BEST YOUNG FOOTBALL MIDFIELDERS

BRIEF SCOUTING REPORTS ON SOME OF THE BEST EMERGING MIDFIELDERS

Here’s our newest reports on a small selection of our favourite young strikers. More profiles can be found in the young players, goalkeepers, defenders, 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.

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LAST UPDATED: MARCH 30, 2022

Thiago Almada

Atlanta United's Thiago Almada playing for Argentina

DATE OF BIRTH

26/04/2001

positions

Attacking midfield

CLUB

Atlanta United

NATION

Argentina

ALMADA

8

HEIGHT

1.71 metres

PREFERRED FOOT

Right

STRENGTHS

WEAKNESSES

background

Thiago Almada has been one of the most sought-after talents in the Americas of the past couple of years. Breaking through at Vélez Sarsfield, he became a consistent first-team player after his debut in 2018. He racked up a total of 100 appearances for the club.

Despite constant links to European teams, Almada made the increasingly common move north to MLS in the winter of 2022. He became the most expensive signing in the league’s history in the process, joining for a €15 million fee. His objective will now be to star in the States before stepping up to Europe in due course.

STYLE OF PLAY

Almada possesses a high-level footballing IQ and the technical quality to execute the moves he has in mind, helping him compensate for his physical limitations. He loves to roam freely in advanced positions looking for pockets of space between the lines.

His excellent first touch is the bedrock of his game. It affords him the time to seek out direct passes into attacking areas, especially on the break as he looks to play the killer pass at every opportunity. The only thing that hampers Almada in transition is his lack of speed. However, he rarely seeks to carry the ball for long periods anyway, instead opting to play direct passes to team-mates further forward as quickly as possible. Almada is quite unselfish and is at his best as a creator, not a goal-scorer; especially when he is shooting from outside the box.

His key area for improvement is defensively, where he does not exhibit the same level of awareness and understanding as he does in attack. Often he works hard to pressure opponents, but goes to ground easily trying to win the ball back, which allows opposition players to win fouls or get past Almada without too much hassle.

Given his willingness to press, cleaning up his approach to defensive duels would help him be a surprisingly functional defensive presence.

Adil Aouchiche

AS Saint-Étienne's Adil Aouchiche playing in the Coupe de France

DATE OF BIRTH

15/07/2002

positions

Attacking midfield

CLUB

AS Saint-Étienne

NATION

France

AOUCHICHE

17

HEIGHT

1.81 metres

PREFERRED FOOT

Right

STRENGTHS

WEAKNESSES

background

Adil Aouchiche is a product of Paris, and Paris Saint-Germain’s academy. The discernment is important, as Aouchiche’s style has been influenced as much by his upbringing and surroundings in one of Paris’ most impoverished suburbs – Le Blanc Mesnil – as it has been by his education with PSG.

After excelling at U-17 level with France, the teenager made the decision to leave the capital in the summer of 2020, in pursuit of regular Ligue 1 football, which he believed he was capable of performing. His destination was AS Saint-Étienne, and the decision is proving a decent one. Aouchiche has made over 60 first-team appearances for ASSE – but th

STYLE OF PLAY

Aouchiche’s defining characteristic on the pitch is his innate ability to find space that simply is not apparent to others. He will ghost into dangerous areas, seemingly invisible to opponents, and link play between lines. The 18-year-old is not one to hesitate when chances are presented to him, and his eye for a pass which scythes through an opponent’s defensive line is sublime.

Adil is a modern playmaker; versatile, intelligent but physical enough to stand up for himself in a tough league. There are shadows of Hakim Ziyech and Atalanta’s Alejandro ‘Papu’ Gómez to Aouchiche’s style, and his creative output stacks up to his much senior counterparts.

From set-pieces, Aouchiche is confident at presenting teammates with high-quality opportunities. Upon arrival at ASSE, he was entrusted with the team’s set-piece duty, a mere teenager.

There is a nonchalant intelligence to his game, one which exemplifies a player who is utterly convinced of his own ability. Mentality will be vital over the next few years when he undoubtedly endures barren spells, such is the pattern of breakthrough teenagers in top leagues; variance can make or break such players.

