Messi, Moukoko, Jones: Who are the 21 ones to watch across European football in 2021?

Liverpool star Curtis Jones

As one of the most unprecedented and turbulent years on record comes to an end, it is an apt time to reflect and look ahead to 2021. 

Football has indeed been disrupted by the global pandemic but, as the most important of the unimportant things in life, the sport has continued and provided something for us to enjoy in our enforced isolation. 

Money never sleeps and neither does football. 

In the year of 2020 we have seen contract disputes of gargantuan importance, British players thriving abroad and the emergence of precocious youngsters who may not have been promoted into the first-team under normal circumstances. 

With that in mind, and with the rescheduled European Championships pencilled into our diary next summer, here at GIVEMESPORT we've taken a look at 21 of the most exciting players in European football and ranked them in our list of ones to watch in 2021. 

Naturally, there are countless players who merited a place on this list, but we've tried to include an eclectic mix of styles, positions, leagues and reasons for selection. 

A common theme running throughout the list is scope for potential and youth, though we've sprinkled in a handful of more experienced players to strike the right balance. 

Take a look at who makes the cut below...

21. Kang-in Lee

Kang-in Lee

It is not only the fact that Kang-in Lee plays for Valencia that has seen him been dubbed as South Korea's answer to David Silva.

The naturally left-footed attacking midfielder possesses plenty of stylistic similarities in how he graces the turf and uses his body to generate space. 

Though he's not yet a regular starter under Javi Gracia, it's certainly worth monitoring his development in the new year.

20. Aaron Hickey

One of just a handful of British players plying their trade in Serie A, Aaron Hickey has enjoyed an auspicious opening to life at Bologna. 

In the second half of the season he'll be looking to kick on and put himself in contention for Scotland's Euro 2021 squad.

19. Oliver Skipp

Oliver Skipp has played a key role in Norwich City's ascent into top spot in the Championship.

The Spurs loanee scooped the club's Player of the Month award for September and will no doubt be on Jose Mourinho's radar ahead of his return to north London.

18. Mikel Merino

Mikel Merino

The former Newcastle United playmaker has put himself firmly in contention to make Spain's Euro 2021 squad. 

With six caps to his name, the 24-year-old is pushing to establish himself as an international starter ahead of the showpiece event. 

17. James Justin

The latest instalment of the interminable England's Next Big Right Back series, James Justin has been a revelation since breaking onto the scene at Leicester City. 

Can he keep Ricardo Pereira out of the side when the Portugal international returns from injury? 

16. Florian Wirtz 

Florian Wirtz

Florian Wirtz was the fourth youngest Bundesliga player of all time when he made his debut for Bayer Leverkusen, and the fact he's now a regular at 17 years of age speaks volumes about his quality.

With five goals and five assists to his name already in the 2020/21 campaign, we're expecting special things from Wirtz in 2021 and beyond. 

15. Sekou Koita

One of the latest off the RB Salzburg production line, Sekou Koita, 21, has been in clinical form this season. 

A whopping return of 12 goals and eight assists in 22 outings is unlikely to go unnoticed at Europe's top clubs. 

14. Ivan Toney

Brentford are gunning for Premier League promotion once again and Ivan Toney will be central to whether the west London outfit can achieve their top flight dream. 

Having signed from League One Peterborough in the summer, Toney has made a seamless transition to the Championship and currently tops the goal scoring charts with 16 in 21 appearances.

13. Dele Alli

Dele Alli

An outcast with almost no chance of returning to the England squad ahead of the Euros, Dele Alli needs a transfer in January. 

One would expect him to embark on a short term loan deal to breathe new life into his stagnating career, and it will be interesting to see how he fares away from Spurs.

12. Jamal Musiala

Bayern Munich's Jamal Musiala is destined to be the the next big English talent to emerge on German soil.

Hansi Flick has given him a handful of opportunities to impress this season and, with starts in the Bundesliga and the Champions League now under his belt, 2021 should have plenty more in store for the 17-year-old wonderkid. 

