• Our Opinion

Best Under-21 footballers in Ligue 1 (Part 2)

Best Under-21 footballers in Ligue 1 (Part 2)
during the International friendly match between France and Columbia at Stade de France on March 23, 2018 in Paris, France.

Part 1 was a mixture of the known and the unknown. What will Part 2 bring to the table?

AGE: 20

Christopher Nkunku (PSG)
– Whenever a 20-year-old manages to force his way to playing time for a starstruck team such as Paris Saint-Germain, he’s worthy of our attention. Nkunku has been in PSG’s youth academy since 2010. He was obviously trained to follow the footsteps of the recently departed Blaise Matuidi. Christopher has played mostly against weaker opponents, but he’s definitely following the right path and could soon join Rabiot and Lo Celso in PSG’s midfield of the future.

Ismaila Sarr (Rennes)
– Sarr almost became a by-product of Barcelona’s desperation mode this past summer. He chose Rennes instead, not feeling adequately prepared to take such a large leap. The Senegalese winger has taken a similar path to Ousmane Dembele’s and has already scored two goals for his national team in 10 appearances.

Ezequiel Ponce (Lille)
– A prolific scorer during his youth career in Newell’s Old Boys, Ezequiel Ponce came to Roma with a lot of hype. Unfortunately, he suffered a serious knee injury upon arrival, causing him to miss five months. He hasn’t been able to capture the form that took him to Europe, spending a season on loan in Granada and now, a season on loan in Lille. There’s potential in this kid. The big question is whether it’ll ever come out.

Marcus Thuram (Guingamp)
– The son of former French great Lilian Thuram, Marcus is a different type of player. He’s a powerful forward, equally good at outmuscling opponents with his back towards the goal and outrunning them when facing the goal. After coming through the ranks of Sochaux, he’s currently plying his trade at Guingamp. He reminds me of Huddersfield’s Steve Mounie, although Thuram is probably more agile.

Assane Diousse (St. Etienne)
– Before joining Saint-Etienne, Diousse was an everyday starter for Empoli as a 19-year-old. He’s exceptional at taking the ball away from opponents and breaking up play, which is why Assane has been compared to Chelsea’s N’Golo Kante. Diousse is already a member of Senegal’s senior squad.

Pape Cheikh (Lyon)
– Pape Cheikh Diop was born in Senegal and came to Spain as a 14-year-old. In 2013, he joined Celta’s youth academy, from where he was promoted to the first team. Last summer, Lyon paid a €10 million fee to bring him to France, perhaps planning ahead for Tousart’s imminent departure.

Anthony Maisonnial (St. Etienne)
– Maisonnial is Stephane Ruffier’s understudy at Saint-Etienne. He hasn’t done much to earn a place in this list, but I do think he’ll eventually take over the reins from the veteran protecting Les Verts’ goal.

Nordi Mukiele (Montpellier)
– Mukiele is part of the sturdiest defensive unit in France. He’s primarily used as a right back, although he has no problems accepting center back duties in the 5-3-2 system used at Montpellier. Nordi has already made over 40 appearances for his team, even attracting the attention of Manchester City’s scouts at one point.

AGE: 19

Kylian Mbappe (PSG)
– Simply put, he’s the best teenager in the world, as good as (if not better) than Neymar was at this stage. An incredible talent, with the potential to be next great big superstar in world football.

Houssem Aouar (Lyon)
– Injuries have impeded Nabil Fekir’s progress, but he’s still firmly on the radars of Europe’s elite. Well, Houssem Aouar is even better. He has dazzled in his appearances for Lyon, both as an attacking midfielder replacing Fekir and as a left winger, drawing interest from Liverpool and Barcelona. I could easily see him in Coutinho’s role at Liverpool.

Alban Lafont (Toulouse)
– Lafont is the youngest ever keeper to play in Ligue 1. The Burkinabe who represents France has been Toulouse’s number 1 ever since and is ranked as the second best young goalkeeper behind Donnarumma in most prospect lists. It’s unlikely Alban stays in Toulouse for much longer, as Arsenal is rumored to be in pursuit.

Malang Sarr (Nice)
– Sarr is as reliable as a 19-year-old defender can be. His performances for Nice last season created such as buzz, that it decided to insert a reported €50 million release clause in his contract.

Jean-Victor Makengo (Nice)
– Makengo has yet to establish himself at Nice, who won the race to sign him last summer. Schalke, Sevilla and Leipzig were some of the names associated with the 19-year-old midfielder who has represented France throughout his youth career.

Nicolas Janvier (Rennes)
– The same goes for Rennes’ Janvier, Makengo’s youth squads teammate.

Faitout Maouassa (Rennes)
– Maouassa is a different story. Read it here.

AGE: 17

Pietro Pellegri (Monaco)
– Pietro is the youngest player to score two goals in a match in Seria A history and is also the youngest player to ever appear in a Seria A game. Monaco was quick on the draw, buying the 17-year-old striker this winter for a reported fee of €25 million. The future is bright for this young man.

AGE: 16

Willem Geubbels (Lyon)
– You thought 17 was young, try 16. Geubbels became the youngest player to ever appear in a Europa League fixture last December. He has represented France at the U-16, U-17 and U-18 level, scoring a total of 12 goals in 21 appearances. Willem Geubbels and Pietro Pellegri – names worth memorizing.