Pitchside

Who is Europe’s best young talent – Januzaj or Sterling?

Pitchside

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Squawka delve deep into the stats to see whether Adnan Januzaj or Raheem Sterling is truly the best young player in Europe.

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La Gazzetta dello Sport unleashed a wave of social media slinging this week when they named Adnan Januzaj as the top teenager in European football.

The top five will surely go from strength to strength and dominate the top leagues in years to come, with Chelsea's Lucas Piazon - on loan at Vitesse - coming second, PSG's Marquinhos third, and Gerard Deulofeu - the Barcelona wonderkid currently on loan at Everton - in fourth.

But Raheem Sterling's position of fifth has been the choice provoking much debate: while you would think most Liverpool fans would be happy to see one of their youngsters in such a prominent position after a promising season, many are in fact bemused that Januzaj has been selected above the 19-year-old Liverpool winger.

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With the Manchester United playmaker sitting pretty at the top of the rankings, the Squawka Comparison Matrix reveals whether he really deserves that top spot ahead of Sterling.

Januzaj has burst onto the scene at Old Trafford partly due to his outstanding potential, but also partly due to the paucity of reliable attacking options for David Moyes. Still, from being an unused substitute on the final day of the campaign last year, the 19 year-old has made 23 Premier League appearances for United this season.

Sterling, on the other hand, has made 26 appearances for Liverpool and has played 340 more minutes than the United youngster has. However, this is Januzaj's breakthrough season, whereas Sterling make 24 appearances last season as well.

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Both players have got on the scoresheet this season, though Sterling leads the charge with six compared to Januzaj's three.

That's 0.22 per game for Sterling compared to 0.13 for Januzaj, and given that the United player has taken an average of 1.87 shots a game compared to Sterling's 1.22, the Liverpool winger edges things in terms of efficiency in front of goal.

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In terms of passing, Janujaz is marginally better - he has completed fewer passes than Sterling with 380 to 517, but has an accuracy of 81% compared to 80%.

Both players have three assists to their name, although Sterling has played 32 key passes to Januzaj's 21 (1.19 a game compared to 0.91), and created 35 chances to Januzaj's 24 (1.30 a game to 1.04).

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Therefore, at this stage of the season, Sterling is statistically better at taking his chances and also creating them for his team-mates.

That is not to say Januzaj is, or will not be as good, especially with this season under his belt, and given that United are struggling in seventh while the Anfield side are flying high in first.

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On the other side of the coin for the attackers, Januzaj has made 14 interceptions to Sterling's 16, an average of 0.61 per game compared to Sterling's 0.59, while the United man has made two blocks to Sterling's none.

The Liverpool player, however, has made 15 clearances (0.56 per game) to Januzaj's 10 (0.43), and is impressive on the duelling front.

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Sterling has won 30 tackles (1.11 per game) compared to Januzaj's 12 (0.52), though both have lost more - Sterling failing with 37 challenges (1.37) and Januzaj 21 (0.91).

Sterling has also won seven headed huels - for a 28% success rate - as opposed to Januzaj's three - 15.79%

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Januzaj is famed for his fearless ability to take on opponents, though Sterling has made 67 successful take-ons compared to the United teen's 39, with a 60.91 percent completion rate compared to Januzaj's 52%. The United attacker does, however, win more free kicks - he has has gained 50 (2.17 per game) compared to Sterling's 49 (1.81).

Januzaj has received six yellow cards this season, with three being for diving, whereas Sterling has received three, and none for diving.

The United forward has gained something of a reputation for hitting the deck too easily, and will need to rectify that in order to play his natural game in the Premier League.

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Sterling's fine displays this season have earned him a Squawka Performance Score of 413, averaging out to 15.33 per game - he is far ahead of Januzaj, whose 169 averages 7.37 per game. Therefore, on the basis of the statistics, it is the Liverpool winger who is ahead of the United winger based on this season's performances.

Liverpool's No. 31 is in with a good chance of going to this summer's World Cup with Brazil, while Januzaj still has yet to make up his mind which nation he will even play for. It is also clear that Sterling is further down the development line than United's No. 47.

Still, regardless of United's troubles this season, Januzaj's potential should be measured on his ability to break into a squad of Premier League champions and remain there without so much as a second glance, whereas Sterling has been afforded the luxury of competing in a squad that, until the last few weeks, has had no pressure placed upon it.

A fairer analysis of the duo would be to return next summer when Januzaj has a full season under his belt at United as a recognised first-team squad member, as Sterling has had this year. The United attacker is a rare shining light in an otherwise murky season for the club, but at the moment, Sterling edges the battle of the 19-year-olds.

What is certain is that if both clubs can hold onto the star youngsters, then the Premier League will be all the better for it. With two of Gazzetta's top five youngsters in Europe plying their trade in England, and Piazon to make it three at Chelsea, the division's starlets will be lighting games up for years to come.

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