Under-21 Team of the Season: Pogba & Sterling feature

Goal profiles the XI of the best young players across Europe this season, which includes the likes of Romelu Lukaki, Simone Scuffet and Domenico Berardi

Udinese’s teenage goalkeeper Simone Scuffet has been a revelation in Serie A this season. With six clean sheets in his 16 league appearances, the 17-year-old has enjoyed a wonderful start to his professional career with his local club. Playing at such a high level so soon in his life, Scuffet is already regarded as the natural successor to Gianluigi Buffon as the nation’s, and the world’s, top goalkeeper. The similarities are uncanny as Buffon also made his Serie A debut at 17 and like the Juventus captain – and Italy icon Dino Zoff – the Udinese youngster has the double f in his surname!

FABINHO (Monaco) – A young attacking fullback in the mould of compatriot Maicon, Fabinho has enjoyed an excellent spell since joining Monaco on loan from Rio Ave. The 20-year-old made 26 league appearances for Claudio Ranieri’s team, in which he completed 63 per cent of his dribbles and maintained a passing accuracy of 84%. If the 2013-14 campaign is the platform on which he will build, the imposing defender clearly has a bright future.

JOHN STONES (Everton) – In his first season in charge of Everton, Roberto Martinez has put a lot of faith in the young players at his disposal. Gerard Deulofeu, Romelu Lukaku and Ross Barkley have all been given a chance under the Spaniard, but one of the brightest talents to emerge has been 19-year-old centre-half John Stones. The teenager made 87 clearances and 19 interceptions in his 21 appearances for the Toffees in a bright debut season in the English top flight as Everton challenged for a Champions League spot.

AYMERIC LAPORTE (Athletic Bilbao) – Another bright young player to emerge from Athletic Bilbao’s youth system, Aymeric Laporte is on the radar of more than a few of Europe’s elite clubs. The teenager is in his second season in the Basque club’s first team and has shone in the centre of defence throughout this campaign. The French-born defender played a crucial role as Bilbao finished in fourth place to secure Champions League football for next year and there is much more to come from him.

LUKE SHAW (Southampton) – Coveted by Manchester United and Chelsea and likely to be first-choice left-back for England in the World Cup, Luke Shaw is currently on cloud nine. The 18-year-old has been one of the standout performers in the Premier League for Southampton, who finished in eighth place. Completing 56 dribbles in 35 league starts, Shaw is a bright attacking player but he also put in his fair share of work defensively. 

ROSS BARKLEY (Everton) – A 20-year-old with excellent technique, great shooting ability and an eye for a pass, Ross Barkley is one of England’s most promising attacking talents. Making 34 league appearances for the Merseysiders, Martinez has given the youngster his chance to shine and he has repaid his manager with some dazzling performances.

PAUL POGBA (Juventus) – Considered the best young player in Europe at the moment, Paul Pogba has been in great form for Juventus and has taken great strides forward since his move from Manchester United in 2012. With Paris Saint-Germain looking to snap him up, the France international is on the right path and already seen as a player capable of becoming one of the best in the world. Tall, strong, technically excellent and intelligent, Pogba – who picked up eight goals and eight assists in the league and in Europe this year – has great potential.

HAKAN CALHANOGLU (Hamburg) – With 11 goals and four assists to his name in his breakthrough season, Hakan Calhanoglu has been a shining star in an otherwise dismal season for Hamburg. The 20-year-old attacking midfielder is already being tracked by clubs across Europe and has proven he is capable of making a step up already. With a good range and intelligence to his passing as well as a good goalscoring ability, the Turkish player can develop into a thoroughly exciting player.

DOMENICO BERARDI (Sassuolo) – Despite finishing one place above the relegation spots with Sassuolo, Domenico Berardo has been a sight to behold in the Italian top flight. His 16 goals and six assists is an incredible return for a young player at such a small team. The youngster scored hat-tricks in the wins over Sampdoria and Fiorentina, but he sensationally scored all of Sassuolo’s goals in a 4-3 victory over AC Milan that resulted in Massimiliano Allegri being sacked.

ROMELU LUKAKU (Everton) – Another remarkable prospect to emerge from Belgium, Romelu Lukaku has given Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho something to think about when he weighs up his attacking options for next season. The player on loan at Everton from the Stamford Bridge club has built on the success he enjoyed at West Brom last year. The 21-year-old hit the net 15 times in 29 starts for Everton and racked up a further six assists. The clinical forward has great power and, incredibly, is still developing physically and as a player.

RAHEEM STERLING (Liverpool) – A vital component in Liverpool’s excellent season, Raheem Sterling is developing smoothly in the Premier League. The 19-year-old has incredible skill and that, coupled with his excellent pace, can make him a deadly player. Only Luis Suarez and Eden Hazard completed more dribbles in the Premier League this season – yet his Uruguayan team-mate attempted over 100 more and completed just one more than the youngster. Sterling’s nine goals and five assists in the Premier League saw him add a great deal to the Anfield club, who finished second in the English top flight. 

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