For three years now, this website has continued to focus on the younger generation of footballers, often over-looked by mainstream media. For three years we’ve also published a Talent Radar Team of the Season across Europe’s top six leagues, having monitored these players in our Team of the Week and Player Rankings feature. You can read this for all details on Talent Radar, who is eligible under it and what else we publish within this feature.
[Eligibility: As of 1st June 2015 – 21 years old and below for outfield players // 22 years old and below for goalkeepers]
Jack Butland // Stoke City // 23 // Goalkeeper: The 23-year-old has long been touted as a future England number 1 and he’s shown the world just why in his first full Premier League season. The life of a young goalkeeper is an odd one with the nature of the position meaning that chances are generally fewer as compared to those who ply their trade in the outfield. Asmir Begovic’s move to Chelsea opened the door for the England International and he’s grabbed the opportunity with both hands, so to speak. An expert shot-stopper, Butland has shown maturity with both his on-field performances and his off-field decisions with respect to transfers.
Hector Bellerin // Arsenal // 22 // Right-Back: For a second season in a row, an Arsenal player claims the right-back spot with Spaniard Hector Bellerin replacing his teammate, Callum Chambers. It may have been a season in which Arsenal frustrated many of their faithful with yet another failed title charge but Bellerin has been one of the bright spots for the Gunners. With his well documented scintillating pace and technical ability honed at La Masia prior to his days in North London, Bellerin is the archetype of a modern full-back.
John Stones // Everton // 21 // Centre-Back: Arguably the most controversial pick in this XI, John Stones has had an eventful campaign, if nothing else. Chased by Chelsea at the start of the season with live accumulators constantly speculating his future, Stones eventually did stay at Goodison and much like his team, found consistency hard to come by. The defender saw his performances steadily deteriorate in the second half of the season as the Everton backline seemed as trustworthy as those Nigerian princes offering to send us all money. Having said that, Stones’ potential is undeniable and one can only hope that a return of confidence and form will see him back to his best next season.
Kurt Zouma // Chelsea // 21 // Centre-Back: It seems incredible that Kurt Zouma is still only 21. The former Saint-Etienne man caught the eye in his teenage years in France and has continued his development in England. In what was a pretty horrendous first half of the season for Chelsea, Zouma was one of the better performers, albeit not without a blemish or two. The arrival of Guus Hiddink saw improved performances from the squad as a whole with Zouma the first choice centre-back under the Dutchman. The dreaded ACL injury laid waste to Zouma’s Euro 2016 hopes but there’s no doubt that the Chelsea man will be back to his imperious best for club and country.
Nathan Ake // Watford (on loan from Chelsea) // 21 // Left-Back: It wouldn’t truly be a Talent Radar XI without a Chelsea loanee featuring in it. Nathan Ake fulfills the quota by virtue of some commanding performances from left-back. The 21-year-old took a while to break into the team but impressed when given the opportunity to show his worth. A tough tackling defender, Ake showed he was comfortable going forward as well. Regular game time has seen marked improvement in his game but similar to most other Chelsea loanees, the question of what next must be addressed in the transfer window.
Dele Alli // Tottenham Hotspur // 20 // Right-Midfielder: Playing Dele Alli on the right wing seems to be a case of shoving a square peg into a round hole but to leave him out of the team would be blasphemous. Beyond positional intricacies, there is absolutely no debate when it comes to Dele Alli’s talent. The 20-year-old has made the step up to Premier League with consummate ease, not only matching his peers but surpassing most. Capable of jaw-dropping moments at the drop of a hat with a dark side that has seen his club season come to a premature end, the Milton Keynes born player is the new maverick of the Premier League.
Emre Can // Liverpool // 22 // Central-Midfielder: Can featured in last season’s Team of the Season as one of the 3 centre-backs, a position he was often deployed in by Brendan Rodgers. Jurgen Klopp has elected to play the German International as a central midfielder and has been rewarded with some excellent performances in return. Recognized as the Young Player of the Year at the club, Can augments physicality with technical prowess and when on his game, he can almost single-handedly run the midfield. Just ask Villareal.
Eric Dier // Tottenham Hotspur // 22 // Central-Midfielder: Like Can, Dier featured in last season’s edition as a central midfielder and finds a spot in a slightly more advanced position this time around. The midfielder is a crucial component of a Tottenham line-up which has ensured a return of Champions League football to White Hart Lane. With astute reading of the game, Dier not only does a great job of protecting the defence but also starting Spurs’ now characteristically swift counter-attacks.
Ross Barkley // Everton // 22 // Left-Midfielder: There hasn’t been much going right for Everton in recent weeks and Ross Barkley hasn’t been exempt from all the doom and gloom at Goodison Park. There have still been plenty of glimpses of the talent the Englishman possesses though, the majestic Panenka penalty against Newcastle leaps to the mind. At just 22. Barkley still has plenty of time but simply glimpses are not sufficient anymore. There’s no reason to panic but it’s time for him to take his game to the next level.
Harry Kane // Tottenham Hotspur // 22 // Striker: Retaining his place in the team to pretty much nobody’s surprise is a certain Harry Kane. England’s new golden boy showed that last season was no flash in the pan as he spearheaded Spurs’ title charge. They might not have been able to burst Leicester’s bubble but it’s a young and exciting team with a young and exciting manager in Pochettino at the helm. The fact that Spurs have the highest number of representatives in this line-up is no accident and Harry Kane is the cream of the crop.
Anthony Martial // Manchester United // 20 // Striker: It’s been a frustrating season for most of the Old Trafford faithful but the performances of the young attacking players is cause for cautious optimism for the future. Martial came to England with an enormous price tag on his shoulders and while it’s only been a season, the Frenchman has shown just why Manchester United were willing to splash so much cash for his services. At just 20, the youngster could have buckled under the weight of expectations but has instead seemingly thrived on them. The Frenchman is more often than not the man United look to for attacking impetus and it’s little wonder that he is one of the first names on Van Gaal’s teamsheet, be it on the left-wing or upfront.