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Scouting report: the best young forwards

Published: Wednesday 22 October 2014, 7.30CET
From Vincent Aboubakar to Danny Welbeck, Champions Matchday profiles five young forwards with burgeoning reputations making their mark in the 2014/15 UEFA Champions League.

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Published: Wednesday 22 October 2014, 7.30CET

Scouting report: the best young forwards

From Vincent Aboubakar to Danny Welbeck, Champions Matchday profiles five young forwards with burgeoning reputations making their mark in the 2014/15 UEFA Champions League.

Scoring goals in the UEFA Champions League takes skill, nerve and instinct. Here are five young forwards with burgeoning reputations aiming to shine in this campaign.

Danny Welbeck, Arsenal FC
In their 128-year existence, the Gunners have only signed five players direct from Manchester United FC: Jimmy Rimmer, Brian Kidd, Matt Wicks, Mikaël Silvestre and now Welbeck. A product of United's academy, the 23-year-old has already delighted Arsenal fans with a hat-trick in his first home game for the club in this competition.

Welbeck spent 15 years at Old Trafford, but with new manager Louis van Gaal reshuffling his squad – and the forward line – it seemed opportune for the English international to move on. Comfortable on either flank or in the hole, Welbeck was often played out wide at United. With his pace, close control, trickery and link-up play he can prove a handful for defenders and has shown great promise as a centre-forward when given the opportunity.

Welbeck's game suits an era in which so many teams defend from the front. Against Real Madrid CF in the round of 16 in January 2013, Sir Alex Ferguson's last European tie, he marked Xabi Alonso effectively before being moved to the flank with United down to ten men. Welbeck has the pace, intelligence and movement to get behind defences. His acquisition could prove a very shrewd move by Arsène Wenger.

©AFP/Getty Images

Vincent Aboubakar, FC Porto
The Dragons have a reputation for bringing in young, foreign talents and helping them become the best in the business. While the youthful acquisitions are often discovered by the club's superb South American scouting network, Aboubakar is a Cameroonian international signed from Ligue 1 side FC Lorient. Wearing No99, Aboubakar unnerves centre-backs with his fast-paced dribbling and strength in the air.

With his muscular, 1.84m-tall frame, he can cut an intimidating figure as he showed with Lorient, scoring 16 goals – and setting up another six – in 2013/14, as well as being shortlisted for the Marc-Vivien Foé Prize, awarded to the best African player in France. That was a breakthrough campaign for Aboubakar, who was signed on a free from Valenciennes FC in 2010.

Porto's new striker may be just 22, but he has already represented Cameroon in two FIFA World Cups and scored five goals in 22 games for his country. His summer move to the Portuguese Liga has given him the chance to cut it among Europe's elite. Making his UEFA Champions League debut in Porto's 6-0 victory against FC BATE Borisov on matchday one, he scored his side's sixth goal just 12 minutes after coming off the bench.


Aleksandar Mitrović, RSC Anderlecht
Fearless and powerful, Anderlecht's No45 has the goalscoring instincts and all-round game to unnerve the meanest defences. At 20 he already looks like one of the best central strikers to emerge from Serbia since Mateja Kežman. Mitrović comes from the same talent factory.

Born in Smederovo, on the banks of the Danube, he joined FK Partizan when he was 11 and delighted fans by becoming the club's top scorer, with 15 goals in all competitions, in 2012/13, his first season in the senior side. He was quick off the mark in the UEFA Champions League too, scoring after nine minutes of his debut as the Serbian giants beat FC Valletta 3-1 in qualifying back in July 2012.

Mitrović hit the headlines in summer 2013 after inspiring Serbia to victory in the UEFA European Under-19 Championship; he was voted player of the tournament. Within days he had signed for Anderlecht for a reported fee of €5.5m. Mitrović hit the ground running in Belgium: with 15 goals, he was Anderlecht's top scorer in the league in 2013/14. His compatriot, Milan Jovanović, who scored 11 goals in 44 internationals, has no doubt about the young striker's quality: "He is a real top finisher – a menace in the box."

©AFP/Getty Images

Magnus Eriksson, Malmö FF
Born in Solna, the district of Stockholm where a 17-year-old Pelé won the World Cup in 1958, Eriksson scored a goal the Brazilian would have been proud of against FC Salzburg in the play-off round. The Malmö forward was nearly 30m from goal when he volleyed a loose ball into the far corner of the net. The wonder strike gave the Sky Blues a 3-2 aggregate lead after 19 minutes of the return leg. Markus Rosenberg sealed Malmö's place in the group stage with his second of the match.

Eriksson's glorious volley was no one-off. The 24-year-old forward has an eye for the spectacular – whether it's a lob, a volley or a through ball. Eriksson made his name at Åtvidabergs FF, where he scored 26 league goals in two seasons in 2011 and 2012. Fans still cherish his last strike for the club: after a solo run from the edge of his own penalty area, he blasted the ball into the net.

A less productive spell at Belgian side KAA Gent followed before Eriksson joined Malmö in January 2013. He soon rediscovered his old verve, with 11 goals and a league-high 14 assists in last season's Allsvenskan, and made his Sweden debut in a friendly against Moldova in January 2014. Eriksson has a good rapport with Rosenberg and this hard-working partnership could be key for Malmö.

©AFP/Getty Images

Son Heung-Min, Bayer 04 Leverkusen
Just 18 years, two months and 22 days old when be became he youngest Hamburger SV player to score a Bundesliga goal, Son has kept improving, consistently creating goals and scoring them. After five years at Hamburg, the South Korean winger joined Leverkusen in June 2013 and has since thrilled the crowd, following in the footsteps of his compatriot Cha Bum-Kun, a wide player who won the UEFA Cup with the Werkself in 1988. Son says it means "something special" to play for a club where Cha became a legend.

Son, 22, usually plays on the left, though he can also be effective in the hole behind goal machine Stefan Kiessling. With his pace, skills and trickery, the Korean creates many chances for Kiessling and is no stranger to the scoresheet. On his return to Hamburg Arena in 2013 he scored a hat-trick. He also grabbed the goal that earned Leverkusen a shot at the UEFA Champions League and scored twice against FC København in the play-off round.

Son is a master of the quick break forward: no one has scored more goals on the counterattack in the Bundesliga in the past two seasons. Voted South Korean footballer of the year in 2013, Son has the quality to change games.

This article appears in the latest issue of Champions Matchday, the official magazine of the UEFA Champions League. Champions Matchday is available in print and in digital format, where the first three issues of this campaign are free of charge. You can follow the magazine on Twitter @ChampionsMag.

Last updated: 22/10/14 9.38CET

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