Before the start of all the football action in August, we listed down some of the best young talents who you should watch-out for across Europe’s top 5 leagues, in our Top 10 Series. The list lacked the obvious choices who you’d [literally] be watching anyway, but rather went ahead and listed the comparative ‘unknowns’ who at the time were 21 years and under. Over the next few weeks we will be publishing mid-season reports on each of those talents, tracking their progress and comparing it at the end of the season where we publish final performance reports.
In addition to this, we will continue to publish our detailed Scout Reports on talents from across the World and not restricted to those in these lists, while you can track all the updates, reports and performances of the best talents in World football in our Talent Radar feature.
The following list contains mid-season reports on the top Young Ligue 1 Talents that we listed at the start of the season. Please note the players are listed in descending order with the best performer at #1, while the list we published in summer was in the order of our prediction.
10. Neal Maupay ( ↔ 10 )
Age: 17 | Club: Nice | Nationality: French | Position: Attacking Midfielder | Ligue 1 Appearances: 0
At 17, Neal Maupay is the youngest man across all the lists in our Top 10 Series. The French- Argentine footballer suffered a massive injury back in April, rupturing his cruciate ligaments and has faced the entire season on the sidelines. As a result, the youngster remains in 10th spot in our list. We had hoped that despite the injury, Maupay would make an early recovery and return to action, and was thus included in the initial list.
Last month, the attacking midfielder, returned to training and has since been playing for Nice’s reserve side, looking to get back to fitness. He is expected to return to first-team action in early 2014 (January/February).
One can hope the youngster recovers fully and makes a full assault to climb this list at the end of the season.
9. Nicolas Isimat-Mirin ( ↓ 7 )
Age: 22 | Club: Monaco| Nationality: French | Position: Centre-Back | Ligue 1 Appearances: 1
22-year-old Isimat-Mirin caused a lot of stir in the summer with big European clubs, including Liverpool, reportedly chasing his signature. So when Monaco signed the highly-rated defender, many fans & experts were excited at this prospect.
However, Nicolas has faced a disappointing time so far after his move from Valenciennes. Monaco, who are looking to keep pace with PSG, have been alternating with a three-man and two-man defence; Ricardo Carvalho has been a regular feature, along with Eric Abidal, with Italian Andrea Raggi also getting run ins. As a result, Isimat-Mirin has been restricted to just 1 appearance in the league, that being a 30 minute cameo against Rennes with the score already settled at 2-0. His only start for Monaco was in the Coupe de la Ligue as Monaco were knocked out early in the competition, disappointingly losing 1-0 to Reims; he played the entire 90 minutes in that game.
With PSG running away at the top of the league, Monaco have to ensure to don’t fall too far behind. With only the league to concentrate on, there is unlikely to be any rotation from Claudio Ranieiri, which mean it’s highly unlikely that you’ll see Isimat Mirin anywhere higher than 9th in our list.
8. Lucas Digne ( ↓ 3 )
Age: 20 | Club: PSG | Nationality: French | Position: Left-Back | Ligue 1 Appearances: 8
Lucas Digne is one of the most exciting young prospects in World football, with a bright future which has been identified by the billionaires in Paris. But given the squad that PSG have at their disposal, getting into the first-team is always going to be difficult; a bright spark for the future still.
With Laurent Blanc employing a rotation policy, based on the opposition, Digne has been restricted to 8 appearances, all of which he has started. His debut came against Bordeaux, in a 2-0 away win, two weeks later he started again vs Valenciennes. Digne would next get an opportunity only a month later as he finally made his long-awaited debut at home, PSG were 4-0 winners against Bastia with Digne winning a penalty towards the end, he followed that up with an assist in his next game, another 4-0 victory. He even played the entire 120 minutes in PSG’s hard-fought extra time Coupe de la Ligue victory over Saint Etienne. He also made his Champions League debut, playing the full 90 minutes in Portugal against Benfica.
With the cup and Champions League still in PSG’s sights, Lucas Digne is expected to be given more opportunities, but he cant expect a regular run of games. An assault on this Top 10 list is possible, but don’t expect him to be too high up.
7. Jordan Ayew ( ↓ 6 )
Age: 22 | Club: Marsellie | Nationality: Ghanaian | Position: Striker | Ligue 1 Appearances: 16
Jordan Ayew made his debut for Marsellie back in 2009, and has been playing for the first team regularly since 2010. Many believe that he is still yet to realise his true potential. Despite the experience, Ayew has failed to stamp down a regular starting berth, and we thought this season would be different.
