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U-22 Young Players’ Team of the Week #12: Naby Keita and Justin Kluivert feature

A regular feature on our website is the Talent Radar Young Players Team of the Week with the best young players compiled into an XI from across Europe’s top seven leagues. You can read this for all details on Talent Radar, who is eligible under it and what else we publish within this feature. 

[Max. Age Limit: 22 years old on match-day for outfield players, 23 years old for goalkeepers]

Now a U-22 Team of the Week veteran, Thomas Strakosha returns for his usual spot in goal. The Albanian was kept busy at home in a disappointing but hard earned 1-1 draw for Lazio against Fiorentina. Basel’s Manuel Akanji, on the back of an impressive 1-0 win at home to Manchester United, is the first man in our defence. Though adjusted to be at right-back in this XI, the Swiss youngster played in central defence and put in a solid shift against the English giants to ensure a cleansheet – six interceptions and six clearances were exactly what Raphael Wicky needed from his 22-year-old.

20-year-old Nordi Mukiele makes his first ever appearance in this feature, after helping Montpellier to a 3-0 win over Lille. The Frenchman was defensively efficient, and was needed to be, with five tackles, three interceptions and three clearances. The defender also managed to create two good chances from the back and has further justified his managers faith in him this season, having missed just one game out of fifteen across all competitions.

His partner is fellow French youngster, Dayot Upamecano, who had two fantastic performance this week. First he helped his RB Leipzig side to a memorable 4-1 win over AS Monaco – a result that keeps the German side’s qualification hopes alive. Upamecano made an incredible three tackles, six interceptions and a mighty ten clearances against the French champions, not to mention winning six of his aerial duels. On the weekend in his side’s 2-0 win over Werder Bremen, the teenager made another eleven clearances and eight tackles plus interceptions. Having firmly established himself in the German Bundesliga, Upamecano has now staked his claim as the best young defensive performer across Europe.

At left-back is 2014-15’s Talent Radar Defender of the Season, Jose Gaya, who has continued to play a key role in Valencia’s remarkable season as they continue to be Barcelona’s primary challengers at the top of the table. The side drew 1-1 at home against the Catalan club, with Gaya providing the assist for Rodrigo Moreno’s opener, having made a run into the channel.

Having been a regular in senior football for seven seasons now, it’s easy to forget that Raheem Sterling is still only 22-years-old. Unlikely to hit his peak for another couple of seasons, he already has fifty-six senior career goals. This week, he single-handedly ensured Manchester City continued their near perfect start to the season. He scored a late winner against Feyenoord in a 1-0 win, making a clever run into the box after a quick pass and move with Ilkay Gundogan. On the weekend, he ensured the current Premier League leaders avoided a scare at Huddersfield Town with another late winner in a 2-1 win after a similar run into the box, though this time he was rather fortunate to have seen the ball cross the line. Early in the second half in this game, he also won the penalty for Sergio Aguero to score, after their opponents had taken the lead.

Fellow Englishman Will Hughes joins Sterling in midfield, having made his first ever U-22 Team of the Week appearance last week following his first ever Premier League goal. That strike against West Ham United may have been the catalyst for more from the 22-year-old as he struck again in a 3-0 win over Newcastle United at St. James’ Park. The former Derby County man made a smart run towards the edge of the box, before a well placed finish to open the scoring.

His central midfield partner this week is defending two time African Young Player of the YearNaby Keita; the Guinena, much like his RB Leipzig team-mate Dayot Upamecano, had a commendable two games this week for the Bundesliga side. First he scored a well worked goal in the 4-1 win over Monaco, showcasing fantastic close control to score the fourth goal before half-time. On the weekend he scored another well placed shot from the edge of the box to get his side going in the 2-0 win over Werder Bremen.

Not many youngsters can claim to have had as perfect a weekend as Justin Kluivert. But cut inside and shoot was the Dutchman’s go to plan as he struck a hat-trick in a 5-1 win over Roda. The Dutch club have now scored fifteen goals in their last three games. Kluivert’s first came after a fantastic burst of pace, followed by a neat finish past Hidde Jurjus in goal. His second was arguably the pick of the bunch, cutting inside against and letting fly from distance to put his side three goals to the good. His third was another cut inside from the left side, followed by a well placed shot – it was the 18-year-old’s first goals of the season as he already surpasses his tally from the previous campaign.

We stay in the Eredivisie for the first man upfront as Gyrano Kerk makes the cut following an impressive performance in Utrecht’s 3-1 win away to Sparta Rotterdam. The 21-year-old set up Zakaria Labyad to open the scoring within the first minute of the match after a burst of pace down the right-flank. His goal fifteen minutes from time was also characterised by a bursting run down the right channel, before a strong finish at the far post.

Timo Werner is the final piece of the puzzle as a third representative from RB Leipzig’s impressive week. The German’s inclusion is on the back of his Champions League performance during the 4-1 win in France. The 21-year-old struck twice – the first after a smart run in behind the Monaco defence followed by a deft finish, while he grabbed his second from the penalty spot. The youngster is now four shy of a milestone fifty club goals having played just over one fifty games for Stuttgart and RB Leipzig.

Read all our Talent Radar Team of the Week articles here

Sami Faizullah

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