Following the huge success of our 2014 list, we have compiled a list of the 100 Best Young Players to Watch in 2015 under our Talent Radar feature after careful evaluation and consultation. For more details on how we went about this and any other questions you may have, read these FAQs.
10. DOMENICO BERARDI
ITALY | SASSUOLO (on loan from Juventus) | 20 | FORWARD
Presently, Serie A is one of the leading leagues in terms of the amount and standard of young players emerging. With the likes of Paul Pogba and Stephan El Shaarawy now considered as ‘established talents’, there is a new batch of players on the horizon. Of all the bright youngsters who have made the grade, undoubtedly Domenico Berardi is at the forefront, already exceeding expectations.
Mini-Analysis: For a player of his age, his 2013-14 statistics were simply phenomenal. WhoScored provided a fantastic fact on the Italian ace – of all the U21 players who featured 10 or more times in Europe’s top 5 leagues last season, Berardi had the best minutes per goal ratio, scoring every 136.4 minutes. That is remarkable when you remember that Berardi was plying his trade with Sassuolo, who can be seen as nothing more than minnows of the league. In terms of his playing style, he is a quick, nifty player who moves around the pitch freely, keeping defenders occupied. He is capable of playing on the flanks, but his pace, expert movement and clinical finish becomes more apparent in a central role; a position which he thrives in. If we are being critical, his discipline does need improving as he does have a tendency to lose his cool on the pitch.
Talent Radar Player Accolades:
Featured in our 100 Best Young Players to Watch in 2014 special, at #23 in the attackers category
Awarded ‘Performance of the Season’ and named in ‘Team of the Season’ at the Talent Radar 2013/14 Young Player Awards
Featured in our Top 20 Young Players of 2014 special, at #13
Named in our Talent Radar Serie A Youngsters Team of the Season
Looking back: Not many youngsters can say they have achieved what Berardi has in 2014. He netted 16 goals in 29 Serie A appearances in 2013/14; a record that is quite astonishing. His goal tally looks even more impressive when you consider the players he is in and amongst – the likes of Llorente, Rossi, Palacio, Di Natale and Higuain all scored a similar amount of goals in the Italian top flight. Berardi single-handedly dismantled AC Milan with a four-goal haul and hit a hat-trick against Fiorentina all in a prosperous 2014. Juventus have a real gem in their ranks and you suspect that it won’t be long before he is dazzling and destroying teams, adorning the Bianconeri shirt.
Write-up by Josh Lawless
9. DIVOCK ORIGI
BELGIUM | LILLE (on loan from Liverpool) | 19 | FORWARD
Gaining a reputation in his homeland of Belgium, enhancing it in his club’s base of France and further attracting the peering eyes of England with his parent club Liverpool, it’s safe to say, young Divock Origi has
the World Europe at his feet.
Mini-Analysis: Pace is the forward’s biggest asset, but he combines it comfortably with his excellent dribbling ability. A willingness to take on his opponent makes him a valuable option on the ball, while he certainly looks more than comfortable in an around the box. Though finishing isn’t as secure as it should be, he does have a competent shot on him further highlighting his goal-scoring prowess. But the 19-year-old is often guilty of going lost in games, failing to have significant impact when the right service may not be afforded. Though he makes up for it with his ability to take chances that do rarely present itself, it can be a frustrating drawback for management to handle. You can read a detailed Scout Report on him here.
Looking Back: After impressing with Lille in the French Ligue 1, Origi earned himself a call-up to a neutrally popular Belgium side in their 2014 World Cup campaign. With a whole host of youngsters in the Red Devils side, Origi stood out in what turned out to be a rather disappointing campaign given the expectations raised prior. But personally for Origi, it was just the start. His exploits attracted Liverpool who made a move for the Belgian, loaning him back to Lille for the season. Since then Origi’s display’s haven’t completely convinced but there’s certainly potential; potential we are banking on. And given Liverpool’s plight, many have called for Divock to join the Merseyside club early, a move which may not be in the players’ best interests.
Write-up by Sami Faizullah
8. ANDERSON TALISCA
BRAZIL | BENFICA | 20 | FORWARD
Benfica’s brightest star in the first part of the season has been Anderson Conceição, better known as Talisca, the 20 year-old has inserted himself into Jorge Jesus’ eleven and settled in the Portuguese League with a bang.
