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Camavinga, Aouchiche And Other U21 Stars To Watch In France

By: Nicolas Aslan, Kevin Jeffries, Jean-Baptiste Caillet, Quentin Ruaux, Florent Gazeau

After analysing the hottest U21 prospects in the Premier League, LaLiga, Serie A and the Bundesliga we draw our attention to France.

After being involved in three goals in his first seven Ligue 1 games with Saint-Étienne (2 goals, 1 assist), Adil Aouchiche has failed to make an impact in his last five. Moreover, after starting in Saint-Étienne’s first eight games in the top flight this season, he’s started from the bench in three of his last four encounters, and didn’t even come off the bench in the last two.

Let’s be frank, Saint-Étienne are in the midst of a horrible run of form with 10 straight games without a win in Ligue 1. It’s hardly the best environment to accommodate a youngster.

But could the teenager be the secret to improving Les Verts’ performances?

Aouchiche first made a name for himself this summer, when he left Paris Saint-Germain to sign with Saint-Étienne.

What followed appeared to confirm that his decision to leave Paris was the right one for his career. His new coach, Claude Puel – renowned for entrusting in young talent – made Aouchiche a central part of his team, deploying him as a classic number 10.  In this position, Aouchiche flourished, so much so that he ranks highly in several categories when compared to other U18 players across Europe’s top five leagues:

A talented youngster on Lyon’s books, Amine Gouiri needed a transfer to the Cote d’Azur and Nice to fully show his potential. Repositioned as a winger in Patrick Vieira’s starting XI, the youngster took to the spotlight straight after his arrival, even with the likes of Kasper Dolberg and Rony Lopes vying for attention next to him.

Within 23 minutes of his first Ligue 1 start against Lens, Gouiri found the net. 52 minutes later, he scored again to become the youngest player to score a brace in their first game with Nice in Ligue 1 for 70 seasons. Two weeks later, he was again on the score sheet in his first start with the French U21 national side.

Full of confidence, he took his form into Europe, scoring again on his debut with Nice in the Europa League, against Bayer Leverkusen. The number 11 went on to score in the following three games in the Europa League, making him:

  • The first Nice player to find the net in their first four European games (qualifiers excluded)
  • The third French player to score in their first four starts in European competition in the 21st century (after Nkoudou and Mbappé)
  • The youngest Frenchman to score four goals in the UEFA Cup / Europa League since Laurent Roussey in 1982 (20 years and 8 months).

In all competitions this season, he has been directly involved in 11 goals (8 goals, 3 assists), at least seven more than any other of his teammates. Furthermore, he is only behind the machine that is Erling Haaland among U21 players.

Looking at Ligue 1 only, he has been involved in 35% of the shots his team has taken this season (48/136: 30 shots, 18 chances created), which is the third-highest rate in the league. On top of that, he has attempted 30 shots, more than any player born in 2000 or later and is second in terms of chances created among U21 players.

Benoit Badiashile embodies the rebuilding job that Monaco needed after Leonardo Jardim’s first term in charge when Monaco suddenly went from Paris Saint-Germain’s main rivals to a team struggling to avoid relegation. Since his Ligue 1 debut in Nov. 2018 at the age of 17, Badiashile has played the most minutes for Monaco in the top-flight (4,318). In that very same month, he became the first player born in the 21st century to start a game in the Champions League (alongside Han-Noah Massengo).

If he plays against Marseille on December 12th, he will become the first player born in the current century to reach 50 appearances in the top five European leagues:

PlayerGames PlayedGames StartedMinutes Played
Benoit Badiashile49494,318
Takefusa Kubo47242,542
Eduardo Camavinga43363,166
Mason Greenwood41181,839
Bukayo Saka36272,483

Despite the interest of several foreign clubs this summer, Badiashile has stayed in Monaco and has further developed under the orders of his new manager, Niko Kovac. He’s taken on more responsibility in defence, especially when his side has the possession. In the top five European leagues this season, he is among those with the most touches and passes.

Real Madrid, PSG or Bayern Munich. Those are just some of the names that have been linked with highly-talented French midfielder, Eduardo Camavinga. At only 18 years of age, Camavinga is dazzling in Europe, as he continues his meteoric rise with Stade Rennais. In spite of many big European teams knocking on the door, the Breton club will hope to keep this jewel in their crown for as long as possible.

What most impresses looking at Camavinga is his maturity and the quickness with which he has become indispensable in the midfield for Rennais. He was the youngest Rennes player to appear in a Ligue 1 match in the post-war period aged just 16 years, 4 months in April 2019 against Angers, and against PSG in August 2019, “Cama” laid down his mark in a monstrous performance against the Ligue 1 giants. On this occasion at 16 years, 9 months old, he became the youngest player to deliver an assist in the competition since Opta started collecting this data (2006/07).

On 20 November 2020, he celebrated his 35th Ligue 1 start a couple of weeks after celebrating his 18th birthday.

One thing led to another and it was no surprise when Didier Deschamps called him up into the French National Team at the beginning of the season. The Rennes boy-wonder didn’t take long to appear at home. After a comfortable display against Croatia, he started the following game in October against Ukraine and scored on his first start, becoming the second-youngest goalscorer in the history of France:

Youngest Goalscorers For France:

Maurice GastigerMarch 8, 1914Switzerland17 years & 5 months
Eduardo CamavingaOctober 7, 2020Ukraine17 years & 10 months
Jean RigalMay 9, 1909Belgium18 years & 4 months

Second in Ligue 1 2020/21 after 13 matchdays, Lille are off to a fast start this season in large part to their solid defence. Jose Fonte and Sven Botman have formed a strong partnership at centre-back and while the reliability of the Portuguese defender is already known, it is the young Dutchman who has surprised many.

Botman is a strong, combative defender, winning 75% of his duels (87/116), the best rate in the top-flight this season among players with at least 50 duels. Furthermore, only Fabien Centonze (92 with Metz) and Loïc Bade (91 with Lens) have won more duels than him (87) among defenders in Ligue 1 this campaign. He is a nightmare to get around too, only three players have dribbled passed the Dutchman since the start of the season.

Tall and powerful, with a 6-foot-three frame, Sven Botman reigns supreme in aerial battles. In the top five European leagues this season, he’s won the second-most aerial duels, just behind David Garcia (73 with Osasuna). Those are some impressive data points which could interest many big clubs around Europe.

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