Arsenal are set to break the record to buy Kylian Mbappe and for good reason: he is an 18 year old who scored 26 goals in all competitions this season, including 6 goals in the Champions League – the highest level of competition in Europe – and who also provided 8 assists. Both of these stats led all players under 20 in Europe’s top five competitions.
Mbappe’s other stats are impressive as well. Looking at his Ligue Un stats only, he scored 8 goals with his right foot, 4 with his left, and 3 with his head – which shows off an impressive array of finishing skills. What helped his finishing is that he got 35/53 of his shots on target and took the majority of his shots inside the 18 yard box. This indicates a forward who isn’t just shooting from all over the place but is patient and gets into good position for his shots.
He was also a 55% dribbler, completing 32/58 dribbles in league play and 18/31 (58%) in Champions League play. And he had 31 key passes, which was third among all players under 20 in Europe’s top five leagues.
Mpabbe combines speed and power, grace and touch, with vision and an understanding of the game which belies his years. But with all the hype over Mbappe there have been several other under 20 players who have gone unnoticed this season, who have also put up great numbers and who could also fetch extraordinary sums if they were to transfer to the Premier League. They are…
Maxime Lopez – 19, Marseille. Lopez provided 7 assists for Marseille this season, making him the 2nd most productive teenager in Europe’s top five leagues. Lopez operates as a Cazorla-type midfielder and that’s not just a comparison based on his small stature. He’s a terrific dribbler in midfield who completed 63% of his 48 attempted dribbles. He led all under 20 players with 49 key passes and 8 long ball key passes. He also already takes free kicks and corners for Marseille and is an excellent dead ball striker. His only flaw is that he only uses his left foot for standing.
Amine Harit – 19, Nantes. Harit is another French prodigy in midfield and though he is 12cm taller than Lopez calls on a similar skill set. Harit led all under 20 players with 88/123 successful dribbles (72%) and led all young players in being fouled, he was fouled 82 times which was 27 more times than the 2nd most fouled young player Ismaila Sarr. He was 2nd in key passes among the youngsters and did some defensive work for his team, adding 1.1 tackles and 0.9 interceptions. His only flaw is that he falls over a lot and forces the referees to make calls. I don’t think that would fly in the Premier League where these kinds of players are shunned.
Kai Havertz – 18, Bayer Leverkusen. I bet you haven’t heard of Kai. Or if you did it was an article about how he missed the 2nd leg of a Champions League match against Atletico to finish his exams. He’s so young and almost so unheard of that he doesn’t even have one of those ubiquitous “2016/17 player skills” videos, just a few videos showing the odd performance here or there. But the German press call him “the next Michael Ballack” mostly because of his size. Four goals and five assists is a great return from a 17 year old (he literally turned 18 the day I wrote this so let’s not Arsenal Twitter this). Has shown a good all around range as a player with 1 or so key passes and dribbles per game but what marks him out a unusual is that he wins a ton of aerial duels: 89/152. He is also unusual in that he had 5 shots on counter attacks, more than any other under 20 player in Europe.
Yann Karamoh – 18, Caen. French teams aren’t afraid to use young talent and Karamoh is yet another French player on the production line. Five goals and four assists is a decent return for an 18 year old but he led all under 20 players with 60 shots last season. Don’t underestimate the fact that he just took shots, it’s huge for a forward to get shots and typically a sign of quality. Also led all under 20 players with 5 shots in the 6 yard box. Kind of a poor dribbler with 51/122. Also had the 5th most key passes with 26 and 2nd most from crosses with 12. Only got 20 of his 60 shots on target, which is awful and about what we expect from a young player but did hit the post three times. Would be a big gamble but has drawn the attention of the YouTube Video compilers!
Christian Pulisic – 18, Borussia Dortmund. Saving the best for last there is young Christian Pulisic. I understand that he has been more hyped than anyone since hype was invented but there is good reason for the hype. He’s really good, like maybe even in the £100m area good. He only got three goals and six assists in league play and added another goal and two assists in Champions League but what makes Pulisic do valuable is that he is a truly two-footed center mid. How I judge this is by shots (I know that’s not the best method but it works). He took 14 shots with his right foot and 11 with his left and every time I watch him he is clearly comfortable taking shots with either foot, often working the ball onto his (weaker) left foot for a shot. Pulisic is a great all rounder of a player. He dribbles 55/102, shoots (32, 14 on target, and 23 inside the 18 yard box), and keeps possession incredibly well – he only lost the ball 20 due to bad touch times in 1500 minutes of play. He was dispossessed 46 times and there were the 47 failed dribbles but that’s normal for a young player who is asked to take on the defense with his dribbles. I really think this youngster will be the next big ticket player to make a move to one of the top money clubs (Arsenal, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, etc.). He is going to be the next Eden Hazard.