Young players mostly struggle to handle the physical style of play that is being played in the first teams. Because of their young age, their bodies are not as powerful as someone with the age of 30, for example. But with these youngsters it’s different. They have no trouble at all adjusting to the high level of physicality in first team football. In this blog, we take a look at the best U23 aerial duel winners in the top 5 leagues of Europe.
Anton Stach – FSV Mainz 05
The youngster Anton Stach has already had quite some clubs in his career. He played in the youth academy of Werder Bremen till he had to leave. After one year on a lower level, he joined the youth academy of Vfl Osnabrück (3. Liga, Germany). After one year he already left Osnabrück for Regionalliga-side SSV Jeddeloh. Here he started to make an impact and Vfl Wolfsburg approached the young defensive midfielder in the summer of 2018. After two years of playing in the second team of Wolfsburg, he joined SpVgg Greuther Fürth who played in the second tier of Germany. Here, the 1,94m long German started to make loads of minutes in the first team. He also made his first minutes for Germany U21.
Just after one year, Bundesliga-team FSV Mainz signed Stach for €3,5 mln. In his first season at Mainz, he is slowly making more minutes and since December he played a lot of matches till the final whistle.
Anton Stach wins 79,59% of his aerial duels and tops the chart as it comes down to the U23 players in the top 5 leagues, and by far. With his Player Level of 2361, Stach is still a little bit below the average Player Level of Mainz (2903). This means that Stach is perfectly in his place at the club where he can develop himself to the max.
Sven Botman – Lille
In this transfer window, there were a lot of speculations around Sven Botman. AC Milan and Newcastle United were in the race for the 22-year old central defender from the Netherlands. Lille even refused an offer of €50 million from Newcastle. It’s obvious that both clubs see a lot of potential in Botman, who spent his youth in the Ajax academy. After a year out on loan at SC Heerenveen, Lille suddenly showed up and signed Botman for a fee of €8 million. This was a lot higher than his market value at that moment, but afterwards, he has already proven Lille right.
Botman is known for his physical strength. With his height of 1,95m and a ripped figure, he has an appearance that you don’t want him to be your personal opponent. His duel statistics confirm this. In aerial duels, he is second of all the players that are U23 in the top 5 leagues of Europe, with a percentage of 74,65, which is huge.
This season, he missed a lot of games due to a groin injury. But when he’s fit, he always plays until the final whistle. Much playing time at a high level is exactly what a young player like Botman needs, so he can keep developing himself at Lille.
Ronald Araújo – FC Barcelona
Araújo already played 46 La Liga matches for FC Barcelona, and he is still only 22 years old. The Uruguayan international left his home country club Boston River for Barcelona in 2018, where he developed rapidly. This season, when he’s not injured, he’s in the starting 11 almost every time. However it’s not going as planned at Barcelona this season, Araújo can be satisfied with the playing time he gets. And looking at his aerial duel winner statistics, we can conclude that it’s well deserved. Araújo wins 74,58% of his aerial duels, and with that, he is in the top 3 in aerial duel winners of the U23 players in the top 5 leagues. If he keeps developing as he does, he can become one of the better players of the ‘Blaugranas’.
Mohamed Simakan – RB Leipzig
Simakan left France last summer, where he played at RC Strasbourg. He joined RB Leipzig and signed a contract till June 2026. The transfer fee was around €15 million. In his first season in Germany, he’s already making an impact. When he’s fit, he’s a starter. Safe to say he’s doing well when he’s 21 years old and playing many minutes at a top-Bundesliga club and Champions League participant.
One thing Simakan exceeds in is the number of aerial duels he wins. With 70,97% of his aerial duels won, he’s on the fourth spot on this list. And with his young age, there is also still much to improve!
Nico Schlotterbeck – SC Freiburg
Schlotterbeck is only 22 years old, but when he was 20 he was already playing some 90-minute games in the Bundesliga. Last season he went out on loan to 1. Union Berlin. Besides a hamstring injury that took around two-and-a-half months, he had quite a good season playing many minutes. Last summer he went back to Freiburg and this season he grew out to be a starter for the Bundesliga club. Just like the other players in this list, Schlotterback also belongs to one of the better players of Europe in aerial duels. He’s even in fifth place of the under 23 players. His 1,91m contributes to the fact that he’s winning 69,07% of his aerial duels.