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]
With the levels of athleticism the modern day game demands, the calibre and quality of midfielders in the game is slowly and steadily on the rise. Along with the emphasis on athletic ability, increasing universality has meant that the midfielder, now more so than ever, needs to be not just the jack of all trades, but the master of them. Keeping this in mind, we begin the third season of our Talent Radar Player Performance Rankings, in an attempt to identify and enlist the most meritorious young midfielders.
Making his debut on this list is Malcom, the talented young Brazilian attacking midfielder. Having made the move to Bordeaux from Corinthians, he’s taken to European football quite well, scoring thrice already, from just behind the forward. A player making a similar impact from a slightly deeper role is Lewis Baker. 4 goals for the Chelsea loanee are getting some attention from across the European leagues, including here on our Team of the Week. His overall game and influence have also been noted by many. Let’s hope the youngster carries on, and climbs up this list.
Leading these two midfielders is the Monaco brigade. Monaco seem to be building their team and title aspirations on youth players, and the youth players are responding brilliantly. Some superb performances at the start of the season have seen them hog the Talent Radar limelight, with the likes of Traore and Bakayoko being contenders for this list, and Toure making it onto the defenders version of this list. But for this edition, Monaco fans will have to content with seeing 2 of their consistent performers, Thomas Lemar and Bernardo Silva. Lemar has been consistently excellent coming in off the left flank, and Silva has been used in a variety of roles, but excelled almost everywhere. Both midfielders have chipped in with goals, with Lemar especially being quite the terror to opposing defenders with his dribbling. Silva even made the important contribution of scoring in the Champions League win over Spurs.
Moving from one youth oriented club to another, next on the list is Porto’s Otavio. The young Brazilian is the latest in a long line of excellent young South Americans to make their name at the famous Portugese club. Another versatile player who has been deployed in several positions, Otavio embodies the new breed of Brazilian footballers, skilled, and hard working.
The young French maestro Ousmane Dembele makes his debut on this list all the way up at number 5, and honestly, he probably has it in him to finish on top of the pile come the end of the season. He’s had a good start to his career in yellow, playing a regular role alongside Aubameyang. Dembele shot to fame after an incredible second half of last season, where he put his pace and skill on full display. These earned him a place on our end season Ligue 1 team of the season. Considering Tuchel’s style of play, and faith in the youngster, this is a name you’re set to see much more often.
Moving on to a very different type of player, we go to Serie A, where Franck Kessie has been making waves for Atalanta. The mid table side has been helped by the introduction of this all action midfielder, who has literally been everywhere for them. Tackles, interceptions, passes, goals, he’s been doing them all. Perhaps the only reason he hasn’t got the attention he’s deserved is that he plays for Atalanta. Surely, Kessie is ready to stay on this list if he can keep up the performances.
The top 3 have all been real revelations this season. Raheem Sterling, who takes bronze this time, has seen his form and career resurrected by Pep Guardiola. Some great performances down the wings for City have seen him shoot back into contention for his England place, and be one of the men leading his team’s title charge. Joshua Kimmich of course, had a very different summer. While Sterling was subjected to heated criticism, Kimmich put in solid performances at the Euros, and earned a lot of respect for them. He’s been an ever-present in Ancelotti’s side, helping out in midfield and at right back.
Topping the list is the living breathing embodiment of the phrase ‘master of all trades’. Lyon have, for a few years now, been willing to invest in youth and take their chances with young players. The likes of Lacazette and Fekir have been very successful in past editions of Talent Radar, and this time, the attention goes to Corentin Tolisso. Operating at the heart of Lyon’s midfield, the youngster has embraced the responsibility and grown to be their most important player, chipping in in attack, as well as defence. He’s surely got the talent to make it big, and with responsibility thrust on him in a big way this season, we’ll find out if he has the temperament too.