His shooting decisions are surprisingly refined for such a young player, something reflected in his xG per shot in Ligue 1. He is capable of carrying the ball into these positions for himself to shoot, perhaps a little better than he is at creating. While he was a regular at playing killer balls at youth level, he has struggled to replicate that in senior games, up against better-drilled defences.

Suitors have included Juventus and Arsenal to date, and there is little doubt there will be clubs of similar stature laying in wait for the eventual day when Aouchiche outgrows ASSE.

Antoine Bernède

Red Bull Salzburg's Antoine Bernede

DATE OF BIRTH

26/05/1999

positions

Central midfield

CLUB

Red Bull Salzburg

NATION

France

BERNEDE

 
 

 

 

10

HEIGHT

1.77 metres

PREFERRED FOOT

Left

STRENGTHS

WEAKNESSES

background

The Red Bull clubs keep a keen eye on players seeking playing time as they exit Paris Saint-Germain’s academy. While Christopher Nkunku and Jean-Kevin Augustin found their way to the Bundesliga with Leipzig, Antoine Bernède was snapped up by Red Bull Salzburg.

And like so many of his counterparts that have left PSG’s academy for pastures new, he has thrived, becoming a key member of the Austrian champions midfield.

Injuries have been the only major obstacle during his time in Salzburg, with broken legs in both 2019 and 2020 keeping him out of action for long periods. After returning midway through the 2020/21 season, Bernède has played a fair bit – but niggling injuries have disrupted his seasons still.

STYLE OF PLAY

Bernède is a very reliable player on the ball that gives his side a lot of different options in terms of tactical set-ups. He can split the centre-backs and become the fulcrum of a team’s build-up from deep, expanding play out wide and, to a lesser extent, carrying the ball through midfield.

At Salzburg, he primarily plays a shuttling role in midfield (not quite box-to-box), where his defensive duties are his primary focus. However, he also plays a vital role in breaking down the opposition with effective short passes into Salzburg’s myriad of dangerous attacking threats; Dominik Szoboszlai, Patson Daka, Sékou Koïta, and more.

He is a fantastic foil for his midfield partner Enock Mwepu, and would suit any true number eight that he could potentially be paired with in the future that loves to attack the penalty area.

Currently, Bernède functions best in his current role in a 4-4-2 and would work equally well in a double-pivoted 4-2-3-1. However, with further development of his passing range to be a little more direct and expansive, he could become a very reliable and damaging number six. This would be an added bonus to what he already brings to the table; defensive reliability, tactical awareness and great ball retention.

Lucas Dias

Sporting CP's Lucas Dias

DATE OF BIRTH

18/01/2003

positions

Attacking midfield

CLUB

Sporting CP

NATION

Canada/Portugal

DIAS

89

HEIGHT

1.80 metres

PREFERRED FOOT

Right

STRENGTHS

WEAKNESSES

background

Lucas Dias has an interesting story. He was born in Ontario and moved to Lisbon at age 11 to join Sporting’s academy full-time after being spotted by the club as part of their academy outpost in Canada. He was able to move at that age due to the Portuguese heritage of his grandparents.

He’s made huge sacrifices to get where he is today, having spent almost all his teenage years literally living at Sporting’s academy many thousands of kilometres away from home.

 
 

 

 

STYLE OF PLAY

18-year-old Lucas Dias looks like a chaos player: thriving when given licence to beat players and showcase his exceptional dribbling ability and athleticism.

Dias spends a lot of his time hovering out on the left while also looking for opportunities to insert himself in pockets of space that open up centrally. With possession, he plays with his head down a little too much, but he is hungry to be impactful and be a final third difference-maker. More than anything in possession though, it is Dias’ application as an aggressive presser that stands out.

Overall, the 18-year-old looks to be at a really high level physically playing at UEFA Youth League level. At around 5’11”, he is a good height for an attacking player, and he looks very nimble and fleet-footed: he looks quite strong too, although it is harder to estimate how that would stack up at senior level.

