SWOL Top 100: The Best U-21 Footballers to Watch in 2013 (60-56)


SWOL analyst Mohamed Al-Hendy continues his countdown of the best U21 footballers in the world that you should watch in 2013 as we break into the 50′s with places 60-56.

Panagiotis Tachtsidis of AS Roma (Photo by Gabriele Maltinti/Getty Images)

60. Panagiotis Tachtsidis

Panagiotis Tachtsidis has been a force to be reckoned with for youth-oriented AS Roma this season.

Originally a product of the AEK Athens youth academy, Tachtsidis was bought from Genoa for a paltry €2.5 million and has already shown himself to be worth every penny.

Few players of Tachtsidis’ age can compete with his passing range and vision. His strength on the ball is also very impressive.

Thus far, Tachtsidis has started 11 games for Roma, recording two assists in the process.

Unfortunately, Tachtsidis is a very, very slow player.

And that likely won’t change soon.

He’s also not a great tackler, preferring to use his immense strength to muscle players off the ball, instead.

Even with his lack of speed, Tachtsidis has been able to contribute significantly to Roma’s season. His skill set has also earned him his first cap for the Greek national team.

Michael Bradley is Tachtsidis’ main competition at Roma. If he can keep showing that he deserves his fair share of playing time with Bradley, he should continue to improve as a player.

Ali Ahamada of Toulouse (Photo via Getty Images)

59. Ali Ahamada

Ali Ahamada has been Toulouse’s undisputed no. 1 since April 24, 2011. How many goalkeepers can you name who became first choice at their club before the age of 20?

In 2010-11, Ahamada recorded six clean sheets in eight starts and conceded two goals altogether in the games he started.

In 2011-12, Ahamada recorded 19 clean sheets for Toulouse and registered five clean sheets in six games, from February 18 to March 25.

For comparison’s sake, Steve Mandanda and Hugo Lloris, both considered to be France’s two best goalkeepers, recorded 11 and six clean sheets, respectively, in 2011-12.

So far, Ahamada has been kept busy with goalkeeping duties for France’s U-21 national team. When he outgrows that team however, his work as a goalkeeper thus far ought to merit consideration for the full national team.

After all, the stats point to him being better than any of his competitors.

Ricardo Rodriguez (Photo by Fabrice Coffrini/EuroFootball/Getty Images)

58. Ricardo Rodriguez

Quality, young left-backs are very rare in football, as you can probably tell by the number of left-backs that have made this list so far. But quality, young left-backs who are no. 1 for club and country at the age of 20 only come around once every decade.

Ricardo Rodriguez is one such left-back.

Naturally, being a left-back for Wolfsburg and Switzerland makes this easier to achieve than it might be for players who play for more prestigious clubs or countries, but it’s still a fantastic achievement in its own right.

In truth, Rodriguez is probably destined to be more of a “good” left-back than a “world-class” one. He doesn’t particularly excel in any one area of the game, nor is he an outstanding athlete.

But he does possess good pace, knows how to tackle and cross the ball and works hard for the team.

Those are all traits highly valued in a left-back, and traits that will take him far in his career.

At present, Rodriguez has fallen out of the starting lineup at Wolfsburg, due to be being blamed by ex-manager Felix Magath for some of the club’s terrible defensive performances at the start of the season.

But with new manager Dieter Hecking now in charge, Rodriguez has every chance of regaining his place in the lineup. After all, the club isn’t exactly blessed with a plethora of left-sided talent.

With some hard work in training, Rodriguez should have little trouble pushing Marcel Schafer back down to left-mid and reclaiming his spot on the team.

Inigo Martinez of Spain (Photo by Andreas Hillergren/EuroFootball/Getty Images)

57. Inigo Martinez

Ever since Inigo Martinez scored those two brilliant 50-yard goals last season he has been one of the hottest prospects in La Liga.

With due reason, too. It’s not every day (or year or decade, for that matter) that you get a centre-back who can shoot with that kind of confidence and accuracy.

Martinez is also a pretty good defender. Though Real Sociedad as a whole struggle to hold onto clean sheets, he himself is a strong slide tackler and a fairly aggressive defender.

If he can keep scoring goals and impressing as he did last season, I don’t think he’ll be at Real Sociedad for too much longer.

Put simply, he’s too good for the mid-table La Liga club and deserves to play for a more competitive club in any league.

Moritz Leitner of Dortmund battles Mikel Arteta of Arsenal (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

56. Moritz Leitner

Moritz Leitner is a supremely talented centre midfielder with the potential to be among the best in the world in his position.

It’s just a shame that the club he plays for is stacked with players who are currently more developed and ready to produce than he is.

Leitner is an exceptional dribbler and extremely agile and fast. Combined with his vision on the ball, theoretically Leitner should be terrorizing defenses week-in and week-out.

But right now, with Ilkay Gundogan, Mario Gotze and Sven Bender, among others, taking up the central midfield slots at Dortmund, the only thing Leitner is terrorizing is the bench.

With only seven starts in two years at Dortmund, Leitner has been unable to get into any kind of rhythm, and one can only assume that his confidence isn’t too high, either.

It may be better for all parties that Leitner be allowed to go on loan, and maybe Jurgen Klopp can be convinced to give him more playing time if he is successful at another club.

If you missed any previous posts on the SWOL Top 100 U21 countdown find them here:

SWOL Top 100 U21 Guidelines

SWOL Top 100 U21 (100-96)

SWOL Top 100 U21 (95-91)

SWOL Top 100 U21 (90-86)

SWOL Top 100 U21 (85-81)

SWOL Top 100 U21 (80-76)

SWOL Top 100 U21 (75-71)

SWOL Top 100 U21 (70-66)

SWOL Top 100 U21 (65-61)

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