SWOL Top 100: The Best U-21 Footballers to Watch in 2013 (75-71)


SWOL analyst Mohamed Al-Hendy continues his countdown of the best U21 footballers in the world that you should watch in 2013 as we close out the 70′s with places 75-71.

Ricardo Van Rhijn of Ajax (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)

75. Ricardo Van Rhijn

Quality full-backs are a real rarity in world football. But as always, if there’s a club that can produce quality youth talents in any position, it’s Ajax.

Ricardo van Rhijn has spent his career up to the 2012-13 season stuck behind Gregory van der Wiel, who is now at Paris Saint-Germain.

However, he first made his name in 2011-12, when injury to van der Wiel allowed van Rhijn to experience his first extended run in the starting lineup.

Pleased with what they’d seen, Ajax felt comfortable allowing van der Wiel to leave Ajax, knowing they had a capable replacement waiting in the wings.

Van Rhijn’s game is very similar to that of Jetro Willems. He’s not quite as good yet, and he plays on the opposite flank, but like Willems his passing and crossing are at levels where they’re good, but not amazing.

If van Rhijn can improve in those departments though and make good use of his pace in the process, he may be able to challenge his former club teammate in the Dutch national team down the line.

Jetro Willems of PSV (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)

74. Jetro Willems

What do you work on after becoming the youngest player ever to start the European Championships? That’s the question 18-years-young Jetro Willems must answer.

To a degree, the answer is simple: everything.

As promising a talent as Willems is, he’s still very raw. He’s a good passer, but he can get better, and his crossing could use some work, too.

On defense, Willems’ game continues to improve, but one aspect he can work on is his interceptions. His tackling is top-notch, but it seems that interceptions are a weak part of Willems’ game.

At PSV, Willems has the opportunity to develop significantly at a club willing to nurture him.

The Netherlands’ biggest weakness in recent memory has always been its defense, and if Willems continues to improve, he’ll give the Dutch one less position to worry about over the next decade.

Alexandre Lacazette of Lyon (Photo via Getty Images)

73. Alexandre Lacazette

Alexandre Lacazette is the final Lyon player to make our list and probably the most exciting one of the bunch to follow, development-wise, in 2013.

Remi Garde has entrusted Lacazette with a lot of responsibility this season. He has been asked to play opposite Lisandro Lopez and Michel Bastos throughout the season, players of seasoned pedigree and considerable experience at the top level of European football.

So far, Lacazette has done okay. In all competitions, he has two goals and five assists.

But when you play for a club like Lyon, more is expected.

Lacazette has the pace and dribbling skills to be a force down the right flank. If he shows more hunger and improves his shooting, Lacazette could quickly find himself earning regular calls to the French national team.

Stefan de Vrij of Feyenoord (Photo by Vincent Jannink/EuroFootball/Getty Images)

72. Stefan De Vrij

Even though they haven’t achieved much success in the last few years, Feyenoord remain a force in youth production, and Stefan De Vrij is evidence of that.

At just 20 years old, De Vrij already captains his team, and when fit to start, Feyenoord have posted a 7-2-1 record this season.

De Vrij actually made his debut at the age of 17 back in the 2009-10 season, and he has only gotten better since then.

Like any good centre-back, he’s strong and aggressive, but his tackling is what makes him truly exceptional. There’s good tackling, and then there’s what De Vrij does.

Unfortunately, De Vrij is heavily lacking in pace, but his timing on his tackles often makes up for this. His pace may keep him from being world-class, but he can still develop into a real asset for the Dutch team if he continues to improve his strengths.

Luc Castaignos of FC Twente (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)

71.Luc Castaignos

Luc Castaignos is an example of how a footballer should react when he undergoes a bad transfer in his career.

When Castaignos left Feyenoord for Inter Milan in 2010-11, he was heralded by many as one of the biggest talents in world football, and even by some as the new Thierry Henry for his body structure and dribbling style.

Unfortunately, Castaignos was given practically no opportunities to prove himself in his year at the club and transferred back to the Netherlands at the end of the 2011-12 season, this time with Twente.

Rather than let his head hang and allow his failed spell with Inter leave an indelible scar on his career, Castaignos has picked up right where he left off.

He has eight goals in 18 appearances for FC Twente this season and is on course to once again hit the 15-plus goal mark he hit in his first full year at Feyenoord.

It may not be easy for Castaignos to get another big club to take a punt on him after his failed stint with Inter, but his current form sure isn’t hurting his cause.

Even if Castaignos does not get the big move most youth players hope for, his current performances make him one of the best four or five Dutch strikers in world football, and if injuries fall in the right manner, Castaignos’ form may see him rewarded with a cap or two for the national team.

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)

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