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]
This is the second edition of our defender rankings this season, and a lot of excellent performances from youngsters across Europe have caught the eye. Our defender rankings have generally been dominated by full backs, the energetic rooks that make things happen on either end of the pitch, and this edition isn’t too different, being led by Arsenal’s Hector Bellerin. That being said, the center backs have made some sort of a fight, as you’ll see below.
Sneaking into the list at number 10 is Berenguer. He’s made it in on the back of some great performances in the last few weeks, including an appearance in our latest Team of the Week. The all action full back has been very impressive for Osasuna, and more performances like the one that got him into our Team of the Week will only see him rise. Another who has made it in on the back of some great performances in recent weeks is Niklas Sule. The Hoffenheim man has been on the ball in recent weeks, including a match winning goal last weekend.
A man that has fallen down the pecking order though is Ramy Bensebaini. The Algerian started the season like a house on fire, making in into the top 3 in our last edition of these rankings. The versatile player has featured fairly regularly, but hasn’t made the impact that he can. Fans of Rennes and the youngster will be hoping he can pull up his socks, and fast. Another who has dropped down the ladder a little is Davinson Sanchez of Ajax. The Colombian had a bright start to the season, and has continued with a sense of consistency, but a definite slowdown from his barnstorming start.
For a 21 year old, Romagnoli is a very experienced player, and this has shone through this season at Milan. Unlike his team, which has been blowing hot and cold, Romagnoli has been steady at the back. He’s played every minute of every game in Serie A, and generally been quite reliable alongside the more experienced Paletta.
While Romagnoli has been linked with dream moves like Barcelona in the very recent past, a man who walked away from his place at the Nou Camp is Alex Grimaldo. The risky career move seems to be paying off well so far for the La Masia man, as he’s acquitted himself very well at a club equally famous for nurturing young players. The left back has been a threat offensively all season long, notching up a couple of goals and assists. But his overall technical quality has caught many an eye, making his La Masia upbringing clear to even amateur eyes. The fact that he’s a regular in a top team and getting Champions League exposure as well is important for his career. Watch out for this player.
As mentioned earlier on in the article, the center backs are starting to make a comeback, and one of the effective ones has been Jeremiah St Juste. At just 20, it isn’t the biggest surprise in the world that he is a very modern center back in terms of his playing style. Good on the all, and more of a reader, St Juste has been in the thick of things in recent weeks for Heerenveen, making 2 consecutive appearances in our Team of the Week. Yet another young center back making waves on the European stage is Jonathan Tah. The youngster has always had his talent recognised, but is finally getting opportunities to show his skill under Schmidt. Playing an important role in the two clean sheets against Spurs in the Champions League will have done his confidence a world of good.
Our top two remain the same, establishing the dominance that full backs currently have on this list. While Tah has been solid for Leverkusen at the back, the man that has emerged as a real force in German football is Benjamin Henrichs. Henrichs has been touted by many as the next big thing in German football, not a title to be taken lightly. His match winning performance against Spurs at Wembley will have warmed the cockles of many a Leverkusen and Germany fan.
Keeping his spot at the top is Hector Bellerin. Arsenal, as usual, look like title contenders right now, and the smooth attacking and defensive machine has been picking up many wins. Hector Bellerin has of course been an important cog in the wheel. Nothing can be said about him that hasn’t been said before, so it is superfluous to talk about his speed, attacking ability and defensive work rate. Instead, let’s just hope he stays fit, in form, and continues to entertain as one of the most exciting youngsters in world football.