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]
The Defender Rankings are back for the first time in 2017, and some changes have taken place. While a majority of the contenders on this page remain familiar faces, their spots on this list have failed to remain as constant as their presence.
Diving straight into the boiling pot, we meet Victor Lindelof, placed at the foot of the top 10. The big Swede has made it onto this list for the first time this season; surprising when you consider the hype surrounding him. The defender has been very efficient at the back, and his strong physicality has been pivotal to his success as well. His consistency (He’s Benfica’s joint second highest appearance maker) is crucial too, as he’s formed a fine partnership at the back with Luisao, and the duo is taking Benfica to another Liga win.
Another new entrant on the list is Andreas Christensen. The Chelsea loanee has long been one of the better performing individual defenders in Germany, and with Gladbach turning their fortunes around now, he’s bound to find himself earning more accolades. Operating in the middle of a back 3, Christensen has shown tremendous organisation ability and good game sense during his time at Gladbach.
Just above the 2 new entrants is the yo-yo man of this list, Bensebaini. After a barn storming start to the season, his rankings took a hit due to a tough period with Rennes (including a 7 goal thrashing at the hands of the current European darlings, Monaco). After another rise going into the last edition of these rankings, Bensebaini now sees his ranking fall. The fact that he made no appearances in January has obviously had a major role to play. Like Bensebaini, Tah too, has dropped places due to irregularity in his appearances. Calling his position in the next edition is risky business, and you may just want to cover yourself with some sport arbitrage betting.
Rising up to take their place is Jeremiah St. Juste. The prodigious young defender has been Heerenveen’s best center back this season, and someone that the team has grown to rely on. His presence has been vital at the back, with his calm passing adding a great dimension to their game. He’s been quite good in the air as well, which is to be expected of a player his height.
Two of the best attacking young full backs take us into the top 5. At 5th is Hector Bellerin. The Spaniard has been galloping away at the top of these rankings for a long time, but has not finally lost his place. His injury issues have seen him take to the field very little, and Arsenal’s traditional mid season stutters have affected him as well, when he has gotten onto the field. With him, but at 4th is Benjamin Mendy. The energetic left back has seen a steady rise in his rankings, with his first appearance coming last time at 8th. Now he’s up all the way at 4th. His pace, attacking intent, and crossing are a vital part of Monaco’s arsenal going forward. Balls into the box for the likes of Falcao to attack are a big source of threat from Monaco, and Mendy, in tandem with Lemar, are a very crucial cog in the machine.
The podium has seen a bit of a shuffle, with Henrichs dropping into 3rd place. While the defender has been a regular feature, he’s been a regular feature of an unsuccessful team. Leverkusen have been found out of late, and are suffering a run of poor results across competitions. As a result, the talented, but maybe slightly out of form, Henrichs falls. Taking his place in the number two spot is Niklas Sule. The Hoffenheim man was at the heart of the longest unbeaten run in Europe’s top 5 leagues this season, and that alone should tell you about his performances. The dominant defender has been able to impose his will on forwards consistently over the course of the season, and the defensive solidity provided by him, and his partners, is the reason Hoffenheim find themselves in such a good position in the table.
Right atop the standings is Davinson Sanchez. Credit has to go to the Colombian who arrived in Amsterdam as a new signing this season. He’s acquitted himself really well to European football, with his physical prowess and technical skill make him an irresistible combination. The fact that he hasn’t conceded in 7 games for Ajax has certainly helped his move to the top. It’s plain to see that Sanchez is a player with a very bright future.