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The best Under 23 La Liga players

10 – Jules Koundé, 20-years-old:

Another savvy signing by Monchi for Sevilla, Jules is going to Spain coming off a very impressive season for Bordeaux. He played an integral part as Les Girondins finished 2018/19 with the equal fifth best defence although Bordeaux finished 14th. Jules started 37 matches and managed to play a total of 3330 minutes highlighting not only his fitness but also quality as he was trusted in the first team despite his age. The French international averaged 2.7 tackles and interceptions per 90 despite being shifted around as he played centre back and a couple of matches at right back for Bordeaux.

Koundé was also involved in his sides build up play as he averaged 53 passes per 90. As he gets older, his pass accuracy would improve from his 80.7% from 2018/19 as he gains experience and his technique improves. Another of his attributes that requires improvement is his concentration, however this is another attribute that would improve as he gets older.

9 – Júnior Firpo, 22-years-old:

The Spanish international is an all-round full back/wing back as he caveats defensive nous with attacking flair. This is highlighted by his 2.6 tackles and interceptions along with 1.3 dribbles at a success rate of 68.4%. Due to an injury in February, Firpo only managed 22 starts which meant he ended up playing 1937 minutes as it meant he misses 9 league matches plus matches missed as he regained match fitness and sharpness. Despite the injury at the end of 2018/19, Firpo still managed to score 3 and assist his teammates 4 times which included an assist at the Bernebeu in a match Firpo won Man of the Match in.

The former Costa Rican international also impressed at the 2019 under-21 Euros as his Spanish side went on to lift the trophy. Firpo is very comfortable on the ball, along with his dribbles he also averages 38.9 passes with a pass accuracy of 82.9% and 0.8 key passes per 90 during 2018/19 with Betis. However, at the under-21 Euros when he was playing in a more possession heavy side, these numbers rose to 47.3 passes with a pass accuracy of 87.3% and 1.3 key passes per 90. These set of numbers show he is adept to playing counter attacking football (with Betis) or in a side that is more willing to recycle possession and look to dominate the ball (with Spain)

8 – Archaf Hakimi, 20-years-old:

His first season out of his 2-year loan at Dortmund from Real Madrid, has really thrown him into the lime light as he became integral to Favre’s set up. Sadly, his season came to an end prematurely as he picked up an injury on the 31st March and didn’t recover until the 5th June, a total of 66 days. This injury, the first one of his career, meant he only played 1740 minutes. In his 1740 minutes, Hakimi was still heavily involved as he scored 2 and grabbed 4 assists as his side fell just short of grabbing their first league title since 2011/12.

The Moroccan is an all action full back, he averages 3 tackles and interceptions which shows he doesn’t disregard his defensive actions. However, he is still a force going forward as he takes 1 shot (0.5 from outside the box), 0.5 key passes and 1.8 dribbler with a success rate of 62.1%. Archaf is heavily involved in Dortmund’s play as he averages 63.4 passes with a pass accuracy of 86.1% showing how trust he is despite being a loan player and being very young. It was a certain performance in the Champions League when people really started to take notice. In this performance, he grabbed 3 assists from left back as Dortmund beat Atlético Madrid 4-0 in the Signal Iduna Park. This performance also made him an instant fan favourite back at Real Madrid.

7 – João Felix, 19-years-old:

The Portuguese has become reportedly the third most expensive player off all time after his switch from Benfica to Atlético Madrid for €126 million. In his 1736 minutes is Liga Nos, the teenage scored 15 goals and got 7 assists as he only became a regular for Benfica in the second half of the season, he averaged a direct goal involvement every 79 minutes. The second striker has some very mature aspects and as you’d expect for a 19-year-old has some parts of his game that require work.

His shot numbers are similar to that of Mauro Icardi’s, this is because Felix average 2.6 shots with 0.6 coming from outside the box which is why Felix scored all of his goals from inside the box (in the league) and he also averages 1.1 key passes, another similarity to Icardi. However, Felix’s decision-making need improvement. Felix completed 23.7 passes showing he didn’t get involved in build up play, another similarity to Icardi, but has a pass accuracy of 76.7% as well as having a dribble success rate of 58.3% as he completed 0.7 per 90. His decision making will improve as he gets older and gains more match experience.

6 – Rodrygo, 18-years-old:

One of Real Madrid’s new incomings this summer, Rodrygo won’t be a starter straight away due to Zidane’s plethora of options in forwards. However, Rodrygo can become a very good impact player/super sub. In Brasileirão, the Brazilian top flight, Rodrygo crushed it. He only played 360 minutes (4 starts) in which he scored once and assisted twice. In these minutes, he averaged 4 shots with 1 coming from outside the box, highlighting how easy he found it as he was going for the spectacular fairly regularly. He would have to reign in his confidence, not only with shot location, but with dribbles as although he was completing 3.5 per 90, he attempted 7.3 per 90 giving him a success rate of 47.9%. As he would be playing around better players, he might trust them more with ball progression meaning he wouldn’t have to dribble as much.

This is backed up with him only averaging 33.5 passes per 90 with a pass accuracy of 82.8% which might increase as he’ll be around much better players but might also decrease as he’ll be in a more competitive league. To caveat his 3.5 dribbles per 90, he also averaged 1.8 key passer showing he can also be a creative force. Despite how impressive these number are, they need to be taken with a pinch of salt. This is because it is in the Brazilian league which, like Liga Nos, is a difficult league to judge from, but also because these numbers are from 360 minutes. That is a very small sample size so the numbers can be skewed from such a small pool.

