Gianluigi Donnarumma and Kylian Mbappe head top ten most promising European prospects

Alex Broun 19/02/2018
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The Centre International d’Etude du Sport (CIES) Football Observatory, an independent study centre located in Neuchatel, Switzerland, has crunched the numbers to come up with the most promising Under-20 players across Europe.

The learned three-man panel (Dr Raffaele Poli, Dr Roger Besson and Dr Loïc Ravenel) looked at data from 22 European leagues to identify those with the best career prospects.

Taken into consideration were minutes played, weighted according to the level of leagues, and the results achieved by employer clubs.

In all 50 players with the highest “capital experience” scores were listed graded from three to five stars.

The five-star prospects should be able to establish themselves in the very best European teams, while the four-star category list have a concrete possibility to spend a big part of their career in the most top European leagues. Three-star prospects are in a favourable position to stay or reach the highest levels of the football pyramid.

Here below are the top ten on the list, all who gained five stars. Expect a few more zeroes to be added to their next contracts.

19 02 2018 Ranking (002)

1. Gianluigi Donnarumma (Main image)

Club: AC Milan (Italy)

Debut: October 25, 2015

Position: Goalkeeper

The 18-year-old has been a regular between the posts for AC Milan this season with 33 appearances in all competitions. He debuted for the Rossoneri in 2015, becoming the second youngest goalkeeper ever in Serie A, aged 16 years and 242 days. He also already has four caps under his belt for the national team.

Alban Lafont (in red) tussles with Nantes' forwards Prejuce Nakoulma (L) and Emiliano Sala.

Alban Lafont (in red) tussles with Nantes’ forwards Prejuce Nakoulma (L) and Emiliano Sala.

2. Alban Lafont

Club: Toulouse (France)

Debut: November 28, 2015

Position: Goalkeeper

The 19-year-old made his Ligue 1 debut on 28 November 2015, becoming the youngest-ever goalkeeper to play in Ligue 1 at the age of 16 years and 310 days. Lafont kept clean sheets in his first two competitive fixtures and Toulouse, who had been 10 points adrift of safety at the time of his introduction into the first team, managed to avoid relegation thanks to eight clean sheets he kept in his 24 appearances for the campaign.

3. Kylian Mbappe

Club: PSG (France)

Debut: December 2, 2015

Position: Striker

With his extraordinary achievements (and price tag) it might be a surprise to see the 19-year-old at just No.3 in the list. Mbappe became Monaco’s youngest-ever first-team player at 16 years 347 days, breaking Thierry Henry’s record set 21 years previously. He played a huge role in Monaco winning their first Ligue 1 title in 17 years in 2016-17, scoring 26 goals in the campaign. On August 31 last year he left Monaco for PSG in deal believed to be worth 166m pounds.

4. Christian Pulisic

Club: Dortmund (Germany)

Debut: January 30, 2016

Position: Attacking midfielder, wing

The highly rated American 19-year-old has already set a number of records in his fledgling career: youngest foreigner to score a goal in the Bundesliga, youngest player to score two goals in the Bundesliga, youngest player in the modern era to score a goal for the United States, and youngest American player to score a goal in World Cup qualifying history. With his goal scoring instincts its not surprising he’s a rumored target for Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester United.

Nice's French defender Malang Sarr (L) vies with Amiens' French midfielder Emmanuel Bourgaud (R) during the French L1 football match Nice vs Amiens on January 13, 2018 at the "Allianz Riviera" stadium in Nice, southeastern France. / AFP PHOTO / VALERY HACHE (Photo credit should read VALERY HACHE/AFP/Getty Images)

Nice’s French defender Malang Sarr (l).

5. Malang Sarr

Club: Nice (France)

Debut: August 14, 2016

Position: Central defender

Sarr made his Ligue 1 debut for his home club aged just 17 and scored the winning goal for his team, becoming the second youngest player to ever score on debut in Ligue 1. This is the only goal he has scored in close to 50 appearances since but he has become a constant in the Nice back four also representing France at age levels from Under 16 to Under 21.

Leipzig´s French defender Dayot Upamecano celebrates scoring during the German first division Bundesliga football match between RB Leipzig and FC Augsburg in Leipzig, eastern Germany on February 9, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / ROBERT MICHAEL (Photo credit should read ROBERT MICHAEL/AFP/Getty Images)

Dayot Upamecano celebrates scoring against FC Augsburg.

6. Dayot Upamecano

Club: Red Bull Leipzig (Germany)

Debut: July 31, 2015

Position: Central Defender

The 19-year-old made his professional debut at the age of just 16 for Red Bull Salzburg’s feeder team Liefering. On January 13, 2017, he joined Red Bull Leipzig on a four-and-a-half year deal, for a reported €10 million fee, where he has become a regular in their defensive line, showing great maturity despite his young years. Also represented France from Under 16 to Under 19 levels.

