SWOL Top 100: The Best U-21 Footballers to Watch in 2013 (70-66)


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 60′s with places 70-66.

Jordy Clasie of Feyenoord (Photo by Anoek de Groot/EuroFootball/Getty Images)

70. Jordy Clasie

Our second Feyenoord talent on this list is Jordy Clasie.

Clasie made his name at Excelsior, Feyenoord’s city rivals. In his season on loan at the club, Clasie made 32 appearances and scored two goals and five assists as a defensive midfielder.

Upon returning to Feyenoord, Clasie was instantly made a starter, and he hasn’t looked back since.

Already, he has recorded four assists and a goal as a defensive midfielder halfway through this season, and he’s on course for a new personal best if he can stay fit.

Despite being a defensive midfielder, Clasie’s biggest assets by far are his vision and passing.

He has been labelled the “Dutch Xavi” by some and has himself confessed to have great admiration for the Spanish superstar (h/tGoal.com):

I am only 1-metre-69, so I have little chance when it comes down to sheer physical strength. However, players such as Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Sneijder prove week after week that you are never too small to become world-class.

The more you watch Clasie, the more he really reminds you of Xavi and Iniesta. His football IQ is top-notch and allows him make up for lack of strength and feeble tackling with a keen ability to regularly intercept the ball on defense.

On offense, in addition to his passing, Clasie can shoot well from a distance, and on the ball his control and balance are exceptional.

Clasie has two caps for the Dutch national team thus far, and if he keeps developing, there should be many more to come in the future.

Marco van Ginkel of Vitesse (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)

69. Marco Van Ginkel

It seems as though we just can’t leave the Eredivisie’s endless pool of youth talent. Vitesse’s Marco van Ginkel is the next player up for us to closely examine.

Vitesse have been a real surprise package in the Eredivisie this season, leading the league for a good number of games earlier in the season.

The credit for this excellent run of form goes to a number of players, particularly ex-Chelsea youth product Tomas Kalas, ex-PSV striker Jonathan Reis and, most importantly, Ivorian goal machine Wilfried Bony.

But also very important to the club’s success this season has been van Ginkel. With four goals and six assists, van Ginkel has been a very active contributor to the cause as central midfielder.

He has eight goals and eight assists in all competitions.

Dribbling, ball control and vision are van Ginkel’s best attributes. Milan were reportedly interested (h/t Yahoo Eurosport) at some point in van Ginkel, but it remains to be seen which clubs, if any, decide to launch a serious pursuit of his signature.

If he can surpass his previous personal bests with a strong second half of the season, he should be able to have his pick of some highly respectable clubs in the summer.

Philippe Coutinho of Liverpool (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

68. Philippe Coutinho

Philippe Coutinho just couldn’t seem to catch a break at Inter Milan For three seasons Coutinho was unable to convince his bosses at Inter that he deserves an extended run with the team.

Even youth-friendly Andrea Stramaccioni has only been willing to start Coutinho three times this season, preferring to save him for the club’s Europa League campaign.

It’s quite remarkable because Inter Milan were actually very successful in the games Coutinho starts.

In 2010-11, Inter lost only one of nine league games with Coutinho in the starting lineup, and in 2011-12 they won all four of the games Coutinho started. This season, Inter have won all three of the games Coutinho has started.

It’s much easier said than done, but Coutinho needs to show Stramaccioni and Co. that he can be trusted to orchestrate the offense at Inter Milan, and the best way to secure this trust is through goals and assists.

As unfortunate as it may be, attacking midfielders and strikers are ultimately judged by their production in these two categories first and foremost, and if he cannot deliver more consistently in said categories, Coutinho may never make the cut at Inter.

However, since his move to Liverpool in the January transfer window, Coutinho looks a refreshed talent and has already been instrumental in his few matches in Red since the move.

Semih Kaya of Galatasaray (Photo by Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images)

67. Semih Kaya

Turkish clubs aren’t generally known for being great youth promoters—generally speaking, players will have to turn 22 or 23 before they’re given an extended run in the team.

But there are always exceptions for those with exceptional talent, like Semih Kaya.

Building on his 24 appearances for Galatasaray last season, Kaya has become almost indispensable to Gala’s back line. In his 10 league starts for Gala this season, the club have lost on only one occasion.

Kaya’s presence as a regular in Gala’s back line has opened the door for Turkey to call him up on a number of occasions, and slowly but surely he’s becoming a regular on the national team, with seven caps already to his name.

I hate using cliches like, “he’s got the whole package,” but he really does.

Though he has yet to learn how to use his aerial ability on offense, it’s a huge asset for him on defense, as he’s an incredible jumper and header of the ball.

He has good reaction time, solid pace and tackles on or off his feet with precision.

Sir Alex Ferguson reportedly (h/t Metro) asked for Kaya’s price after a game between Gala and Manchester United in the Champions League this past summer, and even though it is unlikely to happen, it gives you an idea of just how much quality the centre-back possesses.

Mateo Kovacic of FC Internazionale Milano (Photo by Gabriele Maltinti/Getty Images)

66. Mateo Kovacic

Meet Dinamo Zagreb’s latest wonder kid, Mateo Kovacic, who made the switch to Inter Milan in the January transfer window.

Kovacic actually made his debut for Zagreb at the age of 16-and-a-half—such was the immense talent of the player that Zagreb felt it right to get him playing as soon as possible.

The following season, Kovacic repaid his club’s faith in him handsomely. He produced five goals and seven assists, with one of the goals coming in the club’s 7-1 loss to Lyon.

This season Kovacic has spent a considerable amount of time playing in different positions to discover where he’s best at. He has played as a defensive midfielder, central midfielder, attacking midfielder and finally as left midfielder.

Whoscored.com have given Kovacic the highest rating as a defensive midfielder, and indeed Zagreb have comfortably won both games in which he has played as a DM. But he doesn’t seem to be a player with the body size or skill set to thrive in the position.

Now 18 years old, Kovacic has still got plenty of time to discover where he plays best, and as long as he’s still getting playing time for his club, it’s difficult to be too hard and critical on him for not producing goals and assists on a regular basis.

Once he finds his best position and gets settled down, they’ll come—in bunches, too.

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)

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