Wednesday, May 22, 2013

21 - 40 Football Wonderkids

21. Samed Yesil (Bayer Leverkusen)
Samed Yesil is already being tracked by Arsenal and recently helped Germany's Under-17 side finish 3rd place at the U17 World Cup in Mexico. The striker who is currently at Bayer Leverkusen has been in prolific form at youth level and struck 24 goals in just 21 matches for the club's Under-19 side. Reports in Germany indicate Arsene Wenger is lining up a move to take the in-form striker who is of Turkish descent, though may have to fight off competition from a number of other clubs vying for his signature. At the tournament in Mexico, Yesil demonstrated himself to be one of the most mature and potent strikers on show. Germany  won all three of its group stage matches (the only team to do so apart from host nation Mexico) and went on to finish in third place, having defeated Brazil in the play-off game. Yesil scored 6 goals in 7 matches at the tournament, taking his tally at international level to 19 goals in 21 games, including a nine match consecutive scoring streak. At Under-16 level, Yesil scored 3 goals in 2 games. Due to his prolific goalscoring ability in which he appears to find the net in every game he plays, Yesil has been compared to Miroslav Klose,  although he could also  be  compared to Mesut Özil due to  their  size and playing playing style. Like Ozil, Yesil is very quick and has excellent technical abilities.  Nicknamed 'Gerd' by his club mates due to his scoring ability which is likened to that of the legendary Gerd Muller, Yesil has lightening quick pace, is decisive in front of goal and possesses excellent dribbling skills. Although he will need to work on his physical attributes to make the step up to the senior game.

22. Mateo Kovačić (Dinamo Zagreb)
Dubbed Croatia's answer to Lionel Messi, 17 year-old Mateo Kovačić has already been subject to a failed bid from Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger for a joint bid along with colleague Sime Vrsalko. The youngest player ever to score in the HNL,  Kovačić  has  been   regularly linked to some of Europe's biggest teams. In the U-17 games for Croatia he has largely caught the eye with impressive passing and vision, similar to that of Cesc Fabregas. Many believe he is the most naturally talented player from Croatia since Robert Prosinecki  and this was supported by the Croatia Under-17 manager. Recently breaking through into the Dinamo Zagreb first team, Kovačić has scored 4 goals in 20 league appearances during the 2011/2012 season. He also became the second youngster scorer in Champions League history when he scored against Lyon. Capped up to Under-21 level by Croatia it is simply a case of when rather than if he will be called up the senior team. Kovačić is one of Europe’s hottest properties and is currently being tracked by a number of clubs including Barcelona.

23. Mortiz Leitner (Borussia Dortmund)
Hailed as the next Michael Ballack, the 19 year-old attacking midfielder of Austrian descent was signed by Borussia Dortmund for a fee in the region of €500,000 on a four-year deal after impressing at 1860 München.  The talented young German was bought into Dortmund's youthful team with Jürgen Klopp's ethos of developing young players. Currently capped up to Under-19 level for Germany, it is on the international stage where he has impressed so much, scoring three goals in five appearances, though he did represent Austria at Under-17 level. A central midfielder with playmaking qualities, Leitner has a good range of passing, excellent vision and good awareness. In his games last season, Leitner has displayed excellent composure and maturity on the ball. If there is any criticism of him, it would be his physical presence due to his age. Having arrived at Dortmund in January 2011, Leitner has yet to establish himself in the Dortmund first eleven but has all the attributes to become one of Germany's next big stars.

24. Yassine Benzia (Lyon)
Heading up a new generation of talent at Olympique Lyonnais is 16 year-old forward Yassine Benzia. With the arrival of Remi Garde at the Stade Gerland, costs are expected to be cut, with a greater influence placed on the club's Tola Vologe academy to produce the future stars of French football. Rated as one of the club's best prospects for a decade, Benzia can operate on the flanks or as a second striker. With natural raw pace and an eye for goal, Benzia has demonstrated all the qualities needed to make it to the top of the game. While he may not feature in the Ligue 1 side's matchday squad this season, he is certainly a name to remember. During his first season at Lyon, Benzia played at Under-17 level and scored 36 goals to make him an obvious candidate for a starting role in France's Under-17 World Cup side in Mexico. Now a member of Lyon's Under-19 side at just 16, Benzia was the stand out player for a strong France team at the Under-17 World Cup, scoring 5 goals in the process.

