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100 to Watch in 2018

100 Best Young Players to Watch in 2018 | Part 7 | Midfielders

For the 5th year running, Outside of the Boot has returned with our year’s special feature – a detailed look at the best young players every football enthusiast must keep an eye out for in 2018.

This feature is published in 10 parts which help us divide the list positionally (5 goalkeepers, 30 defenders, 35 midfielders, 30 forwards). 

All players born on or after January 1st 1997 are eligible for the feature.


RUBEN NEVES


20 / Portugal / Wolverhampton Wanderers


Written by William Sinsky

Blurb: In one of the more shocking moves of this past summer’s transfer window, midfielder Ruben Neves, the youngest player ever to captain Portugal’s U-21 side at age 18 and one of Porto’s most promising talents in years, joined the Wolverhampton Wanderers of the English Championship. The transfer has vaulted the West Midlands club to first in the second division and set their sights on promotion. While Neves is the poster boy for Wolverhampton’s recent splurge of cash and success, he isn’t the only new catalyst in the side, as fellow Portuguese youth Diogo Jota is also a major piece of the team’s attack. But what are the other reasons for this surprisingly experienced midfielder’s hype?

Analysis: Ruben Neves’ achievements are a lengthy list: wore the Porto armband as a teenager, debuted as the club’s youngest player ever in the Primeira Liga, broke Cristiano Ronaldo’s record as the youngest Portuguese player to play in the Champions League, became the most expensive transfer into the EFL Championship, and so on. His ability on the pitch is not unnoticed. As a defensive midfielder he has the strength and balance to move an opponent off the ball, but his build-up play is also exceptional. Despite the bad rap given to long ball play, Neves executes his passes with profound accuracy, lobbing balls perfectly to his teammates in the wider advanced areas. That said, Neves is also not afraid to dribble through the middle of the pitch and therefore he is not afraid to take shots from distance or volleys. His positioning and vision are that of a player looking to set up an attack, meaning his passes are well distributed. Mentally, his concentration of where his teammates are, where the opponents are, and his willingness to press may be his key traits.

Talent Radar Accolades

Looking Ahead: Portugal will appear in Russia this summer for the 7th World Cup in the nation’s history. As they look to improve upon their performance in the previous edition in which they were knocked out in the group stage via the “group of death”, Ruben Neves could very well be a name on the A Selecção 23-man roster.

Read a detailed Scout Report on Ruben Neves


OMID NOORAFKAN


20 / Iran / Esteghlal


Written by Sina Saemian

Blurb: Esteghlal Tehran are one of the two giants of Iranian football, alongside their rivals Persepolis, but neither club have a good reputation of bedding in players straight from their youth academy. Omid Noorafkan is one of the very few players in recent years to have successfully made the transition from youth academy directly to the first team. Before the start of this season, he held the record of being the youngest player to start a game in the history of Esteghlal, at the age of 18 years and 271 days.

Analysis: There are many attributes that makes Noorafkan a standout talent. Iran generally produces midfielders who are silky on the ball with great technique, or hard working ball winning midfielders. But Noorafkan is a player who has managed to combine both of those characteristics. He started out as a left back when he made his debut for Esteghlal, but some impressive performances saw him gradually push his way further up the pitch and obtain a spot in defensive and central midfield.

He boasts great stamina, with great tactical awareness and discipline which is rare for such a young midfielder. He is brave and doesn’t back away from a challenge, but he is generally composed on the ball, plays simple passes however being left footed sees him occasionally drift wide to the left side of the pitch. His leadership skills shine through even though he is surrounded by some big name players who are years older than him. He has played for Iran at various levels and in 2017 he captained the national team at the U-20 World Cup in South Korea. His rapid rise and consistent performances saw him being invited to the senior national team by Carlos Queiroz.

Looking Ahead: His tactical understanding and versatility on the pitch puts him ahead of many players of his age group. Considering that he has a very mature character for a 20 year old central midfielder, he’ll be working hard on and off the pitch to continue to play regularly for Esteghlal as the Blues look to the AFC Champions League in 2018. Noorafkan has showed signs that he has what it takes to become a regular name for Iran national team in the not so distant future. The World Cup next summer is a little too soon for him but if he plays and performs regularly at club level then we could see him feature in the 2019 Asian Cup.


