Who are the top ten most promising youngsters currently plying their trade in the Premier League?
Eden Hazard was awarded Professional Footballers' Association (PFA) Young Player of the Year award earlier this week – an accolade bestowed to the best player under 23 years of age, according to his contemporaries.
Many found this decision puzzling, some even absurd, not because of any questions over Hazards ability, but because he is inarguably regarded as a senior player and perhaps should not have even been considered for the prestigious title. Best “Young” player paints a picture of potential ability, not current ability.
With this in mind, I thought I’d draw up a list of players possibly more suitable of an honour based on their potential worth to a club, and not current worth.
The only two prerequisites considered were firstly that the player is under the age of 21, and not the 23 outlined by the regular award. This ruled out a plethora of more established players like Jack Wiltshire, Aaron Ramsey, Phil Jones and Andros Townsend.
Secondly, the player currently plays in the English Premier League and isn’t out on loan. This ruled out Harry Kane and Ravel Morrison, both of whom currently ply their trade in the Championship with QPR.
Just to add, I haven’t ranked the players from one to ten. Instead, I’ve chosen to short-list the players as candidates and leave the decision making to you.
From this list, who would win your PFA Young Player of the Year award?
This gifted wide-man featured a lot early on for United, having faded somewhat during the latter part of the season. Januzaj has been one of the few positives in a catastrophic campaign for Manchester United, having chipped in with four goals, three assists, and lots of exciting ball retention. Having just been included in Belgium’s preliminary World Cup squad we will thankfully see more of him over the summer.
The versatile Arsenal man was tipped to shine this season but, due to an early injury, was left side-lined for its majority. Since returning, however, he has looked every bit the superstar of the future. Blessed with pace, strength and exceptional technique, the Ox’s two goals and two assists in fourteen appearances perhaps aren’t enough to justify reward, although he is undeniably one of the brightest young talents in the league today.
This flying fullback would’ve been nothing more than an unremarkable substitute had injuries to Liverpool’s first team not gifted him the opportunity to sparkle. Flanagan’s game is characterised by heart and energy, qualities that will only further endear him to the Kop in coming seasons. On top of a potential league winner’s medal, any injury to England’s first choice right backs could see the capable Flanagan rewarded with a World Cup call-up. This could be quite some season for the fledgling fullback.
Shaw’s talent has been one of the most discussed topics in British football circles this season. With composure and physical stature far beyond his years, this highly technical left-back has even drawn comparisons with former Southampton youngster Gareth Bale. Like Bale, we may see this prodigal talent advance up the field in coming years. His ever-presence in a successful Southampton side this season could be acknowledged with a much-deserved International call up.
Arriving in January from Swiss side Basel, the young Egyptian has taken to Premiership life remarkably and looks a prodigious talent. His lightning pace gifted him a goal against club rivals Arsenal, though along with just one other goal and one assist in only eight appearances, he probably hasn’t played enough to flourish. Salah is certainly one to watch next season.
Philippe Coutinho – Liverpool – 21
The magical Brazilian trequartista took a little time to warm-up after his move from Internazionale. However, Liverpool’s emergence in 2014 coincided with Coutinho’s, who has since established himself as one of the most creative players in the league. With five goals and seven assists in thirty one league appearances, Showtino may have worked his way into the Brazilian setup this summer. This means that, come July, he may have a League and World Cup winner’s medal. That’s quite a year!
Raheem Sterling – Liverpool – 19
This diminutive winger has made many senior defenders dizzy as he weaves and sprints around them. Nine goals and four assists in thirty-one league games have contributed to Liverpool’s success this season, and with injuries to Townsend and Walcott, Stirling may well be eyeing a starting place for England this summer.
Chelsea’s prospective successor to Drogba’s crown has spearheaded a decidedly progressive Everton campaign this season. The powerful Belgian forward has notched up fourteen goals in thirty league appearances thus far which is a great return for someone still developing their game. Highly likely to start for Belgium in the summer, perhaps Chelsea’s prince will add some World Cup goals to his growing highlights reel.
Ross Barkley – Everton – 20
Ross Barkley is the most promising fledgling player at Everton since Wayne Rooney a decade ago. Blessed with an outstanding footballing mind, the fiery Scouser has even led some to draw comparisons to the great Zidane. Perhaps a little too early for that, but his six goals in thirty-four appearance this term should at least guarantee his place on England’s plane to Brazil this summer. Barkley will be an exciting player to watch for many seasons to come, that’s for sure!
Saido Berahino – West Bromich Albion – 20
Much under-appreciated, this skilful Burundi born forward looks to have all of the technical skills required to make it at the very top level. Only rising to prominence at the beginning of this season, Berahino has racked up twenty-nine PL appearances, firing home five goals for The Baggies. With supreme confidence on the ball, he looks greatly accustomed to the top flight and will only improve with time. The big question is: where will he be plying his trade next season?
Notable long-list omissions
Ben Davies – Southampton – 21
Callum Chambers – Southampton – 19
Gerard Deulofeu – Everton – 20
Harry Kane – Tottenham Hotspur – 20
James Ward-Prowse – Southampton – 19
John Stones – Everton – 19
Matija Nastastic – Manchester City – 21
Nabil Bentaleb – Tottenham Hotspur – 19
Nathan Redmond – Norwich City – 20
Pajtim Kasami – Fulham – 21
Serge Gnabry – Arsenal – 18
Wilfried Zaha – Cardiff City - 21