Top 5 youngsters who had a breakout season in the 2022-23 UEFA Europa League
The 2022-23 UEFA Europa League season is nearing its end, with four teams fighting for the silverware. But irrespective of who lifts the title in Czech Republic’s Prague, the season will be remembered for the talented youngsters it has produced.
Many players have had a breakout campaign in the ongoing edition of the Europa League, with some of those already being chased after by the big sharks of international football. In this article, we will take a look at five youngsters who had a breakout season:
#5 Ludovic Blas
Ludovic Blas has done well for Nantes since joining the club in 2019, but this season happened to be his first campaign in Europe. Although his team could not make it past the knockout playoffs round, Blas should be credited for the few decent results the Canaries have had this season.
He has six goal contributions, which include three goals and as many assists. The lad from Colombes scored a goal each in the last two league matches against Qarabag and Olympiacos, whereas his third goal came at the famous Allianz Stadium against Juventus.
As for his assists, he provided two key passes leading to goals in Nantes’ 2-1 home win over Olympiacos, with the third assist also coming against the same team, in Greece. In terms of goal contributions, Blas is currently among the top ten despite playing only eight matches, while he is also tied with Liverpool’s highly-rated Cody Gakpo.
Known for his ‘fox in the box’ attributes, Blas took 26 shots in the Europa League, of which 10 shots were on target. Meanwhile, he was also involved in 36 goal-creating actions for the Ligue 1 team.
The second player on this list, Evander is not playing in Europe anymore, but his excellent performances in the UEFA Europa League had a role to play in his move to the United States of America. Now playing for Portland Timbers in Major League Soccer, the Brazilian had an excellent outing for Denmark’s Midtjylland in Europe.
Evander was involved in six goal contributions, which included one goal and five assists. His lone goal came against Italian giants Lazio, against whom he also got three assists. His other two assists came against Dutch side Feyenoord – one in each leg.
Currently, Evander tops the chart for the most assists in the league, whereas he also has the best assists per 90 minutes figure, providing 0.88 assists per game according to statistics. Like Blas, he too is among the top ten in this season’s goal contributions chart in the Europa League.
#3 Santiago Gimenez
The next player on this list crossed paths with Evander in this season’s Europa League, as they were placed in the same group. Feyenoord’s Santiago Gimenez, who recently turned 22, is now proving to be among Mexico’s most promising upcoming talents.
A lethal striker, Gimenez has scored five goals in the competition. Two of those goals came in a defeat, which was against Lazio in Italy. However, he found the back of the next in the next match again, against Sturm Graz. In the return leg against Lazio, which was played at De Kuip, Gimenez scored the winning goal.
The Argentina-born footballer is third on the list of leading goal-scorers, behind only Marcus Rashford and Victor Boniface. In terms of goals per 90 minutes ratio, he is second to only AS Monaco’s Kevin Volland, with a figure of 1.04.
There are a few other interesting statistics about the Mexican forward as well. He happens to be among the only five players who have scored over three non-penalty goals in this season’s Europa League, while all of his five on-target shots have resulted in goals showcasing his lethal nature in front of goal.
#2 Manuel Ugarte
Although the season is not over yet, teams are already circling around Sporting Clube de Portugal’s Manuel Ugarte, with all of them eager to trigger his €60 million release clause. If reports are to be believed, Liverpool and Chelsea have already sent their scouts to watch the Uruguayan play, and numbers will prove why the price tag is more than justified.
Although his team was not initially involved in the Europa League, arriving in the knockout playoffs stage after finishing third in their Champions League group, Ugarte has taken just four matches to be among the best midfielders of the league.
The 22-year-old has made 24 tackles in those matches, which keeps him in the top five of that list. Besides that, he has won 16 tackles despite playing only 372 minutes, and only AS Roma’s Bryan Cristante has won more tackles than the lad from Montevideo.
He is also known to stop attacks very effectively, and has tackled 15 dribbles. Interestingly, only Manchester United’s Lisandro Martinez has managed to make more tackles against dribbles than Ugarte in the competition.
#1 Victor Boniface
While one Nigerian striker is now being chased by the biggest clubs of the world with millions of dollars, as Victor Osimhen played an important role in Napoli’s Serie A win, it seems that another young Nigerian striker of the same style is in the making, who could find himself in a similar spot a few years down the line.
It is only this year that Boniface moved to Royale Union from Norwegian club Bodo/Glimt, but the 22-year-old has wasted no time in settling in Belgium, hitting the ground running from his first season itself.
Besides doing a superb job in the Jupiler Pro League, Boniface has also been impressive in the UEFA Europa League. He has scored six goals for Les Unionistes, playing a major part in taking his team to the quarter-final.
Two of those goals came in the group stage, as he scored once against Sweden’s Malmo and twice against Portugal’s Braga. Besides that, he netted a brace in the first leg of the Round of 16 tie against Bundesliga club Union Berlin, before scoring his sixth goal in the first leg tie of the quarter-final, where he was up against another Bundesliga team in Bayer Leverkusen.
While he is jointly topping the goal-scoring charts with Manchester United’s Marcus Rashford, there is more to Boniface’s game as he also has given two assists. Both assists came against Union Berlin – one in the group stage and the other in the second leg of the round of 16.
In terms of total goal contributions, the Nigerian beats the Englishman and is tied on top with Lorenzo Pellegrini. He has taken a total of 25 shots in the Europa League this season, of which 10 were on target. Besides that, he also has completed 23 successful take-ons, with only three players across the league showing a better figure.