September U23 hotlist: Zaire-Emery, Savio, Simons among stars

Welcome back to the ESPN FC hotlist, which each month highlights some of the most in-form talent aged 23 or under across Europe.

Generally, young but established stars like Manchester City's Erling Haaland, Real Madrid's Jude Bellingham or Barcelona Gavi aren't included -- otherwise they'd be on the list every month -- but we'll shine a light on some of those who deserve praise for their performances and who could potentially be European football's next big name.

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Warren Zaire-Emery, 17, CM Paris Saint-Germain

One year on from his competitive debut as a 16-year-old, Zaire-Emery has grown into a key player for the French champions and is reportedly close to agreeing a new contract.

With the added confidence that comes with exposure to senior football, he has gone from a predominantly defensive-minded midfielder to a resourceful No. 8 who is as effective in directing and dictating as he is in recovering the ball.

What immediately catches the eye is his maturity. Zaire-Emery relentlessly asks for the ball, chooses the best space to receive it and moves it on -- short or long -- with the right angles and pace. Already resilient in coping under pressure, he practically ran PSG's midfield in the recent 4-0 "Le Classique" win against Marseille.

Having started all PSG's matches so far this season, a first senior callup for France could arrive soon.

Victor Boniface, 22, ST, Bayer Leverkusen

A €20.5 million summer signing from Belgian side Royale Union St-Gilloise, Boniface has been nothing short of sensational in the Bundesliga so far. He has six goals from five games and a select few have come via spectacular individual efforts (especially his solo goal vs. Darmstadt, a neat finish at the end of a 40-meter solo run), while he has linked up seamlessly with Leverkusen's attack too.

Aside from his goals, Boniface is exceptionally hard to deal with for opposing defenders. With a reliable first touch, good upper-body strength and high-level balance, the Nigeria international is able to efficiently hold off markers to lay the ball off or spin his defender (as he did to scored the opener against FC Heidenheim.)

Leverkusen's scouting has always been of the highest order, but it's hard to imagine that they expected Boniface to be this good already.

Roony Bardghji, 17, FW, FC Copenhagen

With top European clubs fighting over breakout teenagers, no one should be surprised that some of the biggest names in football have set their sights on the FC Copenhagen attacker, who plays either as a right winger or second striker.

A Sweden youth international with Syrian origins, Bardghji was the youngest player to make his debut for Copenhagen last season (just days after he'd turned 16) and last weekend his two goals from off the bench against Brøndby turned a 2-1 scoreline to a 3-2 victory (he'd already secured a late equaliser in the similar derby fixture last season.)

It's not by chance that the forward turns up on big occasions. Bardghji, who has six goals in eight games this season, plays with remarkable confidence, temperament and single-minded purpose for a teenager.

Though there are still improvements to made in terms of his decision-making and timing of runs, he's a real threat when he cuts in from the right to set up a finish with his powerful left foot.

Savio Moreira, 19, AM/FW, Girona

The flamboyant Brazilian has enjoyed an astonishing start to his LaLiga career, with two goals from the opening six fixtures while delighting fans with his flair and trickery.

"Savinho" -- who was one of his country's stars at the U-20 World Cup earlier in the year -- spent last season on loan at PSV Eindhoven from his parent club, Troyes, and only showed glimpses of his talent, which makes his immediate impact at high-flying Girona even more puzzling.

Despite being fully left-footed -- he tends to use his weaker right foot only for adjusting touches -- Savio's feints, acceleration, deft touch and outstanding command of his body make him extremely hard to read for a defender. Controlling the ball with little touches, he often waits for the defender to commit his body weight before darting past in the opposite direction. His nimble build and instinctive creativity also make him highly unpredictable, especially when he's allowed to drop into space on the right.

Takefusa Kubo, 22, AM, Real Sociedad

No stranger to the "NextGen" talent scene, the Japan prodigy has been on the radar since he came to the attention of Barcelona as a 10-year-old. While his time at La Masia was cut short in 2015 when he was forced to return home to FC Tokyo due to a FIFA ruling, with Barca found guilty of breaching regulations in the recruitment of young players, he did join Real Madrid at the age of 18 and was subsequently loaned out (Mallorca (twice), Villarreal, Getafe) to a varying degree of success.

However, it was after joining Real Sociedad last summer that his career started to take off. He played a major hand in the Basque side's return to the Champions League and has already made a solid mark on this campaign.

From a floating inverted role on the right, the quick, elusive and skillful winger has been in tremendous form, scoring four goals and assisting one since the start of the season. Looking beyond the end product, it's the progression in his game that makes him stand out. The positivity in his passes, take-ons and carries rank among the highest in LaLiga.

Xavi Simons, 20, AM, RB Leipzig

Those who believed that the 5-foot-10 playmaker would struggle in the physical Bundesliga -- or indeed at RB Leipzig, who tend to prefer power over flair -- were soon proved wrong.

Usually positioned to the right behind the central strikers, Simons proactively picks up smart positions and is often the obvious target for a midfielder or the right-back to set up an attack. So smooth on the ball and with a highly developed football intelligence, the 20-year-old conducts the play with layoffs, flicks and passes into the path of penetrating runners.

What's more, two of his three Bundesliga goals have been rather spectacular; the first a curled effort from the edge of the box and the second after a spectacular solo run from the halfway line.

According to reports, Leipzig are already seeking talks with PSG to keep the Netherlands international beyond this season's loan.

Xavi Simons goal 51st minute FC Union Berlin 0-1 RB Leipzig

Xavi Simons goal 51st minute FC Union Berlin 0-1 RB Leipzig

Santiago Giménez, 22, ST, Feyenoord

One of the breakout forwards of the Eredivisie last season, with 15 goals in all competitions (all bar one coming after the turn of the year), the Mexico international has embarked on a similar scoring spree this campaign. Six games into the season and he's hit the net nine times, with three coming away at Ajax in a disrupted 4-0 win this week.

Based on his relentless goal scoring, one might have expected one of Europe's big spenders to have made a move to sign him in the summer, but the reason Gimenez still finds himself at Feyenoord might be down to playing style or his physical profile.

While there's no doubting his ability to find the goal -- his off-ball movement and spatial awareness are of the highest order (backed up by 8+ touches inside the opposing box per 90 minutes) -- he's not particularly quick.

Though his determination is off the charts, he does need service and is not, as opposed to many of modern-day No. 9s, one to repeatedly beat defenders or create chances single-handedly. Yet, as the spearhead of an attack supported by creative midfielders, his presence in the box and poaching abilities could see him succeed at an even higher level too.