BEST YOUNG FOOTBALL PLAYERS

BRIEF SCOUTING REPORTS ON SOME OF THE BEST 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.

You won’t find players from Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund, Ajax, Chelsea, Liverpool, Real Madrid, Arsenal, Manchester United, PSG, and Manchester City on this page. We’re sure you’re familiar with the likes of Jadon Sancho, Phil Foden, Vinicius Júnior, Ansu Fati, Pedri, Jude Bellingham, Alphonso Davies, Bukayo Saka, Ryan Gravenberch, and Erling Braut Haaland. Instead, we’ve (mostly) looked a little left of field.

For full player profiles on more of the best young players from all over the planet, check out our blog page, where we have dozens of profiles on players such as Bayer Leverkusen’s Florian Wirtz and Red Bull Salzburg’s Karim Adeyemi.

You can find our best and most detailed reports in the Scouted Football Handbook, our quarterly magazine in which we profile 25 of the world’s best up-and-coming talents, with additional features and interviews also included.

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LAST UPDATED: MARCH 28, 2022

Naouirou Ahamada

Stuttgart's Naouirou Ahamada

DATE OF BIRTH

29/03/2002

positions

Number 8/6

CLUB

VfB Stuttgart

NATION

France

HEIGHT

1.83 metres

PREFERRED FOOT

Right

STRENGTHS

WEAKNESSES

background

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 lated 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 Cupm, before Sven Mislintat’s VfB Stuttgart on loan in October 2020. He was increasingly involved with first-team in the Rückrunde of last season and was signed permanently last summer, but persistent injuries have meant Ahamada has endured a difficult, stop-start 2021/2022 campaign thus far

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.

Lynnt Audoor

Club Brugge's Lynnt Audoor

DATE OF BIRTH

13/10/2003

positions

Midfield

CLUB

Club Brugge KV

NATION

Belgium

HEIGHT

1.82 metres

PREFERRED FOOT

Right

STRENGTHS

WEAKNESSES

background

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 this season’s UEFA Youth League. His progression has seen him deservedly feature in matchday squads for the senior side. He also recently signed a new long-term contract at Club.

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.

Armel Bella-Kotchap

Bochum's Armel Bella-Kotchap

DATE OF BIRTH

11/02/2001

positions

Centre-back

CLUB

VfL Bochum

NATION

Germany

HEIGHT

1.90 metres

PREFERRED FOOT

Right

STRENGTHS

WEAKNESSES

background

Armel Bella-Kotchap has been around VfL Bochum’s first-team since the age of 16, when he first appeared in their pre-season programme. The Paris-born son of a 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 so far done fairly well in his first season at Bundesliga level. His performances have also earned him an ever-growing role with Germany’s under-21 team, and links to bigger Bundesliga clubs are beginning to emerge.

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 Bochum’s 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 the Bundesliga pretty quickly – but he’s unlikely to be anything more than a Europa League-level player.

Liberato Cacace

Liberato Cacace at Sint-Truiden

DATE OF BIRTH

27/09/2000

positions

Left-back

CLUB

FC Empoli

NATION

New Zealand

HEIGHT

1.83 metres

PREFERRED FOOT

Left

STRENGTHS

WEAKNESSES

background

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 has been 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.

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.

Davide Frattesi

Sassuolo's Davide Frattesi

DATE OF BIRTH

02/09/1999

positions

Number 8

CLUB

US Sassuolo

NATION

Italy

HEIGHT

1.84 metres

PREFERRED FOOT

Right

STRENGTHS

WEAKNESSES

background

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 has 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 this season.

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, with a mixture of goals from headers, late runs into the box, and instances of pressing in the attacking half. He has hit the ground running with Sassuolo with two goals in his first 10 Serie A games, including against Juventus.

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.

Jay-Dee Geusens

KRC Genk's Jay-Dee Geusens

DATE OF BIRTH

05/03/2002

positions

Number 6/8

CLUB

KRC Genk

NATION

Belgium

HEIGHT

1.85 metres

PREFERRED FOOT

Right

STRENGTHS

WEAKNESSES

background

Every now and then while watching a youth football match, there will be a player on the field that instantly stands out as a senior-ready player. During the 2021/22 UEFA Youth League season, that was Jay-Dee Geusens.

The krc Genk midfielder was consistently outstanding in his side’s run through the domestic champions path of the UYL, underlining his credentials to progress into the club’s senior set-up.

STYLE OF PLAY

As a top-age player at UYL level in 2021/22, it was pretty evident as soon as you see him that he looks physically ready to play senior football. At 6’1”, he is a big midfielder, and aggressive one too. He hurtles into tackles mercilessly, ready to take advantage of any lack of commitment from the opposition.

But this aggression belies Geusens’ quality in possession. Firstly, he is a really good long passer. He loves the Hollywood ball across the field, and he hits it quite consistently, helping to open up the far side of the field.

Basically, he knows how to kick a football. His set piece delivery was crisp, and he also almost scored a goal from around 50 yards. He scored a great penalty too, for Genk’s second.

Furthermore, his ball retention is superb and incredibly difficult to beat off the ball shoulder-to-shoulder. The Belgian is capable of wriggling his way out of trouble with the ball and then being able to make good decisions with it once he does.

Denys Popov

Dynamo Kyiv's Denys Popov

DATE OF BIRTH

17/02/1999

positions

Centre-back

CLUB

Dynamo Kyiv

NATION

Ukraine

HEIGHT

1.85 metres

PREFERRED FOOT

Left

STRENGTHS

WEAKNESSES

background

Denys Popov is a duel-dominant central defender with athletic capabilities. The 22-year-old has seen his route to top level European football blighted by injury but has – on merit – earned his position as one of Dynamo Kyiv’s starting centre-backs.

The soon-to-be Ukrainian international is an Under- 20 World Cup winner with his country, and has experience at UEFA Champions League and Europa League level, although those outings have tended to expose his weaknesses.

STYLE OF PLAY

In possession, Popov is both-footed and has good mid-range distribution. He is more adept at clipping balls into the wide channels than he is at switching play, but his relative on-ball confidence allows him to playmake on occasion, as well as play out of danger.

Popov is a ‘no brakes’ defender, often overshooting as he looks to intercept or tackle, however that does not deter him as he possesses good recovery speed. Against better opposition, this and his tendency to become ball-focused has led to his positioning becoming exposed.

That said, there are few players in the Ukrainian top flight who are more dominant in ground and aerial duels. Popov’s defensive fundamentals are very strong for a player so young; he has no issue competing with strikers of considerable stature, but does have more trouble with forwards possessing intelligent movement.

Matías Soulé

Juventus' Matías Soulé

DATE OF BIRTH

15/04/2003

positions

Right wing

CLUB

Juventus

NATION

Argentina

HEIGHT

1.76 metres

PREFERRED FOOT

Left

STRENGTHS

WEAKNESSES

background

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. Now a key cog with Juve’s under-23 side which competes in Italy’s third division, Soulé looks primed to take the next step forward in his career.

 
 

 

 

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.

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.

Ask any director of football, manager, or scout: there are very few players that are a one-size-fits-all to every squad. Of course, there are your Kylian Mbappés and your Erling Haalands, but they will be prohibitively expensive as you work your way up through the depths of the English football pyramid. So, identify your need, buy young players with resale value for as low as you can, develop, and sell high.

Football Manager squad building is a fine art. Juggling team morale, tactics, languages spoken, wages, transfer fees, and a variety of other factors will mean that different clubs will need different solutions. In saying that, we have still devised a list of some of our favourite cut-priced options over on our Twitter page here.