25. Rafael Alcântara (Barcelona)
19 year-old Rafael Alcântara, commonly referred to as Rafinha, is the younger brother of Spain and Barcelona star Thiago Alcântara. An attacking midfielder he is seen as one of La Masia's most promising talents and is thought to have as much potential as his older brother who many believe is the apparent heir to Xavi. Though he has represented Spain up to Under-19 level, he was recently called up to play for Brazil in their Under-20 squad due to his dual nationality. With Spain's embarrasment of riches in midfield which is only too apparent at Barcelona with the likes of Thiago Alcântara, Cristian Tello still trying to cement themself in the first team with players such as Javier Espinosa and Gerard Deulofeu waiting in the wings, Rafinha may well choose to opt to play for Brazil. Currently playing for Barcelona B, Rafinha is technically excellent with an excellent range or passing and sublime vision. Contracted until 2014, Rafinha was recently subject to interest from Real Madrid with the lure of first team football.

26. Stefanos Kapino (Panathinaikos)
Having only just turned 18 years-old, Stefanos Kapino is already considered as one of Europe’s most promising goalkeepers. Standing at 6 foot 5 inches, Kapino has already established himself as the number one at Panathinaikos and has been capped by Greece, becoming the youngest ever player to make his debut when he played in a friendly against Romaia aged 17 years and 241 days old. Linked with a move to Arsenal as back-up to Wojciech Szczesny, Kapino joined Panathinaikos in 2007 and began playing for the academy teams. Calm and composed, Kapino uses his frame to dominant in the air and the box. With excellent positioning and quick reflexes, Kapino has all the attributes to become one of the best goalies in Europe. An established regular at international youth level, Kapino represented Greece at U17 and U19 level and has been linked with a number of Europe’s best teams.

27. Javier Espinosa (Barcelona)
With many midfield starlets waiting in the wings at Barcelona, another La Masia academy star is making a name for himself. Only recently he scored on his debut for Barcelona B in a 6-4 victory against Numancia in March 2011. Making the step up from the Juvenil A team Espinosa is widely regarded as the next Andrés Iniesta. A different player to that of Thiago Alcântara or Gerard Deulofeu, Espinosa is known for his passing, dribbling, vision and movement. In March, Espinosa was called up the Spain Under-20 squad for a training camp held between the 14th to the 16th of March at the Ciudad del Fútbol de Las Rozas in Madrid. While he will be aiming to become a permanent fixture in Luis Enrique's Barcelona B side, Espinosa has all the makings of a future world star. Last year for the Juvenil A team, Espinsoa demonstrated his abilities to read the game well and there was a notable improvement in his defensive abilities and commitment.

28. Manuel Lanzini (River Plate)
One of the greatest talent production lines in Argentina over the years has been the Buenos Aires based River Plate academy. In recent years Los Millonarios have produced a number of the senior international side and recent graduates include Javier Mascherano, Gonzalo Higuaín and Esteban Cambiasso. However, it is midfield talent Manuel Lanzini who fans appear to be getting most excited about. Nicknamed, Manu by his team-mates, he progressed through the famed youth system and broke into the first team in the 2010 Apertura after impressing during a pre-season tour. Angel Cappa showed no hesistation in giving Lanzini his debut in a 1-0 home win over Tigre, aged 17 years, 5 months and 24 days old. The playmaker was first spotted by talent scout Ramon Madoni whose first achievements include discover Juan Roman Riquelme and Carlos Tevez for Boca. Capped up to Under-20 level by Argentina, the 19 year-old joined Brazilian outfit Fluminense for the 2012 season following River’s relegation.

