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 – 21 years old and below]
10. SOFIANE BOUFAL // 22 // Lille // Morocco // new entrant
Boufal has really made some vast strides forward this season, forming an important part of the attacking battery that Lille have. The midfielder is proving to be incredibly creative for his side, and a real thorn in the opposition’s flesh. Averaging 4 dribbles a game so far means that he can really bamboozle defenders and create openings. The last month or so has been good for him, with a couple of goals coming against Montpellier and Guinamp. The only down point was a sending off in the recent draw against Bastia, meaning that he will be suspended when club football resumes.
9. MARC STENDERA // 19 // Eintracht Frankfurt // Germany // new entrant
Another new entrant on this list, Marc Stendera has made it onto this list as a result of some good performances in the last month or so. The youngster has excelled in the middle of the park for Frankfurt, especially when put just in front of the back 4. The defensive side of his game is strong, with his ability to read the game allowing him to make many interceptions. This was on display in the recent goalless draws that Frankfurt managed to pull out against Bayern and Hoffenheim. He’s also got a match winning performance to his name, with his 2 goals winning the game away at Hannover.
8. LEROY SANE // 19 // Schalke // Germany // new entrant
Schalke’s academy seems to be the gift that keeps on giving, with the latest sensation to come off the line being Leroy Sane. With players like Meyer and Goretzka already at the club, Leroy Sane has done well to make a place for himself as well. Since breaking into the side around the beginning of October, he’s been one of their best players, and definitely has the best haircut of anyone on the team. In terms of numbers, he’s chipped in with 4 goals and 3 assists this season, including one against fierce rivals Dortmund. Sane is an exciting player, in terms of aesthetics, and his future. His dribbling ability is a highlight, and he certainly makes Schalke a little easier on the eye.
7. DIDIER NDONG // 21 // Lorient // Gabon // new entrant
The Gabon international has been a regular feature of the Lorient side that currently sits in 7th place on the league table right now. Mostly employed as a defensive midfielder, Ndong has brought his skills to the fore, and been a lynchpin for the team. He’s gone about his business quietly, and notched up some pretty impressive numbers. 2.8 tackles a game, and 2.3 interceptions really mean that he’s involved in the business end of the defense. He doesn’t get forward much, choosing to stay deeper in midfield, and this is a trait to be appreciated.
6. RAHEEM STERLING // 20 // Manchester City // England // new entrant
When Sterling moved to City, a lot of people (Liverpool fans especially) felt he was destined to be the new Scott Sinclair. But this incredible talent has defied his critics, and shouldered the burden of expectations impressively. He had a solid start, but since then, he’s grown in leaps and bounds. With Silva and Aguero out injured, Sterling has stepped up and delivered. A wonderful hattrick against Bournemouth, a goal for his country, and a defining performance in a memorable win at Sevilla have been the highlights. He’s only 20, and there’s a lot of pressure on him to deliver, but much to the chagrin of Liverpool supporters, he’s probably in the best place to do it.
5. ROSS BARKLEY // 21 // Everton // England // 4 ↓
Another sparkling young English talent, Barkley has long been someone that we’ve all had a good opinion of. The Everton man’s resurgence of form this season has coincided with with his team’s. Barkley is part of a fearsome attacking quartet that Everton can unleash, and generally is the creative influence in the side. He’s been good for England as well, with a goal and an assist coming in the last international break. Martinez says that he’s happy for other clubs to look enviously as youngsters like Barkley, Stones and Lukaku, but if Barkley can stay at a consistently high level through the season, then his manager might not be so happy with offers that are bound to come in.
4. ERIC DIER // 21 // Tottenham // England // 2 ↓
Dier is ostensibly a center back, but Pochettino has changed that this season, pushing him into a slightly unfamiliar central midfield role. While he started the season slightly slowly, Dier has grwon into the role to become one of Tottenham’s most important players. His skill on the ball is far from average, and importantly, he is excellent at breaking up play. Making over 2 tackles and interceptions per game is great, but more important is the fact that he’s been tactically astute, and provided the platform for players like Delle Alli and a rejuvenated Dembele to play their football.
3. KINGSLEY COMAN // 19 // Bayern Munich // Germany // 6 ↑
When Coman first made the move to Munich, it was thought that he’d mostly be a bench warmer for Guardiola, but injuries to Robben and Ribery have allowed him and fellow new signing Douglas Costa to make their mark on this team. He’s been part of a terrifying wing combination that loves to put balls into the box for players like Muller and Lewandowski to attack. While his own numbers are very good, the fact that Lewandowski and Muller have scored a combined total of 25 goals in the Bundesliga alone this season is as much a compliment to the striking duo as it is to Coman and Costa. Big things have been predicted for Coman, who made a controversial move away from Juventus in the summer, and with a coach like Guardiola guiding him, he looks set to live up to all the expectations.
2. ANWAR EL GHAZI // 20 // Ajax // The Netherlands // 3 ↑
Top scorer in a free scoring Ajax side so far, Anwar El Ghazi has been a great find for De Boer and his latest batch of prospects ready to take the Eredivisie and Europe by storm. El Ghazi has been a consistent performer for Ajax all year, making it onto our Team of the Week with great regularity. Normally, he starts out from the wide areas of the pitch, and cuts inside to score his goals. The midfielder has complemented the rest of his side very well, with a tremendous amount of skill and creativity. Dribbling and dribbling well is another feature of his game. El Ghazi can create openings for his teammates in this way too.
1. JULIAN WEIGL // 20 // Dortmund // Germany // no change
Dortmund’s young prodigy continues his dominance of the midfielder rankings after another spectacular month. Despite being just 20, Weigl has proven to be a clam presence in front of the Dortmund back 4, and served as a great defensive midfielder, also setting up the platform for his more creative teammates like Gundogan, Reus, Kagawa, and Mkhitaryan. The only negative for him has been the crushing defeat at the hands of Bayern. That kept aside, he’s performed very well along with the rest of his team to keep Dortmund performing at such a high level.