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 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.
[Eligibility: As of 1st June 2015 – 22 years old and below]
5. LORIS KARIUS // 22 // Mainz // Germany // 2 ↓
The winner of the best young goalkeeper award last season, Loris Karius is fast establishing himself as one of the hottest young keeping prospects in a Germany that’s full of good young goalkeepers. A summer of speculation ended in nought, and Karius ended up staying at Mainz.
The last month or so has been tough for Mainz, with results not really going their way at all times. Concession of goals has also been quite common for them, but Karius has put up a good fight when called upon. The recent defeat to Dortmund saw him concede twice, but also save a penalty from Marco Reus.
Normally, a run like this would be quite damaging to a player’s confidence, but one can only hope that it hasn’t happened to such a precocious young talent. If Karius can focus on his game, he can surely help Mainz turn a corner, starting this weekend.
4. ALPHONSE AREOLA // 22 // Villareal // France // new entrant
Areola must have been a disappointed man at the start of the season, as PSG sent him on loan once again, and signed the young German keeper Kevin Trapp. If that is the case, he hasn’t let it reflect in his performances, as the young keeper has performed admirably for the Yellow Submarine that is sinking many large ships of the La Liga.
Villareal have been a breath of fresh air in the Liga this season, as they sit in 5th place, just two points of the top of the table. Their young side have played fearlessly, and the confident Areola can count himself among those ranks. Moreover, he’s shown a tendency to put in the match changing performance as well, with a superb effort in the win against the much fancied Atletico Madrid side.
Numerically speaking, he’s kept just two clean sheets in his 8 Liga appearances, but that isn’t a blot on his record at all, considering the attacking style of play Villareal employ. Areola has certainly done his bit for his side, with his solid displays allowing his team the confidence to play their football in front.
3. TIMO HORN // 22 // Koln // Germany // 4 ↑
The young German keeper was a consistent performer for all of last season, and this saw him finish well in the player rankings for last season. This season too, he featured in the first edition of these rankings but six goals conceded were a blot on his CV.
This month though, he’s put in good performances for his side, and this has seen him move up in the rankings. An excellent performance in a stunning 0-3 win away at Schalke was the icing on a very delicious cake as Horn led his side to some good results.
Of course, Horn is still far from the scene on the international stage, with there being no dearth of good young German keepers at the moment. For now, if he keeps up this level of performance, he will give tough competition to his compatriot, who is next on this list.
2. JACK BUTLAND // 22 // Stoke City // England // 1↓
The new season saw Stoke City bid goodbye to a seasoned favourite, Asmir Begovic. With the his departure to Chelsea, and Mark Hughes’ continued attempts to shift Stoke’s play to a more attractive style, it was quite a challenging environment for a youngster to step into.
Butland has taken the bull by its horns though, and has emerged as one of the most reliable keepers in the league. The England hopeful always seems to have a miracle save or two up his sleeve, and has been the only saving grace in an increasingly porous Stoke backline. Despite all the goals he’s conceded, it’s important to note that he’s the keeper with the most number of saves in the top division of English football this season. The performances though, haven’t been at the same high level in the last month, with a few misses. The performance against the Swans on Monday was emblematic of what’s been happening, as Jonjo Shelvey ghosted through the Stoke defence to fire a shot between his legs.
With the Euros coming up, Butland is working hard to ensure that the spot behind Joe Hart belongs to him. Roy Hodgson cant be unimpressed with the player on the back of these performances for sure.
1. JAN OBLAK // 22 // Atletico Madrid // Slovenia // 5 ↑
When Thiabaut Courtois returned to Chelsea, there was some dithering by Atletico with respect to their goalkeeper situation. Finally, towards the end of last season, Jan Oblak emerged after some stunning displays to seal his spot in the starting line up.
The former Benfica man has kept up the good work this season, forming the last line of an impressive new look defence. He’s obviously been important in their quest to maintain a good defensive record, and his saves have been crucial to all the clean sheets they’ve kept this season. Importantly, he’s developed a good understanding with the other members of the back line, and they’ve managed to maintain the strong defence that is the starting point for any Simeone side.
The 22 year old certainly has the talent, and a cool head as well, and we could see him feature for a while now on this list.