In the past few seasons we have seen a huge rise in the number of youth stars being lauded as being the next best thing. The terms ‘the next Messi’ or ‘the new Kaka’ get flung around almost daily, but not without good reason. Some of the ability on offer at such a young age is mind blowing.
Many of these ‘future stars’ lauded by the press will not go on to emulate Lionel Messi or Kaka, however some players in the public eye today definitely have the potential to emulate the success of the legendary Argentine. But who would make it into a youth World XI?
Goalkeeper | David de Gea | Manchester United
Heavily criticised during his debut season in Manchester after making several high-profile mistakes, de Gea has hit back this season and has been in sensational form. Key stops against Tottenham, Real Madrid, Chelsea and Manchester City have begun to show the form that lead Sir Alex Ferguson to pick him out as Edwin Van der Sar’s successor.
His presence in the air still needs work, however there is very little doubt about his shot stopping - his reactions are second to none. If de Gea keeps up his form he could well be the next big keeper, perhaps following in the footsteps of Iker Casillas as the Spanish number one.
Left back | Alex Sandro | FC Porto
Although not one of the biggest names on the list, Alex Sandro has a very big future ahead of him. He is a regular in the Porto team despite being just 22, and the Brazilian won’t stop there, his solid defending mixed with his samba-flare to get forward and set up a goal has left many pundits tipping him for the top. Certainly an important fixture in the Porto team, Sandro could well go on to join a golden generation for the Brazilian national team.
Centre back | Raphael Varane | Real Madrid
Few had heard of Raphael Varane before this season, but those who had knew he was something special, with PSG, Real Madrid and Manchester United vying for his signature at the tender age of 16.
Two years on, the 19-year-old stopper from France has become a key part of the Real Madrid team, perhaps even their best centre back, lauded for performances in the Champions League as well as halting Lionel Messi in the past El Classico’s. A huge tower of a man despite still being a teenager, Varane has not let his form get to his head and we could possibly be looking a future France captain. Watch out for this one.
Centre back | Kyriakos Papadopoulos | Schalke 04
At 20-years-old, Greek stopper Papadopoulos has shone for his club side Schalke 04 in the Bundesliga. He has been a standout performer in the team as they bid to achieve Champions League qualification; he has a stellar partnership with Joel Matip and has established himself as one of the key players in the national team.
He is an all-rounder at defending, with ariel duels often in his favour and his shot-blocking constant, conceding am average of 1.4 goals per game he plays in. The stopper from Greece still has space for improvement in his game, but if his defending continues its rapid growth, Kyriakos should be heading for the big time.
Right back | Sime Vrsaljko | Dinamo Zagreb
21-year-old Croatian right back Sime Vrsaljko is probably the least known on the list, but that does not mean to say he lacks in ability, far from it. The Dinamo Zagreb wing back has put a string of dominant and impressive displays for club and country in the past two seasons, earning praise from fans and pundits alike. His development has been helped by the trust placed on him by the Croatian club, with Vrsaljko joining a growing trend of young players developed by Dinamo Zagreb – who have produced the likes of Mateo Kovacic, Alen Haliliovic and Luka Modric.
His aggressive flare and mature decision making has earned him four appearances in the national team and right now, no one seems able to displace him. Considered to be one of the most talented Croatian players out of the country, Sime will no doubt be trailed by the big clubs sooner or later.
Defensive midfield | Yann M’Vila | Rubin Kazan
Yann M’Vila has been one of the most talked about young players of the past two years, mostly because of his poor disciplinary record. The controversial figure was caught up in an international row that saw him banned for the 2014 World Cup by the French FA.
Although he may not be the most popular with the authorities, he is certainly popular with the fans. He has been compared to a French Roy Keane in past seasons and it is not hard to see why.
His stellar performances for Rennes earned him a move to the Russian Premier League with Rubin Kazan, and he became a regular in the French team during Euro 2012. His move to the Russian club is seen as a stepping stone is his career and do not be surprised to see him gracing the field for the likes of Real Madrid or Barcelona in the near future.
Defensive midfield | Phil Jones | Manchester United
Ok, so Phil Jones is not a natural defensive midfielder and he has not been a Manchester United regular this term due to injury. However, the few games Phil Jones has played in the anchor-man role was enough to convince me to add him to the team.
He has become a utility man this season for Manchester United and after his performances against Tottenham Hotspur and Real Madrid, that looks like the best place for him.
He has shown grit and determination as well as incredible athleticism, the former Blackburn man the perfect complement to Yann M’Vila in this team for me. He has been compared to the great Duncan Edwards and although it may be premature to support that theory, he has all the makings of a brilliant midfielder.
Left wing | Eden Hazard | Chelsea
The £32 million Belgian joined Chelsea in a monster deal at the beginning of the season from Ligue 1 side Lille and was an instant hit with Blues fans, grabbing 4 assists in his first two Premier League games. Since then, he could be accused of not living up to his price tag, but at 21, there is very little doubt he is a star in the making.
He has a brilliant eye for a pass and as he has shown in recent weeks, has an eye for goal too. If the Belgian can recapture his form from his time at Lille, then Chelsea have quite a player on their hands.
Right wing | Stephan El Sharaaway | AC Milan
Stephan El Shaarawy pounced onto the footballing stage this season after the 20 year old’s immense start to the season for Italian side AC Milan. Taking advantage of Milan’s loss of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, the Italian winger fired his team out of some sticky situations that earned the former Genoa man heaps of praise from managers and pundits.
He currently stands second in the Serie A goal scoring charts behind only Edinson Cavani, and is unplayable on his day. His consistency is a key part to his game, with his arsenal of skills and tricks wowing fans of all clubs during his 48 games for AC Milan. His recent link up play with Mario Balotelli has showcased his playmaking abilities too, and he looks like the complete player.
Attacking midfield | Isco | Malaga CF
This season has shown that Isco is 100% pure, Spanish, class. The young Spaniard has thrived since the departure of Santi Carzola to Arsenal, and stuck with the club through their financial problems that forced many other players out of the club. His majestic displays in the heart of the Malaga midfield has sent the Spanish club into 4th in La Liga. His progress dually rewarded with a new contract that includes a £30 million buyout clause. Isco seems to have snuck up out of nowhere, and for most of us it is a pleasant surprise.
Centre forward | Neymar | Santos
It would be impossible to leave the Brazilian magician out of this team after he has been at the centre of unreal media coverage around the world for the past two years. Millions have witnessed videos of his dazzling skills that seem utterly impossible, or so they thought. Neymar is a regular in the Brazil team and at only 20 is one of the most reputable players in the world.
He has been linked with no end of clubs since his breakout season two years ago, although Barcelona seem to be at the front of the queue if reports are to be believed. Make no mistake, he would make the World XI senior team, never mind an under-23 side.
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