MIKEL OYARZABAL


20 / Spain / Real Sociedad


Written by Tom Canton

Blurb: One of the most highly-rated Spanish youngsters in La Liga currently, Mikel Oyarzabal has transformed himself over the last couple seasons into one the league’s most consistent young performers. A left footed, left winger of Basque origin, Mikel joined Real Sociedad’s academy at the age of 14 and made his senior debut just 4 years later as an 18-year old in October of 2015. It took the Basque youngster just a few months to net his first goal and by the end of the season was a regular at San Sebastian. Just over a season on and Oyarzabal has now represented his country as a senior pro in a season which is beginning to both please and worry the Sociedad faithful.

Analysis: Pacey, tricky, with an eye for both a goal and an assist, Oyarzabal is certainly a player whose stats never fail to impress. 1st senior season: 9 goals, 3 assists. 2nd senior season: 4 goals, 9 assists. Just 16 games into his 3rd season at 20 years-of-age: 8 goals, 3 assists. When I wrote about Oyarzabal for the 2016/17 ‘10 La Liga players to watch’ I noted his confidence, freedom and drive to get into dangerous positions. These 3 attributes have evolved to make Oyarzabal a very mature player at such a young age. Creating nearly double the chances of Andres Iniesta and Luka Modric, the winger has begun to put a very big € symbol over his head, hence the worry of several Real Sociedad fans that they may see another big club come along to poach one of their top talents.

Talent Radar Accolades

Looking Ahead: Consistency has been the key for Oyarzabal’s season, scoring or assisting in 7 of the 11 La Liga matches he has played in. This must continue if the Basque man wants to be considered for the upcoming Russian world cup. Spain will of course be one of the big favourites to claim the title, especially after their qualification success in which they smashed an impressive Italy side to a 3-0 defeat. Mikel’s opponents take the shape of both experienced heads and fellow young talents: Vitolo, Marco Asensio, Nolito and Deulofeu to name but a few. Currently though, he is competing well against his rivals to claim a spot, it will be down to Spain coach Julen Lopetegui if the man from San Sebastian gets the nod – based on what we’ve seen so far, I would.

Read a detailed Scout Report on Mikel Oyarzabal


ALLAN SAINT-MAXIMIN


20 / France / Nice


Written by Nathan Staples

Blurb: One of those names that have seemingly been around for longer than their young age would suggest, Allan Saint-Maximin is only 20 but is now at his fifth club.

Analysis: Always seemingly at a full spirit, Saint-Maximin has an infectious energy to his game that keeps him involved and allows him to burst past opponents with effortless ease.

He can keep the ball tied to his feet, go on a mazy run and try to create something, only to go do it all again. It’s his trademark, the fact that he can up the tempo in attacks by continuously being direct when in possession is exactly why so many clubs have been interested in his services.

A loan spell to Bastia last year saw him still be a little too inconsistent for Monaco to take a chance on him. The move to Nice was a surprise to many, but one where he might have finally found his home.

Looking Ahead: Fears should be creeping in that as soon as Nice have struggled, he’s been shifted out of the team. With just 37 minutes on the pitch since the club’s 2-1 loss to Strasbourg in October, a positive start might be fizzling out again.

When he gets another chance, he has to grab it by the scruff of the neck. Should he show the passion we saw when crying during the Champions League theme, he can recover and regain the potential he showed over four years ago in Saint-Etienne.


RAMADAN SOBHI


20 / Egypt / Stoke City


Written by Sami Faizullah

Blurb: Whilst the sport in Egypt is firmly holding Mohamed Salah at the pedestal, the country continues to churn out some exciting youngsters who eventually find their way to Europe. Stoke City have their hands on their latest gem, who arrived in England as a raw unknown talent but may well be on course to a finished product in an important 2018.

Analysis: Developed in an attacking Egyptian school of thought, Sobhi is most confident with the ball at his feet. With immense close control, Sobhi puts himself into positions where he has the opportunity to take on defenders and potentially draw them out of position.

Talent Radar Accolades

Versatile in attack, Sobhi can be played across the attacking third – both centrally and out wide. The Egyptian though prefers to play from a more narrower role, being most effective when cutting inside from wide positions into central areas. This combined with his dribbling ability provides his team a more direct route in the attacking third when passing options may have become obsolete.

