With another international break upon us we have taken the time to look at a number of youngsters to have impressed across Europe's top 5 leagues. The form of said players could potentially force themselves into the thinking of their respective national team managers in the future, even if they didn't make the cut this time around.
We have chosen one player from each of Europe's elite leagues who began their domestic campaigns under the age of 22, overlooking the big name stars that we are all familiar with. All players considered had to have started at least 4 league games this season and were chosen due to an impressive WhoScored rating.
We start in the Bundesliga, where German born midfielder Tolgay Arslan has broken into the first team at Hamburg in recent weeks, corresponding with an upturn in fortunes for Thorsten Fink's side. The versatile midfielder seems far more likely to opt to play for Turkey having played for both the under-19 and under-21 sides in the past, and may well break into the senior team sooner rather than later if he keeps up his impressive displays.
Starting his first of 4 league appearances, all from defensive midfield, in the memorable 3-2 win over reigning champions Dortmund, HSV have gone on to win twice more and draw the other game that Arslan has started. It is no surprise to see that his WhoScored characteristics claim that he is very strong at tackling and intercepting, with per game averages of 4.8 and 3.3 ranking him fifth and fourteenth respectively in the division. Going forward he has also completed an impressive average of 3.3 dribbles per game (sixth in the league), and with a 72% success rate, so don't be surprised to see him in Abdullah Avcı's plans before long.
Moving into La Liga, Atletico youngster Koke has been given more chances in the side under Diego Simeone this season, with 5 league appearances, 2 Europa league outings and a start in the Super Cup rout over Chelsea. Still just 20, the Spaniard made 11 starts last season but has been moved wider more often this time around, and to great effect. In 4 La Liga starts he has netted once and picked up an assist, but his defensive work has also been impressive.
It is, however, his delivery and creation from the flanks that has stood out thus far, with 3.8 key passes per game the highest average in all of La Liga. He also leads the entire league for accurate crosses per game (3), and with an accuracy of 35.7% from 42 attempts in total it is a wonder how he doesn't have more assists to his name. While there are countless midfield options available to Vicente Del Bosque, the young winger's form may well be catching the eye.
In Serie A it has been nothing short of a dismal start for Massimo Allegri's Milan side this season, capped off by a derby defeat to Inter this weekend, but there have been a couple of glimmers of hope, not least promising full-back Mattia De Sciglio. The 19-year old is a right-back by trade but has made half of his appearances on the opposite flank this season, though his impact was somewhat quashed on the left in the derby, eventually seeing him substituted.
Before then, however, the teenager had been superb wherever he played and one need only look at his WhoScored characteristics to understand De Sciglio's talents in a number of areas. The defender ranks just outside the top 20 in Serie A for tackles per game, with 3.2, but also offers a great outlet going forward, with an average of 2.2 accurate crosses per game placing him in the top 5 for the division. Although he hasn't quite forced himself into the reckoning for Prandelli's senior side just yet, De Sciglio's versatility should bode well for the youngster to earn a first call-up to the Azzurri soon.
There is no shortage of up and coming full-backs in France right now, but Valenciennes' Loris Nery is certainly catching eye at the start of the Ligue 1 campaign. With only one WhoScored rating below a 7 all season (6.88), coming in the 2-1 defeat to Brest, the 21-year old has been extremely consistent thus far and Saint Etienne may be wondering why they let the youngster leave the club in the summer.
Only five players have made more tackles in Ligue 1 this season than Nery's 30, while the prospect has made more clearances per game (7.9) than any other full-back in the French league thus far. With 2.4 aerial duels won per game, the left-back appears to have all the tools to be a great defender in the future, though he will need to improve in an attacking sense, despite netting once this season, if he is to become a full-back of international pedigree.
We conclude in England, and the Premier League, where the development of Liverpool's Raheem Sterling may well be Brendan Rodgers' finest achievement in a tricky start to his tenure at the club. The former Swansea manager took a real gamble by fielding the 17-year old against Man City, and Sterling has gone from strength to strength after a bright league debut. He is already seeing plenty of the ball and being touted as one of The Reds' key attacking threats this season, and his pace, trickery and fearless approach have caught the eye of England manager Roy Hodgson.
Only Newcastle's Hatem Ben Arfa and teammate Luis Suarez have completed more dribbles per game (3.2) in the league and opponents have already began to target the teenager, with only 5 players fouled more times per game (2.3). With 1.8 key passes per game he has one assist to his name, but could easily have had more, as well as being unlucky not to open his account for the club having hit the woodwork twice this season. While his crossing could do with a little work, the willingness to do so is clearly there, with 2.5 tackles per game suggesting that he could have the whole package in the future.