youngster consistently outperforming those his age and beyond. With an excellent understanding of the game that has come with the 100+ games experience, Umtiti is widely considered as France’s best young defender, ahead of some high profile names. Comfortable with the ball at his feet, Umtiti is a perfect fit for a modern quick paced side. With Lyon seemingly on their way back to the top of the French Ligue 1, Umtiti has continued to be a stalwart that has ensured that rise. There remains no doubt, Talent Radar will continue to recognise one of the first players we scouted, as he goes through his last year as a Talent Radar eligible player.
2. JOHN STONES // 21 // Everton // England
Plenty has been spoke of John Stones over the past transfer window, Chelsea throwing their money at the 21 year old centre back but Roberto Martinez and Everton iterating every time that they’re not bothered to listen to any offer. Stones established himself last season and showed his potential and current capabilities, having featured for over two-thirds of all of Everton’s Premier League games last season. This season, the England international has started every game for the Toffees, proving to everyone while Jose Mourinho was after him. Stones has exhibited maturity and composure beyond his age. From a tactical perspective, Stones fits the bill as one of those centre backs who values positioning and will make sure he has the better chance of winning a tackle and only then jump in to it. This season would reveal a proper valuation for the youngster, considering his performances, age and the fact that he is English. Stones was among the players listed in our 100 Young Players to Watch in 2015 feature.
1. JORDAN AMAVI // 21 // Aston Villa // France
It’s fair to say that Jordan Amavi is a Talent Radar veteran by now. While playing in France for OGC Nice, Outside of the Boot had the chance to follow the Frenchman closely, earning him several features in our Talent Radar Team of the Week as well as Defender Rankings. This summer, Amavi took the next step in his career moving to Aston Villa. The outcome of that transfer so far looks like Amavi has been one of the better performing recent transfers in the Premier League. Amavi hit the ground running from the very beginning, performing brilliantly against Bournemouth and Manchester United. The 21 year old’s attacking intent every time he gets the ball has impressed the Villa faithful and has done a decent job of holding his side of the fort as well. Villa have recently come under some pressure given recent results not going as they would have liked but if Tim Sherwood has anything to be happy about at the moment, it is definitely with how Amavi has gone about handling life in the Premier League. You can read a detailed Scout Report on Amavi here.