Ryan Gravenberch

Ryan Gravenberch at AFC Ajax

DATE OF BIRTH

16/05/2002

positions

Number 8

CLUB

AFC Ajax

NATION

Netherlands

GRAVENBERCH

8

HEIGHT

1.90 metres

PREFERRED FOOT

Right

STRENGTHS

WEAKNESSES

background

Ryan Gravenberch has been a highly-rated player at AFC Ajax for some time. His debut as a 16-year-old in 2018 was met with great excitement and anticipation as a high-profile academy player made his first steps into first-team football.

Before becoming a regular first-teamer, he spent a season-and-a-half with Jong Ajax in the second division, the club’s B team that bridges the gap between youth and senior football.

But since breaking into the first-team, Gravenberch hasn’t looked back. His development has been steady, playing an important role in Ajax’s league and European success over the past couple of years. He’s one of Europe’s premiere young talents.

STYLE OF PLAY

Ryan Gravenberch is a rangy, ball-progressing midfielder with immense athletic aptitude – even if he doesn’t always exert himself as such. Educated in the ways of AFC Ajax, Gravenberch is silky but severe on the ball, pivoting well for a player with a 6’3″ frame.

In carrying the ball, Gravenberch is a trump card for Ajax and the Netherlands – he can transport possession through lines and carry confidently into spaces where more creatively-inclined teammates can pick defensive locks.

The 19-year-old is effective all over the pitch, but predominantly in attacking transitions with the ball at his feet. Although best suited to a No. 8 role, do not be surprised to see Gravenberch drop between the centre-backs to receive like a No. 6 or join the attacking line, gliding into gaps in the final third, where he shoots well from range.

Even though Gravenberch possesses superb standout attributes, there is a lot to be desired when it comes to the teenager’s work-rate. His nonchalance can be misconstrued as laziness – he is hardly an ardent presser and predominantly relies on opposition players running into his zone where he can use his sprinter’s legs to wrestle possession free.

Simultaneously rugged and flowing, rigid and yet so fluid, Gravenberch has a silk to his game, but also the required organisation and resilience to not just survive at the top level, but succeed – even at such a young age. He brings presence to the midfield with his height, and purpose as he drives through midfield with his ball carrying ability.

While there are still weaknesses in his game off the ball, his impact when his team are in possession (which at Ajax, is most of the time) is enormous; a ball-carrying, short passing, and goal-scoring threat.

Manuel Locatelli

Juventus' Manuel Locatelli

DATE OF BIRTH

08/01/1998

positions

Number 8/6

CLUB

Juventus

NATION

Italy

LOCATELLI

27

HEIGHT

1.85 metres

PREFERRED FOOT

Right

STRENGTHS

WEAKNESSES

background

Manuel Locatelli exploded onto the scene, perhaps a little prematurely, in a struggling AC 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. After three strong seasons there, and a Euro 2020 win with the Italian national team, he resurfaced at the elite level with a big move to Juventus that sees him link up with another high profile young star: Matthijs de Ligt.

This came despite interest from England, with Locatelli turning down a move to the Premier League with Arsenal to join the club he supported as a child.

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 central 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.

Albert Sambi Lokonga

Arsenal's Belgian international Albert Sambi Lokonga

DATE OF BIRTH

22/10/1999

positions

Number 8/6

CLUB

Arsenal

NATION

Belgium

SAMBI

23

HEIGHT

1.83 metres

PREFERRED FOOT

Right

STRENGTHS

WEAKNESSES

background

A product of RSC Anderlecht’s famed academy, Albert Sambi Lokonga made a handful of first-team appearances between 2017 and 2018, while still a starter in the UEFA Youth League. A cruciate ligament injury shelved him for a season, but he returned for the 2019/20 season and became a key player before  COVID–19. Lokonga was even more important the next season, anking arguably as Anderlecht’s best player in a team coached by Vincent Kompany, and he even assumed the role of club captain.

He garnered a fair bit of attention from some of Europe’s bigger clubs, and it was Arsenal that signed him in the summer of 2021. He’s now playing an involved squad role in the Premier League.

