Football

Top 10: Under-23 players in the world

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The cream of the crop across Europe  (©GettyImages)
The cream of the crop across Europe (©GettyImages).

Debate over the most exciting young talents in world football rages on as ever, and opinion is rarely as divided as when potential is being assessed.

GMS Academy member Shane Carters has put together a top ten of who he thinks are the most exciting talents under the age of 23 in the world at the moment - check it out below...

10 - David Alaba

At 21 years old this Austrian born Bayern Munich full back has been a crucial part in thier solid as a rock defence, which played a massive role in the Bavarians Champions League win in 2012 and also their 29 game winning streak that same year. Alaba has been a regular starter for this giant club playing alongside Germany veteran Philipp Lahm and other exciting defenders, such as Dante and Jerome Boateng, so it would be criminal to leave him out of this list. The Austrian has been linked with many other big name clubs such as Arsenal, Manchester United and Barcelona, but Alaba ended speculation of a move away from the Munich club when he penned a three year deal at the end of last year. 

9 - Oscar

When Chelsea bought Oscar from Internacional for a fee of £25million pounds in 2012, immediately the pressure was put on him to succeed, not only from the financial side of things but because he was given the coveted number 11 jersey worn by non-other then the Chelsea legend and goal-scoring machine Didier Drogba. Although he did not have a great first season domestically, with Rafa Benitez only selecting him for a handful of matches, though he made more of an impact in the Champions League where he scored an amazing goal against Juventus. He also played a big part in Chelsea's Europa League victory playing the full final game against Benfica. This season though is where oscar is really shining through, under Jose Mourinho he is a regular starter for the club and is already surpassing his goal tally of four goals in 34 games last season to six goals in 22 games this season. His link up play with other chelsea stars such as Eden Hazard and his flair on the ball are outstanding, he is certainly a player international teams should fear when they meet him in his home country of Brazil at the World Cup this June.

8 - Julian Draxler

This young Schalke 04 Midfielder has made quite a name for himself over the past few years, becoming one of the most sought after midfielders this summer. He has become during the past two seasons in Germany arguably one of the best midfielders in the country and is looking more and more likely to end playing another league. Teams such as Arsenal, Chelsea and Real Madrid are reportedly looking for the 20-year-old's signature. It is no surprise either that he is hyped to become the next 'big thing' in Europe as he has already made eight appearances for the German national team and is a regular starter for his home club Schalke 04 scoring a total of 13 goals and assisting five. But it is not the stats that make this player so impressive, his vision and flare for a player of his age is quite impressive as we have seen him score some extraordinary solo goals over the past few years beating the opposing teams defence with ease numerous times.

7 - Thibaut Courtois

This Atletico Madrid shot stopper is the only goalkeeper to make it onto this list. Not only has he been Atletico Madrid's No.1 but he has been Belgium's also, beating fellow keeper Simon Mignolet to get the starting spot. On loan from Chelsea, Courtois has been on fire this year for his club who lie third in La Liga letting in only 16 goals in 23 games. His reactions as a keeper are second to none and we have witnessed him make many a wonderful save from shots at point blank range, standing at 6'6 his presence in goal is immense and with a long arm-span he can stretch and stop the most awkward of shots, he will definitely go down in history as Chelsea's best keeper standing on the same pedestal as the likes of Petr Cech. That is only if he wishes to dedicate himself at the West London club and sign a long term contract. 

6 - IIkay Gundogan

At 23 years old this Borussia Dortmund centre mid has been one of the top performers at the German club sharing the same popularity among fans and management as Polish striker Robert Lewandowski and fellow German winger Marco Reus. There is no questioning this young players talent with the likes of Manchester United looking to seal a deal for the player this summer as he has been a remarkable asset for Dortmund over the past two years helping the club reach it's first ever Champions league final and also scoring in said final, with great vision we have seen him make splitting passes to players that your average footballer would not see wrecking havoc to opposing teams defences. He also fits perfect into Dortmund's counter attacking style of play as he can immediately receive the ball and pick out a pass to a striker in a matter of seconds something that most mid-field players have trouble doing. He would fit into any teams midfield with ease and start for them week in and week out and with the amount of players rumoured to be leaving Borussia Dortmund this coming transfer window it is looking more and more likely that this will be another player heading for the exit door. Sorry Dortmund fans!

5 - Isco

Finally we are down to the top five and to get the ball rolling we have another very exciting mid-field player, Isco. At only 21 years old Isco is playing for one of the top teams in the world, Real Madrid. Isco made a name for himself playing at Malaga CF where he performed at the top level game after game, for Real Madrid it is no different. His balence and flare on the ball are perfect as he makes getting it around three defenders on your own look so easy. He also has a brilliant touch making it easy to control long balls played down to him at speed while holding off a defender or two, he is arguably the complete mid-fielder who can pass, move and score perfectly. Already this season he has scored six and assisted three goals and with Ronaldo and Bale in front of him he has the perfect players to rely on to score from a pass.

