Wednesday, May 22, 2013

1 - 20 Football Wonderkids

1. Lucas Rodrigues (São Paulo)

It may be a surprise to some that Lucas is still on our list, but despite his enormous promise he is still a relatively unknown quantity outside of South America, apart from the growing number of scouts coming to monitor his progress. If there is a surprise, it's that this Brazilian wonderkid still plays in the domestic league. Without question, Lucas is one of the hottest young talents on the planet and there appears to be no shortage of admirers.  Having made his debut in August 2010, Lucas Rodrigues Moura da Silva (nicknamed Marcelinho) is currently considered as Brazil's best young talent. Hailed as the best talent to emerge from São Paulo since Kaka, Lucas has already established himself as an integral part of the first team. The fast and offensive-minded has displayed versatility by playing on both wings and also in the centre. A fast and offensive-minded midfielder he has proved a tenacious and intelligent player who has no fear in going forward. With excellent technique, a bag of trickery and an eye for goal, Lucas has all the attributes to succeed on the world stage. With 10 caps already to his name at the tender age of 19, Lucas seems to have made the transition to senior side with relative ease after impressing at Under-20 level for Brazil. With the Brazilian giants ready to cash in on their prized asset, a number of clubs from England, Italy and Spain are waiting to making their move including Chelsea, Real Madrid, Barcelona, AC Milan and Inter.

2. Erik Lamela (Roma)
Still only 19 years of age, it seems like Erik Lamela has been around for ages. The subject of a bid from Barcelona at the age of 12 in 2004, the young Argentine left Los Millionarios on 6 August 2011 to join Serie A club A.S. Roma for a fee potentially rising to €19 million. Technically excellent, Lamela is blessed with vision, accurate passing and a fantastic touch. While he may lack the explosive acceleration of Lionel Messi, he does have the ability to dribble past players in order to find the space to play a pass. Los Millionarios have produced a wealth of talent over the years, but Lamela is arguably the most exciting to emerge in a decade. In just under two years Erik Lamela has made the transition from the youth ranks of River Plate to the heights of Serie A, where only Daniele De Rossi and Miralem Pjanic have made more appearances for Roma this season. With one goal and three assists in 17 appearances for the Italian giants, Lamela has continued to impress. Already capped by Argentina when he made his in May 2011 in a friendly against Paraguay, the central midfielder looks set to be a main fixture in the national side in the years to come and be one of the world's next superstars.

3. Juan (Inter Milan)
Hailed as the next Lucio, Inter Milan were quick to move for the young Brazilian who recently signed for the Italian giants in the January transfer window. With the Serie A outfit already filling up their non-EU quota, assistant coach Beppe Baresi has stated that Juan will spend the second half of the season on loan to get more games under his belt. The Brazil Under-20 international has been on Inter's radar for some time after an impressive season in which he helped Internacional lift the Campeonato Gaucho and the Recopa Sudamericana. Juan, first came onto the scene in 2009 when he made his breakthrough into Internacional's senior ranks but it was for Brazil's Under-20 side which won both the South American Championships and World Cup at youth level last year where the defender established his reputation as one of South America's hottest young properties. Good in the air and on the ball, Juan is a natural leader who has displayed maturity beyond his years.

4. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (Arsenal)
At just 18 years-old, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is seen as the kid who could save Arsenal and has been hailed as a future star in the game. While the North London club have been struggling this season, Oxlade-Chamberlain has been a rare highlight in an otherwise poor season at the Emirates. A £12 million summer signing from Southampton, the teenager has already been capped up by England at Under-21 level, scoring 3 goals in 7 games. On 28 September 2011, Oxlade-Chamberlain scored the opening goal on his Champions League debut against Greek side Olympiakos, but it was his brace against Blackburn in a 7-1 victory where people sat up and took notice of England's latest wonderkid. So impressive was his performance, he was instantly billed as the future of English football and is fully expected to be involved in England's Euro 2012 squad. With natural raw pace, excellent dribbling skills, vision and an eye for goal, Oxlade-Chamberlain possesses all the qualities to reach the top including good physical presence.

5. Lucas Ocampos (River Plate)
While River Plate may be playing in Argentina's second division for the first time in 102 years and having recently sold Erik Lamela to Roma and loan Manuel Lanzini to Fluminese, the club's famous youth academy continues to uncover exciting talent. Compared to Cristiano Ronaldo, the similarities are hard to ignore. The young Argentinean is physically imposing at 1.87m and 80kg and is a prodigious dribbler who enjoys taking on defenders. Famous for his step-overs, he cites Ronaldo as a major influence on his playing style. The 17 year-old also possesses a powerful, accurate shot with either foot. Already linked to several of Europe's top clubs including Chelea, Manchester City, Bayern Munich and Inter Milan, River Plate look set to resist on cashing in on one of their prized assets. Impressing club coach Almeyda with a series of impressive displays for Argentina's Under-17 side, he has gone on secure his place as a first team regular.