STYLE OF PLAY

Lokonga is a mobile, press-beating number 8 who can carry the ball, expand and progress play with his passing, and has the potential to become an impactful defender.

He’s very good at identifying and slipping pressure: regular scanning and good technical skill makes him adept at turning away from pressure, and he strides into open space effectively once he does so. 

His passing ability is good and improving all the time, too. He adds valuable continuity in midfield by always showing for the ball in deeper areas and receiving/releasing with clean technique and crisp tempo. He also has very good technique in long-range passing which enables him to switch play effortlessly, and has shown promise in playing killer passes behind defences.

He lacks defensive output, but he has potential. Firstly, he is typically paired with a more defensive partner who handles much of the ball-winning duties. Secondly, his skillset is conducive to ball-winning. Lokonga has the mobility to gobble up space, while his long legs are useful in levering players off the ball or poking the ball away in tackles. He needs to become more composed in approach to the ball as his speed is used against him too often

To make it into the Premier League, Lokonga must add more intensity to his game. Despite his dynamic athleticism and quality on the ball, he’s a bit too languid in pretty much everything that he does.

Cisse Sandra

Club Brugge's Cisse Sandra

DATE OF BIRTH

16/12/2003

positions

Attacking midfield

CLUB

Club Brugge KV

NATION

Belgium

SANDRA

98

HEIGHT

1.84 metres

PREFERRED FOOT

Right

STRENGTHS

WEAKNESSES

background

He started the 2021/22 season as a youth player at Club Brugge (albeit starting an early cup game and making a sub appearance in the Supercup), but Cisse Sandra will finish it firmly embedded in the senior set-up after a stellar breakout season with the Belgian club.

Dominant performances in the UEFA Youth League culminated in his Champions League debut, while starts and sub appearances in the league followed in the back half of the season.

STYLE OF PLAY

It might be outlandish to compare Cisse Sandra to Lazio’s Sergej Milinković-Savić, but we’ll do it anyway. He is a big-bodied, attacking minded midfielder that looks to hit the penalty area and combine typical pace and power qualities with surprisingly good technique.

Like the Serbian, his game has a lot of layers. There’s the powerful, bulldozing runs through midfield and into attack that should translate to senior football in a few years’ time.

But he has also got good feel in transition; he likes to tuck in on the right-hand side and he is very comfortable combining short.

Good ball striking technique and solid ability in the air makes him an obvious goal threat as well. Five goals in six UEFA Youth League appearances in 2021/22 is testament to that, while he also scored on his league debut for Brugge with a tidy finish on his weaker foot.

Calvin Stengs

Calvin STengs playing for OGC Nice

DATE OF BIRTH

18/12/1998

positions

Attacking midfield

CLUB

OGC Nice

NATION

Netherlands

STENGS

22

HEIGHT

1.87 metres

PREFERRED FOOT

Left

STRENGTHS

WEAKNESSES

background

Calvin Stengs suffered a serious knee injury just eight minutes into the 2017/18 season, and it took him a year-and-a-half to get back onto an Eredivisie pitch He returned fully in a 2019/20 season which saw him breakout, impressing with his languid style and playmaking skillset. After the COVID–19 break, he struggled to find same level the following season, as did AZ Alkmaar with a sticky start and a subsequent change of coach.

He has since moved to OGC Nice in Ligue 1, where he joined up with an exciting project headed by Christophe Galtier. Despite the promise, Stengs has struggled to fit in thus far.

STYLE OF PLAY

Stengs is smooth to watch – it’s one of the first things you notice when watching him. His long, slender frame and excellent left foot combine to create a sleek, elegant, aesthetic player with an engaging style and skillset.

Very good spatial awareness provides the platform for his creative skillset. Stengs has an obvious feel for the game: he scans and moves into space effortlessly, creating clever angles to receive between lines and disrupt defensive structure. His posture and touch when receiving is very good too, with a strong ability to play on the half-turn and using both feet to control possession.

Moreover, his general technique and vision is strong. Once he receives between lines, good close control enables him to move the ball in tight spaces with neat dribbles or quick combinations. Stengs also possesses good touch in his creative passing too, demonstrating good timing of his passes. He can find runners from deep with through balls, drop a pass over the defence from around the box, or play a pass into the path of an overlapping full-back. Throughout his senior career, Stengs has proven to be a playmaker who can play the killer pass – but he doesn’t force it.

