Our Talent Radar 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.
[Eligibility: As of 1st June 2017 – 21 years old and below]
After careful deliberation, our Talent Radar Performance Rankings have finally gone ‘modern’ (as some would say). Starting this season, we are being more cautious about who is labelled a Midfielder and who a Forward/Attacker. We’ll treat each player on a case by case basis, recognising now that gone are the days where wingers can be categorised as midfielders with the evolution of formations and lack of popularity of the 4-4-2. We were a bit late to this acceptance, call us traditionalists, but we did evolve a couple of years back in our approach – just that we’ve widened that scope now.
With that in mind, we present the season’s first edition of (pure) midfielders in our Talent Radar Performance Rankings.
We start off in the Eredivisie, with AZ Alkmaar’s 19-year-old Guus Til taking 10th spot. The Dutch midfielder started the season against PSV Eindhoven, and since being subbed off then, has played each and every minutes of AZ’s domestic campaign (including the KNVB Bekker), and has grown into an integral part of their midfield. Hoffenheim’s defensive midfielder, Dennis Geiger is in ninth spot. Julian Nagelsmann showed faith in the 19-year-old in the opening game of the Bundesliga, before sending him out to Anfield as well in the Champions League qualifier. Impressing with his understanding of the game, Geiger’s development this season will be key – especially with Nagelsmann at the helm.
Argentine Santiago Ascacibar who joined Stuttgart in the summer, and despite being a fairly young footballer in new European pastures, has taken well to life in the German Bundesliga. The 20-year-old has been a defensively solid commodity in Stuttgart’s return to the top flight, averaging nearly four successful tackles per game and an impressive eighty-six percent pass completion ratio.
We go to the youth academy that just keeps on giving with Ajax’s Donny van de Beek for the seventh spot. The 20-year-old broke through in the first team late last season and hasn’t looked back since. He’s started twelve of Ajax’s thirteen games, scoring thrice (at the time of writing). Next up is Portuguese youngster, Goncalo Guedes; the 20-year-old failed to make a break-through into Paris Saint-Germain’s starting eleven since his move from Benfica, but has revived his career with a loan to Valencia. The fallen Spanish giants sit second in the table, helped by an attack minded approach of which Guedes has grown to be a key member.
Last season’s runner up in the Midfielders category at the Talent Radar Young Player Awards and second runner up for Player of the Season, Dele Alli, is in fifth position. The Englishman has only seen his stock rise since breaking through at Tottenham Hotspur and is now expected to be a key member of England’s World Cup campaign.
After starting the season on the bench, Fabian Ruiz’ first start came in the famous 1-0 victory at the Santiago Bernabeu. The Spaniard has become undroppable since, helped by his versatility to be deployed anywhere across the midfield role. Defensively solid, he’s the first of three Spaniards who feature in this edition of the rankings.
Borussia Dortmund turned some heads when they signed Mikel Merino from Osasuna last season, and though he never truly staked a claim at the German club, the talent was there to see. Talent which Rafael Benitez wanted at Newcastle United and his faith has been justified. Merino has been key in controlling the Magpies’ midfield, both in attack and defence, impressing with his passing range as well.
In a first for our Talent Radar Performance Rankings, a Macedonian features in second spot with Levante’s Enis Bardhi truly earning his spot. Not much was expected of the 22-year-old, who joined from Ujpest in Hungary, but Bardhi has settled into life in Spanish football despite his rather obscure footballing experience. The man who even scored his first international goal earlier this month has been the rare shining light in an average start to the season for Levante.
And a Spaniard takes top spot, representing one of two Valencia players in these rankings as Carlos Soler continues to impress enthusiasts. Playing on either side of midfield and through the middle, Soler is a true modern midfielder and a joy for any coach to have in his team. His defensive awareness has helped Valencia have a controlling midfielder in wide areas as they continue their unbeaten start to the season.