Top 5 most influential youth players
Manchester United started the trend of home grown players in 1956 with the introduction of the Busby babes. The recent era of football has seen all clubs fielding youth academy players with Manchester United, with Barcelona being the most prominent. Similar to the Busby Babes, Sir Alex Ferguson too had his batch of ‘Fergie’s Fledglings’, producing the likes of Ryan Giggs, David Beckham and Paul Scholes.
The current season has seen many clubs across Europe fielding under-21 players this season. However the 5 players who have made a visible impact on their respective teams are:
1. Raheem Sterling
This season has seen Liverpool sitting in 11th position in the Premier League table in the 12 games that have been played thus far. In the 11 appearances so far, Sterling has been the driving force behind some of the simply outstanding displays Liverpool has put up this season. At the tender age of 17, the news of Sterling’s performances have made the rounds and has already made him a household name. Since the arrival of Brendan Rodgers this season, there were doubts about the 17-year-old making an appearance this season due to the arrival of Fabio Borini. With an injury to Borini, Sterling grabbed the opportunity with both hands. This season, Sterling has had 11 appearances with a goal under his belt. He also has 3 assists and has achieved the appreciation of both the fans and his teammates, especially captain and talisman Steven Gerrard.
His performance against Wigan Athletic last week shows people exactly what he brings to the table.
2. Julian Draxler
The German international has been important for Schalke 04 since 2010. Just 19 years of age, Draxler has made 15 appearances this season and has found the back of the net 5 times in all competitions this season. In his 9 Bundesliga appearances, Draxler has found the back of the net twice. His performance in the German under-21 side’s 4-1 victory over their Cyprus counterparts caught the eye of German national team coach Joachim Leow. Leow rewarded Draxler by adding his name to the provisional squad for the 2012 UEFA Euro. He made his debut for Germany when he came on as a substitute against Switzerland for Lucas Podolski, with his side losing 5-3.
3. Stephan El-Shaarawy
The 2012-13 season has been a rough one for Massimiliano Alligri’s men. They are sitting currently at 9th place in the Serie A table, something they are not used to. With the A.C Milan board exerting pressure on Allegri, one cannot tell when he will get the boot. He can however take credit for bringing in youth players such as El-Shaarawy to compensate for the loss of influential players who had left the club in the summer. The loss of Ibrahimovic has hurt them, but the 20-year-old has given Milan a glimmer of hope even though he may not be compared to the likes of Falcao and Van Persie. The current season has seen El-Shaarawy make 8 appearances in the Serie A scoring 5 goals, making him the top scorer in the club this season. El-Shaarawy received his first cap against England in a friendly game and scored his first goal for Italy against France on 14th November 2012.
The 19-year-old Spaniard has impressed one and all with his performances in both the Premier League and the Europa League this season. Even though he has not scored a goal yet, he has been buzzing with promise all season. Brendan Rodgers’ faith in the 18-year-old has been so much that he was not hesitant to play his youngster in the game against Manchester United. He was signed on a long term basis by Rodgers and also received praise from him for being ‘mature and committed’. Suso started in all the games in the under-19 European Championships, scoring a solitary goal. He currently plays for the Spain under-21 team.
5. Jack Butland
The 19-year-old Brit announced his arrival into football with an outstanding series of performances in the London 2012 Olympics. Since then, Butland has become the main transfer target this season, attracting attention from top flight Premier League teams such as Manchester City, Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool. He has started in all the 17 games for Birmingham City this season and has kept 4 clean sheets thus far. He was awarded with his first England cap for the Euro 2012 championship when John Ruddy broke his finger, but didn’t make a single start. He made his first start in a friendly against Italy, making him the youngest goalkeeper to start for England at 19 years and 158 days.