10 Players You Might Not Have Heard Of Yet…
Club: Borussia Dortmund
Position: Attacking Midfielder or Winger
18 year old Bittencourt was signed for around 3m Euros from former club Energie Cottbus in December 2011, seeing out the season with Cottbus before transferring over to Dortmund in the summer. A talented play-maker, Bittencourt has already represented his country at under 19 level and was due to receive the captaincy for the under 19 European Championships until injury forced him to bow out. Although he hasn’t featured for the Dortmund senior side to date, he did play a huge part in the club’s pre-season which led manager Jurgen Klopp to comment that Bittencourt would get opportunities to play a part in the season. Vying for playing time with Mario Gotze, Ilkay Gundogan and Marco Reus may be a problem, but Bittencourt is definitely one for the future.
Club: Zenit St Petersburg
Luka Djordevic was one of the stars for the Montenegro under 19 European Championship side whilst playing for FK Mogren. A tricky forward with an eye for goal, Djordjevic is in the mould of Stevan Jovetic and earned a move to Russian club Zenit St Petersburg just before the transfer window closed. Djordjevic was called up to the senior Montenegro side for the game against San Marino in the World Cup Qualifiers, where he scored on his debut. With games to come against England, and continuing to get good game time for Zenit, big things are expected from this young forward.
Another member of the FK Mogren team that starred for the Montenegro side in the Under 19 European Championship, Marko Bakic has the world at his feet. Earning his first senior cap in the game against Latvia, the midfielder made Italian club Torino aware of his talents, and a move was finalised in the days before the transfer window closed. Fiorentina own 50% of the player, so he could follow in the footsteps of Montenegrin team mate Stevan Jovetic in playing for La Viola. It will be worth keeping an eye on Bakic’s progress over the coming months, he’s a real star in the making.
Club: St. Etienne
Only 17 years of age and already a first team player for St. Etienne, the future of Kurt Zouma appears to be very bright indeed. Also being handed his French under 19 debut earlier this year, the defender is a solid, imposing figure for someone so young. There are rumours that new France boss Didier Deschamps has been talking about placing Zouma in future senior squads, and few would bet against a senior cap before long. Strength, pace and determination are the best assets of this young player likened to French legendary centre back Marcel Desailly. Manchester United have been named as potential suitors for the centre back.
A silky midfielder, Dennis Praet has already played for the illustrious Belgian under 21 side and is still only 18. The Anderlecht prodigy came through the Racing Genk youth academy and the club hold him in high regard, stating he will become a key member of the Anderlecht side for years to come. Arsenal and Barcelona have been interested but with Praet recently signing a long term deal, the youngster is sure to play for Anderlecht for some time yet but surely will play for a bigger team one day.
Position: Winger or Forward
As if playing a significant amount of games at the age of 16 wasn’t impressive enough, when someone like Neymar is waxing lyrical about how good you are, then it must be true. Victor Andrade has already scored two goals and created two goals for Santos in just 14 games, which when you consider his age is a remarkable feat. With the Brazilian national coach truly emphasising on youth, there is a real possibility a senior call up is on the cards if the youngster continues to impress as he has done. Brazil have done it again with producing another seemingly nailed on superstar to emerge from the samba capital.
Position: Midfield or Forward
Comparisons have already been made to Ajax and Netherlands legend Dennis Bergkamp, and the Ajax man certainly showed why with a mesmerising performance in last season’s 6-0 humiliation of Liverpool in the Next Gen Series. The 19 year old scored two goals and was the best player on the park. Having played already for the first team, there is speculation AC Milan are interested in prying the talented player away from Ajax’s grasp, but Frank de Boer will want to keep hold of Klaasen as he is truly a star in the making. Another huge talent to follow in the footsteps of the Jong Ajax academy like Cruyff, Bergkamp and Sneijder? Only time will tell, but the early signs are very promising.
Club: Borussia Monchengladbach
A member of the Basel squad that dismantled Manchester United in last season’s Champions League, 19 year old Xhaka has shown a maturity beyond his years. He’s no stranger to league titles, having won two already with Basel, including a league and cup double last season. Xhaka earned a move to the Bundesliga and Champions League new boys Borussia Monchengladbach for a fee just shy of 9m Euros. An ideal replacement for the Schalke-bound Roman Neustadter, the Swiss midfielder has already been capped for the senior side 11 times, scoring three goals in the process. Another promising player to keep an eye on for Bundesliga fans.
Comfortable in possession? Check. Clever passing? Check. An eye for goal? Check. In fact, there is not much that the midfield maestro for Feyenoord can’t do. Already earning the nickname ‘The Dutch Xavi’ – Clasie is a player who just keeps the side ticking, and still manages to ooze class on the ball. Several bigger clubs have expressed an interest in Clasie, but the twice capped Holland international will want to help his home-town club this season and continue his fine progress. Expect him to be playing in either Cataluña or Madrid in the future though, such is his potential.
Marc-Andre ter Stegen
Club: Borussia Monchengladbach
What is it with Germany and their never ending production line of talented youngsters? Particularly goalkeepers! Bernd Leno, Oliver Baumann, Ron Robert Zieler are but to name a few but the ‘Gladbach stopper has already been capped twice for the senior side and is destined to be a star and provide Manuel Neuer some serious competition for the number 1 jersey over the next few years. Helping ‘Gladbach to the Champions League is arguably ter Stegen’s greatest achievement, coupled with his international recognition but the sky is the limit for this young goalkeeper. Liverpool and Dortmund have been mentioned as potential candidates for his signature but for now ter Stegen has his eyes firmly fixated on doing as well as he can for his current club.
Well there you have it, some names you might be familiar with but if you’re interested in keeping tabs on them, watch them in their respective leagues and I guarantee you won’t be sorry. You might even find some gems of your own to unearth.