29. Bryan Carrasco (Audax Italiano)
Dubbed the Chilean Maicon, Carrasco shone for Chile at Sudamericano and so much so that Real Madrid and Barcelona were credited with an interest in the Chilean starlet, who is able to operate at full-back or on the wing. A relative unknown quantity before the tournament, his name will be on the lips of many fans and scouts after his electrifying performances down the right flanks. Scoring three goals in the tournament and setting up a number for his teammates, Carrasco signed for Italian side Udinese in 2012 and loaned straight back to current club Audax Italiano who were suffering heavy losses in the transfer market. A future star of the national team, Carrasco has a bright future in the game and has all the attributes to succeed. An offensive thinking defender, Carrasco’s displays are packed with energy and enthusiasm. A natural born leader, Carrasco will be hoping to make his first team breakthrough for Udinese and showcase his talent in Serie A.

30. Zakira Labyad (PSV)
Over the years PSV Eindhoven have had some of the best talent in the world go through their system such as Arjen Robben, Ruud van Nistlerooy and Brazilian striker Ronaldo. Looking to join them is 19 year old Zakaria Labyad, who has already been compared to former favourite Ibrahim Affellay. Both players started their careers at amateur club Elinkwijk and Affellay who was club captain until he left for Barcelona in January 2011, wore the number 20 shirt which is now the squad number of Labyad. The winger who is of Moroccan descent joined PSV at the age of 12 and has already scored 10 goals this season and is being carefully monitored by some of Europe’s finest teams such as AC Milan, Barcelona and Manchester City. With excellent movement, Labyad has both pace and excellent acceleration meaning he is able to go past defenders with ease. Technically excellent, he can play with both feet and has an eye for goal. At international level, Labyad represented the Netherlands at Fifa Under-17 World Cup in 2009 but has since switched his international allegiance to Morocco where he has been capped at senior level. 

31. Marc Muniesa (Barcelona)
Having recently turned 20 years-old, Spanish defender Marc Muniesa is a name that has been mentioned for the past few years as one for the future. Linked to Chelsea at the age of 15, he made his debut for Barcelona at the age of 17 in a 1-0 defeat to Osasuna in May 2009. A regular at international youth level, Muniesa has been capped up to Under-21 level, but it was for Spain’s Under-17s where he made a name for himself. At the U-17 European Championships in 2009, defending champions Spain were knocked out in the group stages after not scoring a single goal, but a the same time they did not concede one either. Much of this was down to the defending and performances of centre-back Marc Muniesa, who is also able to play at full-back. Currently playing for Barcelona B he is one of La Masia’s most promising graduates from an academy that has already produced Gerard Pique, Cesc Fabregas, Carles Puyol, Xavi and Lionel Messi. Often compared to Puyol, not only for his looks but also due to his style. Calm on the ball at the heart of the defence, the left-footed 20 year-old is strong in the air. Spain's Under 17 coach Ginés Meléndez has highlighted the impact of Muniesa, who has already been called up several times by Pep Guardiola  to join  his  squad and is tipped to  be  a  future  international regular. In February 2011 Muniesa signed a new contract with the club keeping him at the Nou Camp until June 2014, raising his buyout clause to €30m. He is to be promoted to the first team squad next season.

32. Ouasim Bouy (Ajax)
Recently signing for Serie A giants Juventus is Dutch wonderkid Ouasim Bouy. The 18-year-old is considered to be one of the most promising youngsters to have come through the ranks of the Ajax academy in recent years, and his eye catching performances at youth level have led to interest from a number of Europe's giants. Bouy made his first team debut in a friendly against Omniworld earlier this year, but has yet to make his first Eredivisie appearance. Bouy who is of Morroccan heritage is an attacking midfielder whose contract expires at the end of the season, meaning he can leave the Amsterdam outfit for a relatively low fee. Hailed as the jewell in the crown at De Toekomst, Ajax's youth academy, Buoy was the top scorer in Ajax's youth ranks. Blessed with creativity, Bouy has exquisite vision for someone so young. With excellent technique and a good range of passing, Bouy also has the ability  to  score from distance. Good in the tackle,  Bouy will be a name to watch over the next  few  years  and is already capped by the Netherlands at Under-19 level. His immedate priority will be to adapt to the culture and playing style in Italy and continue to progress through the ranks at Juventus.