Ayew has been a part of Marsellie’s squad for each and every Ligue 1 game, however, he has started just 7 of their 19 games, with the remaining 12 being either substitute appearances or just bench-warming. His first start came only in September, and three consecutive starts followed, but he failed to make a solid claim for himself. His next start would come in early November, a game in which he would go on to score his only league goal so far, an equaliser in a 1-1 draw with Rennes. He has started just 1 more game since then, playing as a make-shift winger against Lyon. He also has a Champions League goal to his name, a late consolation against Napoli. In Europe too he hasn’t received chances, staring twice and coming on as a substitute thrice. The change in managers has not helped the 22-year-old either.
Marsellie will soon appoint a new man at the help, before the football resumes in the New Year; Jordan can only hope that the new boss sees more in him and offers him regular football, he isn’t doing much climbing otherwise.
6. Kurt Zouma ( ↓ 5 )
Age: 19 | Club: Saint-Etienne | Nationality: French | Position: Centre-Back | Ligue 1 Appearances: 11
For many Ligue 1 followers, Kurt Zouma is the ‘next big thing’ in French football. His club, Saint-Etienne, held of advances from Manchester United to ensure he remains with the French club; his importance to the side, at just 19, is imperative.
Zouma has an assured starting berth in Saint Etienne’s side, after impressive performances last season. The youngster was also a regular feature in France’s U-20 World Cup winning side in the summer. The youngster started in 11 of Saint-Etienne’s 13 games, putting in stellar performances, including a memorable 2-2 draw at home against leaders PSG. He played all four qualifying ties in the Europa League as Saint-Etienne were disappointingly knocked out by Danish side, Esbjerg. Despite possessing bags of ability, we got to see the worst of Kurt Zouma, he received the straight red after 29 minutes against Sochaux for a challenge on Thomas Guerbert, that ended up with him having a broke leg. Zouma was subsequently banned for an astonishing 11 games, such was the severity of the challenge (he has already served 6 of those games).
Zouma will miss the entire month of January through suspension, but will jump right back into the first team on his return. One can only hope we don’t need to see any more such challenges from the 19-year-old; he could stake a genuine claim for the top spots in this list.
5. Marquinhos ( ↓ 4 )
Age: 19 | Club: PSG | Nationality: Brazilian | Position: Centre-Back | Ligue 1 Appearances: 9
Marquinhos was arguably the most talked about youngster in the summer, with Barcelona among his admirers. But PSG stole the march on this youngster as well, with the Brazilian leaving Roma for the French league.
Like his fellow youngster Lucas Digne, Marquinhos too has been a victim of squad rotation and has failed to stamp down a regular starting berth at the Paris club. He has however taken the chances he has been given with open arms. It took more than a month for the Brazilian to get his first appearance for the club, it came in the form of a Champions League start against Olympiakos; Marquinhos would go on to start every PSG group game as they dominated, topping the group. The young defender even scored in his first two Champions League games, against Olympiakos and Benfica. The same week as he started against Olympiakos, he earned his first Ligue 1 start, against rivals Monaco in a 1-1 draw. He would go onto to make 7 consecutive appearances, making a case for himself at the first team. He returned for PSG’s shock 2-0 loss to Evian, ending their incredible unbeaten run.
As with Digne, Marquinhos isn’t likely to get a consistent run of games, but expect him to feature fairly often, especially with the Champions League knock-out stages in mind. We predict Marquinhos to be higher up in the standings.
4. Lucas Ocampos ( ↓ 2 )
Age: 19 | Club: Monaco | Nationality: Argentinian | Position: Winger | Ligue 1 Appearances: 17
Lucas Ocampos was an integral part of Monaco’s side at the back end of last season, as the club returned to the first division of French football. He started of the season from where he left off, starting in Monaco’s first few games despite the abundance of well-known names.
Lucas Ocampos has appeared in 19 of Monaco’s 20 games this season, in all competitions. He got off to a flying start in the season, creating a goal for record signing, Radamel Falcao, as Monaco scored two late goals against Bordeaux on the opening day; he won a penalty in the next game as Monaco looked to start their assault on Ligue 1. He would start 9 of the next 13 league games before being ruled out through suspension; he scored a late winner against Saint-Etienne, his first (of two) goal of the season. He has failed to make another start on his return from suspension, as Monaco have adopted a different approach, one that doesn’t require men on the wings.