6. Julian Draxler (Schalke 04)
Highly rated youngster Julian Draxler is a 18 year-old midfielder who has already caught the eye of a number of European teams after only making his debut in January 2011 against Hamburger SV. Regarded as one of Germany's rising stars the right-footed winger who has been playing on the left has most recently been linked to Arsenal. With Schalke producing some of the most impressive talents on German soil in recent years, such as  Mesut Ozil, Manuel Neuer and Benedikt Howedes, it is no small feat to be considered one of the club's most exciting prospects in the last decade. Draxler has already displayed confidence and maturity in his game and has excellent technical ability. The attacking midfielder has been likened to Cesc Fabregas due to his vision, accuracy of passing and ability to get forward. Already capped by Germany up to Under-21 level, Draxler will be hoping to make the step up to the senior side in the next few years.

7. Dennis Praet (Anderlecht)
Widely regarded as one of the most talented players to emerge from Belgium in the last decade is 17 year-old midfielder Dennis Praet. Such is the hype surrounding the teenager that a bidding war has already taken place between England's elite with Arsenal, Liverpool and Chelsea all heading the queue for the £5 million rated starlet. Starting his career at Racing Genk whom he joined at the age of 8, Praet's impressive displays for Belgian's Under-16 side, saw him linked to almost every club in Europe. Having had a successful trial at the Emirates Stadium in 2010 aged just 15 years-old, Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger was keen to sign the youngster, but his family decided he would be best to continue his development in his homeland and he consquently signed a three year deal with Anderlecht, keeping him at the club until June 2013. A quick player, Praet has excellent technique and ball control. Blessed with extraordinary vision and a good range of passing, Praet has all the qualities to make it to the very top of the game.

8. Carlos Casemiro (São Paulo)
When people talk about the future of Brazilian football several names often appear. However, with the names of Neymar, Ganso and Lucas is often tough-tackling midfielder Carlos Casemiro. The 19 year-old who represented Brazil at Under-20 level, winning the 2011 South America Youth Championships is nicknamed the 'Beast' due to his no nonsene approach which is similar to that of Julio Baptista. With an intimidating physical presense, Casemiro has excellent technical ability and is a good tackler of the ball. A regular for São Paulo he has already been capped by Brazil at senior level. Many believe he is the future of Brazilian football and will be earmarked for a role at both the Olympic Games in 2012 and also the World Cup in 2014. Contracted until February 2015, he has a $30 million release clause in his contract which is sure to be tested in the next year with a host of admirers all waiting in the wings ready to make their move. AC Milan, Juventus, Inter Milan and Tottenham have all been credited with an interest in the starlet. 

9. Danilo Luiz (FC Porto)
Regarded as one of South America's hottest prospects, Danilo found himself at the centre of a tug of war battle between  Portuguese giants Porto and Benfica, before deciding to join champions FC Porto for a fee of €17 million in January 2012. Signing a contract until June 2016, Danilo has a release clause set at €50 million. The 20 year-old right wing-back first made his breakthrough for América Mineiro in Série C, where he played a starring role in América's promotion to Série B. Before the start of  Série B, came the Campeonato Mineiro where he was named as the best right-back and his impressive form alerted the attention of some of Brazil's biggest clubs with Cruzeiro, Palmeiras and Santos all vying for his signature. Santos eventually signed Danilo who joined after the World Cup. At Santos he continued to make a name for himself  but it  was at international youth level where Danilo shined the most, helping Brazil win the Fifa Under-20 World Cup. He has since gone on to win four caps at international level.

10. Thibaut Courtois (Chelsea)
Compared to Edwin van der Sar due to their similarities, Thibaut Courtois made his debut for Racing Genk on 17 April 2009 against Gent, aged 16 years and 341 days. During the 2010-11 season, Courtois was an influential figure as he helped Genk to become Belgian champions, playing all of their league matches while keeping 15 clean sheets. Joining Chelsea in July 2011 for a fee of £8 million on a five-year deal he was brought to the club as part of the club’s long-term rebuilding project and to provide competition for Petr Cech. Already capped by Belgium at international level, Courtois was immediately loaned out to Atlético Madrid where he has been a first team regular for the La Liga outfit. At a commanding 6ft 6 inches tall, Courtois has excellent handling and agility and is a great shot stopper. Despite his tender age, Courtois has displayed excellent maturity and calmness under pressure and is already being considered as one of the world's best. With time on his side, it likely Courtois will remain on loan for the 2012/13 season with an English club the players preferred destination.