Talisca has been given a very important role in the Benfica side. With most of the rest of the starting lineup figured out, it was crucial to find a player with the ability to work for the ball, help the first phase of construction and then get in on the last third of the pitch to help out the striker. Talisca seamlessly does all three, his drive, awareness and tirelessness contributing to solidifying the midfield as Andreas Samaris still struggles, and then helping the team bag them in. He’s the team’s top scorer and second only to Jackson Martínez in the league), and his eye for goal has been essential in more than a couple of matches this season. His tenacity has earned him comparisons to Angel Di María, and perhaps the one that makes him more proud, Rivaldo. Though many will argue Talisca is more of an attacking midfielder than a forward, he has been included in this category taking into consideration the role he plays and how players as a result are often molded into a different role given the attributes they possess. Here’s a detailed Scout Report on Anderson Talisca.
A youth product of the Bahia academy, Talisca was born in the region and got his senior start at 19, and scored his first goal in the following match, quickly demonstrating his prowess for being a goal-scorer. His impact was so big and so immediate, that it caught the eye of Benfica’s scouts; and, like José Mourinho says, a lot of the English Premier League’s teams’ as well. After just one season at the top level with his hometown club, Talisca was brought to Europe by Jorge Jesus and his impact in the league was outstanding. Benfica are a very solid, cohesive team who rely heavily on the team block, but if there is a single player responsible for their clear lead at this point in the season, that player is Anderson Talisca. With barely half a year in Europe, he’s already making headlines and one wonders if the Portuguese champions will be able to hold on to him for much longer.
Write-up by Filipe Ribeiro
7. ALEKSANDAR MITROVIC
SERBIA | ANDERLECHT | 20 | FORWARD
When Mitrović scored a late equaliser in Anderlecht’s Champions League game vs Arsenal at the Emirates, fewer eyebrows were raised than expected. Although still very young, Mitrović’s impact on Belgium defending champions’ game is extremely significant, and the striker is showing signs of improving even further with every match.
Mini-analysis: Mitrović is your classic centre forward, always wandering around the opposition’s box, waiting for the goal-scoring opportunity to arise. His truly remarkable positioning and space exploiting serves perhaps as his biggest forte, although is also really good when striking the ball. He leaves little space and time for the defenders to try and stop him, either while having a go for a long distance shot or connecting to a cross. His weakness is perhaps his poor discipline, often picking up unnecessary cards along the way. Mitrović is fond of being a „bad boy“ type of character, but at this age it is still no suprise and maturity will take its toll soon enough.
Talent Player Player Accolades:
Featured in our 100 Best Young Players to Watch in 2014 special, at #22 in the attackers category
Looking back: Until the arrival of midfielder Steven Defour this season, Mitrović’s €5.6 million move from Partizan Belgrade was a record fee spent by Anderlecht, but Aleksandar justified every penny. While he closed his debut season with 19 goals on his scoresheet, this year he is very close to topple that number, having found the net on 11 ocassions, including two against both Arsenal and Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League. He also found his way into the Serbian national team, scoring one goal in three games.
Write-up by Juraj Vrdoljak
6. DIEGO FAGUNDEZ
URUGUAY | NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION | 19 | FORWARD
Diego Fagúndez has enjoyed an exponential growth over the last twelve months, cementing cult hero status at Gillette Stadium while attracting interest from clubs across Europe. Only graduating from high school as recently as the summer and still residing in the family home he grew up in, his emergence has taken place on a meteoric scale and was forecasted by very few.
Mini-analysis: Intricate in his movement and capable of running riot against the most stalwart of MLS back-lines, Fagúndez is a delight to spectate. He’s extremely intelligent in his decision-making and is blessed with impressive speed to complement that instinctive wit. That natural ability is also relevant with regards to his end product, boasting immense composure when presented with the opportunity to hit the back of the net. Diego has found a plethora of effective ways to compensate for his physical deficiencies and is certainly one not to be underestimated where that aspect of his game is concerned.
