Connect with us

Hi, what are you looking for?

Talent Radar

Talent Radar Awards 2016-17: Best Young Defender – Davinson Sanchez

For the fourth season running, the Talent Radar Awards recognise the best individuals across Europe’s top leagues across seven primary categories.

[Eligibility: As of 1st June 2016 – 21 years old and below for outfield players // 22 years old and below for goalkeepers]


It takes incredible confidence from both the player, and his manager, to install a young centre-back in the starting eleven; it’s even more brave to do so when the centre-back in question has no prior experience of European football. But following his success in South America, helping underdogs Atletico Nacional to the Copa Libertadores title, Sanchez has taken well to life in Europe as Ajax pushed Feyenoord till the last day for the title and nearly pulled off a European success against Manchester United.

The 20-year-old started the season in the reserve team, missing the opening game of the Eredivisie season as a result. Since then he’s started every single league game (except the penultimate home game as Peter Bosz saved Sanchez for mid-week Europa League action), as Ajax missed out on the title by a single point. He played a crucial part in European competition as well on road to the Europa League final, playing the full minutes of every game (including 120 against Schalke in second leg of the quarter-finals), except the last two group games with qualification confirmed and the second leg of the round of 16 due to suspension.

For the first time in the history of these awards, the winner is a) a pure centre-back and b) not European. With Sanchez still only 20-years-old, he’ll remain eligible for these awards for two more seasons. With no one having retained their title across all the categories over the history of these awards, Sanchez may well be the first to do so.



A mobile and athletic centre half, Sanchez is adept at utilising his 83kg frame when required to out-muscle opposing forwards. With an ability to read the play like few his age, he also possesses a deceptive pace that allows him to remain a step ahead of the opposition – an attribute he showcased when beating Leon de Kogel to head the ball to safety after the Go Ahead Eagles forward had seen his spot-kick saved by Andre Onana during the two sides’ meeting at De Adelaarshorst on 28th August. The young Colombian showed the strength of character to make amends after having been adjudged to have clipped the heels of Marcel Ritzmaier in the area by referee, Pol van Boekel just seconds earlier.

Indeed, despite being an underrated part of his game, Sanchez’s ability to make up ground when placed at a disadvantage to an opposing player is quite remarkable and was clear for all to see when, he was seemingly left for dead on the half way line by Utrecht’s Richairo Zivkovic as the 20-year-old speedster was set clear by an incisive through ball from Sebastien Haller. The 20-year-old Colombian ate up the ground between he and his quarry – managing to not only catch but pass Zivkovic in order to deny the young forward – who was hoping to impress against his parent club, the opportunity to test the reflexes of the previously exposed Andre Onana in the Ajax net, to ultimately deny Zivkovic with a well-timed sliding challenge just inside the area.

Read a full Scout Report on Sanchez here.


Here’s what Kevin Suave of Ajax Daily told us:

“Davinson Sanchez is a ferocious defender, combining power and excellent timing with superb ball-playing abilities. Charisma and fighting spirit turned the 20-year-old Colombian into an instant fan-favorite in the Johan Cruijff ArenA, whilst also cementing a spot in the Amsterdammers’ starting line-up soon after his arrival. Sanchez, arguably the most imposing Ajax centre-back since Jaap Stam, possesses all the attributes and traits of a well-rounded modern-day defender and might have already outgrown the Eredivisie after one season. Should be a great fit for any top-team with a dominant, high-pressure style of play, though I’d rather keep him in Amsterdam for another season.”

This is what Peter McVitie, journalist with Goal and Benefoot, told us:

“Since his arrival at Ajax, Sanchez has been crucial to their defence. He is strong and solid in tackles and is a threat in the opposition box too – he even beat Tim Krul with an overhead kick. He was important to Atletico Nacional’s Copa Libertadores win right before he moved to Netherlands and has carried on to play a key role in Ajax’s European campaign. It’s no surprise Barcelona still have him high on their list, as he is a quality and energetic defender.”

Here’s what Rupert Fryer, journalist specialising in South American football, had to tell Outside of the Boot:

“One of a host of Colombians who made their names during Atletico Nacional’s Copa Libertadores success in 2016 before the side was inevitably ripped apart, the 20-year-old has enjoyed a fine first season in Europe with a young Ajax side that proved to be the perfect fit. Named the club’s Player of the Year in his first season abroad, Sanchez is already attracting attention from Europe’s big boys.

Big, strong, athletic and increasingly comfortable on the ball, he has all the tools to be a superstar, though he is still a little raw. A mightily impressive though ill-advised late surge upfield in the final moments of a needlessly nervy Europa League night in Lyon earlier this month provided succinct illustration of a young talent still very much at the developmental stage.

Sanchez has some way to go, but Ajax look to have unearthed future star and, alongside the monstrous Yerry Mina, Colombia may well have found a formidable central defensive duo for the next decade.”

And here’s what Michael Bell of Football Oranje told us about Sanchez:

“Sanchez’s impact and importance to Ajax this season cannot be understated. The Colombian has had an excellent first season in the Netherlands and has strengthened his status as one of the most talented young centre-backs in Europe. Only 21, but Sanchez already plays like a leader, while his tackling, positional sense and ability on the ball are all excellent.”


2016-17PlayerAge (at the time)NationalityClub (at the time)Current Club
1stDavinson Sanchez20ColombiaAjax AmsterdamAjax Amsterdam
2ndBenjamin Mendy22FranceAS MonacoAS Monaco
3rdNiklas Sule21GermanyHoffenheimBayern Munich
2015-16PlayerAge (at the time)NationalityClub (at the time)Current Club
1stMatthias Ginter22GermanyBorussia DortmundBorussia Dortmund
2ndSamuel Umtiti22FranceLyonBarcelona
3rdJose Gimenez21UruguayAtletico MadridAtletico Madrid
2014-15PlayerAge (at the time)NationalityClub (at the time)Current Club
1stJose Gaya19SpainValenciaValencia
2ndSven van Beek20NetherlandsFeyenoordFeyenoord
3rdRaphaël Varane22FranceReal MadridReal Madrid
2013-14PlayerAge (at the time)NationalityClub (at the time)Current Club
1stRicardo Rodriguez21SwitzerlandWolfsburgWolfsburg
2ndSerge Aurier21Ivory CoastToulouseParis Saint-Germain
3rdMarquinhos20BrazilParis Saint-GermainParis Saint-Germain

Read all our 2016-17 Talent Radar Awards 

← Previous Award // Next Award →

You May Also Like

Talent Radar

Tom Robinson profiles 10 of the best young players to watch in the Argentinian Primera  for the 2020 season. After over 7 months without...

Talent Radar

A look at the best U-22 Young Players this week, looking at the La Liga, Bundesliga, Premier League, Serie A, Ligue 1, Eredivisie &...


Richard Pike writes about the increasing divide between Europe’s Big 5 Leagues and the rest. 13th of December 1954, a date where an event...

Talent Radar

Mateus Carvalho profiles 20 of the best young players to watch in the Liga NOS  for the 2020-21 season, one from each club! In...

Previous Next
Test Caption
Test Description goes like this