The chase for Anderlecht youngster Romelu Lukaku is really heating up. It’s believed that Anderlecht turned down a £17.5 million bid from Spurs for the prodigious young talent over the summer. Indeed, the player is set to stay at his club until he reaches 18 and has finished with school. Where does his future lie after this? The two main clubs in contention for his signature are Real Madrid and Chelsea. At the moment you have to say Chelsea are favourites – Didier Drogba is Lukaku’s hero. Lukaku has previously been pictured in a Chelsea shirt visiting Stamford Bridge. As it seems more and more as though Lukaku’s future lies with Chelsea, we count down a further 10 teenagers playing in Europe that are likely to have the Premier League scouts out sniffing. In order to be in contention all you need is to be 21 or under and to play for a European side (outside the Premier League).
10. Christian Eriksen:
Barring Nicklas Bendtner, the Danes have had little to shout about in terms of prospects for the future. That was until young Christian Eriksen came onto the scene. He won the Danish U-17 talent of the year for his performances in the Danish Superliga. This saw him earn a move to Ajax where he has garnered comparisons to Ajax youth products Wesley Sneijder and Rafael van der Vaart. He’s an unnaturally good reader of the game for his age and is perhaps best at home in the traditional “number 10” role. He was the youngest player competing at the 2010 World Cup and is currently only 18-years-old.
9. Stevan Jovetić:
At only 20-years-old, Jovetić is a player of great natural ability. His best attributes are his technical nous, great dribbling ability, being able to ghost pass players with an expert change of pace and expert close control. He currently plies his trade for Fiorentina where he’s earned comparisons to Queen guitarist Brian May thanks to his long flowing curly locks. In footballing terms, he’s been labelled the ‘next Baggio’ and has netted an impressive 6 goals in 11 international appearances for Montenegro. Charismatic and talented, it’s likely that he’ll move on from Fiorentina towards bigger and better things in the near future.
8. Sotiris Ninis:
The next big thing in Greek football, Ninis is the right winger for Panathinaikos where he has his reputation. For such a young player (20-years-old) he holds a surprising number of records. He’s the youngest player to have won the HFF (The governing body of football in Greece) Young Player of the Year award. In May 2008, on his international debut, Ninis became the youngest ever player to score for Greece. He’s also the youngest player to ever have captained Panathinaikos, as he did at the age of 18 and 125 days. Despite injuries disrupting his career a year or so ago, he’s back on track and looking as exciting a prospect as ever.
7. Moussa Sissoko:
French footballer Moussa Sissoko currently plays for Toulouse in Ligue 1. At just 21-years-old he has already garnered comparisons to tough midfielders Patrick Viera and Real Madrid’s Mahamadou Diarra. He certainly fits into that mould of player. He’s capable of playing the holding role, or adapting quickly into a more attacking position. He’s got bundles of energy and is a real box-to-box player with tenacity and a great tackle. It’s little wonder that clubs like Spurs, Man City, and Juventus have declared their interest.
6. Marko Marin:
One of last season’s standout players in the Bundesliga, Marin is definitely a player that the top clubs all around Europe will be keeping their eye on. A string of good performances saw Marin join Germany’s World Cup 2010 squad. He made two rather lacklustre appearances in the World Cup, but this hasn’t stopped pundits tipping him for bigger things. He currently plays out on the wing for Werder Bremen where his tricky feet and great close control have brought him a number of admirers. He is very much a ‘flair’ player and has drawn comparisons to Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi – not bad for a 21 year old.
5. Alan Dzagoev:
Despite his age – he’s 20-years-old – this young man is already regarded as a star by many in his native Russia. He’s an attacking midfielder for CSKA Moscow, for whom he has been a consistently impressive performer. In 2008, the Russian Football Union deemed Dzagoev the Best Young Player of the Year. He’s got a great attitude, he’s modest and hard-working and is extremely passionate about football. He’s also got an eye for goal – in 68 performances for CSKA Moscow he has scored 21 goals from midfield. That’s a statistic that’s sure to interest some of Europe’s biggest clubs.
4. Douglas Costa:
Currently playing for Shakhtar Donetsk, this young Brazilian is just 20-years-old. He’s a left-footed attacking midfielder who can also player as a winger. He’s a good reader of the game, with great technical ability and vision. He’s also notable for being a free-kick specialist. He’s yet to add consistency to his game, but seems to be enjoying himself in the ‘liberal attacking environment’ that Lucescu has cultivated at Donestsk. This season Costa has slotted home 8 goals in 23 appearances – not bad for a winger.
3. Miralem Pjanić:
A number of players on this list exemplify a great technical ability – none more so than Bosnian born Miralem Pjanić. When he joined Lyon in 2008 he was considered a future replacement for the aging Juninho. He has since found his niche as an old-style playmaker, who combines good vision and passing ability with tricky feet. He opted to pursue an international career with his birth country Bosnia and Herzegovina, for whom he has put in a number of eye-catching performances. Still just 20-years-old, Pjanić is another player to keep an eye on.
2. Eden Hazard:
Blessed with youth and a great name, 19-year-old Hazard currently plays for Lille in Ligue 1. He’s known for his virtuoso performances out on the wing and in attacking midfield positions. He has speed, bundles of creativity and a technical ability that players many years his senior will envy. It’s a sign of this boy’s talent that he’s the only player to have picked up the UNFP Young Player of the Year award twice. When you consider that this award has previously gone to the likes of Zinedine Zidane, Robert Pirès and Thierry Henry, you begin to understand what the fuss is all about.
1. Alexis Sánchez:
“El Nino Maravilla” – the Wonder Boy, is a Chilean winger, or attacking midfielder currently plying his trade for Udinese. He has incredible dribbling ability in combination with his explosive pace and tricky feet. He can operate on either wing and is a wonderful crosser of the ball. The only thing that might prevent him from becoming a huge Premier League star would be a need to adapt to the physicality and toughness of the EPL. He’ll also need to be a little more clinical (having scored just 8 goals in 64 appearances for Udinese) but these defects have not stopped a number of teams showing their interest in the talented young player.
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