Looking back: Fagúndez has continued to yield much admiration from Revs supporters, but like many prodigious talent linked with moves to the promise land of Europe, he has found himself distracted from his ongoing endeavours on home shores. Head Coach Jay Heaps has been forced into dropping him towards the business end of the regular season and sufficient time to make an impression has been lacking as a result of that. Diego has scored five and assisted four over thirty appearances, which is no mean feat for someone so young and, though he may not have exceeded everyone’s expectations, there are definitely foundations to build on for 2015.
Write-up by James Bufton
5. ANGEL CORREA
ARGENTINA | ATLETICO MADRID | 19 | FORWARD
A talented individual restricted by injuries who ends up failing to realise his true potential. We’ve all heard that narrative before haven’t we? Angel Correa is worryingly lingering on that border-line, but our belief is firmly in the 19-year-old Argentine’s abilities.
Mini-Analysis: Blessed with the low centre of gravity, excellent technique and burst of pace we’ve come to expect from an archetypal diminutive Argentinian forward, Correa is the sort of electrifying talent that strikes fear into opposition defenders.Aside from a good first touch, impressive close control and deceptive strength, what stands out most is Correa’s game intelligence. Operating in his usual role as a second striker, he is extremely adept at finding space, whether it be flitting around in front of the opposition defence or dragging players out wide. His vision and, importantly, decision-making means he can really punish you once he has found a bit of freedom between the lines. Here’s a detailed Scout Report on Angel Correa.
Talent Radar Player Accolades:
Featured in our 100 Best Young Players to Watch in 2014 special, at #16 in the attackers category
Looking Back: Sky was the limit for one of Argentina’s brightest names as he enhanced his reputation back home, enough to attract the attentions of defending Spanish champions Atletico Madrid. A move to the Vicente Calderon was more than what he earned, but an unfortunate requirement of a heart surgery delayed his move and put his career on the hold. The move did finally go through and despite the extended period out of action, his talent and displays prior to injury have done enough to convince us that he’s one to keep your eyes closely peeled on in 2015.
Write-up by Sami Faizullah
4. ARKADIUSZ MILIK
POLAND | AJAX (on loan from LEVERKUSEN) | 20 | FORWARD
When you’re a Polish striker and seemingly have the audacity to envision yourself following in the footsteps of Robert Lewandowski, there may be a few that tell you to come back down to planet earth. However, if you’re Arkadiusz Milik, you should probably stay up in the stratosphere. While Lewandowski is unquestionably the nations premier player, Milik is on a collision course with that same honor.
Mini-analysis: Just like the player he hopes to replace in the future, Milik is the complete package, something that both his current employers and potential future suitors are more than well aware of. The Tychy born front-man is both equally adept at holding up play and creating opportunities for his supporting cast as he is picking his head up and applying the finishing touch from either inside the box or from distance. Milik certainly has the making of the modern target man, which was ironically created in large part by Lewandowski himself. Milik is strong and physical enough to turn his back to goal and bring others into play with his ability to pick out a through ball, but also technically gifted enough to have the final say in an attacking move. Having such a multi-faceted skillset makes him the perfect man to lead the line in the Bundesliga for Bayer Leverkusen in the long term, but it’s been his performances on loan at Ajax that has garnered much praise from many a corner in Europe. You can read a detailed Scout Report on him here.
Looking Back: The 6’1” target man moved to Leverkusen after impressing in Poland for both club and country, but it was his goal scoring exploits at youth level that truly turned heads – a combined 16 goals in 19 appearances at U17-U21 level saw his stock skyrocket. He would make six appearances for the Medicine Men before a loan move to the Amsterdam Arena was manufacture by the club…it proved to be a stroke of genius. The similarities between in the ability of both clubs to switch between counter-attacking and possession styles means Ajax was the right fit for Milik to continue his development. To date, the Polish hit man has 17 goals and 9 assists in 20 appearances across all competitions…an excellent return for a player just still only twenty years old.
Write-up by Andrew Thompson
3. GABRIEL BARBOSA
BRAZIL | SANTOS | 18 | FORWARD
Dubbed the new Neymar, Gabriel Barbosa is the latest jewel to come out of Santos and is the most exciting young striker in Brazil right now.
