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Talent Radar

Ranking the Top 10 Young Defenders so far in 2014-15: Gimenez enters, Van Beek on the rise

Our Talent Radar Player 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 recognized in our end of season Talent Radar Young Player Awards and 100 Best Young Players to Watch list. Read this document for all your queries on Talent Radar and explanation of the features under it.

The Talent Radar Player Rankings were out of action for two months with the 100 players to watch list to contend with, and a winter break for Europe’s major leagues. But with nearly all leagues returning and the new year well under-way, the rankings have been updated with more changes and a few surprises.

10. ERIC DIER // 21 // Tottenham Hotspur // England // 7 ↓

Eric Dier had quite a good start to this current Premier League campaign, scoring in his first two fixtures against West Ham and QPR. The youngster missed just 40 minutes of action in the whole of the first nine games of the season and received regular plaudits for his performances but since then, irregularities have seen him either dropped to the bench or not named in the match day squad towards the end of the year. While he has often been shuffled between right back and centre back roles in the team, the arrival of DeAndre Yedlin in the month of January will hopeful let Dier seek his preferred centre back role and improve at that.

9. DANIELE RUGANI // 20 // Empoli (on loan from Juventus) // Italy // new entrant

Daniele Rugani is another youngster sent out on loan by current Serie A champions, Juventus in search of game time. A new entry to this top 10 list, Rugani has played a massive part in Empoli’s defense this season, playing every single league match for the club from Tuscany. Over the course of the 1890 minutes that the youngster has seen this season in the league, his discipline has been excellent, receiving not a single card throughout. The Italian has also chipped in offensively, with two goals, one against Cesena and the other against Napoli, earning his team a point in both fixtures. At just 20 years of age and playing in the top flight of Italian football, this kind of exposure to the game is stepping stones for steady growth as a solid defender.

8. JETRO WILLEMS // 20 // PSV Eindhoven // Netherlands // new entrant

The Dutch left back has been excellent for PSV through the course of the season and we’re just a little over half way done. Willems has played over 2000 minutes for the current Eredivisie leaders and their run in the league has been helped quite significantly by the youngster’s performances. While he has had a bit of a disciplinary issue having received 7 yellow cards and a straight red so far, his offensive contributions have been immense, a goal and 8 assists in the domestic league and three most assists in the Europa League. Willems has featured twice so far in our Talent Radar’s Team of the Week.

7. JOSE GIMENEZ // 20 // Atletico Madrid // Uruguay // new entrant

The Uruguayan spent quite a bit of time on Atleti’s bench during the start of the campaign but has fought his way into the starting XI and has put forth quite impressive performances since then. Having been left out of the starting line up only once since match day 12, Gimenez has ensured that Atleti have not lost a single game barring the 3-1 defeat to Barcelona. Gimenez seems to have won over plenty with his performances and seems likely to take a steady claim to the current La Liga champion’s defensive unit for a while. The 20 year old has featured four times in our Team of the Week feature, a joint record among defenders.

6. LAYVIN KURZAWA // 22 // AS Monaco // France // 2 ↓

After a consistent berth in Monaco’s starting line up, despite their erratic form, Kurzawa had attained a decent level of performance until a thin muscle strain kept him out for six continuous matches, lowering his rank in our Defenders ratings. The year did not end well for the Frenchman as he struggled to attain fitness and get back into Monaco’s squad. Despite all this, coach Leonardo Jardim certainly has the 22 year as apart of his plans for the remainder of the campaign, having played the full 90 minutes in their recent draw against Lyon, his first full 90 in the league since match day 13.

5. RAPAHEL VARANE // 21 // Real Madrid // France // 8 ↑

Varane has featured 26 times across all competitions for the Spanish giants this season. Despite being just 21 years of age, the young defender has shown maturity beyond years, with exceptional performances across the season. This intelligence off the ball and positional sense have often been highlighted, his physicality especially his recovery pace too on display. Varane is definitely a main stay in the Madrid team for the future with France too looking to him as a long term servant.

4. JUAN BERNAT // 21 // Bayern Munich // Spain // no change

Playing over 2300 minutes for the German champions this season, Bernat is yet to miss a single game for the German club in the league. Its easy to paint the picture of him being on Guardiola’s good side, with the coach playing him in numerous positions over the course of the campaign so far. A quality signing from Valencia, Bernat’s first season can surely be looked at in positive light as he has definitely grown under Guardiola and impressed enough to keep the big shots in the squad out of the starting XI. Bernat’s positional disciplined has often been praised by many.

3. CALUM CHAMBERS // 20 // Arsenal // England // 1 ↓

The 20 year old made a move from Southampton in the summer to the London side and has been a regular feature there ever since. Most of his appearances for the Gunners has come as a right back. With Debuchy finding himself on the sidelines quite often this season, Chambers had to cover for the Frenchman in an area where the Gunners were light. The youngster took a few games to get going in an Arsenal jersey but seems quite settled so far. With Wenger further attempting to cultivate an English core of youngsters, it fits right in that Chambers has been brought to London for the long haul where he is meant to fulfill his potential. Chambers has made four appearances in our Team of the Week feature so far, the joint highest amongst the list of defenders.

2. JOSE GAYA // 19 // Valencia // Spain // 3 ↑

The home grown crop that is Jose Gaya has been a consistent feature for Valencia this season, playing in all league games but one. The left-back has been a key figure in Valencia’s defensive unit who have been on the losing side of a match only four times this season. Gaya has contributed offensively too, with three assists and a goal in the league. Manager Nuno Santo trusted him enough to produce good performances, making him a regular starter in the XI this season; the teenager making sure to repay the faith invested in him.

1. SVEN VAN BEEK // 20 // Feyenoord // NETHERLANDS // 5

Sven van Beek tops our Defender rankings, climbing the ladder from fifth to first. The Dutchman has produced a massive 30 appearances this season, a total of 2700 minutes across all competition. Solid performances at the back have led him to feature twice in our Talent Radar Team of the Week feature. The Feyenoord product has also managed to contribute offensively, with two goals and two assists in all competitions. Manager Fred Rutten has voiced his positive opinions of the youngster quite often this season. His consistency will surely be key in Feyenoord’s quest for Europe’s premier competition.

Here’s a snapshot of how the current rankings look:

Best Young Defenders 2014-15

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