The International Center for Sports Studies (CIES) from Switzerland has published the results of a survey that revealed the 100 best footballers in Europe under 21, excluding goalkeepers.
CIES made this ranking using 15 technical categories, and data for 8 different aspects of the game was obtained from InStat. This study took into account air defense, ground defense, recovery, distribution, take on, chance creation, air attack, and shooting. The strength of the club was also valued, as well as the strength of the league, i.e., the opponent.
The current stopper of the Croatia national team and RB Leipzig, Joško Gvardiol, took an admirable fourth place in the survey as the ‘ground blocker playmaker’. Ahead of him are only Bukayo Saka, Mason Greenwodd, and Patrick Wimmer of Arminia Bielefeld.
The three factors that were taken into account when ranking players were their performance in relation to teammates, the results of their club, as well as the quality of opponents. The CIES states that for each of the 100 best young players in Europe, they highlighted two categories of technical skills in which, based on statistics, they are the best out of a total of 11.
Saka is thus marked as a dribbler and creator of chances, while Gvardiol’s defense and ball distribution is emphasized, which confirms the epithet of a modern stopper.
Gvardiol played the most minutes for his team out of the 20 best young footballers. Namely, he played 86.8% of all available minutes for Leipzig. In the top 20, according to that criterion, Saka is in second place with 85.3% of minutes played for Arsenal.
In addition to Gvardiol, another Croatian football player made the list of the 100 best under 21s. Namely, Hajduk striker Marin Ljubičić took 71st place. He played 44% of the available league minutes this season, and CIES pointed out that winning the ball in the air and shooting (‘target man’) as the greatest qualities in his game.
To read more about sports in Croatia, follow TCN’s dedicated page.