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]
As the season has progressed, a common trend for midfielders seems to be emerging across Europe. Almost every leading team is now reliant on an all action midfielder. Something like a throwback to the box-to-box midfielders of the past, teams are looking to include players who are the master of all trades in their line ups, especially in midfield, where the game is often won and lost. Dynamic players like N’Golo Kante, Arturo Vidal, Paul Pogba, and Moussa Dembele seem to be taking center stage for their teams’ aspirations. This trend is reflected in our rankings as well, with this edition potentially looking at some of the leading lights of football in the next few years. Without further ado, here we are!
Starting off the list, having taken yet another hit on his ranking, is Atalanta’s Franck Kessie. The energetic Ivorian hasn’t been as effective for Gasperini’s Atalanta side of late, especially since his return from the AFCON. A sending off in the win against a strong Napoli outfit was also a blot on his copy. But fans of Kessie need not worry, as the midfielder is sure to retain a role of importance in a very physical Atalanta outfit.
Another player who has seen a slight downturn in his productivity of late is Wylan Cyprien. He started the season like a house on fire, but hasn’t been at the same level ever since. Having said that, he’s still an important part of Lucien Favre’s title challenging Nice, as they trail the leaders by only 3 points, and try to keep the pressure on PSG and Monaco.
While the likes of Kessie and Cyprien have dropped, the corresponding rise has been made by Lorenzo Pellegrini. The 20 year old is one of the main creative outlets in midfield for mid-table Sassuolo, having racked up 5 goals and 4 assists this season. The midfielder is more than just a cog in the wheel, with his positive performances making quite the impression.
Making a comeback to there rankings is every Liverpool fan’s favourite youngster, Raheem Sterling. After a tough period in the winter, when he wasn’t being played much, Sterling has roared back into contention with his performances. The wide man seems to be adding the much needed consistency to his final product now, and that bodes very well for Guardiola’s future. Along with Leroy Sane on the left, he’s formed a deadly counter-attacking unit, one which has the pace and skill to hurt any opposition.
His England teammate, Dele Alli is just above him. After a slow start to the season, Alli has picked up pace after his team’s transition to a 3-4-3, where Pochettino has played him off Harry Kane. The duo have profited from each other’s presence, and idiotic celebrations side, are a joy to watch. 13 goals in the league alone for a midfielder is a number that speaks for itself really. Spurs finishing second might not be a bad call, and heading to some betting sites may be in order!
The top 5 begins with Ousmane Dembele. A regular member of our Team of the Week feature, the French midfielder has earned the respect of his colleagues and fans with some fine performances in the yellow shirt. Tuchel has moved him slightly deeper of late, having also moved to a 3 man backline. Dembele is now primarily looking to break the lines of the opposition with his creative passing for players like Reus and Aubameyang. It remains to be seen if he will be pushed back forward to utilise his pace, after Reus’ latest injury setback.
After a fast start to the season, much like his team Lyon, Corentin Tolisso has also slowed down a little. Having been top of these rankings for the frist 2 editions, Tolisso is now in 4th place. The all action midfielder has been an important part of Lyon’s campaign, in coordination with players like Lacazette and Gonalons, proving to be an effective link between midfield and the forwards.
The top 3 feature 2 midfielders with a similar playing style in Naby Keita and Tiemoue Bakayoko. The former has been the driving force in an excellent campaign for Leipzig, as the newly promoted team has defied expectations to find itself in a title race. His speed, strength, skill, and versatility have all made him a worthwhile addition to this list, and potentially one of the most valuable players in European football.
But like last time, leading the way for midfielders are Monaco’s deadly duo of Lema and Bakayoko. The left sided winger, Lemar, has been in top form this season, and his pace and skill have proved to be an irresistible combination for most teams in the Ligue 1. 7 goals, and second best in the league 6 assists have made him a crucial part of the Monaco goal scoring machine.
And while Lemar is important for the scoring end, Bakayoko has been equally crucial at the preventing end. Essentially, the midfielder is one that joins in during attacks as well, but his physicality and energy have made him priceless while protecting the back 4. Another midfield dynamo, Bakayoko has certainly made a name for himself this season, and looks good to retain this ranking on current form.