33. Erick Torres (Guadalajara)
Helping to put Mexican club football on the map was the emergence of Javier Hernández  who moved from Guadalajara to Manchester United. Looking to replace those large boots of 22 year-old Chicharito is teenage strike sensation Erick Torres.  At just 19 years-old, Torres who is playing in only his second full season since being promoted from the youth academy struck 6 goals in his debut season in 20 games, helping Guadalajara to fourth in the Mexican Primera División. Having been capped at Under-17 level by Mexico, Torres is widely considered one of the country's finest young talents. With excellent positioning and finishing ability, Torres who is nicknamed 'El Cubo' could well find himself playing in Europe in the near future such is his potential and promise he holds. Natural comparisons have been  made to  Hernández due to their similar playing style, size and  rapid success. The last Chivas youngster to hold such an impressive goal per games ratio was Hernández who scored 21 goals in 28 games in his last season.

34. Viktor Fischer (Ajax)
Described as one of Denmark's most promising talents for a decade is 17 year-old striker Viktor Fischer. Hailed as the new Christian Eriksen the talented teenager decide to join up with Ajax after a number of clubs were vying for his signature. Joining in July 2011, Fischer signed a three-year deal from FC Midtjylland after being attracted by the progress of fellow Danish starlets Christian Eriksen ann Nicolas Boilesen. Initially joining the clubs famous youth academy, Fischer is already playing for Ajax's Under-19 team and has recently played in the NextGen Series which is described as the Champions League at youth level. Fischer recently scored twice in the quarter-final match against Barcelona to help his team to the semi-finals. Producing a number of eye catching displays, the young striker is currently capped up to Under-19 level by Denmark.  With raw pace, excellent technical abilities and the ability to score from anywhere on the pitch, Fischer is currently being monitored by Manchester United.

35. Raphaël Varane (Real Madrid)
At just 18 years-old, Varane name has been around for some time. At the centre of a transfer battle in June 2011 when a number of European clubs were vying for his signature, eventually joined La Liga powerhouse Real Madrid on a six-year contract for a transfer fee in the region of €10 million. Although predominantly a central defender, Varane can also play further forward as a defensive midfielder, or drop back and fulfil the sweeper role.  Standing at 6'3", Varane is very agile and has an athletic build which he combines with power and pace. Breaking into the Lens first team at the age of 17, Varane is already a regular at international level for France's Under-21 setup. Varane made his competitive debut for Real Madrid on 21 September in the team's league match against Racing Santander. He started the match at centre back alongside Ricardo Carvalho as the match ended 0–0. Tough in the tackle, good in the air and a good range of passing, Varane is considered a future star for France and Real Madrid.

36. Saúl Ñiguez (Atlético Madrid)
Currently making a name for himself in the Segunda Division is 17 year-old Saúl Ñíguez who has starred for Spain's Under-17 side and was highlighted by Atlético B coach Antonio Rivas as one to watch. Last season alone he has began to establish himself in the Atlético B first team. Blessed with vision, excellent technical ability and a good range of passing, Ñíguez will be looking to strengthen physically and gain the experience needed to make the step up. With Atlético blessed with a number of up and coming talents in midfield, it may be some time before Saúl Ñiguez makes his first team breakthrough but not since Fernando Torres have fans been so excited about a player coming out of their academy system. Initially starting out at arch rivals Real Madrid, Saúl made the switch in 2008 at the age of 13. Currently a regular at international youth level, Ñiguez has been capped up to Under-19 level by Spain.