Mini-Analysis: As his nickname ‘Gabigol’ suggest, Barbosa is the type of forward who instinctively knows where the goal is and knows how to find the back of the net. With exquisite technique, searing pace and bags of creativity, the comparisons to Neymar are understandable if somewhat lazy. Not as lithe and lightweight as Brazil’s golden boy, Gabriel is more akin in build and style to other South American forwards like Sergio Aguero or Luis Suarez. His excellent finishing and intelligent movement are two of the other main strengths of an extremely talented superstar in the making. You can find a detailed Scout Report on him here.
Looking Back: Gabigol made his Santos debut in 2013, scoring a couple of goals, but it has been in 2014 that he has come on leaps and bounds, plundering 21 goals from 55 games. He began the year with seven in 18 state championship games and went on to be top scorer in the Copa do Brasil with six in seven, while bagging another 8 in 30 in the league too. He is now become an integral member of the Santos first team alongside Robinho & co and earned himself a new contract with a 50 million euro buy-out clause. Not bad, not bad at all.
Write-up by Tom Robinson
2. EZEQUIEL PONCE
ARGENTINA | NEWELL’S OLD BOYS | 17 | FORWARD
Ever since making his debut at the tender age of 16, Ponce has quickly become one of the most highly rated youngsters still in Argentina. Reportedly chased by scouts across Europe, this precocious goal-getter is hot property.
Mini-Analysis: When you see Ponce play, he already seems a very complete forward and mature beyond his years. Good physique, earning him the moniker El Tanque, he also possesses very good movement inside the box and leads the line well for someone of such a young age. Boasting pace, good heading ability, strength and impressive finishing which is still improving, he is a real handful for defenders. As Newell’s generally favour a passing style, Ponce can also drop deep and link play and has had the benefit of playing and training alongside the likes of Maxi Rodriguez, Ignacio Scocco and David Trezeguet. A traditional number 9 suited for the English or Italian leagues. You can find a detailed Scout Report on him here.
Looking Back: After scoring for fun at youth level for Newell’s (35 in 2012, 22 in 2013), Ponce was handed his senior debut in February to become the youngest player to play for la Lepra in the top flight. Due to a lack of striking options and a Libertadores campaign to boot, the teenager was thrown into the deep end and didn’t look out of his depth with some assured performances, particularly a stand out display against Velez. Though 4 goals in 17 games might seem like an good return, the stats don’t do justice to his impressive contributions , especially considering he is still just 17. Unfortunately he then suffered a fractured metatarsal that has kept him out for the entire Torneo Transicion but did make a brief cameo in the final game of the season. A season cut short by injury but one in which he announced his brilliant potential nonetheless.
Write-up by Tom Robinson
1. MEMPHIS DEPAY
NETHERLANDS | PSV EINDHOVEN | 20 | FORWARD
It’s hard to accurately predict future Ballon D’Or nominees based on a players current exploits in the early part of his career. But given the propensity of usual Ballon D’Or nominees bearing rather conspicuous goal-scoring traits, you wouldn’t go too wrong in betting Memphis Depay as a potential future nominee.
Mini-Analysis: Some would categorise Memphis Depay as a midfielder, given the fact that he has been played on the wings often. But his goal-scoring trait, compiled with his style of play, sees Depay in the strikers role more than it does on the wings. It isn’t just a case of cutting in, but his movement and runs are accurate for the definition of a striker. Strength, composure, pace and creativity, Memphis Depay is the entire package of an attacking talent. Rarely will you struggle to notice him on the pitch with his influence & impact in attack. He can both create and take chances that present himself without breaking a sweat, making him arguably one of the best footballers (potentially) for the next decade and a viable option for the duopoly currently atop the footballing world. Here’s a detailed Scout Report on Memphis Depay.
Talent Radar Player Accolades:
Featured in our 100 Best Young Players to Watch in 2014 special, at #4 in the attackers category
Featured in our Top 20 Young Players of 2014 special, at #2
Featured at #10 in our Top 10 Best Young Players at the World Cup special
Looking Back: Depay has only gone from strength to strength in 2014. An impressive second half of 2013-14 saw him on the plane to Brazil with the Dutch World Cup squad, and having returned with flying feedback, he has this season risen to arguably be considered as the best player currently in the Dutch Eredivisie across all age groups. An injury kept him out of action for a brief period that seems to have slightly effected his impact (which at the start of the season was nothing short of dominating), but the consistency in his performance is far from lacking.
Write-up by Sami Faizullah