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 – 22 years old and below]
5. GIANLUIGI DONNARUMMMA // 16 // AC Milan // Italy // no change
Gianluigi Buffon is getting no younger, and as his retirement date inches closer, the race to anoint his successor will intensify, especially in the media. One of the several names that have been thrown into the hat is that of the 16 year old Donnarumma.
The Milan shot stopper has broken through this season after the indifferent form of Diego Lopez. While there certainly hasn’t been a spectacular improvement in Milan’s form since his arrival, his performance cannot really be downplayed. The youngster has done sufficiently well to win praise from all quarters, and will be looking to solidify his spot in the team.
4. TIMO HORN // 22 // Koln // Germany // no change
While many keepers are often playing behind the best defences and the best defenders, they get there by performing and showing their true potential in front of the weaker defenders. This is not meant to disrespect Koln’s defenders in any way, but they certainly dont form the tightest unit around. Despite this, Horn has time and again shown his potential at the back.
The inconsistency that plagues his game (like that of so many other young players) is still not a thing of the past, but he’s working hard on improving this particular aspect of his game. With the Bundesliga being one of the most unpredictable leagues in Europe (besides the eventual title winner), as Sign Up Bonuses suggests, Horn finds himself in a tricky situation at a mid-table club.
Horn harbours hopes of making the Germany national team, and there is a long way to go before he can do that with all the competition in his way.
3. ALPHONSE AREOLA // 22 // Villarreal (on loan from PSG) // 2 ↓
We at OOTB are huge fans of Areola, a player who performs very well, and very consistently, making the ToTW several times this season alone. The man from PSG must consider himself very unlucky to have Trapp ahead of him, but he’s proven his mettle, taking Villareal to the top 5 of La Liga.
Areola’s main strength are his reflexes, and he’s used them to good effect in order to pick up many a point for the Yellow Submarine. Villareal have continued on their fine run of form in the last couple of months, with Areola keeping his fair share of clean sheets along the way.
2. JACK BUTLAND // 22 // Stoke City // England // 1 ↓
Butland has shone in his role as Stoke’s number one this season, and done well to firmly establish himself as the back up to Joe Hart. Circumstances have led to Butland being injured and out of the Euros, which would have served as a great platform for the young keeper to get tournament experience in international colors.
Not that this is a worrying prospect at all for England, because the young goalkeeper has proven on several occasions that he is capable of doing the job. In the recent fixture at Stamford Bridge, many were of the opinion that the away side had the better keeper, and this is paying Butland a huge compliment. Spectacular saves aside, his command of his area has also been of a very high maturity level.
1. JAN OBLAK // 23 // Atletico Madrid // Slovenia // 3 ↑
Forming the last line of a close to impregnable defence, Jan Oblak has matured and developed into a top keeper for Los Rojiblancos under Simeone in the last couple of years. He won our award for performance of the season last year after his heroics against Real Madrid, and this time too, he shone on the European stage, helping Atletico win a tense encounter against PSG after penalty kicks.
Oblak is another keeper with great reflexes, and fine positioning. He often makes a lot of saves look very routine and simple, and that is the first sign of a world class keeper. Moreover, with the Atletico defence sitting as deep as it does normally, Oblak has the additional responsibility of marshalling the back line, and it may complicate his decision making process. Despite the challenges he faces, Oblak does a remarkable job, and his cool and calm demeanour is undoubtedly a factor in his success.
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