Best young football players
Brief scouting reports on some of our favourite emerging talents
Here’s our eight newest reports on a small selection of our favourite emerging players. More profiles can be found in the goalkeepers, defenders, midfielders, wingers and strikers sections. Below, you’ll find profiles covering backgrounds, styles, strengths and weaknesses, while providing links to where you can find out more about them.
For full in-depth analysis of some of the best young players from all over the planet, check out our profiles page. We have countlesss profiles on players there, focussing on a range of talents from across the world. There are also exclusive interviews too, and plenty more.
Born in Marseille, Naouirou Ahamada spent five years of his formative development at SC Air Bel, a small academy club in nestled in the city suburbs, much like Wesley Fofana and Mohamed Simakan did before him.
He later joined professional club SC Istres before making a milestone move to the youth teams of Juventus in 2018. He had two seasons with their Primavera squad, and played at the 2019 Under-17 World Cup, before Sven Mislintat’s VfB Stuttgart on loan in October 2020.
After a stop-start couple of seasons after he made the move to Germany, Ahamada is now a regular starter in the 2022/23 season.
Naouirou Ahamada's style of play
Ahamada is a very promising athlete – he moves around the pitch comfortably and has room to fill out, possessing dynamic changes of pace with a good burst off his back foot. He has good body control in general, agile and well-balanced in most situations, while he is fairly robust in contact and able to withstand challenges.
He’s a solid as the first receiver in midfield and is quick to create options for passes. His pass selection at Bundesliga level is simple, but his technique is clean and crisp and his passing is consistent with adequate accuracy and speed. There is a lack of range and inventiveness, but he links play efficiently and can add tempo.
Ahamada is a strong dribbler under pressure with impressive coordination between technical skill and athleticism. He has a good sense of his surroundings and is adept at freezing opponents with intelligent body movements to create time and space. He’s very good at rolling out and sliding away from opponents, breaking pressure and eliminating defenders. After that, Ahamada is adept at driving into space but his decision-making at the end of his runs needs to improve. He is also far too reliant on his right foot, which limits his options and makes him predictable in possession.
His high-level mobility a big advantage in transition and defensive phases. He can recover defensive positions quickly and is sharp when shuttling between passes, disrupting rhythm and forcing mistakes. But he is poor in direct duels and struggles to control opponents, with careless approaches to the ball that are indicative of bad technique. If he irons out these issues, there is clear upside.
Naouriou Ahamada is a box-to-box midfielder with high-level mobility. He adds a lot of value as a dribbler and ball-carrier, capable of escaping pressure and driving into space. He is also an adept link passer through central areas.
Ahamada’s biggest weakness is his technique in defensive situations; his careless approach to the ball makes him too easy to beat. He also has a very prominent bias to his right foot, limiting his options and making him easy to read.
Club Brugge are emerging as Belgium’s most productive academy set-up. Their 2003 generation is a particularly fruitful one.
Alongside Cisse Sandra, Lynnt Audoor has emerged as a standout, playing a range of midfield roles for their B team in Belgium’s lower divisions, as well as off the left wing for the under-19 side in the UEFA Youth League. His progression has seen him deservedly feature in matchday squads for the senior side.
In 2022/23, he seems to have found a new role coming off the bench for the senior team as Brugge look to integrate yet another academy product into their set-up.
Lynnt Audoor's style of play
Audoor is a smart, technical player. His excellent technical quality shines through every time he receives possession. He looks light on his feet as he dribbles through traffic, always ready to anticipate a challenge and shift direction.
It’s easy to see how this part of his game would translate to being a deep-lying midfielder; he receives the ball sharply and evades pressure calmly – both important qualities for breaking through the first line of an opposition press.
He’s fantastic at putting defensive structures in difficult positions. When playing off the left, Audoor takes up excellent positions in the inside channel that make him a tricky player to make, filling spaces that neither right-backs nor centre-backs are comfortable stepping into.
He’s also shown himself to be a very capable creative and goal-scoring threat. He looks particularly effective as a creator, looking for reverse passes for outside runners. He can create shots for himself off the dribble too, making him a multi-faceted attacker.
Lynnt Audoor has fantastic technique, helping him to be effective in a range of roles across midfield and out wide. He can evade pressure effortlessly as a dribbler/ball-carrier, which should help him stand-out in teams that want to play a controlled, possession dominant style.
Audoor is not quite as strong off the ball as he is with it. Defensively, he is a bit one-paced, lacking the athleticism to be a dynamic pressing threat.
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Armel Bella-Kotchap first appeared around VfL Bochum’s first-team at the age of 16, when he first appeared in their pre-season programme. The Paris-born son of Cyrille Bella, a Cameroonian goalscorer in Germany’s lower leagues, Bella-Kotchap has been a fixture in Bochum’s first-team since the start of the 2020/21 season.
