As the end of the season beckons across Europe, it is time for us at Outside of the Boot to recognize the accomplishments of tomorrow’s stars under our Talent Radar banner, with the U-22 Team of the Season across each individual top leagues being featured for the fourth consecutive year. This feature looks at the best of the Ligue 1.
[Eligibility: As of 1st June 2016 – 21 years old and below for outfield players // 22 years old and below for goalkeepers]
Alban Lafont // 18 // Toulouse // Goalkeeper: Lafont has been one of the top keepers in France this season, and that is saying something in a league with players like Subasic and Trapp and a whole host of young keepers as well. The Toulouse man has shown firm handling skills, and some spectacular stops in a memorable season for him personally.
Almamy Toure // 21 // Monaco // Right Back: Monaco have a problem of plenty when it comes to good young players, and Toure personifies this problem. Competing for his place in the side with Sidibe, Toure is often relegated to the bench, but has rarely failed to impress when given the chance. In fact, there is a school of thought that believes Toure is the better defender of the two. He should have enough opportunity to prove his case next season!
Emanuel Mammana // 21 // Lyon // Centre Back: The young Argentine defender was a new signing for Lyon, and what a signing he has proven to be. His start to the season was hampered by problems including injuries, but he’s picked up his form to emerge as a leader at the back. He’s a ball playing defender, in the mould of many of the top defenders today. Aside from being good with the ball at his feet, he’s also unafraid of mixing it up and roughhousing a bit where necessary.
Ramy Bensebaini // 22 // Rennes // Centre Back: Bensebaini has been a very consistent defender over the course of the season. He has had his low points, such as the heavy defeat at the hands of Monaco, but that’s something he’s taken in his stride. Along with Joris Gnagnon, he’s formed a very interesting partnership at centre half for Rennes.
Benjamin Mendy // 22 // Monaco // Left Back: Mendy has been a real revelation, and easily one of the best full backs in Europe this season. His crossing ability sets him apart, enabling players like Mbappe and Falcao to thrive on his service. Importantly, for a team that plays fast direct football, he’s got an excellent first time cross as well.
Tiemoue Bakayoko // 22 // Monaco // Midfielder: No surprises to see Monaco dominating this XI, and no surprise at all to see this player in this team. Bakayoko has shown immense physicality in the heart of Monaco’s midfield, and his stature has only risen with Monaco’s points tally. The hard working midfielder also has an eye for a pass, something that adds to his coveted status.
Corentin Tolisso // 22 // Lyon // Midfielder: The Lyon man has been hailed as one of the best young midfielders in the world, and another good season with some strong performances from Tolisso has passed. To be frank, while Tolisso has had a good season, he hasn’t really stepped up as required, which is a reflection on his potential. The midfielder is someone who can be effective at either end of the pitch, and hopefully, will power Lyon to more of a title challenge next season.
Bernardo Silva // 22 // Monaco // Right Midfielder: While we do list him as a right sided midfielder, Silva is capable of playing just as comfortably on the left side of midfield. The Portugal player is one who has got amazing amount skill, and is unpredictable when defending against. The way Monaco play favours his style too, allowing him to drift inside and try to play close to his strikers.
Wylan Cyprien // 22 // Nice // Attacking Midfielder: Monaco are the flavor of the month with their title win and their excellent football in Europe, but the start of the season saw a different contender. Nice, led by Lucien Favre and with stars like Balotelli and Dante went on a long unbeaten run to propel them to the top of the table. Among all the big names was Wylan Cyprien. The young attacking midfielder was very effective for them, and a key player in the system. Obviously, they aren’t a one man team, but it is telling that after his season ending injury, Favre had to change the system and Nice’s title challenge fell away.
Thomas Lemar // 21 // Monaco // Left Midfielder: Another of Monaco’s Magnifique Seven, Lemar too, started the season on fire. Often switching positions with Silva, Lemar was most effective in partnership with Mendy. The duo terrorized a number of defenders on that left hand side, and truly have been crucial in ensuring that Monaco win Ligue 1.
Kylian Mbappe // 18 // Monaco // Striker: The jewel in Monaco’s crown, Mbappe needs no introduction to anyone who follows football. The pacy striker began the season as part of the reserve team, and his rise to super-stardom has been well documented. His fourteen league goals may not come across as that high a tally, but his impact, especially under the bright lights of the Champions League has been immense. He managed to score in every round of the knockout stages, and this teenager sure has a bright future.