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Zaïre-Emery's era begins: DIGEST, October 12
The PSG prodigy, Benfica's newest bolter, Right to Dream, and more.
Welcome to SCOUTED Digest. This is a free weekly newsletter and the best way to stay up-to-date with the breakthrough players we watch on the regular - without having to sift through hours of games yourself.
Featuring snapshots of insight from the SCOUTED team, snippets of groundbreaking stories and tightly packaged analysis, DIGEST is the perfect five-minute primer on youth football.
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The Warren Zaïre-Emery Era is upon us…
We’ve written a lot about the Paris Saint-Germain prodigy in recent weeks. What he’s doing isn’t normal. At 17 years old, the Parisian has started all but one of 10 games so far this season for his boyhood club, and only three team-mates have played more minutes than him in the current campaign. An academy graduate having such an impact so early is unheard of in PSG’s Qatari-owned era.
He’s not just starting, he’s standing out. Many will have been taken aback by his performance against Newcastle United in the Champions League. While most of his team-mates dissipated in a boiling atmosphere, the teenager kept his head above water. You’d never pick him out as the 17-year-old on that pitch.
Furthermore, Zaïre-Emery has also been named the captain of France’s U-21 group. Thierry Henry, recently appointed as Evil Sylvain Ripoll’s replacement, has entrusted him with the role despite never playing at the level before as he competes five years above his age group. That says a lot.
Ardent followers of SCOUTED shouldn’t be surprised by his rapid ascension. We’ve been tipping him to do this ever since we first watched him all of two seasons ago now, when he was stamping his authority on UEFA Youth League games at 15 years old. He has reached the highest levels extremely quickly, and this is just his beginning.
João Neves, the little big talent
Another central midfielder making his mark in senior football this season is João Neves. He’s broken into the Benfica team in a big way, starting eight of 11 games to date, including their biggest.
This moment against title rivals Porto sticks out. With Benfica defending a 1-0 lead late on, Neves sprung his small stature to win a booming header that sent the ball back from where it came. It sums him up - despite not looking like much, he manages to have a big footprint in games on both sides of the ball. There was one situation after the aforementioned header where he used his compact body to shield the ball out for a goal kick, which drew another eruption of noise from the fans.
For those that love to do (the very shallow) Green Bar Scouting, just look at his FBRef report. Mark our words: João Neves is the next big thing out of Benfica.
Adama Bojang goes bang
Anyone that kept track of our FIFA U-20 World Cup coverage during the summer will be familiar with Adama Bojang. The Gambian Hurricane was one of the most sought-after emerging talents this year following his exploits at underage international level, scoring goals at continental and global level.
Stade de Reims “won the race” to sign him, and they’ve decided to ease his transition to western Europe from western Africa by giving him minutes in their B team, who play in France’s regionalised fifth tier.
He’s scored two hat-tricks in his first four games thus far, amassing seven goals in total. It’s safe to say that he won’t be playing B-team football much longer. Senior involvements under the tutelage of William Stilliam await.
UEFA Youth League football should be much easier to watch
We love the UEFA Youth League. It gives a sneak peek of Europe’s emerging generation of talent, those that are on the precipice of senior football. Read the our latest round-up, all 6,000+ words of it. We cover it like no other.
But covering it is much harder than it should be, we think. A lot of our time is spent scrambling around the internet looking for streams - legal or otherwise - to just about scrape enough match footage to compile our comprehensive reports. It’s become even more difficult with Wyscout, who now have a monopoly on the already barren scouting tool market, pricing out 98% of the community (and their clients with) obscene increases in rates.
We implore all clubs competing in the UEFA Youth League to stream their game on YouTube, live and free for everyone to watch. People want to watch their club’s next wave of academy talent. Let them do it.
Right to Dream registers on the biggest stage
On Sunday, no less than three Right to Dream academy graduates scored goals in top-five leagues. Ernest Nuamah first for OLympique Lyonnais in a 3-3 draw against Lorient, then Simon Adingra for Brighton in a 2-2 draw against Liverpool, then Mohammed Kudus for West Ham in a 2-2 draw against Newcastle.
All scored within two hours of each other, it’s another moment which highlights the extraordinary success of the Ghanaian academy, facilitated by FC Nordsjælland, which has now branched into three more countries across three continents.
Arthur Vermeeren’s exceptional 2023
And to round our first SCOUTED Digest off, we will fawn over another central midfielder. This time it’s the Prince of Royal Antwerp, Arthur Vermeeren.
He is in the senior Belgium squad for the first time this international break, a moment which represents another significant milestone in the year that has seen him achieve so much already.
The 18-year-old has started every single game at club level since the last before the World Cup break in November of last year; that equates to roughly 45 games, all starts, and over 4,000 minutes all in all. His run of consecutive starts includes, among other things:
A contract extension, through to 2026, on his 18th birthday
A dramatic run in, clinching the club’s first league title in 66 years
Playing all but seven minutes in a six-game Belgian Cup triumph
Winning the Pro League’s Young Professional of the Season award
A UEFA Champions League debut (away at Barcelona)
A first call-up to the senior men’s Belgium squad
Vermeeren plays as if he’s been a first-team regular for at least five years. Spending another season at Royal Antwerp was the best decision for all parties.
Alternatives to Digest…
Joe Donnohue’s piece on Royale Union Saint-Gilloise. Like everyone else at SCOUTED, I’m very proud to say that we (or Joe and Tom in particular) put something like this out. It’s free to read, so read it.
And finally, everything that Not The Top 20 Pod do. Consume it all!
We’ll be doing more of these in future. Check this out for more information on our editorial calendar from here on in for SCOUTED Notebook. We’re just getting started.