Malcom, Aouar, Mbappe and the Ligue 1 Rising Stars of the Season

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Another thrilling campaign in France's top-flight unearthed yet more talented youngsters - and here are the best of them

Another Ligue 1 season has drawn to a close, with Paris Saint-Germain completing a clean sweep of domestic honours. 

It was, however, a year in which another raft of promising young players established themselves as figures to watch. France's top flight has a knack of producing a steady stream of quality through the academies of its respective clubs and that was again the case as a fresh batch of youths excelled themselves.

Here is the outstanding XI, picked purely from players 21 or younger at the beginning of the season:


GOALKEEPER: ALBAN LAFONT


Alban Lafont Toulouse

Alban Lafont may only be 19, be he already has a wealth of top-flight experience in a position generally reserved for older players. He featured in every minute of Ligue 1 action for Toulouse this season and is now up to 98 league appearances.

He is a sharp, agile goalkeeper, and though he was not without fault this season, he continues to be on the radar of some of Europe’s biggest clubs.


RIGHT-BACK: NORDI MUKIELE


Nordi Mukiele Montpellier Saint-Etienne 19022017

Montpellier had Ligue 1’s strongest defence this season with the exception of PSG and Nordi Mukiele was a major participant in their success.

The 20-year-old showed versatility, able to play in the centre or out on the right, and looks every inch capable of becoming one of the best in his position in France. 


CENTRE-BACK: JORIS GNAGNON


Joris Gnagnon Rennes

The talents of Joris Gnagnon have long been recognised in Rennes, where he featured 27 times last season.

He confirmed his potential as one of the outstanding young centre-backs in the league this time around, showing pace and strength as he cemented himself as the lynchpin of his side’s defensive line.


CENTRE-BACK: JEREMY GELIN


Ronny Rodelin Jeremy Gelin Caen Rennes Ligue 1 17022018

Jeremy Gelin was brought into the Rennes side by Sabri Lamouchi when he good over the reins of the club in the autumn and was so accomplished in his position in the heart of the rearguard, he did not allow Mexer back into the squad.

The 21-year-old played a major role in lifting the Bretons back into European contention with a stunning late-season rally.


LEFT-BACK: VALENTIN ROSIER


Valentin Rosier Dijon Metz

Dijon might have been one of Ligue 1’s weaker defensive sides, but that was not for the efforts of versatile full-back Valentin Rosier. From a defensive aspect, the 21-year-old is a player who reads the game very effectively and has a habit of snuffing out danger before it has fully developed.

At the other end of the field, however, he is capable with the ball at his feet and is a strong dribbler. An exciting player for the future. 


CENTRE MIDFIELD: TANGUY NDOMBELE


Tanguy NDombele Lyon Troyes Ligue 1 06052018

Tanguy Ndombele was one of the revelations of the season in Lyon, where he arrived on loan from Amiens at the beginning of the campaign.

The defensive midfielder was initially signed to come off the bench but soon forced himself into a regular starting berth with strong defensive performances alongside Lucas Tousart. He is much more than a simple destructor, showing good energy and aptitude on the ball. 


CENTRE MIDFIELD: GIOVANI LO CELSO


Giovani Lo Celso PSG Les Herbiers Coupe de France 08052018

Paris Saint-Germain is a hard place for youngsters to break through, but Argentine midfielder Giovani Lo Celso has been able to do just that, taking advantage of injuries to more senior team-mates to play 33 times in Ligue 1, including 18 from the start.

He scored four goals and created three more. If he can develop a little more composure in front of goal, he will be a formidable presence indeed. 


RIGHT MIDFIELD: RONY LOPES


Rony Lopes Monaco Strasbourg Ligue 1 19092017

Although Monaco floundered at times in the second half of the season, they were carried into the Champions League by Portuguese youngster Rony Lopes.

The 22-year-old is developing into an ideal replacement for Bernardo Silva in Leonardo Jardim’s side, having found the net 15 times this season. He has five assists to his name, and Monaco will expect that figure to increase next season.


ATTACKING MIDFIELD: HOUSSEM AOUAR


Houssem Aouar Lyon

Lyon are a side with a formidable production line of young talent, the latest of whom to break into the starting XI is Houssem Aouar. The 19-year-old midfielder was on the fringes of the squad at the start of the campaign but by the end was a regular starter, having bagged six goals and created five more.

Following to an extent in the mould of team-mate Nabil Fekir, he is technically strong, versatile and has a good eye for goal.


LEFT MIDFIELD: MALCOM


Malcom Bordeaux

Over the course of the summer, Malcom is liable to be a player over which there is a great deal of transfer hype. The Bordeaux winger exploded into life at the start of the season with a number of spectacular goals, including a stunner against Dijon that won Ligue 1’s Goal of the Season prize.

As his side struggled, he cooled off a little, but he is an exciting player coveted by many of Europe’s biggest teams.


STRIKER: KYLIAN MBAPPE


Kylian Mbappe PSG

Kylian Mbappe confirmed himself as one of the top young players in the world game with his performances for Paris Saint-Germain this term.

The burden of a giant summer move to his hometown side at times seemed to take an edge off the 19-year-old’s performances, but a return of 13 goals in 27 league appearances was a fine effort, particularly when it is taken into account he got four in eight in the Champions League.

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