Are you watching, Jose Mourinho? Two ‘inexperienced’ Chelsea players were a couple of the very best youngsters on show this weekend, a La Masia lad made the most of Barcelona’s injury crisis and there’s the obligatory appearance from a certain Borussia Dortmund maestro.
The aim of this weekly column is to shed light on the players, aged 21 or under across Europe’s top five leagues, who aspire to lead the game into a bold new era.
The likes of Kylian Mbappe, Marcus Rashford and Ousmane Dembele are sure to regularly pop up, providing they all stay fit. But as every week passes, we hope to sift out a few starlets who may have gone unnoticed.
Without further ado, here’s our five picks from this weekend’s action.
Tammy Abraham (Chelsea)
Key stat: 2 shots on target, first 2 goals in 3-2 win for Chelsea at Norwich
Chelsea have incessantly tried out both young foreign imports and old foreign imports in their N09 shirt, so why not go for one of your own?
Well, they kinda had to – the alternative is try-hard Olivier Giroud and wishing their transfer embargo away. As it turns out, the player(s) from their outrageously successful youth set-up are actually quite good.
The willowy Abraham could have shrunk after the horrendous abuse he received for the audacity of missing a penalty in the Super Cup. Instead he’s put down enough roots to land him an extended stay in the Chelsea squad with two goals against Norwich from the different ends of the spectrum.
The first at a Carrow Road was a wonderfully instinctive half-volley, the second a shimmy and shot from outside the area not seen on a consistent basis from a Chelsea striker since the days of Didier Drogba. The kids are alright.
What a moment for Tammy yesterday. 👏 pic.twitter.com/oSWSP2X65i— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) August 25, 2019
Key stat: 56 per cent of total duels won in 3-2 win for Chelsea at Norwich
Here’s the second alright kid. Mount has been asked to play as a centre midfielder, an attacking midfielder and on the left wing in his nascent Chelsea career.
It was from ostensibly his least comfortable position, on the flank, that he posted his most accomplished performance thus far.
The 20-year-old didn’t beat many players at the byline, that’s not his game, but he whipped in enough crosses (6) and a pair of key passes to keep Norwich stretched, with the fleet-footed Christian Pulisic on the other side and sharp-shooting Abraham through the middle.
It was United States forward Pulisic who popped up on the left and occupied Norwich bodies to slip in Mount, who had enough patience to wait for the perfect opening and enough power behind his shot to revel in the fearlessness of youth.
Mount is an intriguing option on the left. If he can continue to assert his presence from there, there will be no debate over who to choose from him and fellow creator Ross Barkley – another who impressed – in the midfield three. Now, to work on that defence…
Carles Perez (Barcelona)
Key stat: 5 shots, the most bar Griezmann in 5-2 win for Barca v Real Betis
The team revolves around Lionel Messi. The club then signed Antoine Griezmann and are trying desperately to bring back Neymar.
Luis Suarez is still there, Ousmane Dembele is still there, heck, even Rafinha (who was brilliant against Betis, too) is still hanging around.
That was the competition facing Carles Perez, who surely was beginning to cast an eye on a future away from Camp Nou. The injury gods then conspired to strike down almost everyone but him, granting a dream league start against Betis at home.
It is wrong to say the Catalonian has come from nowhere – he struck a fine double against Vissel Kobe this summer to swipe the red carpet from under the Andres Iniesta reunion show. This was the real audition and he passed it with the ease of someone who was born for the stage.
Though Griezmann was the focal point, the 21-year-old attacked with pace when he did receive the ball and fired off five shots, second only to his mega-money French team-mate. Only one went in but it was a classy goal, with a feather touch to take it away from the defender and slot home.
Perez played on the left, but is equally capable on the right. Barca have a winger who at the very least is more suitable than the one-season-and-gone Malcom.
On this evidence against decent La Liga competition, could he even spell the great man himself, Lionel Messi, when his 32-year-old old legs get heavy later this season?
📸 — Priceless moment. Carles Perez, remember the name. pic.twitter.com/pFILwlci26— Barça Universal (@BarcaUniversal) August 26, 2019
Jadon Sancho (Borussia Dortmund)
Key stat: 16 assists since beginning of last season after one in 3-1 win for Dortmund at Cologne
How far behind Kylian Mbappe is Jadon Sancho? A World Cup, for starters, but if you count for sheer production in an arguably superior domestic league – both in terms of goals and assists – baby Mbappe ain’t too far behind.
Sancho, not even 20 until March, became the youngest player to reach 15 Bundesliga goals with his effort against Cologne, a left-footed rifle into the corner (which was bizarrely invited by a lacklustre defence).
Then there was the obligatory assist, the most unselfish you’ll see all season after Sancho finished his lightning run by sacrificing a tap-in for Paco Alcacer.
Many column inches have been and are yet to be written about the English wunderkind. Surely then Real Madrid will set aside their Kylian Mbappe fascination and pursue the far more attainable Sancho before long (and around the world you’ll hear millions of Manchester United hearts break).
Dennis Geiger (Hoffenheim)
Key stat: 2 assists and 91.5 per cent accuracy in 3-1 win for Hoffenheim v Werder Bremen
Julian Nagelsmann has gone and the vultures have taken some choice cuts from Hoffenheim, but Dennis Geiger is one morsel who should only become emboldened by the summer departures.
Shorn of Joelinton, Karem Demirbay and Nadiem Amiri – the former now of Newcastle, the latter duo at Bayer Leverkusen – a fair number of goals and creation have departed with them. But if last week’s 1-0 defeat to Frankfurt spoke of a lot of possession but little good use of it, this week’s victory over Bremen screamed ruthlessness.
Central to that was Geiger. His two assists – one of which was the game-winner for Pavel Kaderabek against a 10-man Bremen – both came from corners, the whip, accuracy and pace flummoxing the visiting defence.
It is for his overall work in midfield alongside an often no-frills Sebastian Rudy that he should be praised, however, completing nearly 92 per cent of his passes and leading the team for tackles won (3).
More of the same is needed for Hoffenheim to recapture their top-four form of 2017/18.
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