Age:             22

Position:        Defensive Midfielder/Centre-Back

2016/17 stats: 57 games (16 of which in Europe) (5137 minutes) – 6 goals – 0 assists – 6 yellow cards – 1 red cards

The Belgian champions Anderlecht won the title in the 2016/17 season because of their outstanding stability in the middle of the park and many probably overlooked the major contributions made by the extremely consistent in his solid displays inner midfielder Leander Dendoncker. The 22-year-old box-to-box player formed a formidable partnership with his friend Youri Tielemans, they grew together through the junior ranks of Anderlecht, but it was somehow the latter that was attracting all the attention. Tielemans already completed a multimillion move to Monaco.

Dendoncker might have been left out of the spotlights for most of this campaign, but everyone that knows football and watched his displays must recognise how important and impressive they were. Aged just 22 Dendoncker played in 57 matches this last season, including 16 in European competitions. This great achievement also confirmed the already known fact that his fitness is very good and he is not prone to injuries. His main role is to protect the back four, but also to start the attacks and keep the ball when this is needed. Dendoncker is very good in all of these things as his instincts to position himself on the pitch are next to none, he has excellent tackling skills, his passing at short distance is near perfect, plus his forward passes regularly release teammates in space.

Greatly matured for his tender age, Dendoncker has been part of Anderlecht’s senior squad for four years now, he also started showing much more intent when going forward this season. For a player whose main job is to help the defenders and slot in the back line when one of them venture forward Dendoncker can be really satisfied with his six goals scored in 2016/17. He is improving quickly his shooting ability from middle and long distance, plus his height and agility make him a threat at set pieces.

The other great thing about Dendoncker is that as a junior he was used a lot in the heart of the defence and if it is needed he can fill that position with great success. This versatility and his undisputable talent make Leander Dendoncker one of the names that very soon will be on everyone’s lips and the only question is which of the big teams will recognise his talent first and sign him!!!

The thing that is certain is that Dendoncker’s price tag will only be moving upwards and those with an eye for a bargain need to act quickly.




Age:             20

Position:        Centre-back/Left-back

2017 stats (as of 05th July with 17 rounds played):   16 games (1420 minutes) – 0 goals – 0 assists – 1 yellow cards – 1 red cards

Despite being just 20 Yuta Nakayama is playing his second season as a regular starter for Kashiwa Reysol’s senior squad and undoubtedly the extremely talented central defender is one of the key players for the successes enjoyed by the Yellows in 2017.

Nakayama is showing stunning natural instincts this year and despite not being the tallest of players he is always excellently positioned to neutralise dangers. He is impressing with his ability to always find himself between the arriving cross and the striker, which already brought seven clean sheets for his team this season. Nakayama is starting every match he is available for over the past two years and his health and physical condition seem to be at a top level.

Back in 2016 he played in 32 games for Kashiwa and on top of the very solid defensive displays also contributed two goals, which comes to show that with the right development he can become a real threat from set pieces. Nakayama is also one of these versatile modern players that can easily fill several positions and he is a very capable left-back, as well as left wing-back if his team operates with three defenders. He has the speed and crossing abilities needed to be successful in these roles, but his true strength lies in the heart of the defence where he quickly became one of the best ball winners in the entire J-League.

All this and the fact that he has many years ahead of him to master his skills make Yuta Nakayama one of the hottest defenders currently playing in the J-League and he will definitely be a great addition to any squad that looks for a dedicated young player who will always give it his all on the pitch for the cause.