Talent Radar 2016-17 Performance Rankings: Top 10 Young Defenders | Hector Bellerin and Benjamin Henrichs fight for top spot


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 2016 – 21 years old and below]


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It’s always a tough ask to judge the credentials of a young defender. While the position demands a sense of maturity, we often see this lacking in the modernised version of the role with the more flamboyant of defenders often in the lime light. Now in the third season of the Talent Radar Player Performance Rankings, we continue to strive to recognise the truly deserving individuals.

PSG’s Presenel Kimpembe slipped into the rankings after having been given the opportunity in the first-team by Unai Emery following David Luiz’ sale in the summer. Alex Grimaldo sneaks in as well, after an impressive start to life in Portugal having taken the leap of faith, leaving Barcelona for Benfica. 20-year-old Jonathan Tah is in eight position, the youngster has already amassed over fifty appearance in the Bundesliga and is finally getting his well deserved prolonged stint in the first team, including Champions League football with Bayer Leverkusen.

Having faced significant time out following injury last season, Manchester United’s Luke Shaw has come back stronger after rehabilitation. He started the season bursting through the blocks, but has faded off late much like the club he represents. Malian Almamy Toure gets in just ahead of Luke Shaw, with the 20-year-old part of a Monaco side challenging for the title with youth rather than riches. Toure represents one of many youngsters who form the core of the principality club.

Italian Alessio Romagnoli, with four years of experience with him, finally seems to be realising his true potential in our Talent Radar features. The AC Milan man is up at fifth with a real opportunity to challenge for top spot and potentially become the first pure central defender to win the Talent Radar Defender of the Season award with the previous three winners having significant experience as full-backs. Challenging him to that crown is Davinson Sanchez, the only South American on the list. The Colombian has been in excellent form since signing for Ajax in the summer from defending Copa Libertadores champions, Atletico Nacional.

Rennes’ summer signing, Ramy Bensebaini is in the top three having impressed with his versatility. The Algerian has been in three different Talent Radar Team of the Week features this season (at the time of writing), with each of them in different positions – centre-back, left-back and defensive midfield. With modern football demanding variation of roles, Bensebaini stands out on Talent Radar despite not being a household name.

The revelation of the season thus far has been Bayer Leverkusen’s 19-year-old full-back, Benjamin Henrichs. Adept at playing on both sides of the defence, the German has been in exceptional form, particularly going forward in Leverkusen’s high paced attack under Roger Schmidt. The teenager made a handful of appearances towards the back end of last season and besides the opening day defeat to Borussia Monchengladbach, Henrichs has played every minutes of every game since. One definitely to keep an eye on for the remainder of the season.

Taking top spot in the first edition of our rankings is Arsenal’s energetic Spaniard, Hector Bellerin. The full-back has often flirted with top spot in previous editions but has started this season strongly once again. Using his terrific pace in both ends of the pitch, Bellerin has been terrific in Arsenal’s passing game going forward. The 3-0 win against Chelsea was a clear indication of just what Bellerin is capable of, a neat assist on the back of a sweeping attacking move by the Gunners followed by a last ditch recovery tackle on Pedro on the other end. The Spaniard is the complete full-back package, and is truly deserving of top spot that he currently holds.

Talent Radar Team of the Week // Performance Rankings