11. Gerard Deulofeu (Barcelona)

With Thiago Alcântara recently making his breakthrough for club and country, many people are already looking for the next star to emerge from Barcelona’s famous La Masia academy. Hailed as the next Lionel Messi and regarded as the jewel in the crown of their youth setup is 17 year-old attacking midfielder Gerard Deulofeu. While he may be considered too young for first team action, Deulofeu is highly regarded by Pep Guardiola and is considered a future star of Barcelona and Spain. Recently making the step up to the Segunda Division for Barcelona B, Deulofeu has continued to put in a number of eye catching displays. The starlet first burst onto the scene at the 2010 Under-17 European Championships where Gerard took the applause for Spain's imaginative attacking play, helping Valencia striker Paco Alcácer to the Golden Boot award. A player of exceptional technical qualities, he is an intelligent  player who usually operates on the left. A specialist in one-on-one situations due to his superb close control, he is very difficult to stop at full pace and he is also a great passer of the ball with superb vision. A regular at Under-19 level for Spain, he made his first senior appearance for Barcelona on October 29 2011, replacing David Villa in a 5-0 victory against Mallorca. With Pep Guardiola's reputation for blooding in new talent, Deulofeu is fully expected to become a more prominent figure in the senior squad for the 2012/13 season. In the short-term, Deulofeu will continue to gain experience for Barcelona B.

12. Stephan El Shaarawy (Milan)
Described as the Italian Kaka, El Shaarawy is an attacking midfielder who is of Egyptian decent. Already an international regular for Italy's Under-21 side. Impressing at youth level, his rising reptuation in the game came at the 2009 FIFA U-17 World Cup in Nigeria. With excellent technique, El Shaarawy has pace and the ability to unlock opposing teams with his vision and range of passing. El Shaarawy joined regional Serie A club Genoa at the age of thirteen. On 21 December 2008, when he was 16 years and 55 days old, he made his first team debut, playing ten minutes in a Serie A away match against Chievo, becoming the fourth youngest player in the history of Serie A. In June 2011, El Shaarawy signed for Milan from Genoa and went on to make his debut  in the away Serie A match lost 3–1 against Napoli. Three days later, after coming on as a substitute for the injured Alexandre Pato, he  scored his  first  official goal for the club, earning  his team a 1-1 draw at  home  with  Udinese.  Hailed as  the  future  of  Italian

13. Oscar Dos Santos (Internacional)
Oscar dos Santos is a Brazilian attacking midfielder who currently plays for Internacional and has been described as the next Kaka. With excellent technical ability, Oscar is known for his vision and excellent range of passing, as well as his eye for goal. With 10 goals in 24 league games in 2011 for the Serie A side, Oscar has already won two senior caps. Many believe he was deliberately hidden by his former club São Paulo from the vultures of World Football but the secret soon came out at the 2011 Sudamericano Under-20 tournament in Peru. It was at this tournament, Oscar played alongside starlets Neymar, Lucas and Carlos Casemiro. With Oscar contracted until 2015, his get out clause is thought to be around 30 million euros. At the Fifa Under-20 world Cup, Oscar was part of Brazil's tournament winning side and the young midfielder played a big part in their success with a hat-trick in the final in a 3-2 victory over Portugal. 

14. Paco Alcácer (Valencia)
Though he has yet to make his breakthrough at senior level, Paco Alcácer is still widely regarded as Spain's next big talent. Star of  the 2010 Uefa European Under-17 Championships held in Liechtenstein was Valencia's Paco Alcácer who captained Spain to a runner-up finish. While he drew a blank in the final, Paco went on to score six goals in the finals, including a winner against France, a hat-trick against Switzerland and two in the semi-final against Turkey. His goals equalled the best since the showpiece stage was reduced to eight teams in 2002/03 and was also top scorer in qualifying with eight to become the most prolific player since the U17 classification was introduced in 2001/02. Currently playing in the youth ranks at Valencia, Los Che fans believe he is a readymade replacement for David Villa. With 48 goals in 60 games for Valencia B, some have questioned Paco's lack of progress but a combination of a breakdown in contract talks and the sudden death of his father during a pre-season friendly have not helped.

15. Alex Sandro (FC Porto)
Following his impressive appearances at  the FIFA Youth World Cup and South American Youth Championship, where Brazil were triumphant on both occasions, Sandro was soon on the move. Just days after splashing out to the secure the services of Danilo, the Dragons paid €9.6 million for left-back Alex Sandro who, like Danilo, was part of the Santos team that recently won the Copa Libertadores. Sandro who signed a five-year deal at the Estadio do Dragao has a release clause of  €50 million, which is only surpassed by the buyout clauses of Itrube and Hulk. Sandro is very much an archetypal Brazilian full-back. Like Roberto Carlos he is blessed with pace and power, with his first instinct to attack rather than defend. Not shy to tackle, Sandro has good defensive qualities and his move to Porto should see him adapt to European football. Already capped by Brazil he is expected to feature at the 2014 World Cup.

