BEST YOUNG FOOTBALL PLAYERS

Here, we’ve compiled our eight newest reports on just a small selection of our favourite up-and-coming youngsters in world football. More profiles can be found in the defenders, midfielders, wingers and strikers sections.

Below, you will find profiles covering a players background and style of play, looking over each of their individual strengths and weaknesses, while providing links to where you can find out more about them.

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.

Yacine Adli

Yacine Adli is another Paris Saint-Germain academy product that got away. After toying with a potential free agent move to Arsenal in 2018, the French midfielder would re-sign with PSG before leaving just six months later to join Bordeaux in search of more playing time.


Adli has since established himself as a regular starter and a consistent and dependable performer at Bordeaux, as he looks to relaunch his career back onto the steep upward trajectory it was on as he progress through academy and youth international level as a 17-year-old.

STRENGTHS

WEAKNESSES

STYLE OF PLAY

Two years ago, Adli was a wonderful technician and creative threat, but he was undoubtedly a weak link on the defensive side of the ball. Fast forward to now, and with his introduction to senior football, he has been turned into one of the highest pressing midfielders in Europe.

This improvement in his game will have immeasurable positive implications for his future as a professional footballer, ensuring that his excellent qualities on the ball are not outweighed by an unwillingness to work for his team off the ball.

But it is on the ball where Adli is so much fun to watch. His skillset can be best described as silky, with the shaggy-haired midfielder gliding around the pitch as he looks for in-roads into attacking areas. His excellent touch, close control and spatial awareness make him effective in tight spaces in the attacking half, while his short passing into attacking players is well-weighted and accurate, giving these players the best possible chance to evade oncoming pressure.

The addition of more goals to his game will increase the overall threat that Adli could bring, but overall, he is progressing very strongly.

Last Updated: 14.04.2021  |  STEPHEN GANAVAS

Matías Arezo

Matías Arezo is well-known to many already because of ability on Football Manager, but he is also an exciting prospect in real world football. He made his River Plate debut as a 16-year-old and has accumulated 62 appearances in the last two years, scoring 21 goals in the process. He is nicknamed ‘El Bufalo’ in Uruguay.

STRENGTHS

WEAKNESSES

STYLE OF PLAY

Arezo’s build subscribes to the stereotypical South American striker – short and stocky with significant core strength. He utilises his body to good effect to pin and disrupt defenders when rumbling around the attacking third. He has a good burst and above-average speed but he is not especially quick; he is more steady and functional. But he is sharp enough off the mark to create separations at South American level.

He makes up for a lack of high-level athleticism with clever movement into depth and within the box. He angles his body intelligently to optimise his runs and is adept at attacking blindsides of defenders. He knows how and when to adjust his position to find space in the box. Plus, he is good at moving off the defensive line to create separations, tracks play well, and has good anticipation and instinct.

As a pure ball-striker, he generates excellent power off both feet with little back-lift. This makes him a dangerous snap shooter in most situations, but especially in isolation – he has decent close control and agility to square up opponents, keep them guessing, and he is then able to shift the ball quickly off either side to shoot. Arezo is explosive in his execution and difficult to defend. His shot selection in general is extremely erratic though, and a key weakness in his game. He shoots from any angle and distance, regardless of situation; he shoots from the halfway line almost once a game.

His link play is neither particularly bad nor good but needs to improve touch and accuracy, especially at higher levels. He is decent at dropping off to receive/relay possession and can create shots with direct passes/crosses, especially in transition. He has the physicality to compete in contact and act as a somewhat of a reference point. Ultimately, he works best with a partner, like Lautaro Martínez.

Arezo needs to step up to a higher level as soon as possible, be it within South America (Argentina, Brazil) or to a mid-level league in Europe with proven recover of player development (Portugal).Hhe can become a regular scorer in a top-five league, although his athleticism is likely not good enough to reach Champions League level.

Last Updated: 14.04.2021  |  Llew Davies

Maxence Caqueret

Many OL academy graduates are thrust straight into key first-team roles as teenagers. This was not the case for Maxence Caqueret, who has had to bide his time before a break-out year in 2020 saw him thrust into the European spotlight.

Impressive league performances and a stand-out contribution in Lyon’s run to the semi-finals of the Champions League in 2020 saw the French midfielder establish himself as a first-team regular after many years of starring for his country at youth international level.

STRENGTHS

WEAKNESSES

STYLE OF PLAY

Caqueret spent much of his time at youth level playing in attacking midfield but has emerged at senior level as a shuttling number eight or as a six.