11. Ryan Gravenberch

No ones to watch list would be complete without at least a solitary inclusion from Ajax's revered academy. 

Ryan Gravenberch, a slick operator in central midfield, is bound to dominate the gossip columns in the summer transfer window given the quality of his performances both domestically and in Europe this season.

10. Marcel Sabitzer

Marcel Sabitzer

Marcel Sabitzer has been heavily linked with Spurs in recent weeks and could soon be available below market price with his contract set to expire in June 2022. 

RB Leipzig's captain is a captivating operator and regular goal scorer, so he's bound to be signposted as a notable danger man for Liverpool ahead of their last-16 Champions League encounter. 

9. Eduardo Camavinga

Eduardo Camavinga is one of the most exciting wonderkids in Europe and has been linked with a handful of prestigious clubs since his breakthrough at Stade Rennais.

An appearance at Euro 2021, should he earn selection for Didier Deschamps' squad, will hand him the opportunity to showcase his talent to a broader audience on one of the biggest stages of all. 

8. Dominik Szoboszlai

Dominik Szoboszlai will follow Naby Keita, Konrad Laimer and Hee-chan Hwang amongst others down an increasingly well trodden path when he joins RB Leipzig from RB Salzburg on New Year's Day. 

How he adapts to life in the Bundesliga will be of great interest to Arsenal fans following the Gunners' reported pursuit. 

He'll also feature for Hungary at the Euros. 

7. Alessandro Bastoni

Inter Milan

Italy is a country renowned for its ability to produce central defenders of the highest quality and Alessandro Bastoni's rise adds weight to that common perception. 

With Inter Milan going toe to toe with city-rivals AC Milan for the Scudetto, the performances of Bastoni, 21, could have a decisive impact on the final outcome. 

6. Jude Bellingham

One of the breakthrough stars of 2020 will be aiming to stake a claim for a place in Gareth Southgate's Three Lions squad at Euro 2021. 

Having already received plenty of opportunities to shine since arriving at Borussia Dortmund in a world-record deal, it will be interesting to see how Jude Bellingham is utilised by new head coach Edin Terzić in light of Lucien Favre's exit. 

5. Jules Kounde 

Jules Kounde

Manchester City were in hot pursuit of emerging central defender Jules Kounde during the summer window but they eventually opted for Ruben Dias instead. 

Sevilla will need him to be at his best to stop Erling Haaland and co. when the La Liga outfit meet Borussia Dortmund in the last-16 of the Champions League. 

4. Phil Foden 

Pep Guardiola's handling of Phil Foden continues to perplex, frustrate and divide, but that's only because onlookers are so acutely aware of how talented he is. 

There's every chance he'll be at the Euros in the summer and his unique repertoire could be one of England's biggest weapons at the tournament. 

3. Curtis Jones

Curtis Jones

One of the key beneficiaries of Liverpool's injury crisis this season, Curtis Jones is improving with every passing game and doesn't look a touch out of place in the champions' starting XI. 

One gets the feeling that something special is happening here, so stay tuned to watch the magic unfold. 

2. Youssoufa Moukoko

Moukoko

The youngest player on this list by a comfortable distance, Youssoufa Moukoko's breakthrough at Dortmund arrived as 2020 edged towards its conclusion. 

His strike against Union Berlin on December 18 made him the youngest Bundesliga goal scorer in the history of the competition, while his return of 90 goals in 57 games for Dortmund's U17 side provides some indication as to what lies ahead.

Expect him to write plenty of headlines in the coming months and years.

1. Lionel Messi 

Messi

Here he is: the player who has the footballing world on tenterhooks. 

On January 1 clubs outside of Spain will be legally allowed to approach Lionel Messi regarding a pre-contract agreement. 

Whether any club will be able to satisfy his astronomical salary expectations remains to be seen, but there's little doubt he'll be on the radar of Europe's super clubs, chiefly Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain, while his future remains unsolved. 

Talk over his next destination, if he does indeed decide to say farewell to Barcelona after more than 15 years in Catalonia, will be one of the stories of the year.

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