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Some have hailed it as the ‘hipster’ Oscars of the footballing world. Some may or may not consist of a deluded editor tasked with writing an introduction for the latest (and third) edition of the End of Season Talent Radar Young Player Awards. After having spent an entire season tracking the progress of young stars plying their trade among Europe’s elite and responded to plenty of tweets declaring that we’d lost all credibility, these awards represent the culmination of our efforts throughout this campaign. Without further ado, the award goes to…
1. Jan Oblak // 23 // Atletico Madrid // Slovenia: Oblak has been a dominant force between the sticks for the
European finalists this season. While he secured his spot in the side after some great performances last season (most notably a Talent Radar award winning performance against Real Madrid), he took it to another level and transformed into the sort of invincible keeper that great sides are built on. Not only did he commandeer the defence well, his reaction saves were simply demoralizing for the opposition more often than not. Having gone 600+ minutes without conceding in the crucial period of March and April, Oblak was the foundation for Atleti’s march to the final of the Champions League.
2. Jack Butland // 23 // Stoke City // England: Sadly for Butland, injury curtailed his season and derailed his Euro dreams. The Stoke keeper looked set to accompany the 3 Lions to France as backup to Hart until his injury. The fact that he’s finished at number 2 in this list despite missing a few months should tell you how well we rate him. Another keeper who is simply outstanding when it comes to pulling off reflex saves, Butland is particularly noteworthy for the kind of agility he displays in goal. Aside from looking spectacular, this is important to ensure that the keeper gets a greater weight behind the ball, and directs it safely away from goal. Hopefully, the youngster will be back to his best when the new Premier League season dawns.
3. Alphonse Areola // 23 // Villareal (On loan from PSG) // France: Areola began really strong, competing on a weekly basis with the aforementioned talents for the keeper’s spot in our Team of the Week’s. The man on loan from PSG has made a strong case for himself for the second year in succession, and his consistency has been vital for Villareal, as they ensured Champions League football.
1. Matthias Ginter // 22 // Borussia Dortmund // Germany: The versatile German defensive player has been the bedrock of Thomas Tuchel’s resurgent Dortmund. He’s featured for the side across the back 4, and is even capable of slotting into midfield if needed. Mostly used as a right back, Ginter was able to provide defensive solidity, with a good amount of attacking intent as well, picking up 4 assists over the course of the season. Importantly, and as mentioned earlier, Ginter is a player capable of balancing the two fine arts, averaging over a tackle a game.
2. Samuel Umtiti // 22 // Lyon // France: Umtiti is a gentle giant. The Lyon man is one we have tracked for a while now, and he’s shown steady improvement to grow into one of the most wanted defenders in Europe. Umtiti is a player who has the physical ability and prowess to take on strikers at that game and beat them too. However, he tends to rely more on his reading of the game, and exudes a certain calm and elegance on the ball. He’s most recognized for his excellent passing ability. Umtiti doesn’t often try fancy tricks on the ball, and this simple and clear game plan has worked very well for him and Lyon.
3. Jose Gimenez // 21 // Atletico Madrid // Uruguay: A ferocious defender who is shaping up in the image of his manager, Gimenez broke through last season, and has had a steep learning curve this one. While he’s got more opportunities than the likes of Stefan Savic (having earned them, of course) he’s often been a bit immature in some of his decision making. Despite the weaknesses though, it would be foolish to ignore his considerable strengths. The man is a great tackler, and is one of those old school defenders who will throw the kitchen sink, and a bit more at the ball to try and stop it. Surely, more time alongside the cool headed Godin will improve this player.
1. Julian Weigl // 20 // Borussia Dortmund // Germany: Another one of the breakthrough stars of Tuchel’s merry men, Weigl is one of the youngest of the lot. The midfielder has been elevated quite quickly in his career, and been given big responsibility at a young age. As is evident from his position here, he’s carried his duties out with aplomb. Tuchel has placed him right in the middle of midfield, in the heat of the battle, for him to use his skill and intelligence to influence games. While he plays mostly short and simple passes, Weigl is the player who controls the tempo of the game beautifully, and sets the platform for the likes of Mkhitaryan and Reus to take control.
2. Dele Alli // 20 // Tottenham Hotspur // England: The former MK Dons midfielder is another who’s had a
meteoric rise this season. While it was common knowledge that Alli was a talented individual, no one could have predicted the degree of his influence in his debut season. Alli has proven to be the perfect all action midfielder, chipping in with tackles, goals, assists, and hard running. His aggressive style has suited this young Spurs team perfectly, and he seems to be a real leader on the pitch. He’s also scored one the goals of the season, but more on that later.