5 – Malcom, 22-years-old:

Malcom is coming off a disappointing season for himself as he failed to make a mark on the Barcelona side after turning down Roma last second to join the Spanish champions. The former Bordeaux star only managed to play 608 league minutes. In his limited minutes, Malcom scored 1 and assisted 2 which an assist against the other Catalonian side, Espanyol. One reason Malcom might not have been able to break through into the first 11 is hi work rate, he only completes 0.3 tackles and interceptions per 90. Ernesto Valverde is a pragmatic coach and requests his players trackback for his system to work.

The Brazilian doesn’t really get involved at all as his 0.7 shots, 0.9 key passes and 0.7 dribblers per 90 suggests that either his team mates don’t trust him, or he doesn’t have the work ethic to get involved. However, if given more consistent game time, Malcom’s numbers would surely improve. In his last season in France, Malcom impressed as he scored 12 and assisted 7 as it was that season that earnt him a move to the Nou Camp. The move hasn’t worked out as either party would’ve liked, despite this his talents are still evident.

4 – Vinícius Júnior, 19-years-old:

Vinícius was one of the only bright spots for Los Merengues as they had an awful 2018/19 season, sacking 2 managers before getting club legend, Zidane to return to the helm. The Brazilian started 9 matches and made 9 substitute appearance as he clocked up 864 minutes in his maiden year at the Bernebeu. The former Flamengo man is a stereotypical Brazilian forward, fast, direct and skillfull. He attempts to take his man on 3.9 times per 90 and succeeds 59% which is very high for a teenager especially in a top 5 league. The winger can do it all with his 2.3 shots (0.7 from outside the box) and 0.8 key passes resulting in an xG of 3.64 and an xA of 1.52 showing although it was a great debut season, he was unlucky. This gives him an expected 0.54 direct goal involvements per 90.

Everywhere in the youth sides, Vinícius has made a mockery of the competition with outrageous scoring rates. At Castilla (Real Madrid’s B team) he scored 4 in 5 appearances, at Brazil under-15s he scored 7 in 10 and at Brazil under-17s he notched 17 in 19 matches. Along with him tearing the youth sides apart with his goals, he also has won the South American championships with Brazil at under-15 and under-17 level. This shows he has good pedigree and can perform on the biggest stages he’s been able to.

3 – Giovani Lo Celso, 23-years-old:

One of PSG’s worst mistakes was loaning out Lo Celso with an option to buy. Lo Celso is what PSG desperately lack in their midfield, someone that can do everything. Lo Celso is acknowledged as one of the best 2-way midfielders in the world and it’s easy to see why. The Argentine started 27 matches and made 5 substitute appearances which totalled in him playing 2401 minutes showing his importance for Los Verdiblancos. In his 2401 minutes he scored 9 and assisted 4 whilst also averaging 2.1 tackles and interceptions which backs up the claims of him being one of the best box-to-box midfielders around.

The former PSG man can do everything which suggests he could fill in most outfield positions like David Alaba for Austria. Giovani is a very good ball progressor as he became key to transitioning the ball for Real Betis. Lo Celso attempted 3.2 dribbles per 90, succeeding 62.5% of the time. However, he isn’t just a dribbler but also a very adept passer as he averaged 44.5 passes with a pass accuracy of 82.9% which includes 0.8 passes. Lo Celso isn’t perfect as he takes 2 shots with 1 coming from outside the box which does suggest his shot location could be coached out of him. His stats are so well-rounded due to his attributes but also down to him playing a few different positions which include central midfield, on the right winger and attacking midfielder but he also played as a defensive midfielder for PSG but also playing many different roles.

2 – Ousmane Dembélé, 22-years-old:

Since moving to the Blaugrana from Germany, Ousmane has struggled to be a first team regular but when given his chances, he takes them. In 2018/19 he started 20 matches and came on in a further 9 matches which meant he played 1673 minutes. In his limited minutes he’s scored 8 and assisted 5 despite being shifted around the pitch. During his second season under Valverde, the Frenchman has played on either wing, at right wing back and as a striker. The former Rennes star averaged 1.3 shots with 0.3 coming from outside the box showing he selects his shot location more carefully than people think.

The Rennes academy graduate is more of a creator and ball progressor than a goal scorer. He averages 1.6 key passes and 2.3 successful dribbles with a success rate of 60.5%. However, he only averaged 31.4 passes showing he wasn’t heavily involved in play, but he was an explosive player when he was given the ball. His work ethic has always put him in hot water with his manager and the media, his work ethic on and off the pitch has hurt his reputation. He missed a meeting with the Barcelona board which annoyed the club and started news stories that they wanted him gone.

1 – Frenkie De Jong, 22-years-old:

One of the hottest properties in European football, Frenkie came to fruition in Erik Ten Hag’s system as they won the domestic double and got the Champions League semi-final. He joined Barcelona after a very impressive season which involved standout performances against Real Madrid. In the Eredivisie, De Jong started 30 matches and made 1 substitute appearance as he clocked up 2517 minutes. In his 2517 minutes, he played central midfielder, defensive midfielder and even centre back for a match as he scored 3 and assisted 3.

The former Ajax star averaged 3.1 tackles and interceptions showing his defensive nous and great reading of the game despite his young age. Even though Frenkie’s high defensive output, he also contributes going forward. He completed 2 dribbles with an absurd success rate of 76.9%. He is very comfortable on the ball, not only his dribbling but his passing. He averaged a very high 79.5 passes which includes 1.5 key passes and got a pass accuracy of 91.1% showing he gets involved in all aspects of the match.


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