16. Adam Maher (AZ Alkmaar)
Already compared to Wesley Sneijder, 18 year-old Adam Maher is being tipped as one of Holland's next big things. Currently playing for Eredivisie's AZ Alkmaar, the young midfielder has been linked to AC Milan, Barcelona and Manchester City. A member of the Netherlands squad for the 2009 FIFA U-17 World Cup, Maher made his professional debut on December 15th 2010 in a Europa League match against BATE Borisov, scoring a goal to become the youngest player in the Dutch League to score a goal in the Europa League/Uefa Cup. Technically excellent, Maher possesses excellent ball control and has a wide range of passing. Displaying extraordinary vision, Maher's dribbling and shooting abilities are of the highest caliber. Despite his tender age, Maher has great maturity about his game and is comfortable in possession. Only in 2011-12 has Maher really made a name for himself, after developing into an important first-team member in Maarten Martens' injury-enforced absence.

17. Oriol Romeu (Chelsea)
The 20 year-old defensive midfielder is regarded as a future Spanish international. Having played for Spain at the 2011 Fifa Under-20 World Cup, Romeu agreed to move to Chelsea in a deal worth €5 million. Frustrated at the lack of first-team opportunities at Barcelona he signed a four year deal to become André Villas Boas second signing. The deal saw Barcelona given first refusal via a buy back option for  €10 million in 2012 or €15 million in 2013, maybe a lesson learnt after the departure of the talented Cesc Fabregas as a teenager. With excellent technique, vision and strength, the highly rated youth prospect was signed by Chelsea as part of their vision for the future to replace their ageing squad. Romeu made his debut for Chelsea in September 2011, brought on as a substitute in the 79th minute of the 2–1 away win against Sunderland. Compared to Patrick Vieira, Romeu is capped up to Under-21 level.

18. Jeroen Lumu (Willem II)
Linked to Manchester City is 16 year Dutch striker Jeroen Lumu. A product of Willem II's youth academy, Lumu impressed at youth level and so much so manager Marc Hintum promoted him to the senior team in 2012, with Jeroen signing a three year contract to keep him at the club until 2015. The 16-year-old has made an instant  name for himself in after becoming the youngest ever goal-scoring debutant (aged  at 16 years and 238 days) in Dutch football league history, when he came off the bench to bag the equaliser for his club Willem II in their Eerste Divisie clash with FC Eindhoven. The Netherlands Under-17 star is considered the most exciting talent in Holland right now and is already being tagged a 'wonderkid', despite making just two league appearances. Rated around £6 million, Willem would be hard to resist such an offer should it come in from either Juventus or Manchester City. With prolific scoring abilities and excellent natural raw pace, Lumu is a name to remember for the future.

19. Leandro Paredes (Boca Juniors)
Hailed as the next Zidane, the 17 year-old attacking midfielder who currently plays for Boca Juniors is being described as one of Argentina's up and coming stars. Heading up a new gold generation, Paredes has drawn similarities to Juan roman Riquelme due to their position, playing style and set piece expertise. Impressing at youth level for Argentina’s Under-17s he demonstrated his qualities at the South American U-17 Championships held in Ecuador, where he scored 2 goals and created 2 more and was one of his team’s best players alongside Lucas Ocampos. With excellent technique, ball control and range of passing, Paredes also has an eye for goal. Having already made his first team debut for Boca at the tender age of 16, he is currently playing for their reserves as he bides his time for first team opportunities with Riquelme occupying his preferred position. A number of European clubs are already monitoring his progress.

20. Lazar Marković (FK Partizan)
Hailed as one of the hottest young strikers in Europe, 17 year-old Serbian Lazar Marković is a wanted man and is already being tracked by Europe's elite. The Partizan Belgrade striker who currently plays for Serbia's Under-21s has attracted interest from Liverpool, Fiorentina and Arsenal but has already declared his interest to join boyhood idols Chelsea and with interest building, Partizan have already placed a £10 million price-tag on the tale With excellent dribbiling skills, the ability to play with both feet and an eye for goal it is easy to see why he is being tipped for the very top. The teenager who usually plays as a second striker, is able to operate as a winger on both flanks.  On 11 July 2011, Marković signed his first professional contract with Partizan, on a five-year deal. He scored his first senior goal in a league match versus FK Novi Pazar, on 13 August 2011 and has since gone on to score 6 goals in 15 games for table topping Partizan in the Super Liga.  Displaying maturity and confidence beyond his years, it will be important for Marković to keep grounded, learn his trade and develop on his physical abilities

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