BEST YOUNG FOOTBALL PLAYERS

Locatelli Kuol Cacace Ahamada

Here’s our eight newest reports on a small selection of our favourite emerging players. More profiles can be found in the 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 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.

We will be keeping this page updated regularly with new reports, as well as updating existing profiles. Have a player that you want us to profile? Let us know at admin@scoutedftbl.com.

Click on the player’s name to automatically scroll to its mini profile.

Last Updated: September 1, 2021

Naouirou Ahamada

Born in Marseille. Spent five years at SC Air Bel, small academy club in city suburbs, like Fofana and Simakan. Joined professional club Istres then moved on to Juventus. Had two seasons with Primavera squad and played at the 2019 Under-17 World Cup before signing for VfB Stuttgart on loan in October 2020. He was increasingly involved with first-team in the Rückrunde of last season, but persistent injuries have meant Ahamada has made a stuttering start to the 2021/2022 campaign.

STRENGTHS

WEAKNESSES

STYLE OF PLAY

Ahamada is a very promising athlete – he moves around the pitch comfortably and has room to fill out. He possesses 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 which should become more consistent once he grows into his body at this level.

The Frenchman is solid as the first receiver in midfield and he is quick to create options for pass by dropping into pockets or sliding between lines. He receives ball with decent posture, using both feet to control, which enables him to operate at a continuous tempo. 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 adds decent stability/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/deceiving opponents with intelligent body movements to create time and space. He is very good at rolling out and sliding away from opponents – breaks pressure and eliminates defenders. Ahamada is good at driving into open space with the ball by using his long strides to create/maintain separations but needs to release ball much earlier in these situations as he squanders promising opportunities too often, especially in transition. A prominent right-foot bias can be problematic as he always wants to pass/dribble off his right side which limits options and makes actions difficult/predictable.

High-level mobility a big advantage for him in defensive/transition phases. He can recover defensive positions and cover space quickly in transition. Ahamada is sharp when shuttling between passes, disrupting rhythm and forcing mistakes, but poor in direct duels and struggles to control opponents. Careless in approach too ball, he rarely jockeys and has bad footwork/posture. He needs to iron out technical issues to maximise defensive potential.

Last Updated: 22.05.2021  |  Llew Davies

Liberato Cacace

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.

STRENGTHS

WEAKNESSES

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.

Last Updated: 22.05.2021  | STEPHEN GANAVAS

Dodô

Dodô is yet another Brazilian to come to Europe through the successful Shakhtar Donetsk pipeline. The right-back, whose game resembles that of a young Stephan Lichtsteiner, has become a key feature of Luis Castro’s Shakhtar that did the double over Real Madrid in the Champions League in 2020/21, despite a disappointing league campaign in which they ceded the league title to Dynamo Kyiv.

STRENGTHS

WEAKNESSES

STYLE OF PLAY

Dodô is a dominant physical presence that excels in duels defensively, while in attack, he uses his speed to exploit open spaces down the right flank to stretch the opposition. He is a high-octane player that thrives when playing in straight lines, and can be devastating when given space to attack.

But the Brazilian can struggle with more technical aspects of the game both from an attacking and defensive standpoint. In attack, he lacks the on-ball quality to be a difference maker as a ball carrier or distributor.

Defensively, he tends to struggle defending out wide when isolated by wingers that can dribble. He closes off his body too much and can be easily wrong-footed in these situations, allowing the opposition player to attack the penalty box.

Last Updated: 22.05.2021  |  STEPHEN GANAVAS

Davide Frattesi

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.

 

His parent club Sassuolo have taken their time integrating him though, choosing to send him on three separate loans to Serie B – where he has amassed over 100 appearances – since they acquired him from Roma in 2017. The latest loan move, to an AC Monza team pushing for promotion, was a resounding success and will provide Frattesi with a strong platform to establish himself as a Serie A player next season.

STRENGTHS

WEAKNESSES

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.

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 attacking threat from midfield.

Last Updated: 22.05.2021  |  STEPHEN GANAVAS

Alou Kuol

A semi-professional footballer in 2019, and barely a professional for part of 2020, Alou Kuol is now the hottest name in Australian football.

A wonderful first full campaign in the A-League did not go unnoticed in Europe either, with Sven Mislintat’s VfB Stuttgart pouncing to complete the signing of 2001-born striker, who will move to Germany at the conclusion of the A-League season.

STRENGTHS

WEAKNESSES

STYLE OF PLAY

Kuol’s fundamental qualities are surprisingly strong for a young striker just emerging at the professional level. His game has a lot of intensity to it; he makes things happen, he is already at (and above) the physical level to compete at senior level, and the defensive side of his game is quite competent.

And from there you build. As a striker, he obviously needs to score, and in the A-League he has been one of the best in 2020/21. While his role as a super sub has helped, his returns – both in terms of goals and expected goals – are right near the top of all A-League players.

