Last week I wrote about the top South American wonderkids that could take the Premiership by storm, most of whom were dubbed as the “new Messi”. Now the focus shifts towards Europe and the next generation of world-beaters. Obviously there are more than ten top-class youngsters plying their trade in Europe and I’m not going to be able to fit them all in.
The only rule is that they have to be born in Europe and the cut-off point is 21 years old, which rules out the likes of Napoli’s Marek Hamsik and Standard’s Steven Defour. I have excluded players who are already at big clubs and won’t leave (like Inter’s Davide Santon and Barcelona’s Pedro) or have already agreed moves to one of Europe’s top clubs for next season, like Sergio Canales, who has signed with Real Madrid. Here are the top 10 European wonderkids could set the Premiership alight, in no particular order:
Lukaku is a beast, at 6 foot 4 and weighing 14 stone, the Belgian prodigy has been hailed as “the next Drogba” and became the youngest ever top scorer in the Belgian league and the youngest ever to play in the Champions League. The 16 year old striker possesses blistering pace, awesome strength and aerial ability and shows has a positional sense and finishing ability that his exceptional for his age. Lukaku joined Anderlecht at 12 years old, where he scored 121 goals in 87 youth team matches and has made an instant impact in the first team, scoring 15 goals in 24 games in the Belgian league this season. The likes of Chelsea, Arsenal and Man United have all been linked with moves for Lukaku, as have Spanish heavyweights Barcelona and Real Madrid.
The 19 year old Belgian prodigy looks like the real deal and is one of the hottest commodities in Europe at the moment. Hazard can play either as a winger or an attacking midfielder and possesses excellent dribbling skills, great pace and superb vision that allows him to pick out some wonderful passes. Excellent at set pieces, Hazard’s maturity is rare for a 19 year old, as he will often look for the clever pass and is a proven match winner for Lille. The likes of Liverpool, Arsenal, Manchester United and Chelsea have registered their interest in Hazard and the youngster has said that joining either Arsenal or Real Madrid would be a “dream move”. He won’t come cheap though, as Lille have placed a £20-25 million price tag on their star man.
The 20 year old Toulouse midfielder has been hailed as “the next Patrick Vieira”, as his style of play has been compared to the former Arsenal legend and also Real Madrid midfielder Mahamadou Diarra. A box-to-box player with superb athleticism, Sissoko has amassed more than 100 appearances in Ligue 1 despite his age and has a keen eye for goal, scoring 7 goals in 32 games for Toulouse this season. Valued at £18 million, Sissoko has been linked with Man United and Tottenham, but has said his dream move would be to Arsenal.
The 19 year old striker nicknamed “Super Mario” is a 6’3’ forward for Inter Milan and is a massive talent, but has an ego and volatile temper that can overshadow it at times. Tall, powerful and fast, Balotelli has quick feet, sharp agility and is a good finisher. He looks set to leave the San Siro in the summer after numerous bust-up’s with Jose Mourinho and Arsenal, Chelsea, Man City and Liverpool are all interested in the Italian striker.
The 20 year old Grenoble midfielder, like so many other talented youngsters in France has been hailed as “the new Zidane”. Bordeaux’s Yoann Gourcuff is the legitimate contender to Zidane’s crown, but Feghouli is an excellent prospect. Possessing great technical ability and strength, the youngster primarily operates as an attacking midfielder and is great at setting up goals and chances for his teammates. A torn meniscus injury suffered in October has restricted Feghouli to just 5 appearances for Grenoble this season, who are rooted at the bottom of Ligue 1. The midfielder has been linked with the likes of Man United, Liverpool, Barcelona and Valencia in the last year.
A combative, tough tackling defensive midfielder, Witsel can also play on the wings and has excelled for Standard Liege alongside highly coveted teammate Steven Defour. Witsel’s game is made for the Premier League and he has been linked with Arsenal, Aston Villa, Everton, Man United and Man City in the past and is a former recipient of the Golden Shoe award in Belgium and the Young Player of the Year award in 2008. Witsel’s reputation took a bit of a hit last August after he had a Ryan Shawcross moment and stamped on Anderlecht defender Marcin Wasilewski’s ankle and broke his leg. Witsel was banned for 8 matches as a result and looks set to leave Standard in the summer.
Jovetic has been a revelation for Fiorentina this season, scoring 10 goals and creating 7 assists in 31 games for the Viola. The 20 year old is a hugely gifted playmaker that can play out wide or up front and is classy, elegant, strong and two footed. Jovetic has great technical ability, can pick out a pass which can carve an opposition’s defence open and can score as well as create, which Liverpool fans can testify to when he scored both goals in Fiorentina’s Champions League win in September. Described as “the new Baggio”, Jovetic has been linked with the likes of Arsenal, Liverpool, Chelsea, Man United and Real Madrid recently.
The 19 year Feyenoord wonderkid can play on the right wing or as an attacking midfielder and his style of play has been compared to Rafael Van Der Vaart. Technically gifted and two footed, Wijnaldum has great vision, is extremely quick and is a good dribbling skills. His maturity and level-headed mentality have kept his feet firmly on the ground, and clubs like Liverpool have shown an interest in signing him. This season for Feyenoord, Wijnaldum has scored 4 goals in 30 games for the club, who are in fifth place in the Eredvisie.
The 20 year old Panathanikos midfielder, who was born in Albania but represents Greece, made his debut in the Panathanikos side in 2007 aged 16 and although injuries have somewhat dogged his progress, he is still a promising talent. Possessing blistering pace, Ninis has been likened to Leo Messi and described as the best young talent to come out of Greece in many years. Ninis is rumoured to have a €10 million release fee and has interested Man United, Arsenal, Real Madrid and AC Milan in the last year.
The Athletic Bilbao central midfielder has been one of Bilbao’s best players since he signed from Osasuna in 2006. The 21 year old has been compared to Patrick Vieira and often drives forward from midfield. This season, Martinez has scored 5 goals for Bilbao in 30 appearances, and was heavily linked with Liverpool last summer as a replacement for Madrid-bound Xabi Alonso.
Any glaring omissions?
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