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UNFP Trophies: Young Player of the Year

UNFP Trophies: Young Player of the Year

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Publish on 05/12 at 05:44 - S. WILLIS

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Who will succeed Aurélien Tchouaméni as Young Player of the Year? As usual, France's top-flight clubs have been busy developing the talents of numerous young players, with this season's standouts Arnaud Kalimuendo, Castello Lukeba, Nuno Mendes, William Saliba and Khéphren Thuram all in the running. Check out our run-down right here…

The UNFP Trophies are a number of awards given annually by the National Union of Professional Football Players to players playing in France's Ligue 1 and Ligue 2, as well as to managers and referees, the most prestigious one being the Player of the Year.

Ligue 1 Uber Eats Young Player of the Year

AS Monaco are the club with the most Young Player of the Year trophies (5). Individually, only Eden Hazard (2) and Kylian Mbappé (3) have won it more than once. The team that has won the title of best player most often is Paris Saint-Germain (10 times). Individually, Zlatan Ibrahimović has won this award three times, which is a record. 

Olympique Lyonnais have won the title of best goalkeeper are record seven times. Steve Mandanda holds the individual record with five gongs, while AS Monaco and LOSC are tied for the record of Coach of the Year (5 times). Laurent Blanc and current Nice coach Christophe Galtier (nominated this year) have each won the award three times.

The Nominees

Arnaud Kalimuendo
Paris Saint-Germain youth academy graduate Arnaud Kalimuendo is having a stellar season on loan at RC Lens - again! After showing plenty of potential with seven goals and five assists in Les Sang et Or's promotion season of 2020-21, the 20-year-old was called back to his parent club only to strike a deal for another season in the north. And it has worked out well for the France U21 international, who has racked up 11 goals for Franck Haise's side in their push for a European return, using his pace, movement and clinical finishing skills to full effect. Be it at PSG or Lens - or whichever club secures his services for season 2022-23 - Kalimuendo has a bright future.

Castello Lukeba
Lukeba may still be just 19 years of age, but the France U21 international stopper has risen to the top of the pile at Olympique Lyonnais, whose academy he graduated from, in the current campaign. In a season of ups and downs for Peter Bosz's squad, Lukeba has provided real reliability, seizing his chance for a starting place after Brazilian centre-back Marcelo left the club in December. An ever-present in the OL XI since then, Lukeba has brought his prodigious positional sense to bear and even added goal-scoring to his resume. Whatever overhaul is undertaken at Groupama Stadium this summer, it's a fair bet that Lukeba will emerge unscathed and with a key role to play next season.

Nuno Mendes
Making his arrival at the capital at the same time as Sergio Ramos, Gianluigi Donnarumma and Achraf Hakimi, Portuguese left-back Nuno Mendes may have flown under the radar somewhat, but his performances on PSG's left flank quickly drew plenty of attention. With blistering pace, phenomenal ball control and an attacking mindset, the 19-year-old has given Spain international Juan Bernat stiff competition for a starting place and made 26 appearances (one assist). The fact that Paris Saint-Germain have already opted to convert the youngster's loan deal from Sporting Lisbon into a permanent move speaks volumes about the quality of this promising Portugal international.

William Saliba
Saint-Etienne youth academy product William Saliba is already a familiar face for Ligue 1 Uber Eats fans, having turned out for Les Verts, Arsenal, OGC Nice and now Marseille after a stint in the EPL with Arsenal and, given his wealth of experience, it's hard to believe he still qualifies as a young player. However, the 21-year-old is all quality and has been instrumental in OM's push for second place and direct Champions League qualification. He has started 35 of OM's 36 Ligue 1 Uber Eats matches this season and, as Jorge Sampaoli's most-used player, the France international - who earned his Les LBeus debut this season - has formed a dynamic central defensive pairing with Luan Peres that has provided the platform for his side's success. Although his loan deal from Arsenal did not include an option to buy, expect to see OM push hard for the move come the summer transfer window.

Khéphren Thuram
For some, having a father (Lillian) who is a living legend of French football and an older brother (Marcus) who lit up Ligue 1 Uber Eats with Guingamp before moving to the Bundesliga could be a hindrance, but for Khéphren Thuram - named after an Egyptian pharaoh - it's all in a day's work. The OGC Nice midfielder - a product of Monaco's academy - has enjoyed a standout season in 2021-22, establishing himself in a defensive midfield role in Christophe Galtier's starting XI (34 appearances) but also finding the opportunities to rack up four goals and three assists.

>> UNFP Trophies: Goalkeeper of the Year

>> UNFP Trophies: Player of the Year

>> UNFP Trophies: Coach of the Year