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Yassine Benzia - The next French superstar on Arsenal and Chelsea's radar

18-year-old Benzia picked up his first goal for Lyon in the Europa League last week, and has been widely tipped for great things, including being linked with Chelsea and Arsenal.

The merits of Lyon's youth system are well known, with current top players like Hatem Ben Arfa and Karim Benzema plying their trade around Europe's top leagues. The most exciting recent graduate is Yassine Benzia, a forward who scored his first goal for the senior side in Lyon's 1-1 draw away at Sparta Prague on Thursday.

Benzia has also starting appearing from the bench for Lyon in the league this year, and with the French side having trouble balancing their books, there may be more opportunities for youth products to make first team appearances.

Benzia would look the likeliest to benefit from this policy in the short term, and there are many fans around Europe who would be keen to see him more often.

Benzia can play on either flank as an attacking winger, and also as a second striker, and he has been prolific from whatever position he plays. His goal scoring record for both Lyon's academy teams and the French national youth sides is incredibly impressive.

In his first season at Lyon, he scored over 30 goals for the U17 side. For France, he has found the net consistently at U17, U18 and U19 level, generally playing above his age group.

His breakthrough internationally was at the U17 World Cup played in Mexico in 2011. Benzia played on the left flank for France, cutting inside to score five goals in the tournament, including a match-winning brace against Ivory Coast in the quarter-finals.

Interestingly other stars of that tournament included Wallace and Piazon, who will be at Chelsea together soon, Souleymane Coulibaly, now at Tottenham, and even a young English player called Raheem Sterling.

Like those other young stars, Benzia has been tracked by the top clubs in Europe, with Arsenal, Chelsea and Real Madrid all rumoured to be interested in him. 

Lyon's financial troubles may have led to players like Benzia being given a chance in the first team, but if youth stars like him excel, there's every chance those financial difficulties may make it hard for the French club to keep hold of them.

image: © korobukkuru

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