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FootballNewsEUROPE’S best young footballers: 50 ‘under-21s’ making waves in ‘big five’ leagues

EUROPE’S best young footballers: 50 ‘under-21s’ making waves in ‘big five’ leagues


By Nick Harris

SJA Internet Sports Writer of the Year

23 January 2012

A new demographic study of European football, published today by the CIES Football Observatory in Switzerland, contains detailed analysis of 12,410 footballers at 500 clubs in the top divisions of 33 European countries, reporting among other things how the Russian Premier League is making waves (story here), and how different countries are having varied success in rearing players (story here).

The study (extract available here) also lists which players aged 21 or younger on 31 December 2011 had played the most minutes for their teams in league matches in the first months of the current season.

The reason for identifying 10 the most-used ’21 and unders’ in the top divisions of Europe’s main 33 leagues was to highlight young and emerging talent.

The rationale is that if a manager has the faith to field a young player in a lot of games despite their tender years, the chances are that that player has been impressive.

Here, Sportingintelligence looks at the 50 players cited collectively from Europe’s ‘big five’ leagues: England, Spain, Italy, Germany and France.

We list them alphabetically, but as well as each player’s name we list their club, age and the percentage of minutes they played of their club’s league games in the first four months of the current season.


The best 50 young footballers in Europe?

(Born on or after 1 January 1990, playing regularly in ‘Big Five’ leagues in 2011-12)

Minutes = % of clubs’ league minutes played in first four months of this season

[Contains top 10 from England, Spain, Italy, France, Germany by minutes played]


Name / Club / Age Nationality / Position / % of minutes


Afriyie Acquah Palermo, age 19, Ghanain, mf, 50.4% mins

Ali Ahamada Toulouse, age 20, French, gk,  100% mins

Thiago Alcântara Barcelona, age 20, Spanish, mf, 71.9% mins

Joe Allen Swansea, age 21, Welsh, mf, 76.6% mins

Álvaro R Santander, age 20, Spanish, d, 100% mins

Jon Aurtenetxe Bilbao, age 20, Spanish, d, 59.1% mins

Emmanuel Badu Udinese, 21, Ghanaian, mf, 58% mins

Alhassane Bangoura Rayo Vallecano, 19, Guinean, f, 58.7% mins

Oliver Baumann Freiburg, 21, German, gk, 100% mins

Ryad Boudebouz Sochaux, age 21, Algerian, mf, 92.6% mins

Frédéric Bulot Caen, age 21, French, mf, 89.4% mins

Timothy Chandler Nuremberg, age 21, American, df, 100% mins

Thibaut Courtois Atletico Madrid (on loan from Chelsea), age 19, Belgian, gk, 100% mins

David de Gea Manchester United, age 21, Spanish, gk, 81.8% mins

Mattia Destro AC Siena (on loan from Genoa), age 20, f, Italian, 38.8% mins

Brice Dja Djedje Evian, age 21, Ivorian, df, 100% mins

Antoine Griezmann Real Sociedad, age 20, French, mf, 68% mins

Josuha Guilavogui St-Etienne, age 21, French, mf, 81.4% mins

Roberto Firmino Hoffenheim, age 20, Brazilian, mf, 78% mins

Eden Hazard Lille, age 21, Belgian, mf, 95.3% mins

Abel Hernández Palermo, age 21, Uruguayan, f, 69.1% mins

Junior Hoilett Blackburn, age 21, Canadian, mf, 99% mins

Lewis Holtby Schalke, age 21, German, mf, 87.5% mins

Nicolas Isimat-Mirin Valenciennes, age 20, French, df, 94.1% mins

Tony Jantschke B Monchengladbach, age 21, German, d / mf, 100% mins

Phil Jones Manchester United, age 19, English, d, 84.4% mins

Bojan Krkić Roma, age 21, Spanish, f / mf, 43.7% mins

Bernd Leno B Leverkusen, age 19, German, gk, 91.7% mins

Jason Lowe Blackburn, age 20, English, mf / rb, 65.8% mins

Iñigo Martínez Real Sociedad, age 20, Spanish, d, 100% mins

Joël Matip Schalke, age 20, Cameroonian, d / mf, 79.2% mins

Alexander Merkel Milan, age 19, German, mf, 44.4% mins (on loan at Genoa)

Victor Moses Wigan, age 21, English, f, 97.8% mins

Iker Muniain Bilbao, age 19, Spanish, f, 90% mins

Mateo Musacchio Villarreal, 21, Argentineas, f, 81.8% min

Yann M’Vila Stade Rennais, age 21, French, mf, 98.1% mins

Joel Obi Internazionale, age 20, Nigerian, mf, 40.5% mins

Kyriakos Papadopoulos Schalke, age 19, Greek, df, 94.5% mins

Mathieu Peybernes Sochaux, age 21, French, df, 89.8% mins

Miralem Pjanić Roma, age 21, Bosnia & H, mf, 78.1% mins

Gastón Ramírez Bologna, age 21, Uruguayan, mf, 66.7% mins

Aaron Ramsey Arsenal, age 21, Welsh, mf, 88.8% mins

Baptiste Reynet Dijon, age 21, French, gk, 92.3% mins

Jack Rodwell Everton, age 20, English, mf, 78.4% mins

Marc-André ter Stegen B Monchengladbach, age 19, German, gk, 100% mins

Rodney Strasser Milan (on loan at Lecce), age 21, Sierra Leone, mf, 47.3% mins

Wojciech Szczęsny Arsenal, age 21, Polish, gk, 100% mins

Kevin Trapp Kaiserslautern, age 21, German, gk, 100% mins

Álvaro Vázquez Espanyol, age 20, Spanish, f, 64.6% mins

Kyle Walker Tottenham, age 21, English, rb, 85% mins


More stories mentioning CIES / Observatory research


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