Arsenal and France legend Thierry Henry has a reservoir of talent on his hands as manager of France’s U21 squad, who will play their final matches of 2023 in the coming days. Les Bleuets kick-off the return fixtures of their Euro 2025 qualifying campaign, with a visit to Austria on the cards ahead of an international friendly against South Korea on home soil in Le Havre.
Henry only worked with Paris Saint-Germain star boy and previous U21 captain Warren Zaïre-Emery for a handful of matches before his historic call-up for France manager Didier Deschamps’ senior side. Yet, he’ll have no shortage of talented youngsters who could follow in the footsteps of the teenager hailing from the Paris suburbs: here are five Ligue 1 Uber Eats talents to watch in France’s U21 side.
Guillaume Restes (Toulouse)
At 18-years-old, the Toulouse academy product has been the revelation of the season for Les Violets. After breaking through following the departure of Maxime Dupé to Anderlecht in Belgium at the start of the season, Restes has featured in every Ligue 1 Uber Eats match this season for Carles Martínez Novell’s side. A dynamic and energetic shot-stopper, the teenager is beginning to find his feet (and strong hands) in domestic action, leading to Henry establishing the Toulousan as his number one keeper for Les Bleuets.
Leny Yoro (Lille)
The centre-back recently celebrated his 18th birthday, but already garnered the interest of some of Europe’s elite clubs off the back of a breakthrough season with Lille in the previous campaign. José Fonte’s departure to Braga left a golden opportunity for game time this season, alongside none other than 2018 World Cup winner Samuel Umtiti as a central defensive partner. According to FBREF, the teenager is in the top percentiles for pass completion (91.3%) and passes attempted (68) in the current campaign, acting as an effective passer & ball-carrier. Yoro was only first selected for Henry’s side in September, but will look to become a staple selection alongside RB Leipzig’s Castello Lukeba.
Bradley Barcola (PSG)
Barcola was one of the biggest talents coming out of Lyon’s famous youth academy, so much so that Paris Saint-Germain swooped for the youngster in a 40 million transfer in the summer. The winger is settling in to life in the French capital, featuring for Luis Enrique’s PSG side in 10 appearances and getting his first taste of Champions League football against AC Milan and Newcastle. An energetic wide forward, who has an astute passing ability, Barcola has been selected 11 times for the France U21 squad, managing to find the back of the net on four occasions.
Maghnes Akliouche (Monaco)
A left-footed attacking midfielder who is as versatile as he is tricky, Akliouche has truly burst onto the scene with Monaco this season in Ligue 1 Uber Eats action. The Paris-born midfielder has put in several excellent performances for his club side this season, scoring a brace against Olympique de Marseille, and being one of the driving forces in the Monégasque attack which has propelled Adi Hütter’s side up the league. The 21-year-old has been selected four times for France’s U21 side and scored his first goal for Les Bleuets in a 9-goal routing of Cyprus in October.
Rayan Cherki (Lyon)
Whilst performances have been lacking for his club side in recent weeks at Olympique Lyonnais, there is no doubt that Rayan Cherki still has the potential to be a huge player in the future. The 20-year-old is one of the more experienced members of Thierry Henry’s squad, having been called up for the first time in 2021 and subsequently earning 18 caps with Les Bleuets. If doubt persists concerning his starting position at Lyon, it’s at the France U21 squad where Cherki consistently thrives. The academy product of Les Gones is currently the top scorer for France’s B team, hitting the back of the net on 11 occasions whilst representing his national side.
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