An added advantage with Sobhi in a more central role is his physical strength that can mirror the ability of a target man in a deeper position. Players played in the attacking midfield role are often easily dispossessed physically – as Sobhi combines his ability on the ball along with his physical strength (and his aerial prowess), he provides a further versatile impact to the game.  

Looking Ahead: Now 20 and due to complete two years with Stoke City in mid-2018, Ramadan Sobhi will have increased expectations from both his supporters at club level and the millions in Egypt. The former Al Ahly man is bound to play a crucial role in Egypt’s long awaited World Cup campaign, and there could be no bigger pedestal to propel his career.

Read a detailed Scout Report on Ramadan Sobhi


CARLOS SOLER


20 / Spain / Valencia


Written by Tom Canton

Blurb: Easily one of the most sort after youngsters from La Liga, Carlos Soler has been one of the shining apostles of Valencia’s rebirth under Marcelino. A Valencia academy player, the 20-year-old has, along with Goncalo Guedes and Andreas Pereira become part of the young trio pulling apart teams in La Liga. A debut in 2016/17, the second of Valencia’s troubled seasons, Soler managed to finish the season with 3 goals and 1 assist. Comparatively, Soler has 1 goal so far this season but already 4 assists – displaying the offensive freedom Marcelino has allowed the Spaniard.

Analysis: A versatile midfield player who can play both centrally and on the wing, Soler is the type to always want to be on the ball and can be seen making space to receive a pass to either spray across the park with millimetre-precision from his wand of a right foot, or contrastingly to make a darting zig-zagging run to the keeper’s left-hand side in order to create mayhem and confusion for the opponent.

Soler can be deceptively quick, this separates him from the comparisons to the likes of David Silva because Soler loves to collect the ball and suddenly explode away always looking to play in either Zaza or Rodrigo for a clean finish. It can be difficult to track Soler across the pitch because he can be found putting the shift in down the right flank but also have the positional awareness to both drop-in when Valencia are not in possession of the ball or dart into the box to provide an option for his team-mates. Mistakes sometimes do crop up in his game but he appears to mature with each match, taking advice on both practically in the 90 minutes and mentally from coach Marcelino.

Looking Ahead: A young Spanish midfielder will always face a challenge to try and represent his country but Soler is a player to certainly look out for trying to gain a spot in Lopetegui’s squad ahead of the Russian World Cup. His versatility will play into his hands with a wider birth of spots to fill. It remains to be seen how the youngster will respond to speculation linking him to Manchester United but if his performances are anything to go by then you can assume that it is hardly fazing this brilliant Spanish talent.

Read a detailed Scout Report on Carlos Soler


GABRIEL SUAZO


20 / Chile / Colo Colo


Written by Anderson Moura

Blurb: Chile present generation had some impressive results on the last recent years, winning two Copa America trophies. The first trophies of this country. But however names like Arturo Vidal and Alexis Sanchez still have plenty to do for their country, it’s time to look for rising youngsters like Gabriel Suazo. He plays for Colo-Colo first team since 2015, was on the U20 South American Championship and also had his debut on the National Side this year.

Analysis: The first thing you should know about Gabriel is: he feels comfortable playing pretty much everywhere. His versatility surely makes him a good option for coaches who tries different tactics and likes multi-tasking players. Gabriel can play as a traditional left back, as a left midfielder on a second four men line and also as the first man on the midfield, just in front of the center backs.

When he plays on this last role, he helps a lot on the defense-attack transition, adding good quality to his team first passes, no matter how pressured he can be. And when he plays wide he likes to do movements to the center. It’s not very common to see Gabriel performing deep plays and crossing the ball to the strikers. He prefers short passes plays.

Gabriel still struggles a little bit on the marking – with a great number of fouls and yellow cards – and lacks some presence on aerial plays, but there are two points where he is undoubtedly special: his work rate and interceptions.

Looking Ahead: If you think Gabriel is already on the initial XI of one of the biggest teams of his country and has an international call, it’s fair to say he is already in advantage comparing to a lot of players of his age. Besides, he was the face of Colo-Colo uniform campaign and shows the serenity of a veteran on press conferences, what means that his game may need some improvements, but Suazo is mentally prepared for more responsibilities on his club or even for a big move. Benfica was the first one to send scouts to follow him, but the Portuguese side may not be the only one looking for the tireless and polyvalent Chilean.


