The Europa League represents a chance for sides to blood young players. We look at the top five players who will light up the European competition that lacks the quality of talent on display in the Champions League.
1 -Aymeric Laporte (Athletic Bilbao)
The young French defender plays for Athletic club in Spain and recently extended his contract that saw the club insert a a 50m release clause due to the amount of attention he is grabbing with his fantastic displays for the Basque outfit.
Laporte joined Bilabao’s youth system in 2010 before making his full debut for the club in the Europa League in November 2012 at the age of just 18. Laporte has since established his place in the Bilbao side’s starting XI and has become one of the top defensive talents in world football.
2 – Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg (Schalke 04)
The 2013 Danish talent of the year idolizes Zinedine Zidane. He joined Bayern Munich in July 2012 and made his debut in April 2013 at the age of 17 years and 251 days. In the process, he became the youngest player to play for Bayern Munich in the German Bundesliga.
Having already made his full Denmark debut in May 2014, Hojbjerg has been loaned to the Bundesliga side Schalke O4 for more game time this season, with Bayern unable to offer him regular first team football.
Hojbjerg is a central midfielder by trade and much like Paul Pogba, has a massive build. Much like the Frenchmen, he has a good ability to dribble the ball and is also good at finishing off chances. Overall, he is another modern proper box-to-box midfielder with many attributes, although there are quite a few such players who are of a very high level.
3 – Youri Tielemans (Anderlecht)
Another in the assembly line of the football factory that Belgium has become off late, Tielemans, is just 18 years old and has already made over 70 appearances for Anderlecht. He became the youngest Belgian to play in the UEFA Champions League when he made his debut at the age of 16 years and 148 days in October 2013. He has been named the Belgian League Young Footballer of the Year for the last two seasons and the Belgian Talent of the Year for the year 2014.
Paul van Himst, the Anderlecht and Belgian great, described the midfielder in these words, “With his skills and quality, he forces opponents into mistakes. He can play the long ball and launch attacks. His age is not important. He will only get better with playing matches.”
Tielamans is a proper box-to-box player, having the ability to find players with either feet and his leadership traits have only further intensified the interest in him.
4 – Adnan Januzaj (Borussia Dortmund)
Januzaj’s career at Manchester United has been a roller-coaster ride. He signed for Manchester United in 2011 at the age of 16 from the Belgian side Anderlecht. The Belgian made his Manchester United debut in August 2013 under new manager David Moyes who had just taken over from Sir Alex Ferguson. In his very first start the same season in October, he scored twice to help United beat Sunderland 2-1.
One of the few shining lights in a dark season for Manchester United, Janujaz, fell out of favour when new manager Louis van Gaal came on board the following season. He failed to score any goal in all competition for United in the 2014-15 season and was not even on the bench on the opening day of the 2015-16 season. However, the Belgian then went on to start against Aston Villa and Newcastle, scoring his first goal in over a year in the 1-0 win over Villa before being loaned out to Borussia Dortmund.
Having the ability to thread the ball through the eye of the needle, Januzaj is a special talent who can become a great player if nurtured well. His ability to dribble the ball with pace and his keen eye for goals means Dortmund can benefit a lot from the Belgian in the Europa League.
5 – Jordon Ibe (Liverpool FC)
Fast, strong, and a hammer of a right foot, Jordon Ibe has all the attributes to light up the competition should he bring his A-game to it. The winger has not been in the best of forms for Liverpool this season having lit up Anfield towards the later part of last season. Class is permanent, though. One can expect Ibe to be back in form sooner rather than later.