Kuol thrives in a variety of situations because of a unique physical profile that sees him dominate in aerial duels, while still being agile and extremely quick. He is not overly tall, but he possesses an incredible leap that helps him score a lot of headers, as well as contest strongly for the ball across the field. His agility is derived from a light-footed running stance that sees him jog around the pitch almost on his tippy-toes as he scans for opportunities to latch onto a loose touch or misdirected pass.

His game will still need some rounding out; he can look slightly unnatural in possession at times, especially when he has time to take a touch and assess his options. But within an elite development set-up at Stuttgart, there is hope that Kuol has the tools to become the next great Australian striker.

Last Updated: 01.09.2021  |  STEPHEN GANAVAS

Manuel Locatelli

Manuel Locatelli exploded onto the scene, perhaps a little prematurely, in a struggling Milan side as a teenager. While things started well, and a winner against an all-conquering Juventus team in October 2016 looked set to be the start of a long and successful career at Milan, by 2019 he was deemed surplus to requirements at San Siro.

Humbled by his departure, Locatelli arrived at Sassuolo, one of Italy’s best development clubs, and instantly set about correcting the record. He has since transformed into one of the most highly valued midfield prospects on the continent.

STRENGTHS

WEAKNESSES

STYLE OF PLAY

Quite simply, Manuel Locatelli has been moulded into one of the most gifted passers of the football in Serie A. There is almost no pass that he cannot hit; he has got the ‘Hollywood’ cross-field balls, the line-breaking short-to-medium range passes, the lofted through balls… everything.

Locatelli’s key strength is his chance creation from deep in midfield. Despite playing a reserved midfield role, he consistently ranks highly in live pass chance creation in comparison to other midfielders.

All of this is underpinned by his ability to receive the ball calmly and effectively. The Italian’s touch is routinely superb, allowing him to lift his vision and maximise the quality of his passing. He is strong rolling off players receiving with his back to them, and equally good taking the ball in his stride and advancing through space in midfield – in doing this, he can look ungainly at times, but he is nonetheless effective.

Roberto De Zerbi gave Locatelli the keys to his midfield and tasked him with dictating the tempo of the game from deep. And he has excelled. Former Juventus midfielder Claudio Marchisio is one of many to take notice, commenting on the change in Locatelli’s maturity and mentality since leaving Milan, as well as his ability to run games. And now Locatelli has moved to Marchisio’s former club Juventus, after shining in Italy’s successful Euro 2020 winning campaign.

Last Updated: 01.09.2021  |  STEPHEN GANAVAS

Denys Popov

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.

STRENGTHS

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.

Last Updated: 22.05.2021  | Joe Donnohue

Martín Távara

Martín Távara grew up in the northwestern plains of Peru, in Piura to be precise. But he has made his name in Lima, the country’s capital, playing for one of Los Tres Grandes, Sporting Club Cristal. He spent six-month spells on loan at other clubs before breaking into the Cristal team, of which he has been an important player for since the start of 2020. He has established himself as one of, if not the premier talents in Peruvian football.

STRENGTHS

WEAKNESSES

STYLE OF PLAY

Távara plays as the pivot midfielder for Sporting Cristal, with the game revolving around him in almost every phase. He is a strong technical player with good fundamentals: he scans regularly, has decent spatial awareness, is excellent at turning out with his touches, and has solid control in smaller spaces. 

It enables him to play at a good tempo, and uses it to play under pressure in build-up phase – instead of dribbling/carrying, he trusts his technical ability to move the ball quickly and accurately. He is adept at moving the ball from deeper positions into attacking areas with his passing, another skill predicated on awareness, technique and tempo. He needs little time to receive, turn, pick an option and execute an incisive pass into a team-mate between lines. He picks clever angles too, which pulls structures apart and releases team-mates into dangerous areas.

He plays with a lot of personality – for better or worse, Távara is the type to attempt the difficult pass in behind a defence, the big switch of play, the shot from long range. Sometimes, he attempts the spectacular too much – especially in his shot selection. He needs to rein that aspect in, pick the better options in possession, especially once playing at a higher level.

Defensively, Távara has significant issues. He lacks the awareness, work rate and athleticism to be impactful in many defensive situations. He rarely scans when defending in a block, and subsequently struggles to cover passes/runners into his areas. His technique in one-on-one situations is poor as well: he plants his feet to quickly, stands too straight, and is regularly beaten too easily by simple changes of direction/tempo. Average athleticism (decent size and speed, but very one-paced) doesn’t help. He is best when defending on the front foot, pushing up to engage with the ball/opponents – but does little to recover once beaten.

Martín Távara is ready to play at a higher level; he’s achieved all he can in Peru. A move within the Americas would be sensible – USA, Brazil and Argentina would afford him minutes against better athletes/teams to develop his game and prove himself to European clubs. His ceiling is probably a mid-table side in a top-five league, most likely La Liga or Serie A.

Last Updated: 22.05.2021  |  Llew Davies

Kylian Mbappé. With an honourary mention for Erling Haaland, of course.

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.