THE BEST OF THE YOUNG GUNS TO KEEP AN EYE ON IN THIS YEAR'S CHAMPIONS LEAGUE
Matchday one of the 2021-22 UEFA Champions League had goals, goals and more goals. There were upsets, comebacks, and big wins over two nights of intense action. Among them all were some truly outstanding youngsters who took their chance and looked hungry for more. The next generation who are ready to leave their mark on this year’s competition after a brilliant opening. FootTheBall brings you the 10 starlets to watch out for and make a note now.
CHARLES DE KETELAERE
One of the many heroes in Club Brugge’s heroic 1-1 draw with PSG. De Ketelaere, playing as the furthest man on the team, was constantly making a nuisance of himself. The 20-year-old who can play a variety of positions in attack also, created the most chances (5) and won the most duels (9).
🇧🇪 Charles de Ketelaere (20) v. PSG:
☑️ 90 minutes
🚀 3 shots
🔑 5 key passes
💪 2/3 tackles won
⚔️ 9/11 duels won
🤕 4 fouls suffered
🙌 1-1 draw
It’s always a good day when you ball out in front of Messi and his new crew. 🔥 pic.twitter.com/dRNvo3vPKB
— Football Wonderkids (@fbwonderkids) September 16, 2021
Furthermore, he had a passing accuracy of 89% along with two shots on target against the big hitters from France. This is nothing new for the attacker who had already scored three goals and had two assists coming into last night. If he can continue this form up, De Ketelaere will be a standout performer on this team that is looking to make waves this year.
The Olympic gold medallist now in his second season with Ajax looks very much like the real deal. Though he did not get on the scoresheet himself, Antony had a hat-trick of assists in his team’s rout of Sporting from an xA of 0.84, which led to Sebastien Haller’s record-breaking night.
🇧🇷 Antony (21) vs. Sporting CP:
☑️ 70 minutes
🅰️ 2 assists
🔑 4 chances created
🚀 3 shots
🥅 Hit woodwork
⚔️ 8 duels won
💪 5 ball recoveries
🙌 5-1 win
Supporting Haller in his historic day.
Sporting had NO answer for them. ❌❌❌ pic.twitter.com/YLfgiEXD91
— Football Wonderkids (@fbwonderkids) September 15, 2021
His intelligent and direct running caused problems all night long as his shot and the subsequent save made the first for Haller. The second was more of an unselfish play that allowed Haller to slide the ball in before the most beautiful of the three arrived. A curling, outside of the left boot cross that was flicked into the net.
Ajax's third and fourth goals last night were brilliant. Antony was excellent throughout and he's going to be so much fun to watch this season. Already started well. His outside foot assist for Haller was perfect.#UCL pic.twitter.com/IkAgMmgNYe
— Karan Tejwani (@karan_tejwani26) September 16, 2021
Antony also was involved in the buildup play for Steve Berghuis’ goal and while he himself does not score many, his creativity and flair at unsettling the opponents will be a major weapon.
Joining an European giant at the age of 18 is never easy for a foreigner and Rodrygo has had to bide his time. He made 22 appearances last season but only 10 of them were starts which has been the same case for this year as well. Rodrygo has only played a combined 70 minutes over four league matches so far.
— UEFA Champions League (@ChampionsLeague) September 15, 2021
Nevertheless, he notched up one goal and six assists in La Liga last term while the winner against Inter showed his game-changing ability on this team. He showed great presence of mind to get in front of his marker in the final minute of the match and guide a volley home. Karim Benzema remains the figurehead but the young Brazilian will be an useful asset as the season goes on.
It really takes a special kind of attacking weapon to win three penalties in 35 minutes. Adeyemi is the latest talent coming from the RB Salzburg factory and is already turning heads in Austria. With six goals and one assist already, he is one shy of his whole league tally from last season.
Karim Adeyemi is going straight to the top. Has drawn 3 penalties in the first half against Sevilla (first time a player does that ever) pace to burn, very good skill set. Only 19 too and already made his debut for Germany national team. Has 6 goals in 7 apps in the Lge this ssn pic.twitter.com/H5oXJnDMZ0
— Renato (@rehnato) September 14, 2021
Though the penalty miss put a damper on things, the 19-year-old is a precocious striker who can also play on the flanks. Adeyemi has pace to burn and sound finishing abilities which he also demonstrated on Germany debut by netting a goal.
A dream debut for 19-year-old Germany international Karim Adeyemi ⚽️🙌
— European Qualifiers (@EURO2020) September 8, 2021
This season will be crucial for him in order to take the next step up in his game while already being monitored by some of the biggest clubs in Europe.
Another German youngster who can play on either wing in support of the main striker and also in behind him. Musiala had 26 appearances last season in the Bundesliga (seven starts) which yielded six goals and an assist.
Jamal Musiala completed 4 take-ons in the first half vs. Barcelona, more than any other player on the pitch.
Such a joy to watch. 🍿 pic.twitter.com/bnHQTSbMk2
— Statman Dave (@StatmanDave) September 14, 2021
Furthermore, on the defensive end of things, he is averaging 2.81 tackles, 2.03 interceptions and 24.62 pressures (all P90) which put him in the 97-99th percentile of players in his position across Europe. He was virtually unplayable against Barcelona, hitting the woodwork once and having a pass completion of 91%.
Jamal Musiala all-time stats for Bayern:
📊directly involved in a goal every 103 minutes
18 years of age. Beginning of something very, very special. pic.twitter.com/YroL23Co4N
— Football Talent Scout – Jacek Kulig (@FTalentScout) September 14, 2021
His quick feet and trickery along with low centre of gravity make him a nightmare to mark as he has already racked up two goals and two assists in the league. Bayern’s transition to a younger crop of players should see him benefit immensely.
