2014/15 UEFA Champions League logo2014/15 UEFA Champions League

Brightest Young Talent at Every Champions League Club

Karl MatchettFeatured ColumnistAugust 5, 2014

Brightest Young Talent at Every Champions League Club

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    Massimo Pinca/Associated Press

    The UEFA Champions League is the competition every club wants to play in.

    Over the course of each domestic season, places are fought for not only to win trophies but also simply for the privilege of being able to feature in this behemoth of a tournament the following campaign. Clubs are competing among the very best, under the biggest spotlights and for the most enormous of financial and sporting rewards.

    Here, we take a look at the brightest and best youngsters that each of the 22 clubs who are guaranteed participation in this season's Champions League have on their squad lists at this time.

    Rather than look at potential youngsters to break through into the team this season, with a cap on the appearances numbers as we did with our Premier League version, this time we're keeping things far simpler: It's simply the best young talent, aged 21 or under.

    Our reason for changing this is clear: Whereas young players might get game time here and there domestically, in the Champions League, it's almost certainly a full side put out every game by most teams, and those youngsters already have to be awesome to feature.

    The players here are not ranked and teams feature in reverse UEFA coefficient order.

Monaco: Lucas Ocampos

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    Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images

    Age: 20

    Forward

    Monaco return to the Champions League this season but have not yet invested heavily in summer recruits.

    Argentine wide forward Lucas Ocampos is pacy, direct, a very good dribbler and is also strong, with a tall frame that enables him to burst past defenders. He can play from either flank in a 4-3-3 or just in behind the striker when required. 

    Honourable mention: Layvin Kurzawa

Roma: Juan Iturbe

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    Giuseppe Bellini/Getty Images

    Age: 21

    Forward

    Roma picked up Juan Iturbe from Hellas Verona this summer after he spent last season on loan at Verona from Porto.

    A talented dribbler who netted eight goals in Serie A last season, Iturbe is very speedy on the ball, compact and willing to run beyond the front line without the ball to give his team a more direct option.

    Honourable mention: Leandro Paredes

Anderlecht: Aleksandar Mitrovic

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    Geert Vanden Wijngaert/Associated Press

    Age: 19

    Striker

    Anderlecht's Aleksandar Mitrovic featured in the Champions League last season and is already up and running with his goal tally domestically this season.

    The Serbian is already a full international who has found the net for the senior side and looks a really burgeoning talent who will surely have the mass attentions of the game's media on him if he produces this term.

    Honourable mention: Youri Tielemans

Galatasaray: Bruma

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    Antonio Calanni/Associated Press

    Age: 19

    Forward

    Portuguese winger Bruma is another who has all the skills and the pace and is getting closer to the consistency to go with it.

    He featured in five of Galatasaray's six group-stage games in last season's Champions League and was a regular in the squad domestically, until a cruciate knee ligament injury ended his campaign early.

    Honourable mention: Alex Telles

Sporting CP: Carlos Mane

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    Francisco Seco/Associated Press

    Age: 20

    Winger

    Sporting have something of a history of producing talented, exciting wide players, and Carlos Mane could be next in line.

    Hardworking and fast, he can play on either side of attack and will be looking to make an impact for SCP after making a considerable step up to the first-team scene over the second half of last season.

    Honourable mention: Rami Rabia

Liverpool: Raheem Sterling

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    Mike Stobe/Getty Images

    Age: 19

    Forward

    Raheem Sterling has the potential to be one of the most enthralling players in this season's competition; that's the level he's currently playing at.

    Whether playing from either flank or in behind the centre-forwards, Sterling is a huge talent who has added an end product to his already breathtaking dribbling, pace and use of space.

    Honourable mention: Emre Can

Ajax: Davy Klaassen

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    EuroFootball/Getty Images

    Age: 21

    Midfielder

    Ajax have a handful to choose from, but Davy Klaassen made great strides last season and is a standout in the team right now.

    The midfielder can play either from a central position or further forward behind the striker, and he uses his endless running, great range of passing and impressive control to transition his side from buildup to creative attacks.

    Honourable mention: Viktor Fischer

CSKA Moscow: Ahmed Musa

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    Epsilon/Getty Images

    Age: 21

    Forward

    Ahmed Musa is a full Nigerian international who played in the summer World Cup and is a regular for CSKA Moscow.

    He certainly prefers to play centrally, using his great pace to get away and behind defences, but Musa is equally comfortable attacking from the flank. A little more composure and his goal tally would soar, as he takes up great positions to receive the ball at times.

    Honourable mention: Konstantin Bazelyuk

Olympiacos: Michael Olaitan

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    EuroFootball/Getty Images

    Age: 21

    Forward

    Michael Olaitan is a Nigerian-born forward who managed eight goals in 16 games in the Greek top flight last season.

    Playing either through the middle or out wide, his movement and technique are key traits to watch for as he looks to find spaces between central and wide defenders. He was hitting top form last season before injury ended his campaign early.

    Honourable mention: Andreas Bouchalakis

Manchester City: Matija Nastasic

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    Pete Norton/Getty Images

    Age: 21

    Central defender

    Our first outright defensive player, City's Matija Nastasic is a composed and imposing centre-back who struggled with injury last season.