3. Kingsley Coman // 19 // Bayern Munich (On loan from Juventus) // France: Both PSG and Juventus will probably be licking their wounds after this player’s performances. Guardiola has taken this talent and transformed him into a very dangerous winger. At the beginning of the season, he spent time on a right wing, playing like a throwback to the old days, when a pacy, tricky winger fired crosses into the box. As the likes of Ribery returned to fitness, Coman’s playing time reduced, but happily, his effectiveness didn’t.
1. Harry Kane // 22 // Tottenham Hotspur // England: The doctors have declared it; all warning signs of the
Second Season Syndrome were simply misnomers, and this man is most certainly not suffering from it. Kane has been far from a victim of the dreaded SSS, and has built on a burgeoning reputation to lead Spurs to the brink of title glory. The man finished with 25 league goals and a golden boot award to go with the strikes. Kane has developed the instincts and skills of a deadly poacher, shooting and scoring as often as the ball gets close to the goal. There isn’t much argument about him being one of the best in Europe right now.
2. Paulo Dybala // 22 // Juventus // Argentina: The Juventus frontman has filled the large boots of Carlos Tevez pretty effectively, leading the Juventus title charge. A stuttering start to the season seemed to be reversed once Dybala made his way into the team, and was leading the frontline. He’s a threat to defenders in so many ways, with pace, skill, dribbling, and good shooting. 19 goals in Serie A, along with 9 assists is surely not an easy record to earn. This is a special player, and Juventus will go far with the likes of him in the side.
3. Vincent Janssen // 21 // AZ Alkmaar // Netherlands: Another player who has made his place in the side on the basis of the sheer numbers of his goals. 27 goals in just 32 starts is an extraordinary record. Despite such a dominant duopoly, Janssen has emerged as the top scorer from the outside, and it has paved the way for his international debut. The AZ Alkmaar forward will have a lot to prove next season, but he’s shown this season that he
surely has the talent to do repeat the trick.
1. Ousmane Dembele (vs Nantes) // 19 // Rennes // France: With a break-through mid-way through the season and a premature but well deserved move to German giants, Borussia Dortmund, Ousmane Dembele is living the Talent Radar dream. We at Outside of the Boot were amazed at the confidence and ability of the teenager, and clearly we weren’t the only ones. It’s fitting then that his first-half hat-trick against FC Nantes in Ligue 1, including a goal in the opening seconds of play, were well worth the recognition they received.
2. Vincent Janssen (vs PEC Zwolle) // 21 // AZ Alkmaar // Netherlands: When AZ Alkmaar defeated PEC Zwolle 5-1 in mid-April, it was young Vincent Janssen who seized his moment and capped off an incredible performance. The Dutchman scored four goals in the game, two from the spot, while also setting up his side’s other goal. It was performances like these that led the Dutchman to the Eredivisie top scorer award, finishing with twenty-seven goals.
3. Jan Oblak (vs Bayern Munich) // 23 // Atletico Madrid // Slovenia: The defending winner of this specific award makes an appearance again for a top-notch performance in the tournament which defined his season (and place in this award). While the Champions League was his brewing ground in the previous campaign, the Slovak secured his starting berth for the 2015-16 campaign. It was his incredible performance against Bayern Munich, including a save from Thomas Muller’s spot kick, that helped guide the Spanish side to the Champions League final.
1. Gianluigi Donnarumma // 17 // AC Milan // Italy: A lot of Italians and football followers across the globe were quite surprised to note that the AC Milan starter in goal earlier this season was a 16-year-old schoolboy. Impressively, he’s cast all aspersions about his age aside, and risen to the call of his team. Making 30 appearances in the Serie A, the young keeper has turned into a reliable force at the back for the Rossonieri, as they look to rebuild their side and climb the table.
2. Ousmane Dembele // 19 // Rennes // France: The pacy young attacker from Rennes really made a mark this season, with consistently excellent attacking displays. A feature of Dembele’s game has been his confident dribbling, and strong running on the ball. Those traits have allowed him to prosper and make a great impact. He’s moved to Borussia Dortmund for the next season, and they’ve pulled off quite a coup, considering the fact that he was in great demand after some of his spectacular performances.
3. Marcus Rashford // 18 // Manchester United // England: The Old Trafford faithful have a new hero, and he is the young boy known as Marcus Rashford. Initially given his chance by van Gaal due to an injury hit squad, Rashford took his chance very well, scoring twice in the Europa League. He followed it up with a brilliant Premier League debut against Arsenal, scoring a match winning brace. The striker has shown pace, imagination, and strength in bundles so far, and that’s what has gotten so many fans so giddy with excitement about him. He’s even made it to Hodgson’s selection for the Euros, and with a goal on his International debut, he has every right to dream.
1. Inaki Williams (vs Espanyol) // 21 // Athletic Bilbao // Spain: The 21-year-old had a breakthrough season with Bilbao, which culminated with a debut for the Spanish national team. His thirteen goals and six assists helped the side to an impressive fifth place finish and a decent run in Europe to add as well. But arguably his season-defining moment arrived during a sunny Spanish afternoon in the Basque country. A chip, a touch, a turn and a swing. That’s the best way to describe the incredible strike from this young man, that left opponents Espanyol speechless.