With a wealth of creative quality capable of playing in advanced midfield roles, Caqueret’s disruptive defensive qualities have been key to his success playing from deep. While he is ineffective in physical duels­ – he is quite small and slight – his sheer determination off the ball makes him a net positive defensive asset for OL. He also knows when to foul a player when he is physically outmatched and likely to be beaten in a duel. Furthermore, he presses incessantly and sneaks into passing lanes cleverly.

In possession, he is technically sound in possession, with a great eye for short and medium range passes into dangerous areas. His positioning from deep means he might not be as damaging in the final third as he could be though, and it would be great to see him become more impactful in this way as he was as a youth player.

Last Updated: 14.04.2021  |  STEPHEN GANAVAS

Achraf Hakimi

Achraf Hakimi is a force. After developing as a youth player at Real Madrid, the Moroccan proved he could be one of the most destructive wide players in world football during a fruitful two-year spell at Borussia Dortmund.

Seeing a natural fit in his 3-5-2 formation, Antonio Conte’s Inter Milan prized Hakimi away from Real Madrid in 2020 and he has since taken Serie A by storm with a monstrous attacking output from wing-back.

STRENGTHS

WEAKNESSES

STYLE OF PLAY

The addition of Achraf Hakimi to Inter Milan’s starting XI this season has had a massive impact on their successes this season. The Moroccan has been instrumental in diversifying Inter’s attack with his electric speed in transition that allows him to stretch the play and get in behind the opposition defence as Inter’s primary source of width.

Romelu Lukaku has feasted on Hakimi’s cutbacks, but it is the variety of his attacking play which has been the most impressive. He attacks the penalty willingly on and off the ball, surprisingly willing to cut in onto his left foot routinely.

Hakimi helps Inter dominate games. He is key to their pressing structure, using his speed to close players down quickly. And while he does rely on the mobility of Milan Škriniar to provide cover in defensive transition, he can handle his own when he does drop into the defensive line.

But at the same time, he has his eye further afield, looking for the space to burst into as soon as Inter win the ball back so that he can be the outlet that ignites a counter-attack.

Last Updated: 14.04.2021  |  STEPHEN GANAVAS

Weston McKennie

Weston McKennie’s move from Schalke to Juventus was one of the shocks of the summer of 2020. While the American was far from an unknown quantity, his loan move to Juve – which has since been made permanent – was perhaps surprising given what we had seen from him in the Bundesliga.

But McKennie has had an immediate impact in Italy, with Andrea Pirlo carving out a role from him as an attacking-minded midfielder in his system. And McKennie has not let him down, with key goal contributions in a number of matches throughout the 2020/21 season.

STRENGTHS

WEAKNESSES

STYLE OF PLAY

McKennie is a very energetic midfielder, that brings a high intensity approach to every phase of the game. While he lacks some of the passing and technical qualities of many other midfielders at elite clubs, Pirlo has found a role for the American that has hid some of his deficiencies while maximising his strengths.

In possession, McKennie seeks pockets of space in the final third and the penalty box where he can get on the end of play and apply some simple finishing touches, whether that be a pass or a shot.

And he has proven to have a great sense of timing arriving in the penalty box, notably in some key finishes against Milan and Barcelona during the 2020/21 season.

He is most comfortable off the ball though, where his massive engine allows him to harry and press maniacally, while he is fearless in his approach to duels despite being a little clumsy in his approach at times. Most importantly, he is able to recover from advanced positions quickly, allowing him to create numerical advantages routinely on both sides of the ball.

Last Updated: 14.04.2021  |  STEPHEN GANAVAS

Cristian Romero

Cristian Romero is a young defender with a veteran presence. After moving to Italy from Argentina as a 20-year-old to join Genoa, his immediate impact at a struggling team caught the eye of Juventus, who immediately snapped him up the next summer, allowing Romero to remain on loan with Genoa for another season.

Financial issues at Juventus meant that they were forced to sell him to fund deals in other areas of the squad before he was given the opportunity to fight for a place at the club in 2021. Naturally, Atalanta presented themselves as a perfect fit, with Romero already comfortable playing in Gian Piero Gasperini’s preferred three-man defence. He has fitted in seamlessly.

STRENGTHS

WEAKNESSES

STYLE OF PLAY

Romero has all the physical traits required to be a dominant centre-back. He is around six foot tall, strong, quick across the ground and malleable to any physical duel he needs to contest.