YOURI TIELEMANS


20 / Belgium / Monaco


Written by Mosope Ominiyi

Blurb: Having burst onto the scene as a fresh-faced teenager learning his trade in Belgium, Tielemans quickly became one of Europe’s most coveted youngsters. Blessed with footballing intelligence, an excellent passing range and the ability to score goals from various distances, he can play across midfield to great effect.

Analysis: Tielemans is a wonderkid who was granted his opportunity at the deep end early. Despite failure in the Champions League group stages, then Anderlecht boss John van den Brom opted to start the 16-year-old against PSG and Olympiakos, which just reiterated how highly-rated he was.

Despite the convincing manner of defeats, Youri ultimately benefited from the experience – which has helped shape him into the leader he is now. He leads by example on the pitch and his development over the past few seasons are testament to that. Interest in his services continued to intensify last term and he knew consistent displays were crucial if he was to truly prove his readiness for the next step.

16 goals and 13 assists in 48 appearances (excluding qualification fixtures) was the perfect way to do just that, either playing as a central midfielder or further forward in the number ten role. Allowing him the freedom to create chances at will whilst refusing to neglect his defensive responsibilities made Tielemans a joy to watch, as he captained the side on a handful of occasions and enhanced his reputation in the process. It was a brave but calculated decision to join Monaco for £20m in the summer, ignoring speculation from elsewhere including the Premier League, where it’s likely he would not have received regular first-team football with the clubs who have been scouting his performances.

Talent Radar Accolades

Looking Ahead: He’ll want to book his place on the plane to Russia next summer as part of Belgium’s World Cup squad, by impressing Roberto Martinez and the coaching staff enough to trust him in midfield. Currently sidelined until January with a meniscus injury, he will be hoping for a swift and full recovery while equally being able to prove his worth on a weekly basis in France with Monaco.

Leonardo Jardim’s side have struggled in Europe but still have an opportunity to finish the campaign strongly despite a significant part of their talented squad being sold to various clubs in the summer. Tielemans has quickly had to become accustomed to a new playing style, different position, expectations and responsibilities to fulfil, but a player with his ambition should find no problem settling in with the defending Ligue 1 champions.

Read a detailed Scout Report on Youri Tielemans


GUUS TIL


19 / Netherlands / AZ Alkmaar


Written by Andrew Thompson

Blurb: The Dutch are in trouble, and there’s no denying it.  After some wonderful football at Brazil 2014, failure to qualify for Euro 2016, and now for Russia 2018, has seen a perennial European powerhouse fall by the way side.  The gap between the ability of aging stars such as Robin van Persie, Arjen Robben, and Wesley Sneijder, and that of the next generation filled with potential, is far too great.  Every national team goes through its own unique cycle, and with the next available tournament the Oranje can qualify for being Euro 2020, it’s the young players coming through the ranks now who will be tasked with setting the record straight.  One of them could very well be Guus Til.

Analysis: Born in the little fishing town of Samfya, Zambia, Guus Til is a direct product of the AZ Alkmaar youth set up.  After spending time in Mozambique and Namibia, Til finally made his way to the country of his heritage, settling in Amsterdam.  Though his youth career began with youth side SV Diemen, he joined AZ’s academy at the age of thirteen in 2010.  After playing a bit-part role in the first-team last season, Til has progressed to the point where he’s now seen as an integral piece of the puzzle at the AFAS Stadion.

A smart, technical player, Til exhibits an understanding of the game that is ahead of his tender age. Able to play as a central attacking midfielder, or deeper in the center of the park, the Dutch U-21 international uses his ability to recognize pockets of space in conjunction with his calm nature on the ball and good decision making to fit the midfield fulcrum role well.  His height is also a nice additional to his overall dossier, showing a bit of aerial prowess not seen in most attacking-minded midfielders. Seemingly, he’s everything that the full national side has been lacking, and pays homage to AZ’s tradition of producing gifted young players who, more often than not, succeed at the next level.

