Everyone whether that be fans or teams wants to find the next best thing and with the current crop of new stars, Haaland and Mbappe, it’s easy to see why. So now its time to identify which of the current players breaking through into senior football could make their mark on the global footballing stage. Teaming up with Vizi Football we have chosen five young players who aren’t grabbing headlines but everyone should be keeping an eye on them.
Adil Aouchiche (Saint Etienne)
Aouchiche made a big decision last year by choosing to leave PSG’s academy for Saint Etienne and it seems to have paid off. At only 18 he is now considered the creative focal point of Claude Puel’s side. Although he is playing for a team in a relegation battle his underlying numbers are still impressive. The Frenchman completes 17.41 pressures per 90 which is five more than Angel Di Maria suggesting that after losing possession he is desperate to win the ball back. The youngster is expected to score once every four games which is similar to the Argentinian veteran. What we have to bare in mind when looking at these statistics is that Di Maria currently plays with a squad that were Champions League finalists last year whilst Aouchiche is in his first year of senior football with a team struggling to find form. If we compare the PSG academy graduate with another player in Ligue 1 that occupies the same position as him the numbers still stand out. Marseilles’ Florian Thauvin, who has recently been linked with Spurs, creates 3.51 shots per 90 whilst Aouchiche manages to create 4.63. If Thauvin were to leave Marseilles in Summer then Aouchiche would be the perfect replacement. The Frenchman has everything it takes to be an elite attacking midfielder in a high pressing side and he is definitely someone who should be on the radar of clubs across Europe.
Rayan Cherki (Olympique Lyon)
Rayan Cherki is somewhat of an unknown as he has just played 405 minutes for Lyon which roughly equates to four and a half games. Due to his limited minutes the underlying statistics are skewed but still they are outstanding. The 17-year-old Lyon winger has completed 5.33 dribbles per 90 which is more than double the amount Angel Di Maria has completed. Cherki is obviously extremely brave on the ball willing to take on anyone whist in possession. He is also fouled three times a game which suggests opposition players have identified him as key threat when on the ball. The offensive positional awareness of the youngster is also something to behold. He manages more touches in the box per 90 (5.78) than both Di Maria (4.18) and Thauvin (4.16). At the age of 17 he has become a consisting name coming off the bench for the current league leaders and if the year is anything to go by he will more than likely be getting more starts by the end of this season or the beginning of next season. Cherki has already been linked with the likes of Real Madrid, Manchester United and Juventus and it’s to see why. The talented winger could not only be a world class footballer but the new face of the sport in France.
Rayan Ait-Nouri (Wolverhampton Wanderers)
I know what you’re thinking another Frenchman on this list but they are really good at producing footballers in France. Ait-Nouri has made an impact whilst being shipped out by his parent club Angers on loan to Wolves. The 19-year-old left back seems to have made the wing-back spot his own in the last few months. He is the embodiment of an attacking wing-back completing 2.36 dribbles per 90 and 86% of his passes, however Rayan does need to improve his defensive output with him only completing 1.68 tackles and 0.5 interceptions. If we compare that to Reguilon from Spurs the Spaniard is more defensively sound with 2.65 tackles and 0.92 interceptions, but, he is lagging behind in the offensive stats with 0.71 dribbles and only completing 75% of his passes. The wing-back role definitely suits him at Wolves and it is more than likely that his loan will be made permanent. If Ait-Nouri does focus on putting work into the defensive side of his game he could potentially become one of the most complete left backs in the Premier League and a team like Wolves is the perfect place for his development.
Florian Wirtz (Bayer Leverkusen)
Leverkusen worried they were going to replace Kai Havertz once he left for Chelsea, however, it turned out they had his ready made replacement sitting in their academy. 17-year-old Florian Wirtz has been a revelation this year for Peter Bosz’s side. Wirtz has six assist and six goals in 22 games so far this season that is more than Borussia Dortmund captain Marco Reus. The youngster also completes just over one more dribble (2.56) than Reus (1.20). At such a young age there is obviously a lot he can improve on. His positioning needs to be better with him only managing 2.74 touches in the box compared to Reus, who is a master at positioning, with 6.50 touches in the box. His shot creation is decent with him making 3.25 shooting opportunities per 90 but no doubt that will just keep improving over time. The German will more than likely follow the same footsteps as Havertz by becoming the jewel in the Leverkusen crown over the next five years before moving on to pastures new.
Nicolo Rovella (Genoa)
Nicolo Rovella was signed by Juventus for €18 million last Summer and loaned back to Genoa. So far the defensive midfielder has had a decent season. The 19-year-old’s defensive work has been key for the side whilst trying to create a gap between them and relegation. If we compare Rovella’s output to Luka Modric, who was linked with a move to Italian giants Inter Milan last Summer, there are some stark differences. The Italian makes 2.39 tackles per 90 which is one more than Modric and he regains the ball 4.33 times per 90 when pressing opponents which is again one more than Modric. His offensive output is drastically worse. The Genoa academy graduate makes 2.69 final third passes and only manages 169.85 progressive yards; Modric however completes 7.27 final third passes and manages 325.10 progressive yards per 90. If Rovella plans on making an immediate impact at Juventus next year he needs to work on his offensive game. Playing in a better team might boost his numbers but he needs to prove at Genoa that he can progress the ball forward as well as shield the back four.