November’s U23 Hot List: The best young players in Europe

Football

Welcome back to the ESPN FC Hot List, which each month highlights some of the most in-form talent aged 23 or under across Europe.

Generally, young-but-established stars like Manchester City‘s Erling Haaland, Real Madrid‘s Jude Bellingham or Barcelona Gavi aren’t included — otherwise they’d be on the list every month — but we’ll shine a light on some of those who deserve praise for their performances and who could potentially be European football’s next big name.

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The next superstar to emerge from Portugal? Quite possibly. What is certain is that Europe’s top clubs — most notably Manchester City and Manchester United — have already started to circle around this immensely talented midfielder. Having signed a new contract in the summer — which includes a €120 million release clause — his transfer won’t come cheap but he could be worth it.

Technically brilliant and intelligent, Neves finds space and shields the ball wonderfully well. With fabulous close control, highly developed vision and an ability to hit beautifully angled passes, Neves can operate as a No. 10 or a No. 8 in midfield and stylistically resembles João Moutinho (before he was moved into a deeper role later in his career.)

But Neves, who scored the stoppage-time winner in the Lisbon derby against Sporting CP this month — is not all about flair and aesthetics; he puts in a proper shift for the team too and has an average of 3.4 tackles per 90 minutes.

With Feyenoord’s record-chasing striker Santiago Giménez (who has been strongly linked with a Premier League move) featuring regularly in this column, it’s time to take a closer look at another high-performing youngster from the club who caught the eye last month.

The twin brother of Arsenal‘s Jürrien, Quinten also came through the ranks at Ajax but had to make a detour via Utrecht for his chance at first-team football. Now in his second season at Feyenoord, he’s turning into one of the team’s most prominent players.

The No. 8 possesses all the fundamental qualities to excel in the role. With outstanding stamina and quick ball movement, he supports his attack tirelessly by getting into the box. In November he got on the scoresheet three times in the league and has registered a remarkable 2.7 key passes per 90 minutes for the season.


Whoscored bring us their U23 players of the month from the top seven leagues in Europe — English Premier League, German Bundesliga, Spanish LaLiga, French Ligue 1, Italian Serie A, Dutch Eredivisie and Portuguese Liga. The monthly ratings are based on their comprehensive algorithm that uses Opta data during live matches, with over 200 raw statistics, that gives a player a single rating from 1-10 (1 being bad; 10 being excellent) weighted according to their influence within each game.


Arguably the most influential attacker in the Eredivisie this season, few players have enjoyed such an explosive development as PSV’s left-footed right winger.

In addition to cementing his status as a key player at club level, he’s also about to claim a regular slot for Belgium. And for all the talk of Belgium’s golden generation vanishing, another one is taking shape — with Bakayoko and Man City’s Jérémy Doku on either wing, Belgium are certain to keep opposition defences busy this decade.

Bakayoko’s enthusiastic style is a joy to behold and his exceptional one-vs.-one skills allow him to glide past defenders on either side. He’s productive when cutting inside on his left foot and hardly ever hesitates, always looking to keep the ball moving. Last weekend he scored and registered an assist in PSV’s 3-0 win at Twente and, with his transfer rated at around €30m, he is undoubtedly being monitored by some of Europe’s top clubs.

Ajax had a horror start to the season, losing five of their first eight games before a recent mini-revival, but no matter how bleak it may look they can always turn to their youth.

The latest player to emerge from their legendary “De Toekomst” academy is left-footed centre-back Hato. Composed, able to play out from the back (6+ progressive passes per 90 minutes), tactically astute, mobile and with a fine first touch, the 17-year-old has seemingly already mastered the essentials required of an Ajax defender.

November has been a pretty special month for Hato: first he came on for his first senior Netherlands cap against Gibraltar and a few days later he scored his first senior league goal for Ajax in the 5-0 home win against Vitesse. The goal, which brought back memories of Ajax’s “Total Football” from the 1970s, saw Hato start the move from midfield before pushing into the box and slotting a home from close range after a neat exchange with a teammate.

Camarda became the youngest Serie A debutant – at 15 years and 260 days — when he came on for the last eight minutes at the weekend against Fiorentina. While the Milan-born forward didn’t set the world alight, his goal-scoring record at youth level is certainly something out of the ordinary.

Despite often playing against opponents several years his senior — he first featured for Milan’s U19 side at the age of 14 — he’s been a notorious goal scorer throughout the youth ranks and has found the net three times in the UEFA Youth League this season (including a brace against Newcastle), as well as four for Italy‘s U17 side earlier this autumn.

In addition to his innate goal-scoring instinct, Camarda also possesses enough pace to outrun defenders, has excellent timing in the air, and a penchant for a spectacular finish.

While attacking stars such as Florian Wirtz, Victor Boniface, and high-scoring wing-backs Alejandro Grimaldo and Jeremie Frimpong, have rightfully been given a lot of credit for Bayer Leverkusen’s sensational start to the German Bundesliga campaign, Kossounou is arguably playing the best football of his life and even got on the scoresheet in the 4-0 win against Union Berlin in early November.

Despite certain technical deficiencies — his first touch could be better — the Ivory Coast international’s proactive and aggressive style makes him a tremendously impactful centre-back. His ground speed is not hard to spot, but he’s also a quick thinker and copes well under pressure. He is never afraid to bring the ball past the opponent closing him down and even break forward from his right centre-back role in Xabi Alonso’s back three.

Imposing at set pieces in both boxes and supremely confident in duels, there are few defenders in the Bundesliga who match Kossounou for application and physicality.

Despite promising signs in Newcastle’s preseason campaign, nobody would have expected the 17-year-old midfielder to appear as unfazed as he did on his home Premier League debut against Chelsea on Sunday.

Beyond his sublime assist for Alexander Isak‘s opener in the 4-1 win, there are plenty of reasons to be enthralled by Miley’s outing. More than anything, the England U19 international looked comfortable and composed, his ball retention was steady and safe in a frantically paced game, as was his distribution as he linked seamlessly with Kieran Trippier and Miguel Almirón.

His decision-making throughout was reminiscent of a seasoned Premier League midfielder and he showed no signs of being intimidated by the exuberant St James’ Park atmosphere. He also played 90 minutes in Newcastle’s Champions League draw away against PSG and this mature and dependable central midfielder is sure to gain more minutes in the months to come.

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