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 //
Ligue 1 has been a vast storehouse of talent for a while, and this season, a lot of the young players in that league are coming to the fore. Among them, is Alban Lafont, the 17 year old Toulouse keeper. The keeper previously featured on this list in this very position, and he retains on the back of the some good performances.
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 (Photo credit should read PASCAL PAVANI/AFP/Getty Images)
The youngster kept 2 clean sheets over the course of the last month, almost exactly like the month before, and therefore, it should come as no surprise that he keeps his spot on the team. Having said this, we have to remember, that he is still just 17, and if he continues a this rate of progression, he will make for an excellent footballer.
4. ANDRE ONANA // 20 // Ajax // Cameroon
Under the new manager, Pete Bosz, Onana has made his way into the team and kept his place very well. He’s become first choice at the club, and endeared himself to the fans rather quickly as well with his incredible shot stopping ability. This is his first appearance on this list, and it comes on the back of 4 consecutive clean sheets, helping Ajax stay near the top of the Eredivisie pile.
Onana will need to keep up, or mprove the current levels of performance to stay on this list. The fact that Ajax are in a close title race is a great way for him to build his temperament.
3. SERGIO RICO // 23 // Sevilla // Spain
Sevilla have been quite impressive of late, surging above even Barcelona for a time to be in second place in La Liga. While their football has been primarily attacking and forward thinking, they’ve managed to stay strong at the back as well, with the young shotstopper being well occupied. Sergio Rico has kept the experienced Sirigu out of the starting line up for large swathes of time, and credit to him and his performances for ensuring he has the coach’s faith.
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)
His form has continued to be good, with his main ability: his excellent shot stopping and reflexes almost always on show. With the kind performances Sergio Rico has been putting in, and the their importance to a good run from Sevilla, the Spaniard has managed to move up a spot.
2. YOAN CARDINALE // 22 // Nice // France //
Swapping places at the top, Cardinale has taken a slight drop in his ranking from last time. While Nice have been on a good run, and are still on top of the pile in Ligue 1, the real test for both club and player begins now. Nice, along with Cardinale, need to keep their levels high to stay on top of the league.
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
The youngster has managed to keep a couple of clean sheets in the last week or so, earning himself a spot on our latest Team of the Week, but Nice also lost their long unbeaten run. Either way, Cardinale hasn’t got much to worry about, he’s got a bright future, and his performances this season and winning both, points and plaudits.
1. GIANLUIGI DONNARUMMA // 17 // AC Milan // Italy //
The elader of the new generation of Milan players, Donnarumma rightfully takes his throne atop the young keeper rankings this month. His performances have belied his tender age from day 1 of this season, with a match winning penalty on day 1 sealing the adoration of so many Milan fans.
during the Serie A match between AC Milan and Juventus FC at Stadio Giuseppe Meazza on October 22, 2016 in Milan, Italy.
In the last month as well, Donnarumma has managed to usurp Cardinale for top spot, and that’s great progress for him. His side have moved up into 3rd place, which is good news for all the Rossonieri fans that have been dormant for a few years. Hopefully, he can continue his progress and stay on this list.