Football – C1 – Champions League: our Top 10 players of 20 years or less in the round of 16

February 11, 2019 0 By admin

10. Nicolo Zaniolo (Italian midfielder, AS Roma)

Not retained by Fiorentina in the summer of 2016, then sold by Inter Milan last June despite strong performances in U19 (14 goals and 9 assists in 28 games, title of champion in the key), Nicolo Zaniolo took his flight to AS Rome, where he is preferred to Javier Pastore, when the Argentinian is valid. La Louve, who has recovered the left-hander in the deal that led Nainggolan to Lombardy, sees him as an heir to Francesco Totti. Powerful playmaker of 1.90m, he can evolve runner or rush, as against Genoa mid-December. Excellent between the lines, percussive, dribbler, it is perfectible in the transmissions and the vision of the game.

This did not stop this son of a former pro to be involved on 5 goals (3 goals, 2 assists) in his last six Serie A matches, including a jewel against Sassuolo at the end of December. He is in shape before facing Porto on Tuesday. "He's super strongsaid his teammate Fazio recently. He is a quiet kid, but we see in training that he will make a great career. " It was during his first sessions in Trigoria that he convinced Di Francesco and Monchi not to lend him and give him a chance. Faced with the advances of Juventus, Roma is already trying to make him sign a new contract. Indeed, it emarges "only" at 300,000 euros annually now!

Holder in both duels against Real Madrid in the group stage of the Champions League, he is a pure product of the Italian formation. Vice-champion of Europe U19 in 2018, he was called by Roberto Mancini with the A in September, when he had never played in Serie A. "Zaniolo played the final of Euro U19. At 19, if you're strong, you have to play », then launched the coach of the Nazionale. "I was taken for a madman, but we followed him to the Euro and we realized that he could be one of the players of the future. Then Di Francesco was smart to launch it. He had a very rapid progression and that was perhaps not predictable. He is a modern midfielder, who has physical and technical qualities ", recently confirmed Mancini.

9. Weston McKennie (20-year-old American midfielder, Schalke)

Having Weston McKennie on his team is a boon for a coach: trained as a sentinel, the 20-year-old American can play everywhere as long as he is in the lineup. Central defender against Hertha in early September, he was lined up … leading striker against Dortmund and Leverkusen in December. But it is at the position of playmaker that he gives full measure in the jersey of Schalke 04, who will face Manchester City.

Involved on two goals in his first two games of the Champions League, he has been a member of the German club for 18 months. Middle brawler, energetic, he won 62% of his aerial duels in the Bundesliga and has a record of 72% successful tackles. He still has to learn how to manage the highs and lows, especially to keep gas, but he already has all the baggage of the modern environment. His future is obviously written in the Premier League. He has already worn the team shirt USA seven times and we saw it against France in June (1-1).

McKennie, versatile medium of Schalke. (Sports Press)

McKennie, versatile medium of Schalke. (Sports Press)

8. Houssem Aouar (French middle-aged 20 years old, Lyon)

Two years ago, Houssem Aouar broke into the group of OL in the last 16 of the Europa League against Alkmaar. Arrived at the club at the age of 11, this versatile medium has climbed all levels (U17 French champion, U19 French runner-up). He settled permanently in the first team in the summer of 2017. Author of 7 goals and 6 assists in 44 matches in all competitions in 2017-2018 for his first season at the top level, he became a staple in the Bruno system Genesio. He can play in the middle left or number 10, and blossoms when he takes the position of relay runner, with a sentry at his side. Technically excellent, with good ball protection, the value of the French Espoirs international is 75 M € according to the CIES. Manchester City, against which he was excellent at Groupama Stadium (2-2) will closely follow one of the brains of OL, just like Arsenal.

7. Achraf Hakimi (20-year-old Moroccan defender, Dortmund)

Born in Madrid, trained by Real Madrid since his 8 years but barred by Carvajal and Odriozola, Achraf Hakimi is on loan to Borussia Dortmund until June 2020. Right or left side can evolve in the axis, he has just been elected best African hope by the CAF. The BVB, who had seen him shine in Youth League in a duel against Real on September 27, 2016 (5-2), offers him an ideal setting: the style of play of the German club allows this former winger of bring the danger offensively. He also gave three assists in the same match, against Atlético de Madrid on October 24 (4-0).

"He is the best left-back of the Bundesliga, said Lothar Matthaüs recently. The German coach Joachim Löw would have liked to have a player as technical and fast as him. " Zinedine Zidane has always trusted this fan of Marcelo when he was on the merengue bench. " He was so involved that we could not have guessed it was his first match, had rejoiced the former Blue early October 2017, after a meeting against Espanyol. He was excellent. " But the departure of ZZ has slowed his progress to Real, which has under contract until 2021.

6. Christian Pulisic (20-year-old American forward Dortmund)

Fans of Borussia Dortmund have only a few months to enjoy the talent of Christian Pulisic. Purchased 64 M € by Chelsea, the 20-year-old American international striker will discover the Premier League next summer. Formed by the BVB, U17 and U19 German Champion, he exploded under Thomas Tuchel during the 2016-2017 season with 5 goals and 13 assists in 43 matches in all competitions. In December, he came second in the Kopa Trophy for the best prospects in the world.