37. Juan Manuel Iturbe (Porto)
Hailed as the next Lionel Messi, is 18 year-old Argentine wonderkid Juan Manuel Iturbe. Signing for FC Porto in January 2011, many believe he was simply parked here before a big money move to Manchester United. Standing at only 5 ft 6 inches, Iturbe has good body strength and has excellent pace and power. Despite representing Paraguay at international youth level, Iturbe switched his allegiance to Argentina where he built his reputation playing for Argentina’s Under-20s. It was at the 2011 South American Championships where Iturbe caught the imagination of fans and football scouts a like with a string of impressive performances, including the winning goal against Brazil. After the championships, Iturbe dazzled in the Copa Libertadores for Paraguay outfit Cerro Porteno. Although his first team opportunities at FC Porto have been restricted, Iturbe is a player with enormous potential and promise.

38. Seder Sederov (CSKA Moscow)
18 year-old Serder Serderov who is currently playing for CSKA Moscow’s youth team is considered one of Russia’s brightest up and coming stars. With an impressive tally for Russia at Under-17 level, scoring 11 goals in 11 appearances, Serderov has been attracting attention from Juventus, Atletico Madrid, Anzhi Makhachkala, Rubin Kazan and Dynamo Kiev. A versatile player, Serderov is able to play as an attacking midfielder, on the flanks or as a support striker. Often compared to Sergio Aguero, Serderov is an excellent dribbler, has good natural raw pace and has good ball control. Joining CKSA at the age of 13 years-old, the teenager has a slight frame but is technically excellent and is unlike most Russian forward who have all been very physical such as Roman Pavluchenko and Pavel Pogrebnyal. Serder will be hoping to make his breakthrough in the 2012/13 season and establish himself as a first team regular and gain experience playing in Europe if he is to make the full transition to the national team.

39. Ilkay Gündogan (Borussia Dortmund)
Described as one of the brightest young talents in the Bundesliga is 21 year-old Ilkay Gündoğan who has been hailed as the new Mesut Özil. Already capped by Germany at international level, the playmaker started life at VFL Bochum before moving to Nuremberg at the age of 18. Finding opportunities somewhat limited in his three seasons at Bochum, Starting life out in Bochum, Gündoğan had few opportunities to shine in the three seasons but became an instant success at Nuremberg.  It was at Nuremberg where Gündoğan established himself as one of the country’s rising stars. In his debut season in the second division, Gündoğan made 24 appearances, scoring two goals to help his side achieved promotion to the Bundesliga in 2009/10. After one season a number of offers came in for the young prodigy, led by Bayer Leverkusen and Hoffenheim but manager Dieter Hecking declared he is not for sale. In the 2010/11 season, Gündoğan has continued to impress, scoring 5 goals in his opening 25 matches. Blessed with fine technical skills and a keen eye for goal, Gündoğan was linked with a number of clubs including Manchester United before signing a four year contract with Dortmund.

40. Alvaro Morata (Real Madrid)
Described as the next Raul, Álvaro Morata has been making good progress at Estadio Santiago Bernabéu. The young 19 year-old striker has gradually been getting involved at Los Blancos and has played in the Primera Division and the Copa de Rey for the Spanish giants. Highlighted by Jose Mourino as one to watch, Morata made his debut for Real Madrid Castilla in August 2010 as he scored the only goal of the match in a friendly over AD Alcoron. Since then he has been a key part of Castilla's league campaign and notched his first league goal in a match against RSD Alcala in October of tha tyear, and has regularly been involved in the first team squad. Likened to Fernando Morientes due to his style, Morata has a towering presence in the box and is good in the air, has clinical finishing ability and excellent movement. Morata who was signed from Getafe in 2008 has been prolific at international youth level, scoring 11 goals in 13 games for Spain at Under-19 level to confirm his status as one of Spain's most promising talents.

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