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. JAMES WARD-PROWSE // 20 // Southampton // England
Long envisioned as the next big English midfield talent, James Ward-Prowse is yet to realise his true potential. With an innate ability to connect the defensive phase with the attacking one, Ward-Prowse has showcased his passing ability, albeit at a much lower level than expected this season. His set-piece strengths further add a dimension to his play. Though Southampton have been sub-par this season, there’s a lot of growth potential in this 20-year-old.
A week back against Bastia at the Stade Gerland, Tolisso picked up the ball in his own half, ran at the defence, squared a pass from the edge of the box to his left winger whose cross deflected and fell onto the path of oue 21-year-old midfielder, who made no mistake. This ability to drive at defences from midfield is quickly becoming a crucial factor in the success or failure of a modern day midfielder. But Tolisso is exactly that, with plenty of potential for development as he takes the 9th position in this edition of the rankings. After last season’s success, a lot is expected of this Lyon side and with Tolisso being a main stay in the side in 2014-15, he is seen as the experienced head despite being only 21.
8. NATHAN REDMOND // 21 // Norwich City // England
Young Englishman Nathan Redmond has been in impressive form for Norwich City as the side returned to the Premier League. The 21-year-old is the joint fourth highest scorer in the Premier League at the time of writing. He struck in the opening two games of the season but his most important goal came last weekend as came on as a substitute and gave Norwich the lead away to West Ham seven minutes from time, only to see it cancelled out in stoppage time. Most comfortable down the wings, Redmond has a sheer burst of pace and a level of comfort with the ball at his feet making him a trick opponent to face.
7. HAKAN CALHANOGLU // 21 // Bayer Leverkusen // Turkey
Easily one of the best set piece specialists from the current set of football players, it’s more surprising that Hakan Calhanoglu has built this reputation and is still only 21 years of age. While Leverkusen are still in the process of piecing their season together, the Turk has decided that life is too short to wait around. So far, in all competitions including the Champions League qualifiers, the youngster has amassed five goals and two assists, more than most strikers would like to be at this stage in the season. This record includes a famous assists away at the Nou Camp, a game Leverkusen would have been disappointed to lose.
6. JOHANNES GEIS // 22 // Mainz // Germany
If five goals and five assists for a defensive midfielder who is just twenty two years old impressive you, have a closer look at Geis’ defensive performances to really get a picture of what his guy is all about. A 12 million Euro move from Mainz to Schalke over the summer would seem to be an excellent piece of business and more importantly a more apt sized step in the youngster’s career. Geis has already managed to contribute going forward this season with a goal and five assists in all competitions. In the long run, his maturity and cool head will be likely be more beneficial to the Schalke side. The season marks Geis’ last qualifying campaign for any Talent Radar feature and for the sake of our personal liking, we really hope he makes the most of it.
5. KINGSLEY COMAN // 19 // Bayern Munich // France
The highly rated Juventus owned Kingsley Coman decided to go on loan to Pep Guardiola’s Bayern Munich this summer. Many speculated that the loan move would be less than fruitful for the youngster claiming he would have a nice view from the bench most of the time. Since arriving in Germany, Coman has been left on the bench just once in all competitions for the Bundesliga champions, scoring two goals and contributing further with four assists in the five games so far. Guardiola’s faith in the youngster has worked well for all involved and is just the start of what could be a very important season in the 19 year old’s career.
FIVE players on this list were in our 100 Young Players to Watch in 2015 feature.
4. ROSS BARKLEY // 21 // Everton // England
Twenty one year old Ross Barkley has had his worth documented and analysed by the media more than any other youngster here thanks to his nationality. The England international had a below par season with Everton last time around but at times, the youngster produced absolute spectacular moments that showed why there is such a hype around him. This season, Barkley has maintained his fitness and surpassed 2014-15’s tally and currently sits with three goals and four assists from nine games in all competitions. Given England have earned the reputation of being able to serially disappoint, we hope Barkley can be that one spark that ignites some interest in the national squad.
3. ANWAR EL GHAZI // 20 // Ajax // Netherlands
Ajax’s Anwar El Ghazi was one of the most recursive players in our previous year’s edition of Talent Radar articles. Coming off the back of an excellent personal season (ten goals and nine assists) despite Ajax’s disappointments, El Ghazi has given every sign of going further than what he had achieved last season. So far, the twenty year old has been key in Ajax’s impressive start to the season scoring seven in seven games with an assist to top things off in style. The seven goals include three braces which says a bit about the impact he can have on games. El Ghazi can be put down as one of the safer bets in terms of appearances in future Talent Radar features.
2. ERIC DIER // 21 // Tottenham Hotspur // England
A case has often been made with regard to England’s national team lacking a proper defensive midfielder. Mauricio Pochettino chose to reinforce the back line at Whitehart Lane this past summer and that left young Eric Dier lower down the pecking order. The Spaniard has decided to field Dier has his first choice defensive midfielder rather than leave the 21 year old waiting for his chance in the backline and that decision has arguably worked well in his favour. Dier has performed consistently well in that position, a promising sign for Hodgson to take note of.
1. JULIAN WEIGL // 20 // Borussia Dortmund // Germany
A 2.5 million Euro signing from 1860 Munich at the end of the 2014-15 season saw Julian Weigl join new boss Thomas Tuchel at Dortmund. Weigl has gone on to feature in every game this season across all competitions for Dortmund who have enjoyed an explosive start to the campaign. While Wiegl isn’t the kind of player you would expect to get on the score sheet, his smart positioning sense and ability to read the game have handed Dortmund some much needed composure in front of the back line. What does impress us and many others is the fact that Weigl is just twenty years old and has already shown signs of becoming a top quality defensive midfielder, a position that requires experience and has shallow numbers in today’s game.
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