"Sure, he's extremely fast, but what I admire most about him is his first contact, described his teammate Nuri Sahin last season. Through its ball catch and its transmissions, large spaces open, even when there is none. »« Pulisic has immense talent and surely all the gear to become a big star: speed, dribbling, quality of control ", Also explained former Dortmund defender Michael Schulz in our columns early January. Small technical winger, excellent on set pieces, he stuck yet since last summer. Lucien Favre prefers Sancho and Guerreiro to him and has established Pulisic only five times in the Championship.

Lucien Favre does not rely much on Christian Pulisic in Borussia. (Sports Press)

Lucien Favre does not rely much on Christian Pulisic in Borussia. (Sports Press)

5. Vinicius Jr (Brazilian striker 18 years old, Real Madrid)

Real Madrid fell in love with Vinicius Jr. on the occasion of the Copa America U17, where he finished top scorer and best player. Only ten days after playing his first pro match with Flamengo, the Spanish club bought him € 46 million but left him on loan at his training club. There, this former futsal player took a little experience (14 goals, 5 assists in 69 games in all competitions) and notably achieved a memorable start to the derby against Fluminense in November 2017.

He joined the Real Reserve last summer. Very little used by Lopetegui in spite of big performances with the young people and with training, he was the big beneficiary of the arrival of Santiago Solari on the bench. Involved in 9 goals (2 goals, 7 assists) in seven Spanish Cup games, indisputable holder in Liga since early January, this explosive left winger found in Karim Benzema an ideal offensive partner. Often compared to Neymar by his style of play, he should be called for the first time by Titus to play with the Brazil A team at the March friendly.

4. Jadon Sancho (18-year-old English striker, Dortmund)

This is the big revelation of the season. After being tenured only seven times in the 2017-2018 Bundesliga, he flew high for his first full season with the pros. Since August, this right wing or left is simply one of the best players in Europe. Involved in 18 goals (7 goals, 11 assists) in 21 league games, it would be worth € 120m today according to the CIES, while it was bought € 9m at City 18 months ago. Best player in the Euro U17 then world champion in the category in 2017, he has already played three times for England's Gareth Southgate. Extremely technical player, with a crazy ball at the foot, he is under contract with the BVB until 2022 and is courted by the biggest European clubs.

3. Matthijs de Ligt (Netherlands defender, 19 years old, Ajax)

Elected Golden Boy 2018, a first for a defender, Matthijs de Ligt has everything a big one. Captain of Ajax Amsterdam for a year, he became the youngest player in history to play in a European final (17 years and 285 days against MU, in C 3). Central defender at the extreme concentration, clever of both feet, in the game long as short, excellent player of head, he was named in the type team of the hopes of the C 1 2017-2018 by the UEFA. "He will be the best defender in the world within two years ", predicts coach Ronald Koeman. The youngest Dutch international since 1931, de Ligt (13 capes) forms the orange central defense with Van Dijk. Courted by Barça, PSG and Manchester City, he would be very close to Juventus Turin.

De Ligt, already captain of Ajax. (Sports Press)

De Ligt, already captain of Ajax. (Sports Press)

2. Trent Alexander-Arnold (20 year old England defender, Liverpool)

Second in the Golden Boy 2018, Trent Alexander-Arnold has been in the right lane of Liverpool for a year, forcing Joe Gomez to seek time on the axis and Nathan Clyne to join Bournemouth. Born 1 km from Melwood, the training center he joined at age six, he could become as important as Steven Gerrard in the hearts of fans. Untiring in his lane, lethal counter-attacker, very good centering, he is even successful on set pieces (" An eighteen-year-old player who has the balls of taking a free kick in this way is much more exciting and interesting than dwelling on all the small mistakes he has made. "Klopp will say after a match in Hoffenheim in August 2017). Present at the World Cup with England, the international (5 capes, 1 goal) has missed several matches in Liverpool in recent months due to injuries. Reinstated, this very good chess player (he held 17 shots against world champion Magnus Carlsen) will be present against Bayern.

1. Kylian Mbappé (20-year-old French striker, PSG)

How far has it come since its birth to the face of the world two years ago, on the grounds of Manchester City … Revealed by Monaco, Kylian Mbappé was promised a great destiny since a young age. He achieves a flawless: twice champion of France with the ASM then the PSG, world champion and best hope of the competition, winner of the 2017 Golden Boy and the 2018 Kopa Trophy … Currently the most expensive player in the world for CIES (€ 220 million), it drops all the records of precocity. This season, he has been involved in 32 goals (22 goals, 10 assists) in 27 games in all competitions. Pelé sees him as his successor and keeps pushing him to go higher. Against Manchester United, it will occupy the tip of the attack of the PSG, orphan of Neymar and Cavani.

Cyril Olives-Berthet

Cyril Olives-Berthet

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