With the 2019-20 Ligue 1 season just around the corner, we take a look at five youngsters who could enjoy a breakthrough campaign and set the stage on fire.
The French top-flight has always been a real hotbed of talented young footballers with immense potential. The rise to prominence of bonafide stars such as Anthony Martial, Adrien Rabiot and Kylian Mbappe in recent years has put a spotlight on Ligue 1, with clubs from across Europe looking at the division to snap up the next best young footballers on the scene.
With the 2019-20 Ligue 1 season almost upon us, we at The Hard Tackle take a look at five young players who could enjoy a breakthrough campaign and establish themselves as household names in the year to come.
Pietro Pellegri (AS Monaco)
Completing a transfer for a mammoth €20 million fee at just the age of 16 is surely set to raise some eyebrows. And that is just what Pietro Pellegri’s move from Serie A outfit Genoa to Ligue 1 giants AS Monaco did in January last year.
Prior to his transfer to Monaco, Pellegri had only made 10 first-team appearances for Genoa in which he had scored three times. But that did not stop the Principality outfit from splashing the cash on the teenage forward. However, the 18-year-old hasn’t been able to make the impact that he or the club would have desired when he signed on.
Serious injuries have hampered Pellegri’s progress at Monaco, restricting him to just six appearances for the club till date. Three of those came in the 2018-19 campaign, during which he scored a goal. While there have been questions over his future, reports claim that Monaco have rejected a proposal that would see him join AC Milan, with Andre Silva joining moving the other way.
The 18-year-old is a tantalizing prospect with great potential, highlighted by the fact that he made his first-team debut for Genoa aged only 15. With Stevan Jovetic out with an injury till at least November and captain Radamel Falcao considering his future at the club, Pellegri could get his big chance to prove himself and establish himself as a key member of Leonardo Jardim’s side.
Jean Lucas (Lyon)
A new addition to the Olympique Lyonnais side, 21-year-old central midfielder Jean Lucas arrived from Brazilian outfit Flamengo in a deal worth €8 million in the summer transfer window.
Having come through the youth ranks at Flamengo, Lucas went on to make 16 senior appearances for the club, before going on a brief loan spell away at Santos earlier this year, where he looked the part under former Chile and Argentina manager Jorge Sampaoli.
Held in high regard in his homeland, the 21-year-old midfielder is known for his technical ability and physicality, which could help him integrate into the Lyon first-team in his debut season in France. Les Gones lost star midfielder Tanguy Ndombele to Tottenham Hotspur this summer and Lucas has what it takes to fill into the Frenchman’s vacant shoes.
The Brazilian midfielder has a great passing range and has the ability to burst forward at pace to start attacking moves or support his teammates in the final third. Throw in his ability to sense danger, his strength and physicality along with the tough tackling nature, Lucas is someone who could slot in seamlessly in the role Ndombele used to perform for Lyon.
Aurelien Tchouameni (Bordeaux)
Another talented young midfielder on our list for the Ligue 1 players to watch out in the upcoming campaign, Bordeaux’s Aurelien Tchouameni could possibly become a household name by the time the 2019-20 season comes to an end.
A product of the Bordeaux academy, the 19-year-old midfielder broke into the first-team last season under then manager Gus Poyet. Tchouameni went on to feature only on 19 occasions in all competitions though, scoring one goal in the process. While his performances lacked consistency on occasions, there was enough evidence on display to see the bagful of potential he possesses.
Tall, strong and physically imposing despite being just 19 years of age, Tchouameni backs it up with athleticism and technical prowess. A strong tackler, the 19-year-old also has that ability to distribute the ball from the middle of the park, while the energy he brings to the pitch is impressive.
Having picked up an injury towards the end of the last season, the French Uncer-19 international has recovered well and has made a strong impression during the pre-season. Someone who was reported to be on the radar of Bayern Munich previously, Tchouameni could essentially become a regular in the Bordeaux first-team this season.
Oumar Solet (Lyon)
Lyon’s defence did not perform all too well last season, as they ended up with the second worst defensive record in the top-eight of the Ligue 1. The signing of Joachim Andersen should help them tighten up things at the back to some extent, but the upcoming campaign could also be the perfect opportunity for the club to put their trust in 19-year-old Oumar Solet.
Solet is a product of the Stade Laval academy and signed for Lyon in January 2018, before spending the next six months on loan at his childhood club. The teenage centre-half featured just once for Les Gones in the 2018-19 season, but the new season might be the one where he enjoys a breakthrough and becomes a regular member of Sylvinho’s side.
Solet impressed heavily during his time with Stade Laval, putting on composed and mature displays beyond his young age. The 19-year-old was part of the France U-19 side that made it to the semi-finals of the UEFA Under-19 European Championships earlier this summer and was named in the Team of the Tournament as well.
Standing at a little over 6ft 3in, Solet cuts an imposing presence at the back and is a solid reader of the game. But, what stands out in his game, at his age, is his ball-playing ability and the composure he exudes when in possession. The 19-year-old is definitely worth keeping an eye on in the 2019-20 season.
Timothy Weah (Lille)
A familiar name for many, Timothy Weah has been around for a couple of seasons but hasn’t quite burst out in the way he was expected to. However, that could be set to change in the upcoming campaign, following his summer transfer to Ligue 1 runners-up Lille.
The son of former Ballon d’Or winner and current Liberian president George Weah, the 19-year-old joined the PSG academy from New York Red Bulls in 2014. Timothy Weah made his first-team debut for Les Parisiens in March 2018 and featured six times, scoring two goals, before departing on loan to Scottish champions Celtic last summer.
Weah’s time in Scotland wasn’t as memorable as he would’ve hoped for, as he made just 17 appearances throughout the season, scoring four goals in the process. Having secured a transfer to Lille this summer, this might be the opportunity that the 19-year-old needed to establish himself as a breakout star in Europe.
Weah scored on his debut for Lille in a friendly last month and following the departures of Nicolas Pepe and Rafael Leao, he is destined to get plenty of minutes when the new campaign kicks off. The talent is there for everyone to see and this might turn out to be the season when the teenage forward puts himself firmly on the map with a string of stunning displays.