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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]
Strikers find themselves in a bit of a crisis these days. A lot of managers favour playing without one, and far too often, the ones that do play with a striker, expect many different roles to be performed by the same individual. Moreover, the individual himself will also be judged almost solely on his goal output. Despite these pressures, there are several who thrive, and lift the level of the game along with them. This first edition of the Talent Radar Player Performance Rankings for strikers this season identifies and applauds 10 such individuals.
Opening the list at number 10 is Marcus Rashford. The young striker has a massive fan following, which isn’t really a surprise considering who he plays for, but also for his performances. At just 18, he’s become a key part of Mourinho’s squad. Expect him to be a mainstay on this list for a while now. Another player who is a vital part of his team is Sebastien Haller. Much like last season, Utrecht are heavily reliant on this player for his goals. The 4 he has scored are almost 40% of all their goals this season. Safe to say that Utrecht have placed their eggs in a Haller shaped basket.
Establishing the now customary Lyon presence in this list is Maxwel Cornet. We established him as one to watch out for this season, and he’s living up to his billing. The forward generally starts in the wide areas, but loves to come inside and contribute. 5 goals at the time of writing are a very good contribution from him, and only the start.
Eredivisie seems to be the place to be for a young forward, as Arber Zeneli, the second Eredivisie star on this list stakes his claim to a spot. The tricky player, who is comfortable playing on the left and the right side, has made quite an impact in recent weeks. Zeneli is currently on a 4 match scoring streak, with his last one coming this weekend against Groningen.
Moving from wing oriented players to a more traditional striker, we have Timo Werner. Werner is a striker who plays through the middle, and his partnership for RB Leipzig with Poulsen has been very profitable indeed. While Werner himself has scored ‘only’ 3 goals in 7 appearances, his work off the ball has been very helpful for his team. Constantly buzzing about and troubling defenders, he’s a real asset for Leipzig. Another central striker who’s made an impact is Joel Pohjanpalo. Even though he’s mostly been back up to the likes of Chicharito, he’s managed 4 goals, just 1 less than the Little Pea. Of course, he shot into fame with a hattrick off the bench to win Leverkusen the game against Hamburg, and those are the sort of performances that will keep him here. Sticking to the theme of impressive backups, how can one ignore Kelechi Iheanacho. The young Nigerian forward has been in the shadow of Sergio Aguero for a while now, but has always impressed, and now has the faith of his manager too. Trusted to start in the Manchester derby, Kelechi rewarded Guardiola with what proved to be the winner. He’s always had the striker’s instinct, and his movement and touch are there for all to see. For a change, Citizens aren’t too vexed about Aguero’s flaky fitness.
At the bottom of the top 3 is a man making waves at the Amsterdam ArenA. Dolberg hasnt yet cemented his place in the first team, but 5 goals in 5 starts is a very impressive statement of intent. If he can convince Bosz of his abilities, he’s in line to fill an important place in the side.Finishing off the Eredivisie dominance is Enes Unal. The Turkish forward has been on fire for Twente, scoring 6 goals in as many appearances. Unal has been touted as the next big thing in Turkish football, and at this rate, he will be that big thing.
Leading the line for his team and on this list is Andre Silva. The young striker has burst onto the scene this season, with 7 goals in 14 appearances for The Dragons. His overall play has been in the spotlight too, and he’s earned praise from across the board for his performances. For the sake of Porto’s well being, let’s hope he can keep up his performances, and stay as high as this on our rankings.