It’s nearly here! The Africa Cup of Nations 2017 kicks off this weekend and it’s a tournament we love and have covered in detail in the past on Just Football. Ahead of this year’s edition in Gabon here are a selection of promising young African talents that have risen to prominence and could play an essential […]
It may be the festive and new year break for a lot of people, but we never stop bringing you updates on Europe’s top young talents. Which of our chosen 70 young prospects are turning heads across the continent lately?
#JF70 young talents of the week
“Unlucky” would be the word to describe the continuous omission of Tiemoue Bakayoko from our weekly review – until now. No doubt, the 22 year-old defensive midfielder ought to have made at least an appearance, due to his influential role in Ligue 1 title-chasing AS Monaco side.
But better late than never. Bakayoko is making himself impossible to ignore – with two goals in two games in recent weeks – and deservedly makes a debut appearance in our round up.
In Monaco’s heavyweight clash against Lyon at Stade Louis II, Bakayoko went down 1-3 with the hosts – but not without a fight. At 2-0, and one man down, Bakayoko turned in a Thomas Lemar cross on 70 minutes to try and initiate a comeback for Monaco. Of course, it wasn’t to be. On a personal note though, Bakayoko did impress, and was arguably the Man of the Match.
— WhoScored.com (@WhoScored) December 18, 2016
On Wednesday, Monaco returned to winning ways at home, beating Caen 2-1 and Bakoyoko again was at the forefront, scoring what proved to be the winner after 76 minutes to put Leonardo Jardim’s side 2-0 up. In fairness, Caen goalkeeper Matthieu Dreyer should have done better to avoid the goal. But as they say, if you don’t shoot, you don’t score.
Bakayoko is certainly brimming with confidence at the moment, and his goal against Caen was a testament to that. He’ll be hoping the winter break doesn’t break his stride. Meanwhile, there is enough speculation linking him to top Premier League clubs for him to feast on during the festive period.
— ASMHistory 🇲🇨 (@histoireasm) December 21, 2016
Victor Lindelof is by miles the most talked about #JF70 class member in recent weeks, and it’s no surprise he may be off to England (Manchester United have been reportedly close to agreeing a deal for him) sooner rather than later.
Victor Lindelof's game by numbers for Benfica today:
100% tackles won
100% aerial duels won
93% pass accuracy
2 clearances pic.twitter.com/I26f3gEcS6
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) December 21, 2016
£38million could be what Manchester United would need to prize him away, and fellow Swede and potential United teammate Zlatan Ibrahimovic is already full of praise for the youngster:
“I think he is ready for the big clubs out there. It is up to him what he wants and what the situation says. Whatever he chooses, it will be good for him.”
Of course, it’s a different ball game at Manchester United, and the Premier League for that matter. If the move happens, that in itself would be an incredible step up for Lindelof.
Felipe Luis’ injury has paved way for Lucas to have a much needed run in the Atletico Madrid XI. His talent and quality has never been in doubt, but his lack of La Liga minutes has been a huge cause of worry for the 20 year-old.
He’s had to settle for a role as a left back – and not at his favoured centre back, but he’ll no doubt be excited to be in the starting line up anyway. Lucas Hernandez has now started three of Atleti’s last four games (Only failing to start their Copa del Rey match against Guijuelo).
Demarai Gray hasn’t spent enough time on the pitch this season, which definitely makes it difficult to judge his performances. He managed just a single Premier League start all season until recently – on the opening day against Hull City. His other start came in the dead rubber Champions League tie against FC Porto, which Leicester City lost heavily. Without doubt, it’s been tough for the 20-year-old winger.
Recently though, there was a glimmer of hope for the youngster at the Bet365 Stadium against Stoke City. Again, he had to be content with a role on the bench. But with two goals and a man down, Claudio Ranieri felt the need for his side to put up a fight. In came Gray (and Leonardo Ulloa) on 72 minutes.
It proved to be an inspired change as two minutes later, both players combined to bring Leicester City back in the match. Demarai Gray delivered the cross for Ulloa to score and Daniel Amartey scored later to help secure a point for the Foxes. But the introduction of Gray – and Ulloa – proved to be a major turning point.
Gray has since started Leicester’s next two league games (at Everton and against West Ham) and is starting to pick up some form and greater consistency.
Happy with my ⚽️, but disappointed with the result! We need to keep improving and have to move on! Thank you for your support👍🏽 pic.twitter.com/J6RVYiCHTO
— Nathan Aké (@NathanAke) December 18, 2016
While the argument over what is best position is continues, Nathan Ake kept up his surprising form in front of goal, scoring his third goal in six Premier League matches for AFC Bournemouth in their 3-1 loss to Southampton at the Vitality Stadium in the local derby.
Bittersweet, but another step towards his continuous stay in the Bournemouth starting lineup, and possible return to the Chelsea.
His manager Eddie Howe revealed after their loss that there’s a clause in his loan that allows Chelsea to recall him in January but “We [Bournemouth] hope they don’t.”
Meanwhile, Ake could not following up his goalscoring form in Bournemouth’s next game, as it was against his parent club, Chelsea.