One of the brightest stars in England’s galaxy of generational newcomers. Bellingham has been on a tear ever since lighting up the Championship with Birmingham City who retired his number when he left for Borussia Dortmund at 17.
18 – Jude Bellingham (18y 78d) has become the youngest player ever to score in consecutive Champions League games, surpassing Kylian Mbappé (18y 85d in March 2017). Prodigy. #BJKBVB pic.twitter.com/gqsbqtNCmT
— OptaFranz (@OptaFranz) September 15, 2021
He has wasted no time in becoming a regular in Germany as someone who is heavily involved in his team’s buildup plays. 1.63 dribbles completed, 3.16 touches in opponents’ penalty area, 5.39 progressive passes received (all P90) have put him above the 90th percentile of players. Bellingham had a hand in both goals against Besiktas which really showed off his all-round game.
Jude Bellingham’s first half vs. Beşiktaş by numbers:
84% pass accuracy
31 total touches
2 attempted take-ons
2 successful take-ons
2 fouls committed
1 big chance created
1 foul won
— Statman Dave (@StatmanDave) September 15, 2021
Firstly, he cushioned a lifted ball onto his chest before firing a smart finish for the first goal before skipping past his marker and sliding a ball for Erling Haaland for the game’s second. Bellingham has already become a key member of the England setup and performances like these on the grandest club stage will further solidify his reputation for the future.
A product of the famed Ajax youth academy who is still just 19-years-old. Gravenberch operates in the midfield three for Erik ten Hag and made 32 appearances last season. It still produced three goals and five assists while he played a clever through ball for the Dutch giants’ third goal last night.
Ryan Gravenberch has been announced best U21 Player Of The Season (20/21), well deserved! Big star in the making! 🌟 pic.twitter.com/KbvkWfda6N
— 𝐀𝐅𝐂 𝐀𝐉𝐀𝐗 💎 (@TheEuropeanLad) September 8, 2021
He is a very forward-thinking player who has 5.90 progressive passes and 6.54 progresssive carried P90, illustrating the level of threat he adds to his side.
Ryan Gravenberch, utilising his frame as well as his awareness and technique. He's great at combining all three to do what he does here. pic.twitter.com/5uPV9Ehx9r
— Scouted Football (@ScoutedFtbl) September 16, 2021
Furthermore, Gravenberch also played at Euro 2020 and is emerging as a key contributor for the Oranje who have a new crop of young players coming through. This year’s European campaign can prove to be a vital one for him and Ajax after the heroics of 2018.
The man-of-the-match in a game that featured Lionel Messi, Kylian Mbappe, Neymar, and all of PSG’s squad, Lang was a menace down the left flank, completing the most dribbles (5), winning seven duels and making four recoveries.
Noa Lang completed 5 take-ons vs. PSG tonight, as many as Neymar, Mbappé & Messi managed combined.
— Statman Dave (@StatmanDave) September 15, 2021
Lang is also a former graduate of Jong Ajax as well as the senior team before having a blockbuster 2020-21 campaign in the Belgian top-flight. He racked up 15 goals and eight assists and has started off just where he left off. With three goals and four assists, he and De Ketalaere are causing all kinds of havoc back home and they just did it again last night.
Noa Lang all-time stats for Club Brugge:
📊directly involved in a goal every 90 minutes
Signed from Ajax for only 6M€. pic.twitter.com/jEAK8e5jms
— Football Talent Scout – Jacek Kulig (@FTalentScout) September 11, 2021
Lang loves to get alongside the striker and playing in advanced roles which will be crucial if Brugge hope to make it out of a very tough group.
The only goal scorer for Salzburg from three penalty kicks and along with it, one of the brightest players on the pitch against Sevilla. Sucic plays as a central midfielder but can also move on the wings from where pushes forward. He created the most chances (5) as well as hitting the post while another shot was saved by the keeper.
Luka Sucic's game by numbers vs. Sevilla:
73.2% pass accuracy
4 chances created
4 long balls
And one missed penalty. 😅 pic.twitter.com/NWMrYTQlOX
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) September 14, 2021
The 19-year-old has one of the brightest platforms to showcase his talent, not only for his club but on the Champions League stage too. Furthermore, not only does he play the game with a calm head and hounds the opposition for the ball, Sucic is also always looking to play the attacking passes to get his team on the front foot. The Austrians have a great chance of qualifying for the knockout phase but will need Sucic and of course Adeyemi in top form.
One of the fastest rising ballers whose move to Real Madrid has started swimmingly well. Having been through a tough childhood and joining the Stade Rennes, Camavinga’s meteoric rise is punctuated with his deep understanding of the game. Having made close to 70 appearances in Ligue 1, his stats speak for themselves.
17-year-old Eduardo Camavinga was the only player to make 100+ tackles in the 2019/20 Ligue 1 season.
❍ 25 games
❍ 214 duels won
❍ 147 recoveries
❍ 105 tackles
And now Rennes have UCL football. 🤩 pic.twitter.com/tsFlcEdqqL
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) April 30, 2020
23.57 pressures, 3.84 tackles, 1.75 dribbles completed and 6.18 progressive carries (all P90) put him in the high 80th and 90th percentile across the continent. Having already scored for France on his senior team debut, he did the same with Los Blancos over the weekend. Last night, in a tense encounter with Inter, it was Camavinga’s perfectly timed run and pass that was finished off by Rodrygo for the match-winner.
— Real Madrid C.F. 🇬🇧🇺🇸 (@realmadriden) September 15, 2021
The pressure of playing for Madrid is never easy for anyone, especially a teenage newcomer but Camavinga has all the qualities to help them back to the top of Europe.