What with the Yule Tide just around the corner, many a publication will be releasing end-of-year lists very soon. But here at Get the Mott and Buckett we have decided to go against the grain, and instead of looking back over the past year, have a glimpse into our crystal ball, and give a definitive list of the 11 young players around Europe who are set for big things over the next 12 months.
NB: this list is not in numerical order (as in number 1 is the most exciting), but purely a list to be enjoyed and debated over.
1) Romelu Lukaku. Nation: Belgium. Club: Anderlecht
This 17 year-old Belgian has already received admiring glances from the likes of Real Madrid, Inter Milan and Manchester United, and it's easy to see why. At 6' 3" he's already been called 'the New Drogba', and with 24 goals in 52 matches for his club side, Anderlecht, we could be seeing this young man in one of Europe's big leagues in the very near future.
2) James Rodriguez. Nation: Colombia. Club: FC Porto
Pronounced Hames, this young south American has made a slow start at Porto, but at only 19, certainly has time on his side. He was a sensation at Banfield in Argentina. His speed and crossing ability made him the player with the most assists in 2008-09, and that class meant Porto splashed out £5million last summer.
3) Christian Eriksen. Nation: Denmark. Club: Ajax
The fact that Arsene Wenger is keeping a close eye on this 18-year-old says it all. Signed by Ajax in 2008, he is an all-round central midfielder; capable of scoring goals, but also making that last-ditch challenge. Along with Luis Suarez, probably Ajax's best player so far this season. And also the youngest player to play at last summer's World Cup.
4) Mario Gotze. Nation: Germany. Club: Borussia Dortmund
Non-Germans looking on with envy at the brilliant young crop of twenty-somethings that demolished England and Argentina at the World Cup will not be pleased to hear that the next crop are probably even better. And heading this renaissance is Mario Gotze. At 18 he has everything an old-fashioned number 10 needs: a low centre of gravity, exceptional acceleration and an eye for goal. He's been Dortmund's best player this season, and for a team that's top of the Bundesliga, that's not a bad feat in your first full season.
5) Javier Pastore. Nation: Argentina. Club: Palermo
Signed in 2009 by Palermo for £8million, Pastore had a quiet first season in Italy, not scoring his first league goal until January. But this season, he's been a revelation. Hat-tricks against Catania and Bari have seen him reach 10 goals for the first time in his career, not bad for an attacking midfielder. Linked heavily in recent weeks with Barcelona, it wouldn't surprise me to see him in Catalunya very soon.
6) Arda Turan. Nation: Turkey. Club: Galatasaray
At 23, the oldest player on this list. The Turkish winger has played well over 100 games for Galatasaray, and 40+ for the national team. His most famous moment came when he scored the winner in Turkey's 3-2 win over Czech Republic in that rain-sodden match at Euro 2008. Recent performance have seen him linked with Juventus and Athletico Madrid. And now is probably the time for Arda to see if he can produce on the highest level of all.
7) Wojciech Szczesny. Nation: Poland. Club: Arsenal
Arsenal's third goalkeeper is almost certainly better than his two, supposed, superiors. At 6' 5" and with fantastic reflexes, he has all the attributes to suggest that he may become a regular in the Arsenal starting XI. His recent performance against Manchester United will do him no harm whatsoever. But will the young Pole stay patient? Only time will tell.
8) Gai Assulin. Nation: Israel. Club: Manchester City
Great things were expected of Assulin when he signed for Barcelona aged 12. He had a fantastic record in the youth team, and made the jump to the 'B' side no problem. He played four games for the first team, but failed to impress in all of them, so by mutual consent, his contract was terminated in the summer. Many clubs, including Tottenham annd Arsenal wanted to sign the midfielder, but he opted for Manchester City. A niggling injury has kept him out for most of this year, but like at Barca, great things are expected in the next 12 months.
9) Steven Jovetic. Nation: Montenegro. Club: Fiorentina
This curly-haired striker/winger has endured a difficult past 12 months; injuring his right cruciate ligament in training last March, he has yet to play since. But before the injury, Jovetic was the most exciting player in Italy. Fast, tricky and with an eye for goal, he scored the winners against Palermo, Sampdoria, Napoli, Udinese and Liverpool in last season's Champions league. And with his injury now behind him, he has plenty of time to make up over the next year.
10) Shinji Kagawa. Nation: Japan. Club: Borussia Dortmund
This 21-year-old midfielder has, along with Mario Gotze, been one of Dortmund's shining lights this season. Having already scored 8 goals in 16 games he is doing his upmost to help the Rhineland club win their first title in 10 years. Having been signed in the summer for less than £1million, many saw his arrival at the club as a gamble that probably wouldn't pay off; but the chips really have come in. Another good 12 months, and a ticket to one of Europe's major clubs could be on the cards.
11) Neymar. Nation: Brazil. Club: Santos
Plenty has been written about Neymar over the past 12 months, the best way to describe the 18-year-old is this: a goal-scorer. He was pivotal for Santos this year as they won the Sao Paulo state championship, scoring 18 goals along the way. He's done so well, that his debut for Brazil came in August this year in a 2-0 win over USA; Neymar scored one of the goals. A move to Chelsea was muted over the summer, but Santos are trying to hang on for one more year. A plane booked for Europe will be arriving very soon.