2. Dele Alli (vs Crystal Palace) // 20 // Tottenham Hotspur // England: Dele Alli has deservedly received plaudits this season, including the PFA Young Player of the Year Award. With a string of performances earning him this title, it was his technical class at Selhurst Park against Crystal Palace that truly took the football world by storm. Similar to Inaki Williams’ strike that won the award in terms of description, Alli’s shot at goal deserves similar recognition.
3. Kostas Stafylidis (vs Ingolstadt) // 22 // Augsburg // Greece: It’s with a heavy heart we had to condemn Stafylidis to a third place finish. As the name of our website suggests, we are in complete awe with anything involving the Outside of the Boot, so when the Greek youngster struck the ball with a sweet swing of his left boot, connecting with the outside of his foot, we couldn’t help but shed tears of joy. Take a bow Kostas, take a bow.
1. Jan Oblak // 23 // Atletico Madrid // Slovenia: It may seem strange to see a goalkeeper walk away with these honours because quite frankly, it is. One would expect this category to be dominated by attacking minded players but few regular watchers would be surprised by Oblak bucking the trend. He has been great for Atletico in their charge for silverware often pulling off saves most goalkeepers could only dream of. A poor showing in the penalty shootout of the Champions League final notwithstanding, Oblak had a season to remember.
2. Julian Weigl // 20 // Borussia Dortmund // Germany: With hipsters the world over salivating over the tactical nuances of the role of a defensive midfielder, Julian Weigl is another step towards the position becoming mainstream. The Dortmund midfielder slotted into Thomas Tuchel’s midfield seamlessly at the start of the season and hasn’t looked back since. A dank Internet meme tells me that he’s on his way to Bayern Munich in a couple of years but for now one has to be content to see him develop his undoubted talent at Dortmund.
3. Harry Kane // 22 // Tottenham Hotspur // England: When the Tottenham faithful proclaim Harry Kane as one of their own, it is not a mere statement of fact, it is so much more. The face of a new era at White Hart Lane, Kane has now finished with the Premier League Golden Boot award in the last couple of seasons. There’s plenty more to his game than goalscoring and the England International will be raring to show just that come the Euros.
Jan Oblak // 23 // Atletico Madrid // Slovenia: The most consistent and most difficult to dislodge from this spot over the season. Oblak, with his battery of clean sheets, led a title challenge, and a run to the final of the UEFA Champions League. Surely one to dominate many more attacks.
Matthias Ginter // 22 // Borussia Dortmund // Germany: A versatile and consistent performer at both full back, and center back, Ginter has been the epitome of all action under Tuchel.
Samuel Umtiti // 22 // Lyon // France:: The graceful center back has grown to become the bedrock of the Lyon defence. His game reading and tackling are surely top notch, and his calm and simple passing makes him a very easy on the eye.
Jose Gimenez // 21 // Atletico Madrid // Uruguay: The future of a fierce defence, Gimenez has proven this
season that he truly belongs at the top level, and it capable of dealing with some of the very best in the business with his fearless attitude.
Kingsley Coman // 19 // Bayern Munich (On loan from Juventus) // France: Guardiola has overseen the development of what is surely going to be one of the most feared wingers in football now. Coman has made an impact whenever given the opportunity, and will only grow in stature as time progresses.
Eric Dier // 22 // Tottenham Hotspur // England: Shifted into midfield from center back, Dier has been splendid in the Spurs shirt. He’s provided great cover to his defenders, and often served as a third center back. His neat passing hasn’t hurt either.
Julian Weigl // 20 // Borussia Dortmund // Germany: The on field brains of Tuchel, Julian Weigl has broken into the team and established himself as one of the top midfielders in the division.
Dele Alli // 20 // Tottenham Hotspur // England: The all action battery charging Spurs’ title challenge, Alli has been at the heart of all good things that his team has accomplished. His master of all trades playing style is not one that will go out of fashion soon, certainly not for England.
Paulo Dybala // 22 // Juventus // Argentina: The spearhead of the Juventus attacking lineup, Dybala’s
skills and attacking displays have helped Juventus to the double in his first season at Turin. Dybala has proven to be a more than adequate replacement for Carlos Tevez.
Harry Kane // 22 // Tottenham Hotspur // England: The 22-year-old led Spurs to a title challenge with 25 goals, and the Golden Boot award to go with it. Kane has firmly established himself as the top English striker heading into the Euros by sheer weight of goals.
Vincent Janssen // 21 // AZ Alkmaar // Netherlands: The top scorer of the Eredivisie ahead of many established names, Janssen has got 27 strikes from 32 starts. His intelligent running, and crisp finishing have even gone on to earn him a national team cap.