Talent Radar Accolades

Looking Ahead: In a post-match interview with FOX Sports back in August, Til was quoted in saying “Now I want more. It has to be more stable, because one week I was in the base, the next week I played at Jong AZ and then sat down on the bench once again. That’s why you do not get in a nice rhythm. I want to be in the competition every week. I want to enforce that.” Certainly, he’s a young player with ambition, but has shown the quality this season to back it up, and has been rewarded by manager John van den Brom, completing the full ninety minutes in every match this season – Eredivisie and KNVB Beker – apart from one, the season-opener away at PSV Eindhoven. Football-Oranje.com, among other sites, have listed Til as one of the young players to watch this season in the Eredivisie, and I suspect Til making the jump away from AZ is only a matter of time.


GERSON TORRES


20 / Costa Rica / Club América (On loan from Herediano)


Written by Thomas Harrison

BlurbGerson Torres probably had high hopes about the prospect of developing himself his reputation when Club América brought him in on loan from Costa Rican side Herediano, but it’s turned out to be a hugely frustrating year.

Torres hasn’t been able to impress either Ricardo La Volpe or Miguel “Piojo” Herrera (the two América coaches in 2017) to give him first-team opportunities, with Torres playing just a single minute in Liga MX this calendar year.

Analysis: A left-midfielder or attacking midfielder, Torres first broke through with the now relocated Belén, before moving to Costa Rican giants Herediano. Domestic displays earnt Torres call-ups to the Costa Rican under-20 squad, with whom he took part in the U-20 World Cup. Gerson, a tricky, skilful dribbler, clearly caught the eye of Club América, one of the largest sides in the Americas, and moved there on loan in 2017.

Torres began in the América U-20 squad, and didn’t earn a call-up to the first team until March. The Costa Rican was set to be part of the squad for the Clásico Capitalino against Pumas UNAM, but league regulations prevented this from happening. As Torres was registered as a foreign player with the U-20 side, he couldn’t also play for the first-team.

América changed coaches in summer, but Miguel Herrera hasn’t displayed much more faith in Torres than Ricardo La Volpe did. Gerson has made just two first team appearances since the 2017/18 season began, both last minute substitutions.

Looking Ahead: Considering the lack of first-team football for Gerson Torres, it appears unlikely that América will look to make the move permanent. Barring any moves for Torres from other Mexican sides, the most obvious next move will be back to Costa Rica.

A move abroad to a club the size of América probably came too soon for Torres, but with the talent that he possesses, there’s still the potential for a positive future. Costa Rica coach Óscar Ramírez has seen something in Gerson, and moved him up into the full national squad recently. If Torres can get some first-team football in the coming months, he may make it into the squad for Russia 2018.


VIKTOR TSYGANKOV


20 / Ukraine / Dynamo Kyiv


Written by Josh Sippie

Blurb: If there is one position Ukraine seems pretty adept at churning out, it is wide attackers. From Yarmolenko to Konoplyanka to Zinchenko now to Tsygankov. Tsygankov has risen through the Dynamo Kyiv ranks to where he is today – an emerging creative talent that continues to show more and more ability to both create and finish off attacking plays. This year alone he has already nearly doubled up on his goal contribution total from all of last year, his first in the senior team.

Analysis: Tsygankov has that enviable ability to make things look far easier than they really are. He almost lures defenses into a false sense of security by slowing down, taking his time, and really studying a situation and then, like a ninja, he carves a few lethal cuts with his foot and off he goes, with the defense in the rearview mirror, one step closer to denting the scoreline.

Tsygankov is a creator first and foremost. He waits for the perfect pass and rarely misses it. But, if that pass is never to arise, then all that patience and steady progression is his stage to burst into action and dribble by defenders, or tap the ball around and speed past them.

He is dangerous in the box, popping up in precarious positions for the opposing defense and fielding rebounds and a quick turnaround to find the back of the net. He’s proven himself just as capable of scoring the goal as he is at creating it and there are bright things ahead for this young lad.

Looking Ahead: Tsygankov was raised in the Kyiv system and it has served his development well. He has a platform to allow his talents to blossom and they continue to do so. Now that he has been called to the Ukrainian senior team as well, he will have yet another outlet. It’s just a matter of time before he finds his way to a top tier club. The question is simply when he will opt to do it.

Seeing Zinchenko find his way to Manchester City at such a young age may be enticing, but the Yarmolenko took his time getting out of the Ukraine and the minutes are going to be a hard thing to leave behind. Still, look for plenty of suitors to come knocking as Tsygankov looks to take his abilities to the next level.


