Our Talent Radar 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 recognised in our end of season Talent Radar Young Player Awards.
[Eligibility: As of 1st June 2017 – 21 years old and below]
As modern football goes, forwards have become more dynamic. No more is the role characterised by traditional numbers nines, but rather by a more vast breed of attackers. Wingers don’t stay in midfield, and quite often are more advanced than the forwards, strikers drop deeper than what a pragmatic player would do, and goalscoring isn’t the only attribute required to succeed – with this in mind, we expanded our scope of a ‘forward’ (as the list above bears witness).
Starting this list is Christian Pulisic. The teenage prodigy has been placed firmly on a pedestal for his national team, despite the fact that his exploits weren’t enough to earn USA a flight ticket to Russia for next year. He’s been a leading light for Dortmund as well, starting more often than not – alongwith the likes of Aubameyang for a team close to the top of Bundesliga. That brings us to Marco Asensio of Real Madrid. The Spanish and European champions have endured a sluggish start to the season, with the form of key men like Bale, and Benzema coming under scrutiny. Ronaldo’s suspension early in the season didn’t help Zidane’s cause of course, but the Real “faithful” seem to have found a new hero. Asensio took full advantage of the circumstances and put on a great audition at the start of the season, with his left leg weaving magic. He must be a little befuddled about the resultant lack of a starting spot, but that’s the reality of life at Real Madrid.
Propping up the table, in a position he isn’t accustomed to, is Timo Werner. The striker finished last season near the top of our forward rankings, but has endured a relatively slow start this season, especially by his own high standards. Like his side, he’s had a little teething trouble that comes with the territory of not being an unknown commodity anymore. Even so, he’s managed to score five times. That number bodes well for when the good times do return to Leipzig. At number 7 is a little known obscure youngster called Kylian Mbappe. The teenager’s mega money “loan deal” made waves across the football world for all kinds of reasons. He was also the awkward spectator in the cringe-worthy Neymar Cavani spat. Full credit to the youngster then for putting these distractions to the side and playing his football. He’s struck up a fine understanding with his teammates, and has come in for praise from all quarters. The most pleasing aspect of his game is that he seems to really enjoy football, and plays with a smile on his face, as any teenager should. Here’s hoping the smile stays in its place as he looks to retain his Talent Radar Best Young Forward crown.
Just below the top half is Hirving Lozano. He’s been a long time favourite here at OOTB, and his stunning start to the season has seen PSV race into a healthy five point lead atop Eredivisie. Not coincidentally, PSV’s only loss this season came in a game that Lozano was sent off in. Nine direct goal contributions in seven starts make for terrific numbers.
At the foot of the top half of the table is Maxi Gomez, the Celta Vigo forward. The Spanish side aren’t usually expected to uproot many trees in a season, and their current mid table position reflects that. But Maxi Gomez’ performances wouldn’t reflect that. Five goals so far have him fixed firmly on our radar. If his strange habit of scoring every other game doesn’t fade away, expect him to stay here for a while.
Just off the podium in this first edition of our rankings is Malcom. The Brazilian starlet has emerged as the go to player for Bordeaux. He’s made nine direct goal contributions (five goals + four assists) in nine starts. Bordeaux are on an upward trajectory, and aren’t far off the top three places, thanks to such performances.
Taking the second and third spot on the podium are the two Manchester City boys, Leroy Sane and Gabriel Jesus. This site has long been of the opinion that a front trio of Raheem Sterling, Jesus, and Sane is the best young combination in English football. This season, they’re living up to the billing. Jesus seems to have struck up an understanding with Sergio Aguero to form a genuinely terrifying strike partnership. Not that his has affected his prolific contributions to the cause, with eight goals and an assist coming from his ten starts. Sane is another who has progressed in leaps and bounds. The flashes of talent that were all too visible last season are now tangible end products. His pace and dribbling allied with David Silva’s silky passing down City’s left have taken all comers. These two truly are a youthful bedrock for the Premier League title favourites.
Sitting on top of the mountain is Antonio Sanabria. The Betis man has been in top form for his team, this campaign. Betis lie just three points behind 4th placed Atletico Madrid, a great tribute to Quique Setien and his band of merry young men. Sanabria has six goals in his five starts so far, a streak that began with the winning goal at the Bernabeu. Betis and Sanabria are a team to watch for this upcoming campaign. A talented manager with some talented young players look set to make an impact on La Liga.