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The U-21s: Not-so-typical XI

Sam
CONTRIBUTOR
Modified 28 May 2013, 04:41 IST
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We have a lot of talented youngsters in the modern game. There are some, who are above others and rightfully so. But there are some, who are extremely good, but highly underrated due to them playing in lesser-known clubs which football fans often overlook.

So here is a team of not-so-typical U-21 players from around the globe.

Goalkeeper

Name: Bernd Leno
Age: 21 years
Country: Germany
Club: Bayer Leverkusen
Why him?
The former Stuttgart keeper is nimble, flexible and has amazing reflexes and diving abilities. He is good on the ball and excellent between the posts. Often compared to Manuel Neuer, Leno is the future of Germany. He hasn’t received the recognition he is due, much of it going to Stegen. But this keeper has shown he is quality with a string of consistent performances over the last season, making 32 appearances and keeping 11 clean sheets.

Left-back

Name: Ricardo Rodriguez
Age: 20 years
Country: Switzerland
Club: VfL Wolfsburg
Why him?
Ricardo Rodriguez transferred from FC Zurich to Wolfsburg in 2012. Since his transfer, he has played every single game for the Radkappen, and has never ever been subbed off. Making 39 appearances, he has played 3510 minutes. Stats speak volume as it is indeed incredible for such a young player to make as many appearances as he did in Germany’s top-flight.

Center-back

Name: Marquinhos
Age: 19 years
Country: Brazil
Club: AS Roma
Why him?
He is a personal favourite of this Underrated XI. Having been transferred to AS Roma last summer, this young and versatile center back has managed to bench Nicolas Burdisso. He has been a regular started and has been explosive as both, a center-back and as a right-back (versus AC Milan). His knack of making tackles at the right time and his eagerness to improve as a player have been his strength. Though now, he is beginning to be recognised as a top talent.

Center-back

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Name: Kurt Zouma
Age: 18 years
Country: France
Club: Saint-Etienne
Why him?
Yes. You read his age correctly. This amazing youngster, at just 18 years, is a starter for French Ligue 1 side Saint-Etienne. He has made 36 appearances since signing his first professional contract with Etienne in 2011. Young, pacy and quick with his reactions, this young lad is sure to be a solid player in the coming years.

Right-back

Name: Danilo
Age: 21 years
Country: Brazil
Club: FC Porto
Why him?
Brazil have a ready-made and modern replacement of Dani Alves, with this guy. Plying his trade in the Portuguese league with former Champions League winners Porto, Danilo has been the target of many top clubs around Europe for quite a while now. Though hardly as appreciated as his English counterparts, he has featured consistently for Porto making 22 appearances throughout the 2012-2013 season and helping them finish first in the Liga Portuguesa.

Defending-midfielder

Name: Casemiro
Age: 20 years
Country: Brazil
Club: Real Madrid (on loan from Sao Paulo)
Why him?
The fact that Real Madrid have asked for him is in itself a big deal. At just 20 years of age, this defensive midfielder has been the quite under-hunted by clubs around Europe. His technique and his interception rates are phenomenal. A player, very much like Marcos Senna in his younger days, Casemiro was excelling at Real Madrid Castilla for over a year, before making his full first-team debut in April, 2013 against Real Betis.

Central-midfielder

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Name: Adryan
Age: 18 years
Country: Brazil
Club: Flamengo
Why him?
Adryan has been fantastic for Flamengo. Though an attacking-midfielder, originally, this versatile youngster can play anywhere in the midfielder and has done quite a decent job for the Red and Blacks over the past two season. He has helped Brazilian U-17 teams achieve glory at the U-17 South American Cup as well as played an integral part in the team’s U-17 World CUp success.

Central-midfielder

Name: Ross Barkley
Age: 18 years
Country: England
Club: Everton
Why him?
Barkley has been growing increasingly as a player, he has featured 38 times over the past 3 seasons for Everton, Sheffield Wednesday (loan) and Leeds United (loan). He has been hailed as the next Giggs and heavily target by Manchester United. Though his leg was broken into three pieces in October 2010 and he missed a whole season due to injury, he managed to appear 13 times for Sheffield Wednesday after recovering in time for the 2011-2012 pre-season. He is regarded by many English footballers as the best talent England has ever produced.

Left-winger

Name: Viktor Fischer
Age: 18 years
Country: Denmark
Club: Ajax
Why him?
Just one statement answers the above question: “Regular starter at Ajax.” Arguably one of the best clubs in Europe, Ajax have been dominating in the Dutch Eredevise and just recently stomped their way to another championship. Fischer, making 23 appearances in all competitions, helped them all along by finding the net 10 times and assisting 5 goals. Truly one player to look out for in the near future.

Central-striker

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Name: Sergio Araujo
Age: 21 years
Country: Argentina
Club: Barcelona B (on loan from Boca Junior)
Why him?
Araujo has been omnipresent in Barcelona B this season. Haveing completed a loan move to the reserve team of the Catalan giants, Araujo has been a tad bit unlucky in front of the goal. But his marksmanship and his attitude towards the game has earned him accolades. But, not enough. He has yet to make a first-team debut for Barcelona, who are always in need of attackers every once in a while. His pace and his technique represent a very young Klose and he has an enormous work-rate. With time and patience, this lad has the potential to go to great heights and earn his rightful starting place in one of Europe’s giants.

Right-winger

Name: Juan Iturbe
Age: 19 years
Country: Argentina
Club: FC Porto
Why him?
First of all, he is another Porto product. Secondly, he is Argentinean. Thirdly, he is hailed as the perfect replacement for the departing James Rodriguez. 19 years old, explosive, pacy and a constant threat, this winger has been seen nowhere on anyone’s radars. Porto themselves are not yet fully comfortable giving him first-team football and have loaned him off again, to River Plate. A player who is young and capable enough to replace James Rodriguez, deserves more action than he is getting. Pity to see him not making a breakthrough into the Porto squad yet.

Honorable mentions:

  • Leonardo Bittencourt (Midfielder, Borussia Dortmund)
  • Nathan Redmond (Midfielder, Birmingham City)
  • Mamadou Sakho (Defender, PSG)
Published 28 May 2013, 04:41 IST
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