FEDERICO VALVERDE


19 / Uruguay / Deportivo La Coruña (on loan from Real Madrid)


Written by Tom Robinson

Blurb: Signed by Real Madrid as a 17-year-old after some fantastic displays for the Uruguay U17s and Penarol, Valverde has long been held in high esteem but 2017 was something of a breakthrough year for El Pajarito.   Valverde won the Silver Ball at the U20 World Cup for his inspirational performances for Uruguay in their run to the semi-final and by the end of the year had made the step up to the senior team with ease, scoring on his debut against Paraguay.  At club level, he’s getting game time out on loan at Deportivo La Coruna as he auditions for the role of Toni Kroos’ heir in waiting.

Analysis: Dynamic, creative and adventurous, Valverde is an extremely versatile and well-rounded midfielder.  Usually starting from a deep-lying role, he’s often the man picking the ball up from his centre backs and spraying passes around the pitch.  What’s more, Valverde also has an incredible motor and can drive forward like a young Steven Gerrard.  His younger days as a more attacking midfielder means he also has impressive dribbling skills and a fearsome long-range strike from distance.

Possessing the stamina and pace to get up and down the field, Valverde’s defensive attributes are surprisingly good too and his reading of the game means that he intercepts the ball well.  His high risk approach means that he can occasionally get caught in possession in dangerous areas but usually the rewards outweigh the odd error.

Despite his shy demeanour, Valverde has shown impressive maturity in his willingness to always show for the ball, his general decision-making and the way he has stepped up for the senior national team without missing a beat.  Simply put this is a really, really special player.

Talent Radar Accolades

Looking Ahead: Valverde has spoken of his desire to extend his loan spell in Galicia and getting regular top flight first team football can only benefit both the player and his parent club. Chosen as Depor’s player of the month in October, it’s clear that he’s made an impact already and could be on course for stellar season at the Riazor.

At international level, there is a real chance that Valverde will make a late charge for a place in Oscar Tabarez’s Uruguay World Cup squad.  Part of the changing face of the Uruguayan midfield, Valverde could be the talisman for the new generation breaking through.  It certainly looks like Real Madrid have unearthed a gem, let’s just hope he gets a look in.


DONNY VAN DE BEEK


20 / Netherlands / Ajax


Written by Danny Lewis

Blurb: When Davy Klaassen left Ajax to join Everton in the summer Ajax opted to give van de Beek more responsibility as opposed to signing an expensive replacement. Last year he only started three league games, but this season he has starred in every league game apart from one, becoming a key component of Ajax’s formidable midfield alongside Hakim Ziyech and Lasse Schone. He has even impressed enough to get himself into Holland’s first team; after watching from the bench four times he came on for the final seven minutes of a friendly against Romania this year.

Analysis: Donny van de Beek has superb passing and ball retention skills, which is vital for an Ajax midfielder due to the club’s style of play. He is a very intelligent player both defensively and offensively with his decision making and positioning. So far he has a pass success rate of 81.3%. One thing that Donny van de Beek has improved this season is his returns in front of goal. In 17 games in all competitions he has one assist and seven goals, including a well taken hat trick against NAC Breda and one goal in each leg of Ajax’s Champions League qualifying round loss against Nice.

In terms of defensive work van de Beek makes 1.8 tackles and 1.3 interceptions per game which shows that he helps to safeguard the Ajax defence. However, what is the most impressive thing about this is that once he has won the ball back he is often able to retain it and help his side get up the pitch.

Talent Radar Accolades

Looking Ahead: The 20 year old has progressed through the Ajax academy and is now at the stage where he is able to use his footballing education to become a key part of Ajax’s team. He has been strongly linked with a move to Tottenham, a path which many Ajax players including Christian Eriksen, Jan Vertonghen and most recently Davinson Sanchez have taken. However, this is van de Beek’s first season as a first team regular and it would do his development well to stay with the Ajacieds and ensure they get back to European competition. Ajax struggle to retain their best players in the current market and van de Beek will undoubtedly leave at some point, but a year out of the spotlight of European football before taking on the biggest teams in the continent at the Johan Cruyff Arena will be brilliant experience for him if he opts to stay.