And he uses this skillset to his advantage, as he plays a high-octane style of defending that suits Atalanta’s tactical set-up perfectly. The three-man defence affords him the opportunity to be a bit more adventurous closing down play developing ahead of him, routinely placing him amongst the highest raw totals in Europe for pressures, tackles, interceptions and aerials won per 90 minutes.

While a high number of defensive actions does not necessarily signify a good defender, Romero plays his role brilliantly.

Going forward, Romero looks like a promising ball-carrier when given space to venture into, but can look slightly awkward in possession. In terms of distribution, his short passing is secure, but he does struggle with more incisive passes to break through pressure.

His silent ventures into the penalty area have become a bit of a trademark since his time at Genoa too, and he rates very strongly amongst defenders for a range of attacking metrics from expected goals and assists, to touches in the penalty area and shot-creating actions.

Last Updated: 14.04.2021  |  STEPHEN GANAVAS

Ao Tanaka

Japan have a history of developing technically superb midfield players, and Ao Tanaka is no different. The Kawasaki Frontale midfielder has been a key figure during his team’s domestic dominance in recent times, providing a strong tempo-setting presence in midfield.

Now, with senior experience to pair with his success at youth international level with Japan, Tanaka seems destined for an eventual move to Europe.

STRENGTHS

WEAKNESSES

STYLE OF PLAY

While he has often played a role as the deepest midfielder, it is a position that nullifies a few of Tanaka’s strengths. His ability to receive in tight spaces and find intricate short targets is neutered here, as he is largely relegated to recycling possession and switching play from side to side.

He is not a particularly gifted mid-to-long range distributor of the ball, nor is he the type of player that will look to drive through midfield and break the lines that way.

But he has played in more advanced midfield roles and thrived. He swivels his head and takes in his surroundings well, allowing him to receive and release the ball sharply.

Playing him in more advanced areas also helps to hide the lack of physicality that can restrict his effectiveness defensively; his ability to win the ball back is largely predicated on instinctive moments where he is able to nip in and still possession, not physical duels.

Last Updated: 14.04.2021  |  STEPHEN GANAVAS

Micky Van de Ven

Micky van de Ven broke into the FC Volendam first-team two months into the 2019/20 season, and he has not looked back. Since making his senior debut in the Eerste Divisie, Van de Ven has started almost every game he has been available. He impressed last season but has improved again this, and has recently assumed the role of captain of the club he joined at 12 years old.

STRENGTHS

WEAKNESSES

STYLE OF PLAY

Van de Ven plays as the left-sided centre-back in a 4-3-3 shape for FC Volendam. He possesses a tall, lean but athletic build with very long limbs. He uses his size to overwhelm opponents in contact in defensive situations and when protecting/carrying the ball. The Dutchman has a good burst of speed off the mark and an excellent change of speed over longer distances which he uses to maintain/increase separations created by initial accelerations.

He plays with an aggressive style which has its positives and negatives, but certainlt has elements of dominance in his skillset. His athleticism enables him to cover big spaces behind defence and in wider areas, while he utilises his large frame in contact; good at sealing/levering against the ball to disrupt opponents cleanly and recover possession effectively. His timing in challenges is average though, and he can lack composure when diving in too aggressively. He possesses poor technique in one-on-one duels, often standing too upright and unbalanced in his posture – he needs to be lower to match opponents and shift direction. Crucially, his focus can slip at times, and he can be beaten too easily by simple changes of tempo. Conversely, he is solid in aerial duels; again, he uses his frame well to give himself decent reach and conviction in headers. He is not dominant in the air, but there is clear potential.

On the ball, he has good technical ability in general, with strong fundamental skills and unique nuances in build-up. Clean, consistent first touches help him to set up positive actions. He is not a standout passer but has adequate technique, especially with switches to wider areas. Composed and confident under pressure, he commits players to dribble out of small spaces and drive forward while manipulating the ball with neat close control. He is then able to burst out of pressure and drive forward with great athleticism. He is excellent at carrying into midfield and beyond from the back, blowing past defenders on the outside with long strides and withstanding challenges at full speed. From there, he executes good passes/crosses inside while on the move. He is extremely disruptive and difficult to stop as he carries the ball forwards.

Despite currently playing in the Dutch second tier, he is ready to play in the Eredivisie. He would be able to contribute immediately with a lot of room to improve, and would be a strong option for mid-table teams like Heerenveen and Groningen. Ultimately, he is capable of reaching a Europa League level club in a top-five league within two to three seasons.

Last Updated: 14.04.2021  |  Llew Davies