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Going into 2017, Kylian Mbappé had scored just four times in 22 Ligue 1 appearances. Everyone had high hopes for the Monaco youngster, but not many would have predicted just how he would exploded over the next 12 months.
In just 33 games since, he has scored a further 20 goals, become a full France international and sealed a move to Paris Saint-Germain which will cost around £166million after an initial loan spell.
Going into 2018, we have picked out some Ligue 1 youngster who could go on to big things this year. Some are already touted as superstars and linked with the likes of Barcelona, some are more long shots who could surprise.
Who do you think will make it big in 2018?
Nordi Mukiele – Montpellier
Arriving from Laval in Ligue 2, the France Under-21 international began his top-flight career as a right-back and he impressed. Finishing the campaign with 2.9 tackles and 3.2 clearances per game, he also led Montpellier in 3.1 interceptions. Sensational numbers for a 20-year-old in his first season.
This term, he has played both as a full-back and the last seven league games as a centre-back as La Paillade moved to a five-man defence.
Regardless of where he lines up, his athleticism and reading of the game have set him apart from other defenders in the league.
Averaging 2.4 tackles, 2.6 interceptions and 3.7 clearances this season, he’s shown it wasn’t beginner’s luck and he’s blossoming into a very exciting defender.
Ignatius Ganago – Nice
He has only played 32 minutes of Ligue 1 action, but it’s hard not to get a little excited about Ignatius Ganago.
The Cameroonian centre-forward has also made two appearances in the Europa League and 13 minutes as Nice tried to qualify for the Champions League.
Coming off the bench for Mario Balotelli to make his debut back in September, he broke Monaco’s offside trap with a well-timed run, running clear towards Danijel Subašić’s goal, he composed himself, took the ball onto his left foot before tucking away the chance.
Although a very small sample size, his expected goals (xG) per 90 minutes is up at 2.81, which is higher than Edinson Cavani.
Missing through injury, the forward who coach Lucien Favre labelled a ‘little genius’ should be back in January to show what he can add.
Yves Bissouma – Lille
Marcelo Bielsa has a reputation of developing young players, helping take their game to another level. Benjamin Mendy thanks the Argentine boss for his progress. It’s safe to say Bissouma won’t be thanking him any time soon.
Before the start of the season, the Malian midfielder was highly regarded and expected to be the next young prospect Lille would develop.
Having to play at right-back and wide in the midfield, the box-to-box style player didn’t look comfortable.
With new boss Christophe Galtier taking charge for 2018, there is a hope the former LOSC player can help restore the 21-year-old back to his exciting self.
Despite Bielsa, he still leads his team in tackles made with 2.6, adding 1.3 interceptions and 1.3 clearances per game. Already attracting English interest, Bissouma spring to life in 2018.
Jordan Tell – Rennes
Arriving from Caen in the summer, the 20-year-old forward who can play wide or through the middle, is another to catch the eye on his first-team debut.
Up against Troyes, he would come on with 33 minutes to go and made sure to get into the right spot to finish at the back post from Firmin Mubele’s cross.
Featuring for just over 100 minutes this season, he’s yet to make his first start, but with an xG per 90 score of 0.89 is very promising. For comparison, Mbappé’s is 0.72 and Radamel Falcao slightly lower on 0.70. Not to say he’s anywhere near their level, but there have been enough glimpses to suggest he could improve massively.
Playing wide, he is willing to get his head up, make a pass, then push through the middle, looking to receive a killer pass. His willingness to track back, defend and work hard are excellent building blocks for him to build on.
Marcus Thuram – Guingamp
After making his debut for Sochaux back into 2015, it feels like Thuram has been waiting to explode. When your dad is a World Cup winner, there will always be an expectation of greatness.
In 43 games for Les Lionceaux, the 20-year-old only managed one goal, so it was a risk when Guingamp signed him up, even if it was on a free.
Part of the under-19 France squad which won the 2016 European Championships, he was limited to a substitutes role as Mbappé and Augustin made the headlines.
Big and powerful, he’s deceptively quick and has used this to his advantage to score twice for the Breton side this term.
In 16 appearances, he’s averaging 2.86 shots per 90, has an xG of 2.86 and an xG per 90 of 0.22. That’s higher than Bordeaux’s Malcom and Lyon youngster Maxwel Cornet.
We’ve yet to see the best of Thuram, but it feels like we are starting to get more of an idea of what sort of player he could become.
Ibrahima Niane – Metz
Signed from the famed Génération Foot academy in Senegal, Metz have had joy from this route before and Niane is giving the impression he could be the next success story.
Playing off the left wing, the 18-year-old has pace to get in behind, but prefers to cut inside on to his right foot, firing off shots at will. Only five players in a Metz team who are rock bottom of Ligue 1, have more attempts than Niane. For a raw teenager, there is no signs of fear.
Without a goal in his 13 appearances, he does have an xG per 90 of 0.29 which is higher than Prejuce Nakoulma, Isaac Mbenza and Benjamin Jeannot, who have all found the net this term.
Niane has lots of improving to do, but you can see he has the qualities needed to cause trouble to French defenders, it could only be a matter of time before he’s more efficient in front of goal.
Myziane Maolida – Lyon
Celtic fans may have been raving about this 18-year-old before anyone in France.
Playing at Parkhead, he linked up with Nabil Fekir in pre-season, before beating several Bhoys’ defenders and finishing well at the near post. It was a lovely piece of individual skill and a window into the talent Maolida has up his sleeve.
Able to create chances with his pace and lovely footwork, he’s been well trained and is willing to fight on the defensive end too, be that working back, or pressing defenders.
Too light-weight to hold the ball up as a traditional centre-forward, at this moment he is better on the wing, but don’t rule it out in his development.
He has three goals in all competitions, averaging a goal every 103 minutes, with an xG per 90 of 0.24. Lyon may be looking for a striker to play back-up to Mariano, but they must make sure not to reduce the minutes Maolida is picking up this season.
Valentin Rosier – Dijon
Signed from Rodez in 2016, injury stopped the 21-year-old from making an impact last season, but the performances of the full-back have been worth the wait.
A willing runner, Rosier has pace to burn, burning down the flanks, leaving attackers and defenders in his wake. Able to play on both sides, although naturally right-footed, he uses this to his advantage, either coming inside when on the left, or getting to the byline when on the right.
His return of 2.9 interceptions per 90 minutes ranks him sixth in the league and has earned him a place in the France Under-21 squad. Ligue 1 has a reputation of developing exciting young full-backs and Rosier has all the attributes to become one of the next to grab attention across Europe.
Houssem Aouar – Lyon
Breaking into the OL first team, the 19-year-old who has been scouted by Barcelona, is known as a passing, creative talent, but he’s shown himself to be an all-rounder. Only 14 midfielders in Ligue 1 win more tackles than the teenager.
Able to play anywhere from defensive midfield, central playmaker or on the wings, his versatility hasn’t hampered his chances at Lyon. His coach has already lauded his maturity and technical ability and although Bruno Génésio called him an important first-team player, he knows he must be cautious to protect the youngster.
With 1.5 key passes per game, he is getting himself on the ball in the right areas and with three goals and two assists this term, he’s showing he can deliver in the final third.