Read a detailed Scout Report on Donny van de Beek


WENDEL


20 / Brazil / Fluminense


Written by Anderson Moura

Blurb: More than 50 games on his first year as a professional… Six goals… A rise of 1700% of his wages… His name linked to Paris Saint-Germain… 2017 was quite a year for Wendel. Fluminense is facing some tough days for financial problems, but they can produce young ballers as few in the world and this midfielder is another proof. However things had not been a bed of roses on this troubled period for both team and player, Wendel surely can be seen as a rainbow that comes after – or during – a hurricane.

Analysis: A good advice for Wendel’s markers: don’t think the boy is too far from the goal to try a shoot. There’s no such thing for him and the Brazilian is pretty confident he will set the goal from wherever he might be. And Wendel is not only a powerful shooter. The legs that can strike the ball like a sledgehammer can treat the same ball as a true gentleman is supposed to conduct a damsel on a waltz. This is just what Wendel does when he is the responsible to begin a counter-attack. If your team needs someone to tow you from defense to attack with individual runs, this young man may be perfect. It is really impressive how he can lead this kind of play all by himself, zigzagging through the center avoiding and dribbling rivals.

His defense-attack transition is quite impressive, but he could be even more amazing if he could show the same devotion when his task is to do the reverse path. Wendel has a long way to go when we talk about defensive reorganization. If the rival team has a frantic pace, Wendel takes some time to fit in the correct place and prevent some danger between the lines.

Talent Radar Accolades

Looking Ahead: However some press vehicles assures Wendel already has a deal with PSG, things are getting a little bit of cloudy as he is not seen as a good replacement for Thiago Motta, since he has some difficulties to play as the first man of midfield. The one English like to call ‘number 6’. Besides, the adaptation of the player is another worry. Early this year he tried a move to live closer to Fluminense CT, but did not feel comfortable and can always be found in his childhood neighborhood. If a move inside Rio de Janeiro had this negative impact on him, it’s understandable that a change to Europe may cause some concerns on the buying club. Fluminense coach, Abel Braga, once said that Wendel is poorly advised for the ones close to him, and this should be an obstacle on a brilliant career.


BRUNO XADAS


19 / Portugal / SC Braga


Written by Jose Miguel Saraiva

Blurb: Bruno Xadas has been revealing himself as one of the most talented and promising players in the Portuguese Primeira Liga. Despite belonging to a club that doesn’t quite fight for the Portuguese title, Xadas has been making delighting appearances and amazing every Portuguese football fan.  Such revelation was already expected by those who have been paying attention to this youngster’s evolution in SC Braga, has he proved to be very promising indeed during last season, especially.

Analysis: I could enumerate every one of Xadas’ special qualities, but this article would 5-pages long! First of all, and not looking at his quality precisely, I believe that one of the main aspects that should be highlighted is Bruno Xadas’ versatility. He can either play as right, centre left-midfielder, left and right winger and also as attacking midfielder or second forward. I mean, a 19-year-old player that performs so efficiently and proficiently in 3 or 4 different positions in a team that always achieves top-5 standings in the Primeira Liga is something that should be properly highlighted. On a more technical and tactical basis now, Bruno Xadas evidences a wonderful technical quality and perfume, being the main technical reference in his team. Owner of a wonderful left foot, Bruno Xadas has some powerful weapons in him, which are his wonderful dribbling capacity and a great firing power, as his long-distance shooting is incredibly dangerous. Tactically, as was stated before, he is a very intelligent and abiding player, which allows him to perform greatly in several different positions. He is particularly proficient in diagonal movements when playing as a winger, and he makes use of his tactical and technical wonderful capacities to bring havoc upon the opposite defences.

Talent Radar Accolades

Looking Ahead: Bruno Xadas is still a very young player and despite being very promising and talented, every young player requires a great deal of hardwork and stability to have a truly successful future. Nevertheless, if he keeps on evolving like he has so far and as it is expected, he will certainly be a serious option for world-class European clubs. If he evolves naturally and at a steady but cautious pace, without burning any essential stages in his growth as a player, I believe he will be able to succeed, but first he has to truly stand out in the Primeira Liga and achieve and acceptable level, where he will, I’m certain, be able to destroy any doubts regarding his possibility for a world-class future.

Read a detailed Scout Report on Bruno Xadas


2018: Full List


Parts: 1 – 23 – 4 – 56 – 8 – 9 – 10


2017 // 2016 // 2015 // 2014


Images: Getty / Illustrations: Sami Faizullah

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