    Aggressive in stepping out of his line and making challenges, Nastasic initially impressed at the club before being in and out of the side last season. He is clearly a big talent and will get further chances to win back his place this term.

    Honourable mention: Bruno Zuculini

FC Basel: Derlis Gonzalez

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    Gero Breloer/Associated Press

    Age: 20

    Forward

    Derlis Gonzalez is a recent arrival at Basel, having been signed from Benfica this summer.

    Already a senior international with Paraguay, Gonzalez has started the season in the Basel team playing from an attacking midfield role.

    Honourable mention: Arlind Ajeti

Shakhtar Donetsk: Bernard

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    Efrem Lukatsky/Associated Press

    Age: 21

    Forward

    Shakhtar's Brazilian forward Bernard was one of very few to leave the World Cup without harming his reputation for the host nation.

    The tricky and talented wide forward loves to beat defenders, has a good eye for a shot and can play anywhere along the attacking line.

    Honourable mention: Fred

PSG: Marco Verratti

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    Kin Cheung/Associated Press

    Age: 21

    Central midfielder

    PSG's Marco Verratti is a talented and improving playmaker in a team of huge names and expectancies.

    He is the supply line from midfield into the final third, dictating tempo with his consistent ability to receive, lay off and find space to receive the ball again. Good dribbling and tackling make him close to a complete central player.

    Honourable mention: Lucas Moura

Juventus: Paul Pogba

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    Massimo Pinca/Associated Press

    Age: 21

    Central midfielder

    Paul Pogba needs little introduction; he's on the verge of being one of the world's most complete midfielders already, and if he adds more consistency and end product to his best level over the coming season, that title won't be too far off at all.

    The Juventus man is a starter in midfield, and it will be interesting to watch how new boss Massimiliano Allegri goes about getting the best out of him.

    Honourable mention: Alvaro Morata

Borussia Dortmund: Matthias Ginter

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    Matthias Schrader/Associated Press

    Age: 20

    Central defender

    Matthias Ginter is a new signing at Dortmund, arriving from Freiburg this summer.

    Usually a centre-back, Ginter can also operate in midfield and is likely to feature in both roles over the course of the season. Still improving but already good enough to compete for a starting spot, Ginter will provide depth for BVB without a considerable drop off in ability when other starters are missing.

    Honourable mention: Marian Sarr

Schalke: Julian Draxler

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    Matthias Schrader/Associated Press

    Age: 20

    Winger

    Julian Draxler is Schalke's diamond, their versatile attacker who can turn defence to offence in an instant.

    Great pace, an ability to hit the target with regularity and tremendous work ethic make him a top-class young player, and his team have done well to keep him at the club even this long.

    Honourable mention: Max Meyer

Atletico Madrid: Jan Oblak

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    Paulo Duarte/Associated Press

    Age: 21

    Goalkeeper

    Our only non-outfield player on the list, Jan Oblak has just arrived from Benfica with big boots, or gloves, to fill.

    He replaces Thibaut Courtois as the La Liga winners' new stopper, and though young, he will be expected to bring his consistency and keeping skills to a successful side.

    Honourable mention: Saul Niguez

Benfica: Ivan Cavaleiro

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    Armando Franca/Associated Press

    Age: 20

    Winger

    Ivan Cavaleiro can play anywhere across the front line, but he most frequently appeared on the right side last year, his debut campaign with the Benfica first team.

    He was on the bench for both domestic cup finals and appeared off the bench late on in the Europa League final.

    Honourable mention: Joao Cancelo

Chelsea: Marco van Ginkel

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    Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

    Age: 21

    Central midfielder

    Chelsea's Dutchman Marco van Ginkel has recovered from last season's bad injury and looks ready to fight for his place this term.

    A central player with great technique, Van Ginkel keeps his passing sharp and concise and is good at finding space to receive the ball, though he also carries it forward well into the final third. A little more dynamism with his end product and he could be a real player to watch this term.

    Honourable mention: Kurt Zouma

Bayern Munich: Juan Bernat

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    Manuel Queimadelos Alonso/Getty Images

    Age: 21

    Left-back

    Bayern's new arrival from Spain is Juan Bernat, who played mainly at left-back last season for Valencia after initially coming through as a midfielder.

    Bernat is strong in the challenge and conscientious about his work out of possession, but he is also aggressive in getting forward and looks to link play quickly down the channels.

    Honourable mention: Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg

Barcelona: Rafinha

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    Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

    Age: 21

    Attacking midfielder

    Rafinha is back with Barcelona after a loan spell with Celta Vigo last year, with his boss there being Luis Enrique—the new Barca manager.

    Able to play anywhere from central midfield to a far more offensive role or even from the flank, Rafinha has great touch and technique and a range of passing. He is also comfortable running at players. He'll likely play a support role to the starters, but he is talented enough to make a difference when he gets a chance.

    Honourable mention: Gerard Deulofeu

Real Madrid: Raphael Varane

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    Michael Regan/Getty Images

    Age: 21

    Central defender

    Raphael Varane is already one of the game's best young centre-backs, and if he can keep himself injury free for an entire season, he is well capable of establishing himself as a first choice at Real Madrid.

    Good in the air, calm on the ball and able to move out into midfield, he's aggressive, agile and technically superb—and he won the competition with Real last season, playing the full 120 minutes of the final itself.

    Honourable mention: Jese Rodriguez

     

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