He helped the club win promotion last season, and has did well in his first season at Bundesliga level. His performances also earned him an ever-growing role with Germany’s under-21 team as well as a big move to Southampton in the summer of 2022, where he has hit the ground running with strong early-season performances in the Premier League.
Armel Bella-Kotchap's style of play
Bella-Kotchap is a high-level athlete, and has been for some time. He’s extremely advanced for his age – tall and muscular with good top-end speed and a relatively nimble agility for someone of his size; it defines his style as a defender.
He’s a front-foot defender that steps out of the defensive line to engage with opponents and the ball. Bella-Kotchap is very adept at pressing onto the back of receivers to intercept and disrupt; he uses his size and speed to overwhelm players in duels. His style is very aggressive but remarkably keen; he knows how to use his skillset in a measured way, something that many defenders can’t do.
When defending as part of a block, though, Bella-Kotchap has significant issues. His awareness and positioning is often poor, leaving him disconnected from the defensive line, and he gets caught in awkward positions. He also lacks impact in possession, often struggling when pressed and stunting build-up phases because of his below-average technical skillset.
If Bella-Kotchap can work through a few of those issues, he has the potential to scale up the levels pretty quickly. He can probably reach a European level, most likely a Europa League club.
Armel Bella-Kotchap is a dynamically physical presence at centre-back. He’s tall and fast, strong in contact with a huge leap, and agile for his size. He is adept at squeezing up to overwhelm attackers as well as defending in wide areas.
He lacks composure under pressure, largely because his fundamental technical skills are quite raw. He can be pressed into poor mistakes on the ball. He can also get detached from his defence with poor positioning on the back foot.
A-League exports often struggle to settle into foreign surroundings, but Liberato Cacace has been unafflicted by teething issues since his arrival in Belgium in 2020.
After becoming the most dominant left-back in the A-League during his time with the Wellington Phoenix, Cacace was brought to Belgium by ex-Melbourne Victory coach Kevin Muscat. While Muscat’s time at Sint-Truiden was short-lived, Cacace was a consistent performer for a relegation-threatened team – so much so, he was signed by Serie A club Empoli on deadline day of the 2022 winter transfer window.
Cacace has not quite nailed down a starting spot with the Tuscan club, with Fabiano Parisi’s strong form relegating him to the bench. But with Parisi garnering interest from other club’s in Serie A, there may be a role for Cacace moving forward if he is prepared to be patient.
Liberato Cacace's style of play
Cacace can certainly look a little ungainly in possession, but he is nonetheless effective. He is confident carrying the ball forward and bursting past defenders into space; he is not so much a technical dribbler as he is a bulldozer, unafraid of any physical confrontation that stands between him and where he wants to go.
While his attacking output needs to become more consistent, Cacace has massive potential in this area. His stamina and speed make him a willing final third runner – both wide to cross or into the penalty box to shoot – and he showed with Wellington that he can be a very dangerous creative and goal-scoring threat.
On the defensive side, Cacace is about as solid as you will see from a young full-back. He is built in more of a centre-back mould than a left-back, standing at around six-foot tall and with the strength to match. He is uncompromising in physical duels, happy to go toe with anyone and attempting to smother them and frustrate them out of possession.
His positioning is a little bit more suspect when he must defend from the defensive line, but as teams look to use him in more attacking roles – particularly in his current role as a wing-back in a three-man defence – this should be less of a problem.
Liberato Cacace has a huge engine and a solid defensive technique that makes him a reliable option at left-back. His whipped crossing delivery is also quite good, giving him a decent final third threat.
Cacace is a bit ungainly in possession and has a few rough edges to smooth out technically. He can also improve defending in a set block and having to be a bit more disciplined, especially when he plays in a back four rather than a three.
Davide Frattesi has been a fixture of Italian youth international teams moving through the age groups for a while now. In particular though, a starring role in Italy’s 2019 Under-20 World Cup side that reached the semi-finals of the tournament in South Korea threw him into the spotlight.
After three separate loans to Serie B – where he amassed over 100 appearances – since they acquired him from Roma in 2017, US Sassuolo have now integrated him into their starting line-up in Serie A. His latest loan move, to an AC Monza team pushing for promotion last season, was a resounding success and provided Frattesi with a strong platform to establish himself as a Serie A player last season.
His excellent season with Sassuolo prompted speculation of a move to one of Serie A’s big hitters, but he will now spend another season with Sassuolo before pushing for his seemingly inevitable move next summer.
Davide Frattesi's style of play
Frattesi is one of those players that runs so much you start to feel tired just watching them. For the full 90 minutes, the Italian will go on lung-bursting run after lung-bursting run, chasing after every loose ball, pressing anyone he can, breaking forward on the counter, or recovering defensively.
