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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]
One man who has seemingly sprung up out of nowhere in the 2015/16 campaign is 22-year-old Adam Masina. The Moroccan born left-back has constantly made the left-back position in our Talent Radar Team of the Week his own, with a string of impressive performances. His most recent exploits at home to Juventus saw the defending champions impressive 15-game winning streak end. With an average of six tackle/interceptions per game, Masina is showing how important a defensively solid full-back can be for any side.
Like Masina, Kevin Diks is another full-back that has stood out this season, and is now the highest ranked Eredivise player in our defender rankings this season. The Dutch club is still in contention for European places and a huge boost for the club’s long-term success has been the form of Kevin Diks. The teenager came through from the club’s academy and claimed a spot earlier held by Chelsea loanee, Wallace. For a club that has been in the spotlight for it’s questionable partnership with Chelsea, to develop their own youngster and promote him into the first team is an impressive development.
It’s unfortunate but this is the first and arguably the last time we’ll see Kurt Zouma in our defender rankings. Owing to a lack of football and Chelsea’s poor form at the start of the season, the Frenchman didn’t feature in any of the previous editions of our rankings. But with a new managerial appointment and a starting berth for the ex-Saint Etienne man, Zouma has experienced an upturn in fortunes & form. This however, was sadly halted with the recent injury he suffered against Manchester United, ruling him out for the rest of the season.
22-year-old Digne struggled to get a regular berth at Paris Saint-Germain, but his loan to AS Roma has done him wonders. First-choice in both the Serie A and the Champions League, Digne is the highest ranked Serie A based defender in our rankings. With an impressive cross to his game, and added pace to go with it, he has grown into a mature and established full-back in the modern game and has helped Roma propel to the Champions League spots, with an impressive chance of qualification again as Bet Bind would suggest. It’ll be interesting to see if the Parisian club will take back the Frenchman, or if the ex-Lille man has found a home in Rome.
Like Digne, young Nathan Ake also saw his opportunities limited at parent club Chelsea. The defending Premier League champions loaned the youngster to newly promoted Watford, but arguably were surprised by how he’s been used and the success he has seen as a result. The Dutchman is primarily a centre-back, and has been since his younger days but Quique Sanchez Flores has used the 21-year-old as a full-back, with devastating effect. The youngster has the confidence going forward, but crucially brings a central defensive aspect to his overall game, averaging nearly seven tackles and/or interceptions per game this season.
Stones began the season very well, and the likes of Chelsea and Manchester United seemed to be a good fit for the man. Roberto Martinez too, backed his talismanic defender, and soon, even the likes of Barcelona and Real Madrid were linked to Stones. Sadly, that’s where it started to unravel for the youngster, as a loss of form has seen him drop down the rankings, and take a hit in the Everton pecking order. His latest injury hasn’t helped matters either. Obviously, Martinez will look to back his most talented defender, and keep the faith, but 4 clean sheets in the 5 games Stones has missed doesn’t make for pretty reading if you’re Stones’ agent.
Bellerin was the find of last season for Arsenal, and he’s continued the fine run this year. Importantly, he’s shown great consistency in his performances, and his partnership with Joel Campbell on the right wing has been very productive for the Gunners in their title race. His speed and acceleration have been great assets for him defensively, and going forward as well. His driving runs on the ball, and calm passing have been a boon for a team that have struggled in that position prior to his arrival.
It hasn’t been a very positive season for the nominal title challengers in Ligue 1, thanks to the extent of PSG’s dominance. Despite the ruins around him though, Samuel Umtiti has stood tall and consistent. The young defender has always been one who has kept calm, and relied on doing the simple things right to win the ball, and he’s grown over the course of this season in that role. An average of about 3 interceptions a game is very healthy, and bodes well. The last couple of months have been a bit below par for him, with Lyon taking a few losses, but overall, there isn’t really much cause for complaint with respect to Umtiti.
The young Uruguayan has done exceptionally well this season to emerge as a genuine starter for Simeone’s team. The youngster has complemented the experienced warrior Diego Godin beautifully, and has managed to keep the more experienced Stefan Savic on the bench more often than not. over the years, Simeone has built on the defence to transform Atletico into the contenders that they are, and in Gimenez, he’s found someone to carry that torch. Once again, they’ve built a title challenge on their defensive foundation, and Gimenez has been one of the key blocks there.
it really seems a bit unfair to call Ginter a defender, considering how versatile he is, but the fact that he’s ranked number one among the defenders, speaks volumes of the quality of his performances. Ginter has performed in midfield, as a center back, and mostly as a right back this season. Of late, Pisczcsek has reclaimed his position in the team, and so Ginter has moved to the middle. This has only helped us to see his well rounded game, built on a clear understanding of his duties in his given role. He’s been able to execute all his instructions perfectly thanks to his solid technique. Ginter will have his eye on a place in the Germany squad for the upcoming European Championships, and surely, with his versatility, he’ll make a great addition to the squad.