EUROPE: SA U21 players who are ready for first team football

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With the 2019/20 season having come to a halt just before most leagues conclude business in Europe and with many of Mzansi’s youngsters having come closer to making first team debuts this season FARPost looks at some of the youngsters expected to take that step next season.

SPHEPHELO SITHOLE

The 21-year-old central midfielder has been training with the first team of SAD Belenenses for 18 months and made the bench on 4 occasions this season, but could not come on for his debut. In the 2020/21 season Sithole is expected to be a member of the first team full time after his promotion this season from the U23s. The midfielder is expected to play a key role as cover for most of the team’s midfielders who are at their prime.

KHANYA LESHABELA

Leshabela is already part of coach Brendan Rodgers’s plans to succeed players like James Maddison, Demarai Gray and Youri Tielimens on the attacking midfield and wing roles. The 20-year-old has already had his first full pre-season with the senior team where he fitted well in the absence of Maddison. After yet another solid season with the U23s he is expected to be playing first team football next season.

KGAOGELO CHAUKE

17-year-old Chauke signed his first professional contract with Southampton at the beginning of this year and started training with the senior team full time immediately. Southampton is known for its belief in youngsters and Chauke being a regular for the Saints’ U23 team this season he might make his first team debut sooner than expected.

NIKOLA TAVARES

Tavares is another player who has been training with the first team for sometime now and with him being the captain of the U23 team at Crystal Palace the Cape Town-born centre back has also made it clear that at 21 next season first team football is a must for him. It still remains to be seen whether it will be at Crystal Palace or a loan elsewhere.

TASHREEQ MATTHEWS

Having already made his debut and scored his first goal this season for his new club Varbergs Bois, Matthews is expected to play more senior games in Sweden as he looks to be a full time first team player. Matthews had a lot of months being instable moving from one club to the other so now he has a chance to make his mark amongst the big boys.

LUKE LE ROUX

Like Matthews, Le Roux has just begun life in Sweden also with Varbergs Bois and will be looking to cement a regular starting berth at the Allsvansken side after he signed a long-term deal with them from former Absa Premiership champions SuperSport United in February.

SYLIAN MOKONO

Not known by many in South Africa, Mokono has been going through the ranks at Dutch Eredivisie side FC Utrecht for the past few years. The 20-year-old was promoted to the first team at the beginning of the season but a long-term injury took him out for months. The right back only made his return to football towards the end of 2019 playing for Jong Utrecht in the second division in Holland where he has since been a regular at right back. The Dutch second tier by the way is a senior football league with many clubs fighting for promotion to the first division.

DEAN SOLOMONS & LEO THETHANI

With their contracts set to expire at the end of this season at giants Ajax Amsterdam the duo from Cape Town will be looking at either renewing and playing for the first team or simply looking to further their carers elsewhere but whatever decision they take at 21 they need to start playing first team football. The Ajax academy is a big institution in Netherlands so should they look to join another club where they will play regularly they won’t be short of options.

KOBAMELO KODISANG

Kodisang has been a first team player for the past three seasons before joining SC Braga where he now plays with their B team in the third division which is a senior football league . Kodisang is a young player armed with experience at senior level and at 21 he will be looking to fight for his spot on the Braga first team or he will look for a loan spell elsewhere where he can be a first team player as he pushes to establish himself in Europe.

KATLEGO MASHIGO

The 19-year-old has already made the first team bench three times last season for Irish giants Bohemians FC and this season has signed a new deal that specifies his participation with the senior squad being a lot more. Mashigo has also played in the UEFA Youth League with the U19 side and has been a big player for them. The box-to-box midfielder is expected to play a part in the League campaign of the senior team for the 2020/21 campaign with Bohemians.

CHRISTOS RETSOS

18-year-old Retsos has made a few appearances for FC Panionis this season after playing against the likes of Olympiacos, PAOK and Panathiniakos in the Greek top flight already. In the 2020/21 season having already acclimatised in Greece the Mpumalanga Black Aces product is expected to play a bigger role .

LYLE FOSTER

Foster has already played his first senior football full season in Europe on loan at Cercle Brugge. The season might have not been so fruitful for the Orlando Pirates product but he has improved immensely during the season. Foster was challenged more by his coach in a quest to make him an a more complete player for example he was played in a more deeper role at the club to improve his link up play, speed and defending abilities. Next season Foster will be looking at having his first impact season in Europe whether he would be going back to parent club Monaco or remaining in Belgium.

KEANIN AYER

Having already made over 40 first team appearances for Varbergs Bois over the past 18 months the midfielder from Eldorado Park is the youngest South African player making a big impact overseas. Last season alone Ayer clocked 29 appearances out of a possible 30 in the league to help Varbergs gain promotion to the top tier for the 2029/21 season. The 19-year-old will be continuing where he left off in the new campaign as he looks to grow his numbers and gain more experience abroad.

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By Prince Sobayeni

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