7. Tom Davies

Club: Everton (England)

Debut: April 16, 2016

Position: Central midfield

Those who watch the blond 19-year-old’s energetic performances in the Premier League won’t be surprised to see him feature in the list. A graduate of the Everton academy system, Davies was handed his Premier League debut by  Roberto Martínez at the age of 17, coming on as an substitute in a 1–1 draw with Southampton at Goodison Park. An England representative from Under 16 to Under 21, Davies has struggled a little this season but recently has returned to first-team football on a regular basis.

Ajax defender Matthijs de Ligt (L) vies with Lyon's French forward Alexandre Lacazette (R) during UEFA Europa League semi-final, first leg, Ajax Amsterdam v Olympique Lyonnais (OL) on May 3, 2017 in Amsterdam. / AFP PHOTO / JEAN-PHILIPPE KSIAZEK (Photo credit should read JEAN-PHILIPPE KSIAZEK/AFP/Getty Images)

Matthijs de Ligt (l) vies with Alexandre Lacazette during last season’s Europa League semi-final.

8. Matthijs de Ligt

Club: AFC Ajax (Netherlands)

Debut: August 8, 2016

Position: Central defender

A graduate from the Ajax academy, which he joined when he was nine years old, he made his professional debut for Jong Ajax on August 8, 2016 before making his debut for Ajax’s senior team on 21 September the same year. The elegant defender scored after 25 minutes from a corner, making him the second youngest goalscorer for Ajax ever. Since then he has gone on to make over 30 appearances for Ajax and on 25 March 2017 he made his debut for the Netherlands national team, becoming the youngest national debutant since 1931.

9. Kai Havertz

Club: Leverkusen (Germany)

Debut: October 15, 2016

Position: Midfield

Often compared to Mesut Ozil, the 18-year-old midfielder made his debut for Leverkusen at the age of just 17 years and 126 days, becoming the club’s youngest ever Bundesliga debutante. Four days later, he was handed his first Champions League start in the first leg of the round of 16 loss to Atletico Madrid. Since then he has racked up over 40 appearances with six goals and represented Germany at Under 16, 17 and 19 levels.

10. Ryan Sessegnon

Club: Fulham (England)

Debut: August 9, 2016

Position: Left back or left wing

The talented 17-year-old made his first-team debut in an EFL Cup match aged just 16 years and 81 days. Less than two weeks later, he scored his first professional goal in a league match against Cardiff City, becoming the first professional footballer in the English leagues to have been born in the 2000s to score a goal and the youngest player ever to have scored in a Championship match. He also scored the winner on his FA Cup debut on January 8 2017, becoming one of the youngest goalscorers in the history of the competition. The England Under 16, 17 and 19 representative has gone on to make 57 appearances for the first team scoring 17 goals.

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Scouting report of Man City target Julian Weigl as Borussia Dortmund beat Borussia Monchengladbach

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Every weekend we pick out one player under the age of 23 from around Europe and analyse their performance to provide you with an in-depth scouting report.

As the new generation begin to make their mark, the big clubs start to be linked with an interest and that’s certainly been the case with Germany and Borussia Dortmund midfielder Julian Weigl.

Man City and Liverpool are known admirers and so for those fans looking to know more, we examined the 22-year-old’s display as Dortmund travelled to Borussia Monchengladbach.


Shots – 0

Touches – 63

Passes – 38

Pass accuracy – 60.5%

Aerials won 3

Tackles – 6

Interceptions – 4

Key passes – 0

Clearances – 1

Dispossessed – 1


One of the hottest properties in the Bundesliga, Weigl’s understanding of the game is beyond his years making him the epitome of a cerebral Dortmund team.

The German international has only made 15 appearances for the Westfalenstadion outfit this season after returning from a broken ankle suffered last May, but looked in mixed form against Borussia Monchengladbach.

From intercepting the opposition’s attacks to setting his side away on the counter, the midfielder was at the very least a steady presence defensively for Peter Stoger’s side.

At 22, his best years are yet to come, but he needs to improve physically.


Positioning – The German showed plenty of maturity with his positioning and the sense of responsibility with which he tracked back and covered for his team-mates. Despite offering little threat on the attack, he was still solid if unspectacular – and always looked for the simple option.

Defensively – He was top-notch, always alert and made six tackles and four interceptions – the highest of any Dortmund player. Needs to improve on his aerial ability if he wants to prosper in the defensive midfield role.


Physicality – Although he looks a model of consistency in terms of his intelligence and how he uses the ball, he needs to strengthen up if he wants to be a world class central midfielder. At 1.87m and 72kg, he got pushed off the ball far too easily in key areas of the park.

