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]
A year or two back, there was talk of strikers being dead. With the advent of False 9s, the increasing importance given to midfielders and ball possession, and the all round nature of most attackers, the good ol’ 20 goal a season, bully defenders, run in behind, hold up play striker was seen as a relic of a bygone era. That has changed and how. Just ask Lukaku, or Kane, or indeed, stars from this list like Dolberg and Mbappe. Exciting times then for all us fans, as these talents continue to show their skills, and put on quite the show for us!
Starting off the list is by maintaining his place is Balde Keita. Keita hasn’t been first choice for Lazio all through the season, but with the capital club in 4th place, and his recent performances garnering a lot of positive attention, he’s bound to stay in the team for a while at least. Scoring 13 goals over the course of the season, he’s been in the news recently for famously scoring the fastest Serie A hattrick in this millennium, breaking a record held by Shevchenko. He also gave Totti the perfect derby swansong from a Lazio perspective, scoring a brace and making the difference.
Also keeping their places above Keita are Steve Mounie and Serge Gnabry. The former couldn’t continue his scoring streak, and finds himself on this list despite not scoring since the last edition. That being said, he’s continued to work hard for his team, picking up an assist in the recent win over Lorient. The versatile Serge Gnabry too, has done enough to justify his inclusion on this list, scoring thrice since the last edition of these rankings.
Continuing the rather unlikely trend of place retention is Sandro Ramirez. Malaga’s striker has been instrumental in their recent run of form (6 wins in 7 games), scoring and assisting almost at will for his team. he’s got 6 goals and an assist in this run, as Malaga look to make a late move towards the upper mid table. Most notably, he also scored against his Alma Mater, FC Barcelona in a 2-0 win that could very well decide the destiny of La Liga this season.
The man above Ramirez, Simeone, drops down the rankings. While Ramirez is spearheading his side’s rise up the table, Simeone is struggling to stave off the approaching dog fight. A horrendous run of form has seen Genoa drop perilously close to the relegation places, and their talismanic striker has scored just once in that run. Surely, this coincidence is logical, and Genoa need Simeone to step up. The stage is set then. Can our magician pull the rabbit out of his imaginary hat?
Enes Unal struggled in the middle of the season after an electric start, but seems to have found his shooting boots again. Scoring 5 times since the last edition of these rankings was published, the City loanee is making a strong case for himself to be a part of their squad and lead the line alongside Gabriel Jesus. Even if that doesn’t work though, considering the dearth of strikers in the market, he shouldn’t have a shortage of suitors. Staying with Eredivisie, we come to Kasper Dolberg. The striker broke into the Ajax team midway through the season, and has remained a fixture every since. His injury and the form and skill of Bertrand Traore have brought in good competition, but on the evidence of their 4-1 win against Lyon, the duo get on just fine. Dolberg has distinguished himself with his movement, first touch, and perfect technique. His on field intelligence with respect to running and creating space for the likes of Ziyech and Younes is also a big factor in Ajax’s dominance. For lovers of Dutch football, long may this continue!
Like Enes Unal, Andre Silva started the season like a house on fire. The Portugese striker was hailed as the first world class Portugese forward since the halcyon days of Pauleta. While he certainly hasn’t had a bad or a disappointing season, there have been times when one gets the feeling that he’s struggling to live up to the hype. 15 goals and 5 assists are a great first season for the youngster, and there is surely a lot more to come from him.
At number two is a player who has certainly delivered on his promise. That RB Leipzig will be playing Champions League football next season is a great compliment to everyone at that club, as especially their top scorer. Werner’s energy, pace, and goals have fired Leipzig into 2nd place in the Bundesliga in their debut campaign, an achievement that cannot be overstated. He fully deserves his spot near the top.
The top spot, of course, belongs to Kylian Mbappe. The 18 year old started the season in the Monaco reserves, but is arguably the biggest name in football right now. His surge up the rankings has been driven by his goals in Ligue 1 and especially in Europe. Until their defeat to Juventus, Monaco, and Mbappe scored in all their knockout games. His scoring ability has taken Monaco to the verge of an improbable Ligue 1 win. His pace and style have drawn thee obvious comparisons to Thierry Henry, and it will be a great achievement for him to win Ligue 1 in his first full season.