A classy, savvy centre back whose skills on the ball are advanced enough that his coaches sometimes use him as a midfield lynchpin. Sound familiar? A possible future heir to Super Jan Vertonghen and the Cartilage Free Captain himself before him, Milos Veljkovic slots into the prospect hype list all the way up at No.4.
Who is he?
Milos Veljkovic is a 17 year-old central defender (for now, at least) who joined Tottenham from his home club FC Basel in 2011, having impressed Tim Sherwood and his youth coaching staff on trial. Serbian by descent, he has represented his nation team at U17, U18 and U19 levels. After joining Spurs, Veljkovic played only a season of U18 games before being bumped up to compete in the NextGen League and this year's inaugural U21 competition.
What can he do?
Veljkovic was originally brought to the club off the back of two key attributes: his strength, and his ball-playing abilities. The mentality he displays when applying these traits is one of supreme composure- firmly but cleanly winning the ball off strikers who are often far more physical than him and occasionally 2 or 3 years older, and distributing it forwards to the waiting midfield outlets or carrying it forward to help to build positive compression play. This level-headed, elegant style of play has really made him stand out this year amongst his peers in the Spurs youth setup- traditional stoppers like Grant Hall, for example.
So refined and unerring are Veljkovic's passing abilities that towards the end of this season, John McDermott saw fit to utilise him further forward in the deepest midfield role, shielding the back four and controlling the flow of the team's play. That Milos has managed to gradually make this role his own should really tell you something about his talent considering that he has been competing for a spot in a three-man midfield with passers like Thomas Carroll, Massimo Luongo and Nabil Bentaleb as well as more natural defensive midfielders like Giancarlo Gallifuoco.
Where can he go?
Usual caveats apply: from a youth team which steamrollered all comers this season, it's tough to pick out the players who are genuinely set to make it in a future first XI, and those who rode a wave of collectiove good form.
That said, I personally belive that Veljkovic stood out almost unquestionably as having been in the former camp this year. I'd go as far as to say that he's is a unique enough prospect to stand enough of a chance to battle his way all the way towards the Spurs first team within the next two years, even if he doesn't manage to crack into a side which is packed with defensive quality and will surely feature an upgraded midfield by the time he comes of age. His raw talent is unquestionable, but to perhaps an even greater extent I'm highly impressed with his mature, quietly imperious on-pitch persona, which at times leads me to forget just how young he still is.
He's probably just about hardy enough to send on loan to the Championship in the years to come, though I also don't doubt he'll be seeing Europa League bench spots if he's kept on at the Lane for another year. Keep an eye on Veljkovic, because you could miss most of his development into a well-rounded and senior side-ready player if you blink.