Ligue 1 youngsters

Top five youngsters so far

Publish on 11/01/2021 at 11:09 - I. HOLYMAN


Jérémy Doku, Amine Gouiri, Romain Faivre, Benoît Badiashile and Randal Kolo Muani…never heard of them? You soon will have.'s Ian Holyman picks out five of the stand-out young performers of the first half of the 2020/21 Ligue 1 Uber Eats season.

Jérémy Doku

Age: 18

Club: Rennes

2020/21 goals/apps.: 0 (2 assists)/13 apps. (10 starts)


Rennes have turned out more than their fair share of youth academy gems — after Ousmane Dembélé, Eduardo Camavinga is just the latest — but they have also polished up rough diamonds from other clubs: goalkeepers Petr Cech and Andreas Isaksson to name two who made their names in Brittany, Doku could well be the next.


Little known outside of Belgium before last summer, the teenage winger had already caught the eye of the likes of Ajax and Liverpool thanks to his performances with Anderlecht. Those displays earned him a senior debut with Belgium in September, and he penned a five-year deal at Roazhon Park in early October.


There were flashes of his devastating pace and ability to beat a man one-on-one during Rennes' ill-fated UEFA Champions League group stage debut, and his form either side of Christmas has been a major factor in Julien Stéphan's men enjoying much-improved fortunes.


"He's increasingly settling into the squad, and you can see that on the pitch, where he's playing with a lot more freedom," said teammate Benjamin Bourigeaud. "He's having much more of an impact in our attacking play, and his understanding with [right-back] Hamari Traoré is also developing well," added Stéphan.


Amine Gouiri

Age: 20

Club: Nice

2020/21 goals/apps.: 6 (3 assists)/17 apps. (15 starts)


Will Lyon regret Gouiri's summer departure? The OL youth academy has been outrageously productive over the last decade, but Gouiri — who made just eight brief top-flight appearances for the seven-time French champions — could be one of the most successful of those who 'got away'.


Compared favourably to Karim Benzema as he scored prodigiously on his rise through the ranks at Lyon, his summer 2020 arrival at Nice has proven he was ready for the big time.


WATCH: Amine Gouiri scores twice against Lens on his Nice debut



Two goals on his debut in the Round 1 win over Lens set the tone for a hugely successful first half to the season for Gouiri, who only turns 21 in February but has already established himself with the France U21 side.


"I hear people say, 'Gouiri had three coaches at Lyon, so if he didn't play, it's because he mustn't behave himself, he musn't work'," said the Nice forward himself earlier this season. "Except you can see now that that wasn't the case." 


And if you look at his stats, which also include four goals in five UEFA Europa League group games…the defence rests.  


Benoît Badiashile

Age: 19

Club: Monaco

2020/21 goals/apps.: 2 (0 assists)/18 apps. (17 starts)


Standing nearly 6'3" (1.92m), it's little wonder Badiashile has been on the radar of Europe's elite clubs for some time, though he reportedly turned down Manchester United, Juventus, Barcelona and RB Leipzig to sign a first professional contract in the principality in February 2018 aged just 16.


Along with Han-Noah Massengo, he became one of the first players born in the 21st century to appear in the UEFA Champions League under Henry's tenure at Monaco, and after 16 top-flight games last season, is now first-choice at the heart of Niko Kovac's defence.


He even scored in his club's opening two league games of the season, and is flourishing under the principality outfit's German coach, who — as soon as he was appointed last summer — had very clear plans for his teenage centre-back.


"Our objective is to make him take a step up by playing a lot of Ligue 1 games," Kovac said with United rumoured to again be circling with interest. "We don't want to sell him, that's very clear. He'll stay here this season."


Romain Faivre

Age: 22

Club: Brest

2020/21 goals/apps.: 4 (3 assists)/19 apps. (18 starts)


There aren't too many players who can say they were given their debut by Thierry Henry. Yes, the Arsenal and France legend's tenure at Monaco didn't last too long, but the current Montreal Impact coach should know a good player when he spots one, and that is exactly what he thought of Faivre.


Picked up from Tours in 2017, Faivre struggled to make an impact making just a single top-flight appearance at the Stade Louis II where he was undoubtedly seen as a potential successor to Bernardo Silva. 


WATCH: Romain Faivre gives Brest win against ex-club Monaco



The talent Monaco spotted is coming through at Brest where Faivre's cultured left foot is wreaking havoc with opposition defences. Just ask Monaco, who were beaten in Brittany in early October with their former player the man putting them to the sword.


"I'm going to stay measured: it's positive," replied Faivre when asked to describe his first half of the season. "You have to keep your feet on the ground." 


You do that, Romain, while everyone else is — justifiably — getting carried away by those very same feet.

Randal Kolo Muani

Age: 22

Club: Nantes

2020/21 goals/apps.: 2 (2 assists)/18 apps. (16 starts)


The Parisian suburb of Bondy has produced two recent France internationals: Kylian Mbappé and Jonathan Ikoné. Could Kolo Muani be the next?


He played at US Torcy — the club where Paul Pogba, Jeff Reine-Adélaïde and Adrien Hunou, among others, all took their first steps in the game — but was not spotted by local professional teams, joining Nantes in 2015.


He had made just six brief Ligue 1 Uber Eats appearances before this season, but his 2019/20 campaign loan spell at third-tier Boulogne has made a huge difference, turning the 6'1" (1.87m) forward into a force to be reckoned with.


"André-Pierre Gignac did the same thing when I had him at Lorient," said Christian Gourcuff, the Nantes coach at the start of the season who brought Kolo Muani into the team. "He went off to Pau in the National division and he established himself as soon as he came back and went on to have the career he's had."


The youngster's form has barely wavered despite Patrick Collot and now Raymond Domenech having succeeded Gourcuff in the Nantes dugout, and much bigger things are to come.


"He has all the qualities required to succeed," explained Aurélien Capoue, brother of Etienne and a former Nantes player who is now on the club's coaching staff. "In comparison, I saw a player called Nicolas Pepe, who was loaned to Orléans in the third division by Angers. Randal has a lot more qualities than Pepe. He's more complete."


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