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 penultimate Talent Radar Performance Rankings will give a clear idea of which players are likely to earn their recognition in the Talent Radar Awards at the end of the season. While Donnarumma has been dominating the rankings, and rightly so, some competition continues to unfold in the places below him.
Yoan Cardinale’s terrific start to the season has been quickly undone over the last couple of weeks, much like his side OGC Nice. While the club have pretty much conceded defeat in an exciting Ligue1 title race, Cardinale himself has dropped down to fifth spot after engaging in an intriguing battle with Gianluigi Donnarumma at the summit of the rankings. Nonetheless, it’s been an impressive season for the Frenchman, as his side look to secure an unlikely Champions League spot.
Spaniard Sergio Rico has climbed up to fourth spot after taking full advantage of the opportunities he’s been given. Oldest on the list, the Sevilla man was also the only keeper in these rankings to experience Champions League football – though that ended in surprising circumstances as the La Liga side were knocked out by struggling Leicester City.
After a string of sub-par performances including a shocking error against Groningen where some clever footwork outside his area was quickly undone leading to Ajax dropping more crucial points in the title race, Andre Onana has recovered well to climb to third place. The Cameroonian can be pleased at the fact that he may well end up as the only African in the top five of the goalkeeper rankings across the past three seasons of these rankings.
While a teenager holds top spot, it’s also a teenager who has climbed up to assume second spot with 18-year-old Alban Lafont. The Frenchman has put in some impressive performances in the past couple of weeks including back-to-back away clean sheets, one of which came at the Parc des Princes against defending champions Paris Saint-Germain. Still only in his early years and regularly putting out first team shifts, Alban Lafont’s development is bound to sky-rocket over the next couple of seasons.
Speaking of early years and putting in first team shifts, there’s no surprise who occupies top spot in the Talent Radar Performance Rankings for Goalkeepers; 17-year-old Gianluigi Donnarumma has only continued to dominate the category. Interestingly his most impressive performance in recent weeks came in a 2-1 loss away to Juventus, as he pulled off numerous saves to keep his side in the contest. After facing competition from Thomas Didillon and Yoan Cardinale for top spot, the Italian surged to the top in December 2016 and hasn’t looked back. The teenagers’ rise has been staggering having won the Talent Radar Debutant of the Season award in 2015-16, and now on course to potentially win the individual award in his position.