4 - Paul Pogba

Rightly seen by some as 'the next Patrick Viera' this 20 year old French defensive Mid-fielder has become one of the greatest players Europe over the past year. Released by Manchester United in 2012 after failing to sign a new contract (to much despair from United fans) Juventus snapped this young talent up for free.Not much more can be said about this player then already has, he has proven that he is a player that can do almost anything from dominating the midfield area to scoring absolutely stunning long range goals, he also isn't afraid to go all in on a risky tackle and win the ball which is crucial for a defensive mid-fielder to do he can also pick out crucial passes that will get key goals for his club when they're needed. He has not only been a hit in Italy though he has also made it Internationally as he already has seven caps for his home country playing in nearly all of France's recent international games and will surely fit into France's World cup squad. 

3 - Raphael Varane

Recommended by the great Zinedine Zidane himself as "the finest French centre-back since Laurent Blanc" this young centre back has certainly made a name for himself at Real Madrid since arriving from lens for an astonishing fee of €10 million when he was only 17 years of age, since arriving at Real he has played some of the clubs most crucial of games including a Champions league bout with Manchester United where he put in an outstanding display of defensive master-class and also in many of Madrid's el classico matches where he scored he first goal for the club gaining the respect of Madrid fans everywhere and showing everyone why Real paid €10 million for the player. Varene is certainly one of the best young centre backs out there if not the best as he has everything a good centre back requires, he can tackle without fouling players, is aggressive when it comes to challenges with other players and can win headers in the air while also scoring from corners and set pieces. He is an all round brilliant centre back and is set to become one of Los Blancos key players and that is why he comes in at number three.

2 - Mario Gotze

Much like his former, but soon to be once again, teammate Robert Lewandowski, Gotze made his decision to join Bayern Munich early in 2013 for a whopping fee of €37 million euro's, this seemed like a fortune to pay for such a young player at only 21 years of age and a very risky one at that but gotze's skill on the ball is unquestionable. His raw ability and vision is what makes this player stand out amongst the rest, his ability to control the ball and create plays in high pressure situations is spectacular, we have seen Gotze many times beat a group of defenders whilst being able to pass the ball directly to any player of his choosing, while at Munich he has played 15 of their 20 games and scored six while assisting 4 goals, and if all that wasn't enough he has managed to become a regular starter in a team whose midfield is dominant playing alongside greats such as bastian schweinsteiger and franck ribery,this player is certainly one to look out for in the future and I'm sure he will become one of Germany's greatest ever players alongside fellow greats such as Franz Beckenbauer and Lothar Matthaus. 

1 - Neymar

And finally bringing an end to this list of the most exciting young players in Europe is of course Neymar, come on how can you make a top ten list without this guy? This Brazilian born centre forward made one of the most anticipated moves in football history from Santos FC in Brazil to the Catalan giants Barcelona for a fee believed to be in the region of €55 million, Before coming to Barcelona he was one of the most talked about players in the world with many comparing him to fellow Brazilian footballer Pele. Although he has a lot of work to do before he can actually be put in the same bracket as Pele the potential is there for him to become just that good, his skill on the ball is second to none beating players in one-on-ones as if they where statues, his touch on the ball is amazing stopping footballs coming at him full speed while using the momentum of the ball to beat a player and scoring goals that you just can't help but replay over and over again just to examine the brilliance he posses on the ball. This 21 year old certainly posses the skills to become one of footballs greatest ever but the question still remains was it too early for him to move too Barcelona. Although Neymar posses all these great football skills many people see him as to weak to deal with the big defenders of the European game, we have witnessed Neymar so many times this year getting knocked off the ball far too easy and diving because he gets the ball taken off of him by a defender, are these things a sign of weakness? I think not i believe it is about maturity, Neymar just needs a season with the great coaches and trainers of Barcelona to develop his skill and bulk out so he can beat the defenders and not have to dive. Take Ronaldo for example, when he first came to Manchester United from Sporting Lisbon he was labelled as weak and unable to deal with the European game, although the skill was definitely there he was making the wrong choices on the pitch and was beaten often on the ball, but as time went by he got used to the European game,bulked out and won many Honours individually and for his clubs. So this is how I believe Neymar's career will play out and that is why he is the most exciting young player in European football

Other players to look out for in the future: lucas moura, Christian Eriksen, Kurt Zouma,  Marco Verratti, jese rodriguez, Alvaro Morata, marc -andre ter stegen, Luke Shaw, Jack Wilshere, Wilfried Zaha.

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DISCLAIMER: This article has been written by a member of the GiveMeSport Writing Academy and does not represent the views of GiveMeSport.com or SportsNewMedia. The views and opinions expressed are solely that of the author credited at the top of this article. GiveMeSport.com and SportsNewMedia do not take any responsibility for the content of its contributors.

Topics:
La Liga
Bundesliga
Premier League
Neymar
Football
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