Energy – Looks a shell of the star he was under Thomas Tuchel last season in terms of his contribution in and out of possession, with a pass accuracy of just 60.5 per cent on Sunday. Perhaps a week’s rest would do Weigl wonders in a bid to keep him fresh for crucial games towards the end of the season.


7th minute INTERCEPTION – The German started brightly, intercepting Lars Stindl’s pass and flicking the ball on to Mario Gotze, but Dortmund were unable to force an early breakthrough.

10th minute LINK-UP – Dortmund lose possession from a corner and the ball is sent up the pitch, but Weigl is the last man back and collects possession inside his own half and feeds it to Marco Reus.

15th minute FOULED – Runs into space to take the ball from Sokratis Papastathopoulos and is chopped down by Monchengladbach’s Jonas Hoffman on the right.

29th minute LINK-UP – Sprints onto a loose ball, breaks past three would-be tacklers on the right and feeds the ball to Reus but Dortmund are turned over.

31st minute GOAL – Flicks the ball over to Gotze who sends a cross-field ball to Andre Schurrle. The youngster collects possession on the edge of the box, flashes it across goal and Reus dips one over a stranded Monchengladbach keeper Yann Sommer to make it 1-0.

58th minute INTERCEPTION – The hosts come bounding through the middle but Weigl stick a foot in to avert the danger, however his attempted pass runs too far for Michy Batshuayi to collect.

68th minute INJURY – Looks to have picked up an ankle injury when tracking back but is able to shake off the niggle a few minutes later.

72nd minute FOULED – Comes barreling into a 50/50 challenge with Stindl, and falls under the sheer impact, earning a free-kick around the halfway line.

73rd minute CLEARANCE – Shows fantastic alertness to pounce on a would-be pass for Stindl and sends the ball down the far end of the field.


All statistics are compiled using

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Rochdale strike late to earn Wembley replay with Tottenham

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Substitute Steve Davies earned Rochdale an FA Cup fifth-round replay at Wembley with his remarkable stoppage-time equaliser against Tottenham.

Sky Bet League One’s bottom club played superbly to take the lead into half-time thanks to captain Ian Henderson’s sixth goal of their cup run, yet they looked to have been denied when Lucas Moura equalised.

Substitute Harry Kane netted a penalty with just two minutes left but, three minutes into four minutes of added time, Dale threw men forward and got their reward as Davies lashed in to make it 2-2.

Rochdale fans queued in the snow at the Crown Oil Arena on Monday morning to get their hands on a precious ticket, and within four hours it was the first sell-out anyone at the club can remember.

Much of the talk in the build-up was about the pitch after Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino reacted with horror when shown pictures of it after Dale’s fourth-round replay win over Millwall.

The third-tier side were more than a little miffed to see their achievement completely overshadowed by the playing surface and invested in a new pitch, which was laid on Wednesday.

Lucas Moura 1

Pochettino’s men certainly should have known what to expect having faced AFC Wimbledon and Newport, who took them to a replay, in the previous two rounds. Although these were probably not the surroundings Moura, making his full debut, imagined when he made the move from Paris St Germain last month.

Moura’s pace made him an obvious danger to Rochdale from the start while Son Heung-min created several early openings but struggled to find his feet.

Rochdale took umbrage at claims they were giving away an advantage by relaying the pitch, and set about showing they, too, prefer a surface conducive to passing.

Matt Done and Mark Kitching stood out early on, while the home fans appealed vociferously for a penalty when Andrew Cannon harried Toby Alderweireld and the defender appeared to handle the ball on the ground.

Cannon’s harrying skills created the first big chance in the 18th minute when he dispossessed Victor Wanyama and played in Henderson but the captain could only shoot tamely at Michel Vorm.

Spurs should have gone in front eight minutes later when Josh Lillis could not hold a Son shot but the forward dithered when the ball came back to him and, when he eventually found Fernando Llorente, the striker shot wide with the keeper stranded but defenders on the line.

Moura also missed the target as Tottenham applied some sustained pressure but Dale were as tenacious in defence as attack and, with the first half almost over, they produced the move of the match on the counter to take a deserved lead.

Stephen Humphrys played in Cannon and he timed his pass to Henderson to perfection, leaving the striker to sweep a cool finish beyond Vorm.

Pochettino was not tempted to turn to his talisman early and with 59 minutes gone Spurs found their leveller, Moussa Sissoko playing in Moura, who confidently beat Lillis from 12 yards.

The danger levels were increasing for Rochdale, who soon had Kane to contend with back at the ground where he made his professional debut, but Wanyama spurned a golden chance by firing over an open goal from five yards.

A money-spinning Wembley date was looming ever closer for Rochdale, and Done did his bit by heading off the line when Erik Lamela’s deflected shot looped towards the net.

But Alli was just took quick for Harrison McGahey, who hacked him down, and Kane’s confident penalty looked to have secured Tottenham victory only for Davies to engineer the most unlikely of finishes.

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