His style is markedly different to Hakim Ziyech or Bruno Fernandes. They operate in similar areas, but their playmaking styles diverge. Stengs plays to the pace of the game and tends to prioritise continuity over killer passes. He’s good at linking play in the final third, knitting moves together, circulating possession and probing the defence. The question is whether that can scale to higher level, especially with a lack of high-level athleticism.

Dominik Szoboszlai

RB Leipzig & Hungary wonderkid Dominik Szoboszlai

DATE OF BIRTH

25/10/2000

positions

Attacking midfield

CLUB

RB Leipzig

NATION

Hungary

SZOBOSZLAI

17

HEIGHT

1.87 metres

PREFERRED FOOT

Right

STRENGTHS

WEAKNESSES

background

Dominik Szoboszlai has been around for what seems like a long time, threatening to break out into stardom. Now he is doing it, having won awards in Austria as well as scoring vitally important goals for Hungary, one of which secured his nation a spot at the upcoming European Championships.

He has since climbed the Red Bull ladder, joining RB Leipzig in January 2021. An injury meant he missed the remainder of the season, but he has done well in the 2021/22 season so far.

STYLE OF PLAY

Szoboszlai is a true impact player. While he can fade in and out of games, he is also capable of producing some truly special game-changing moments. An adequate term to describe would be a ‘highlights player’ – he’s the type of talent that will look great on showreels.

His set-pieces are regularly stunning and executed perfectly. His shooting form overall is almost flawless, and he can strike the ball with incredible amounts of power.

While shooting from outside of the box is not valued as much as it used to be, players with Szoboszlai’s ability to score from distance help to stretch defences as defenders cannot afford to sag off him at the edge of the penalty area.

Both defensively and offensively, his work off the ball is his largest area for improvement. In attack, he can often find himself isolated from the play for large periods; while he is not an otherworldly creator, he has a knack for making things happen when he gets on the ball. Defensively, he is a clumsy presser. He does not have an exceptionally large engine to press maniacally for the whole game and wastes the moments he does press by being a bit overzealous.

Ao Tanaka

Fortuna Düsseldorf's Japanese international Ao Tanaka

DATE OF BIRTH

10/09/1998

positions

Number 8

CLUB

Fortuna Düsseldorf

NATION

Japan

TANAKA

4

HEIGHT

1.80 metres

PREFERRED FOOT

Right

STRENGTHS

WEAKNESSES

background

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 is ready for his move to Europe that has arrived after Fortuna Düsseldorf secured his services. He’s been a semi-regular starter for Fortuna in the 2. Bundesliga so far.

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.

Martín Távara

DATE OF BIRTH

25/03/1999

positions

Number 6

CLUB

Sporting Cristal

NATION

Peru

TÁVARA

25

HEIGHT

1.80 metres

PREFERRED FOOT

Left

STRENGTHS

WEAKNESSES

background

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 best young talents in Peruvian football.

STYLE OF PLAY

Távara plays as the pivoting central midfielder for Sporting Cristal, with the game revolving around him in almost every phase. He is a strong technical player with good fundamentals, which 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’s adept at moving the ball from deeper positions into attacking areas with his passing. 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 action.

Defensively, Távara has significant issues. He lacks the awareness, work rate and athleticism to be impactful in many defensive situations with a distinctly average athletic skillset. He’s 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. A move within the Americas would be sensible, and his ceiling is probably a mid-table side in a top-five league, most likely La Liga or Serie A.

Khéphren Thuram

OGC Nice's Khéphren Thuram celebrating a goal

DATE OF BIRTH

26/03/2001

positions

Number 8/6

CLUB

OGC Nice

NATION

France

THURAM

19

HEIGHT

1.91 metres

PREFERRED FOOT

Right

STRENGTHS

WEAKNESSES

background

If you were not feeling old when Marcus started breaking through, Lillian’s second son, Khéphren Thuram, is now also a first-team regular in one of Europe’s top-five leagues.