His defensive work can be a little bit sloppy, the potential to be dominant in this area is huge. Often he can be a bit too aggressive with the use of his body, and slightly aggressive in the way he commits to challenges. But he is a big-bodied midfielder that tries to dominate and suffocate opponents and he is extremely successful in doing just that.
When his team have possession, Frattesi needs no invitation to surge forward to make an impact in the final third. His confidence in his ability to recover gives him freedom to be more adventurous with his positioning, and the results speak for themselves. He was involved in ten goals (eight goals and two assists) in 2,500 minutes with Monza in Serie B in 2020/21, with a mixture of goals from headers, late runs into the box, and instances of pressing in the attacking half. Eight goal involvements in 2,900 minutes for Sassuolo in 2021/22 was also a solid return in his first Serie A season.
His willingness to be direct with his ball carrying and distribution in transition is also a key pillar of his skillset that makes him such a devastating threat as an attacking midfielder.
Davide Frattesi is a relentless competitor with high level athletic qualities as well as a strong attacking output from his midfield role.
Frattesi’s main weaknesses generally involve carelessness. Whether that be being loose in possession, or being overly aggressive as a tackler.
No Paulo Dybala at Juventus? No worries. If Juve wanted to replace their number ten with someone stylistically similar, they need to look no further than their own academy, and the 2003-born Argentine they recruited from Vélez Sarsfield in 2020: Matìas Soulé.
In 2021/22, he was a key cog with Juve’s under-23 side which competes in Italy’s third division, but now Soulé looks primed to take the next step forward in his career and regularly features in senior squads and off the bench.
Matías Soulé's style of play
His game is underpinned by his movement and awareness – a little bit like Dybala. He loves to drop deep and get touches, recycle possession, and continue moving; although he is more willing to run in behind and take up more traditional striker’s positions than Dybala. He is also less inverted; he presents to the left and right, whereas Dybala typically looks to lock himself to the right.
This movement is crucial for him; he is a bit undersized to spend too much time trying to duel with centre-backs all game and so masterminding play between the lines maximises his skillset.
He has a great feel for the game and sublime technique that allows him to set the tempo of attacking moves, either speeding them up to attack spaces, or slowing them down to take a more considered approach to breaking through a defensive structure.
He is comfortable playing in confined spaces, either looking to create for himself off the dribble or laying the ball off to team-mates as we saw with a sumptuous backheel assist for Juve’s opening goal in their 2021/22 UEFA Youth League quarter-final against Liverpool.
Matías Soulé is a brilliant dribbler in tight spaces and overall has an excellent feel for the tempo of moments within games. He is also an excellent finisher from a variety of positions.
Soulé lacks a little bit of senior-ready physicality and in general seems to float in and out of games too regularly to be impactful at senior level.
Red Bull Salzburg have become famous for their ability to find talented players from Africa and integrate them into their second division and youth teams, but less well-known for bringing through their own local products. But Dijon Kameri has the potential to change that after exploding onto the scene during the 2021/22 UEFA Youth League season with a succession of excellent performances.
Going into the 2022/23 season, Salzburg have given Kameri a platform to be their next big success. Equipped with a new long-term contract and the number eight shirt, the Austrian youth international will be integrated into the first team this season.
Dijon Kameri's style of play
If there is a through ball to be played, Kameri will play it. He has a passing range built to disrupt defensive structures in a Red Bull Salzburg team that spent the 2021/22 playing a style heavily predicated on attacking transitions.
With an outlet like Roko Šimić, this has been a successful approach. While Kameri’s approach can be slightly too forceful, there is no doubt that his willingness to play through a defence helps a player like Šimić exploit space in behind. He is a cultured ball striker that can take a great set piece.
The Austrian’s technique in possession is also fantastic, though he might need to drop slightly deeper just to allow himself to get more touches of the ball and showcase his ability to hold onto possession, ride challenges, and slalom through midfield.
Despite being a 2004 playing amongst many 2003s in the 2021/22 UYL, he looked decently-sized for an attacking midfielder and looked quite robust both as a presser, and on the occasions, he dropped deeper as Salzburg set up their defensive block.
Dijon Kameri is a high-level technician, who brings the triple threat of creativity, goal-scoring and ball-carrying/dribbling to his role in midfield. His energy and aggressiveness personifies the Red Bull system.
From what we have seen of Kameri so far, it is clear that he needs to find positions to get the ball more frequently and impose himself on games more authoritatively. He has a tendency to hide in cover shadows rather than aggressively seeking out spaces to receive in.
Kylian Mbappé. After that, it’s probably Vinícius Júnior and Erling Braut Haaland. After that, a few players have a solid claim of being the best of the rest – like Pedri, Jude Bellingham, Phil Foden, and so on.
Kylian Mbappé, then it’s Erling Braut Haaland, then it’s probably Jude Bellingham – and all three are likely to move within the next couple of years. We won’t include the likes of Vinícius Júnior, Pedri and Alphonso Davies because of their importance to their teams.