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 – 22 years old and below]
5. ALBAN LAFONT // 17 // Toulouse // France //
Adding to the list of prodigious young keepers is Alban Lafont. The Toulouse man makes his first appearance on this list this month. He’s made it in on the back of some good performances for the 2 clean sheets that Toulouse managed to keep last month, including the one against PSG.
Toulouse’s French goalkeeper Alban Lafont vies with Bastia’s Guinean forward Francois Kamano during the French L1 football match Toulouse against Bastia on April 09, 2016 at the Municipal Stadium in Toulouse. AFP PHOTO/ PASCAL PAVANI / AFP / PASCAL PAVANI
What’s been most impressive about Lafont is his decisiveness. He’s been very successful when trying to claim the ball in 50/50 situations, and that is always a positive. His strong communication skills, and acrobatic movements mean that he’s one to watch for in the future. For now though, he’ll need to be at his best to retain his place on this list, considering the competition young keepers are putting up now.
4. SERGIO RICO // 23 // Sevilla // Spain //
Sergio Rico keeps his place and his position on this list. He’s managed to stave off competition from Sirigu for now, stringing together a run of starts. However, his bane, as always, has been his inconsistency.
SEVILLE, SPAIN – SEPTEMBER 27: Sergio Rico of Sevilla FC makes a safe during the UEFA Champions League Group H match between Sevilla FC and Olympique Lyonnais at the Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan stadium on September 27, 2016 in Seville, Spain. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
Despite the inconsistency though, credit has to be given where it is due. Sergio Rico has proven himself as a great shot stopper, and considering his manager’s attacking style of play, he is bound to concede a few goals. Having said that, he’s managed to keep a few clean sheets, including an important one this past weekend against Atletico Madrid.
3. THOMAS DIDILLON // 20 // Metz // France //
Didillon was a major influence in Metz’s promotion winning campaign. The young keeper emerged as one of the leaders of the team, as they managed to leap into Ligue 1. Didillon also had a tremendous start to the season, as he shot to the top of our keeper rankings with 3 clean sheets in 6 games. Impressive performances against Angers and Dijon also contributed.
Metz’s French goalkeeper Thomas Didillon holds the ball during the French L1 football match between Metz (FCM) and Nice (OGCN) on October 23, 2016 at Saint Symphorien stadium in Longeville-Les-Metz, eastern France. / AFP / JEAN-CHRISTOPHE VERHAEGEN
Sadly for Didillon, the last month has been a tough one. Metz are on a 3 game losing streak at the moment, which started with the horrendous 0-7 defeat to Monaco. 12 goals conceded in 3 games doesn’t make for good reading at all, despite the youngster’s best efforts. To be fair to Didillon though, he’d face a much easier ride in a team that isn’t newly promoted to the league.
2. GIANLUIGI DONNARUMMA // 17 // AC Milan // Italy //
This is a player that has been stealing the show since he broke into the team last season, and has become emblematic of the resurgence that seems to be taking place in the red half of Milan. Donnarumma is leading a generation of young Milan players to potentially something great.
during the Serie A match between AC Milan and Juventus FC at Stadio Giuseppe Meazza on October 22, 2016 in Milan, Italy.
Donnarumma has been excellent over the course of this season. He’s been an easy first choice for Milan, and justified his role too. It began on the first day of the season, as he saved a late penalty to deny his old mentor, Mihaljovic a point. Even in the recent win against Juventus, he was excellent, making a number of saves to keep his side ahead, and get them the win. Quite an apt stage to perform as well, considering it was in front of the legendary Buffon.
1. YOAN CARDINALE // 22 // Nice // France //
The form player, from the form team of Europe. Nice have taken Ligue 1 by storm, and become the talking point for many a football fan. Cardinale established his place in the side last season, and is now one of the star players. He started the season strong, keeping 2 clean sheets at the start. he even made it to the last version of this list, at rank 3.
Nice’s French goalkeeper Yoan Cardinale stops the ball during the French L1 football match between Nice (OGCN) and Lorient (FCL) at the Allianz Riviera stadium in Nice, southeastern France, on October 2, 2016. / AFP / VALERY HACHE
Cardinale has kept up the good form, and surged to the top of this list. He kept a good clean sheet in the win over Monaco, and has generally been very good despite not keeping clean sheets. He’s been a regular on our Talent Radar Team of the Week, and not without reason. IF he can keep up the performance, he may just stay here for a while to come!