After spending the first half of his first season with OGC Nice as a peripheral figure, he broke through into the starting line-up just before the pandemic-enforced lockdown, and has not looked back in 2020/21. New coach Christophe Galtier used him as an impact player at first, but Thuram has since established himself as a starter.

STYLE OF PLAY

Khéphren Thuram is an aesthetically pleasing footballer. He glides across the field and oozes confidence.

He is almost too laconic at times; it extends in particular to the defensive side of his game where his movements often look laboured, slow and clumsy. As a bigger player, he gets more enjoyment out of defending in situations he is able to instinctively make a challenge, rather than chasing or jockeying an attacker.

The fun happens when gets on the ball. While he struggles receiving under pressure (his best move in these situations is when he lets the ball run across his body), when he does take possession and carries the ball, things tend to open up for him. He is good at using slight body feints and subtle changes of direction to get past defenders.

Creatively, he is a bit hesitant as a passer to damage teams. Patrick Vieira’s system is not typically the most expansive though, and therefore we see Thuram recycle the ball side-to-side a lot.

Joey Veerman

Joey Veerman playing for PSV Eindhoven

DATE OF BIRTH

19/11/1998

positions

Number 8/6

CLUB

PSV Eindhoven

 
 

 

 

NATION

Netherlands

VEERMAN

23

HEIGHT

1.85 metres

PREFERRED FOOT

Right

STRENGTHS

WEAKNESSES

background

Joey Veerman is a product of the FC Volendam academy, breaking into the first-team in the 2016/17 season. After three seasons as a starter, one of which he was troubled by injury, he joined sc Heerenveen for €550,000 in August 2019. Soon after joining, he quickly established himself as one of the better midfielders in the Eredivisie.

Heerenveen had opportunities to cash in on him for ten-figure fees, but, as the markets collapsed due to COVID, PSV Eindhoven were able to pick him up in a cut-price deal in the winter of 2022. Moving to a European-level club in the Eredivisie, like PSV, may be the perfect launchpad for Veerman with bigger things in his sights.

STYLE OF PLAY

Veerman is an elegant 8/6 in a double-pivot. His skillset is suited to assuming responsibility as a progressor from deeper positions in midfield, utilising his excellent ability as a passer and adeptness under pressure to move the ball forward.

is technical fundamentals are excellent. He scans space and plays with his eyes up, meaning he has good awareness of his surroundings. He also takes positive first touches which means he can transition into his next action quickly.

As a passer, he has excellent range and variety – he can play quick passes in smaller spaces, punch precise passes through lines, drop passes behind the opposition defensive line, or smack big switches of play to find a team-mate in space. He’s also very good at releasing runners in transitions. His passing has a high-risk, high-reward element to it; he rarely hesitates to play ambitious passes that are difficult to execute.

Veerman is also good at evading pressure in smaller spaces. His awareness and composure is key, as is his technical quality. He’s adept at dribbling through bodies, using tight touches and a decent burst to retain possession and create separation. He often follows it up with positive passes making the most of the time and space his dribble create.

Defensively, Veerman is a mixed bag. He lacks awareness when defending in set situations as he doesn’t scan enough; he struggles to cover angles and allows players to run and receive off him. He does have decent mobility to cover space though, and is quite good at disrupting opponents with tackles and body contact. There is enough upside there for him to become a decent defender.

There are a number of high-level young midfielders that fit the bill – Jude Bellingham, Pedri, Aurélien Tchouaméni and Declan Rice, to name but a few. Values are obviously determined by the fees that buying clubs are willing to pay.

If you’re building a career mode squad, chances are you’re looking for cheap, high potential players to develop. So check out Rapid Wien’s Yusuf Demir to fill your creative midfield needs, or Monaco’s Aurélien Tchouaméni for a do-it-all presence, or Mohamed Camara for a ball-winner.

Jude Bellingham and Pedri have the highest potential of any midfielders in Football Manager 22, but there are a number of lesser-known players that could become starters for high-level teams. Beñat Turrientes is one, Roméo Lavia is another, and so on.