Monaco have a lot of talented youngsters in their side, in addition to the World class buys from the summer, stamping down a first team slot is easier said than done; but we believe Ocampos is hungry and ready to challenge, we fully expect him to be up in the top half of the list.
3. Samuel Umtiti ( ↑ 8 )
Age: 20 | Club: Lyon | Nationality: French | Position: Centre-Back | Ligue 1 Appearances: 12
Samuel Umtiti is another young defender to make the list, and another member of France’s impressive U-20 World Cup winning side. Lyon have been below par and below expectations this season, Umtiti however, has been a shining light.
Umtiti missed the first couple of games of the season through injury, but jumped right back into the first-team and into central defence, a position he made his own last season. The youngster missed the first couple of games through injury but got back into the side, starting 4 consecutive games before again being ruled out through injury. He missed a further 3 games before returning at home to Guingamp and has since played the full 90 minutes for 8 consecutive fixtures. If it wasn’t for injuries, Umtiti would probably have played each and every minute in Lyon’s youthful side. The 20-year-old averages 2.2 tackles per game and 1.4 interceptions. Among all the players in this list, Umtiti is one with an assured starting berth, and a well-earned one.
Lyon are struggling in the league but still have the domestic cup to look forward to, in addition to the Europa League; if Umtiti can ensure an injury-free second-half of the campaign, no reason why he can’t challenge for top spot in our list.
2. Yannick Ferreira Carrasco ( ↑ 9 )
Age: 20 | Club: Monaco | Nationality: Belgian | Position: Winger | Ligue 1 Appearances: 14
Belgians are the talk of the town in modern day football, with the European nation the biggest talent pool. It’s no different in Ligue 1, with Yannick Carrasco leading the charge for his country. As can be seen, Carrasco surpassed our expectations and is the highest climber in the list.
Monaco started of their campaign relying on their tried and tested young talents, with Ocampos, Carrasco and Riviere regular features in attack. Carrasco has, arguably, been the best of the lot. Barring injuries, the Belgian has started 12 of the 14 games he has been available for coming on as a substitute in the other two occasions. He scored his first for the season against Saint-Etienne (as did Ocampos), following that up next week with a brace against Sochaux in the first 10 minutes of the game. Unfortunately for the young talent, he missed the November action through injury as he had a fracture in his foot. He returned just prior to the Christmas break, coming on as a substitute in Monaco’s 2-1 loss against Valenciennes.
Carrasco has a good period of rest in this winter break and should be back in action in the new year. He’ll be hoping that Monaco’s forced tactical change (lack of wingers) doesn’t keep him out of the first-team.
1. Florian Thauvin ( ↔1 )
Age: 20 | Club: Marsellie | Nationality: French | Position: Attacking Midfielder | Ligue 1 Appearances: 14
When the initial list was published, Florian Thauvin was a newly signed Lille player, few days after that list went live, Thauvin had completed his move to Marsellie without making a first team appearance for Lille. Despite the change in clubs, France’s top scorer at their U-20 World Cup winning campaign is still #1 in our Ligue 1 list.
Florian Thauvin missed the first 4 games of the season as a Lille player, as he was attempting to force his move through to Marsellie. He had an inconsistent start to his Marsellie career making a couple of substitute appearances, and not completing the games he started. His first full 90 minutes yielded his first goal, in a 3-2 home loss to Reims. He has since started every Marseille game, 10 consecutively (12 in total) scoring some crucial goals including a neat free-kick late on against Lyon to earn a 2-2 draw, in addition to scoring 1 and setting up another in a win over Montpellier. He has also appeared in all 6 group games of Marsellie’s campaign, starting just one (vs Napoli), a match in which he even got on the scoresheet. He is currently on 6 goals and 4 assists in all competitions for Marsellie.
Marsellie have been some what under-performing this season, but still find themselves in contention for European places. With Europe out of the equation, their full focus will be to get back into the competition and Thauvin will undoubtedly have a crucial part to play; making him a strong contender to retain his top spot in our list.
Young Ligue 1 Talents
Stay tuned for the remaining Mid-Season Reports in this series as we assess progress of talents across Europes other leagues. Don’t miss our Final Performance Report at the end of the season. We will continue to publish detailed Scout Reports on these and other young talents, and ofcourse continue to track the progress of World talents in our brand new #TalentRadar feature.