Remember when the media scoffed at the price that Manchester United paid for Anthony Martial this summer? Most “experts” immediately headed to YouTube to find out who this 19-year-old French striker was. The consensus was that United had overpaid for the teenager until he stepped on the pitch against Liverpool and demonstrated why Europe’s biggest clubs had all contacted Monaco this summer about the availability of Martial.
Whoscored.com has put together a list of the top five teenagers in Europe’s top 5 leagues this season and unsurprisingly Martial makes the list. But who else does?
Thomas Lemar – Monaco
Monaco have started the season fairly disappointingly and currently sit 10th in Ligue 1. That isn’t to say, though, that their core players have underwhelmed. The French team lost key players Yannick Ferreira-Carrasco, Layvin Kurzawa and Geoffrey Kondogbia over the summer, thus explaining their poor start to the campaign, but teenager Thomas Lemar has excelled in the middle of the park. A summer arrival from Caen, the 19-year-old’s WhoScored rating (7.25) is the fifth best of teens in Europe’s top 5 leagues and second of all players at Monaco.
Providing an effective offensive threat from midfield, only Stephan El Shaarawy (2.5) and Bernardo Silva (1.8) are averaging more shots per league outing than Lemar (1.7) at the club, who has put his fierce left foot to great use already this season. Only Hatem Ben Arfa (5) and Nabil Fekir (4) have netted more left footed goals than the Monaco ace (3) in Ligue 1 this term. Furthermore, only Bernardo Silva (2.4) has been fouled more times per game than Lemar (2) of all Monaco players, thus highlighting the great lengths teams go to limit his influence. Big things were expected of the youngster when he moved to Monaco and he already looks to be fulfilling his potential following his transfer to the French Riviera.
Jonathan Tah – Bayer Leverkusen
Despite a lack of top-flight experience, Jonathan Tah has slotted seamlessly into the Bayer Leverkusen XI following his move over the summer. The German is one of only two Leverkusen performers to play every minute in the Bundesliga this season – the other being goalkeeper Bernd Leno – and has swiftly formed a solid partnership alongside Kyriakos Papadopoulos at the heart of the defence. A WhoScored rating of 7.25 puts him second behind midfielder and captain Lars Bender (7.86) of all Leverkusen players.
Regardless of his tender years, the 19-year-old’s reading of the game is one of his strongest traits. Only Wendell (5.1) is averaging more interceptions per league game of all Leverkusen players than Tah (4) this season, while his average of 3.4 clearances and 4.9 aerial duels per game both rank among the top three players at the club. His ability to be in the right place at the right time to relieve pressure is one of his endearing qualities and has helped him make a strong start to life under Roger Schmidt.
Leroy Sané – Schalke 04
Leroy Sané announced himself to the watching world in stunning fashion last season in a blistering hour-long performance against Real Madrid. The 19-year-old was introduced to the action after just half an hour in what was a commendable 4-3 win for Schalke at the Bernabeu. The German bagged a superb equaliser, before turning provider for Klaas Jan-Huntelaar to gain a notable WhoScored rating of 7.66. It may not have been enough for Schalke to progress to the next round of Europe’s elite competition – Madrid snuck through 5-4 on aggregate – but the showing set the standard for what was to come from the highly-rated teenager.
Though used fairly sporadically this season – just three of Sané’s eight league appearances have been starts – that isn’t to say he’s not made the most of his time on the pitch. His WhoScored rating (7.28) is the third best of all teenagers in Europe’s top 5 leagues. Only Alexander Baumjohann (11.1 minutes) is averaging a successful dribble more frequently than Sané (15.4 minutes) of those to make at least five Bundesliga appearances this season, highlighting his statistically calculated WhoScored strength of ‘dribbling’. One tackle every 21.8 minutes ranks sixth in Germany’s top tier and suggests he is not one to shirk his defensive responsibilities. It’s surely only a matter of time before the young attacker is a permanent fixture in manager André Breitenreiter’s starting XI.
Kingsley Coman – Bayern Munich
The third and final Bundesliga star to feature in the top five, many an eyebrow was raised when Bayern Munich confirmed the loan signing of Kingsley Coman over the summer. However, with Arjen Robben and Franck Ribéry sidelined, the young France star has performed above and beyond to retain his starting berth on the right flank, putting pressure on the duo for when they do return to fitness. His four appearances have seen him gain a WhoScored rating of 7.55 this season, though when excluding substitute appearances of players to start at least two Bundesliga matches; Coman’s rating (8.89) is currently the best in the top-flight of German football.
The 19-year-old’s biggest strength is his dribbling ability and it’s perhaps little shock that only Douglas Costa (3.8) and Robben (2.7) are averaging more successful dribbles per game of all Bayern players than Coman (2.3) this campaign. Not one to shirk his defensive duties either, Coman is averaging a commendable 2.5 tackles per Champions League game this season, a return only Joshua Kimmich and Thiago Alcántara (both 3) can better of all Bayern players. His form for the German champions reinforces the club’s decision to secure his services for the season, with Pep Guardiola’s faith in the teen certainly vindicated.
Anthony Martial – Manchester United
The pressure was heaped on Anthony Martial’s shoulders when he became football’s most expensive teenager in history last month, but he’s taken on the burden with consummate ease. Three goals and one assist in his opening four league appearances for Louis van Gaal’s side have contributed to his WhoScored rating of 7.60, the best of all United players this season and better than any other teenager in Europe’s top 5 leagues so far. It isn’t just his goalscoring ability that has won Martial numerous plaudits already, but his work rate and all round link up play from the front.
The French striker has mustered just six shots on goal in his four appearances for United, with his conversion rate (50%) bettered by no Premier League player of those to net at least two goals this term. An average of 2.3 successful dribbles per game is better than all United players and highlights the 19-year-old’s ice-cold demeanour when in possession – despite coming under increased pressure from Premier League defenders, Martial has rapidly adjusted to the rigours of English football. Rightly United’s starting striker, the future is certainly bright for Martial, who has what it takes to maintain his stunning start to life at Old Trafford.