Folarin Balogun, Reims
Focus

Balogun, Cherki, and this season's potential breakout stars

Balogun, Cherki, and this season's potential breakout stars

Focus
Publish on 08/03 at 16:46 - S. TELFORD

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Ligue 1 Uber Eats is known as the League of Talents for good reason. Home to Kylian Mbappé, Renato Sanches and many more young stars, who else might light the touchpaper this season?

Paris Saint-Germain star Mbappé fired France to the FIFA World Cup in 2018 and has five Ligue 1 Uber Eats titles to his name, making it easy to forget he is only 23.

 

Sanches, now 24, was Europe's Golden Boy in 2016 after his performances with Portugal, but it is in France with LOSC that his club career his finally caught up with his international one.

 

Which young players could be set for a breakout campaign in 2022/23? Ligue1.com has the scoop...

 

Folarin Balogun

Age: 21

Position: Striker

Club: Stade de Reims (on loan from Arsenal)

Country: England (U21s)/USA (U18s)/Nigeria

He scored 13 goals in just 11 Premier League 2 games last season before ending the campaign on loan at Middlesbrough, and has been compared to Arsenal legend Ian Wright by Martin Keown due to his pace, technique and two-footedness.

 

Reims has proven a good platform for young strikers of late - just look at new PSG recruit Hugo Ekitiké - and fans of the Champagne club should look forward to some more sparkling football in their frontline this season.

 

Rayan Cherki

Age: 18

Position: Attacking midfielder

Club: Olympique Lyonnais

Country: France (U21s)/Algeria/Italy


Rayan Cherki is considered one of the Lyon academy's biggest ever prospects, which is saying something for a club who have produced Karim Benzema, Samuel Umtiti, Hatem Ben Arfa and many more.

 

He was already turning out for their reserves in the fourth-tier Championnat National 2 aged 15, and now, still only 18, is a cornerstone for Sylvain Ripoll's France under-21 side.

 

Seven-time French champions Lyon could only finish eighth last season, and Cherki was used largely from the bench. But his 12 progressive carries per game put him in the 98th percentile league-wide, and coach Peter Bosz has an in-house replacement should Lucas Paqueta leave.

 

Khéphren Thuram

Age: 21

Position: Defensive midfielder

Club: OGC Nice

Country: France (U21s)/Guadeloupe/Italy

 

Khéphren Thuram, Amine Gouiri, France

 

Khéphren Thuram's father Lilian is France's all-time record appearance maker with 142 caps, while big brother Marcus is already the owner of a UEFA Champions League brace against Real Madrid. But the youngster looks ready to step out of their shadows.

 

Thuram was initially third-choice to central midfielders Pablo Rosario and Mario Lemina under Christophe Galtier last season, but he won the new PSG coach over mid-campaign, helping steer les Aiglons into the fifth and final European place.

 

His four goals and three assists came in at a rate of one every 271 minutes he played - not bad for a defensive midfielder! - and Galtier could do worse than add him to his ranks at the Parc des Princes this season.

 

Adrien Truffert

Age: 20

Position: Left-back

Club: Stade Rennais FC

Country: France (U21s)/Belgium

 

Watch: Highlights of Truffert's stunning top-flight debut!



Adrien Truffert had a goal and an assist off the bench to give Rennes a 2-1 win over AS Monaco in his Ligue 1 Uber Eats debut in September 2020 and has impressed when given the opportunity ever since.

 

A left-back who is equally capable of filling in on the right or further forward, Truffert is a force in both boxes who averaged three blocks per game last season as well as two shot-creating actions per 90 minutes.

 

Belgium coach Roberto Martinez has expressed interest in capping Truffert for the country of his birth, but he is up to 14 caps and counting with les Espoirs. It is a race France will be glad to win given his current trajectory.

 

Elye Wahi

Age: 19

Position: Forward

Club: Montpellier Hérault SC

Country: France (U19s)/Côte d'Ivoire


Elye Wahi was Montpellier's 10-goal top scorer last season despite starting just 21 of a possible 38 games, and seven those in the line behind the striker in Olivier Dall'Oglio's preferred 4-2-3-1 formation.

 

Wahi's tally made him the youngest player in Montpellier history to reach double digits for Ligue 1 Uber Eats goals in a single season, and also the top-scoring teenager across Europe's five major leagues per UEFA coefficient.

 

Wahi can often be found in a recording studio in his spare time, but it is on the pitch where he makes his sweetest music, and if he can average a goal every 177 minutes next season - as he did last - La Paillade could well find themselves qualifying for Europe.

 

Photo credit: Stade de Reims