World Football: 25 Potential Breakout Players in 2012
These players have the potential to have that one big year that leads to them becoming consistent stars in the world game.
Some have been touted as top talents with great potential but they have yet to fully show it. Others have recently moved or will soon move to a much more demanding league and with that their reputation could increase.
Other players have just begun their stardom at the highest level and may not have had many chances to show their true worth.
These players play for the biggest teams and in the biggest leagues in the world.
Here are some potential breakout players for 2012.
Romelu Lukaku finally made the move to a big club this past summer but it has not all gone to plan so far.
He has made a few appearances but he is not close to being a regular player on the team. This year could be his.
Lukaku will have some time under his belt in a new league as well as the benefit of playing with one of his idols, Didier Drogba.
Theo Walcott has still not lived up to all his potential. His injuries have halted some of his progress but he looks like he is finally warming up to the expectations.
Last year he had eight goals and 13 assists, and that tally will increase this year. Walcott has shown his ability to finish well at times and it seems his crosses are becoming more productive as well.
This year he makes the best of both these abilities, whether out wide or as a forward, and he will provide the consistency that his game needs.
Cesar Azpilicueta has been a solid performer for his former club Osasuna and now for Marseille. He is a young player with great talent and experience.
Azpilicueta has been linked with a move to Chelsea recently and that kind of rumour is testament to his skills. Look for the Spanish right-back to have that big year that could prompt a major move and/or increase his reputation in the world game.
Thiago's talent cannot be doubted but he has not made as big of an impact so far this season as might have been expected. Cesc Fabregas' production may have something to do with that.
Still, there is the remainder of the season as well as European competition over the summer for Thiago to really make his mark. He has set the foundation in 2011 to do just that.
Jordan Ayew is following in his brother's footsteps by making his name at Marseille. The young forward has featured in over 20 games so far this season and he has three goals and five assists to his name.
While he is currently faced with opposition from the likes of Loic Remy, Ayew will certainly get his chance to impress and with his talent, he will certainly do the job.
Coutinho has been with Inter for a few years now but he has not quite made his mark. As with any youngster, it has taken him a little time to adapt to his new surroundings but he has shown glimpses of his talent.
As his playing time continues to increase in Italy, Coutinho will begin to make his mark on the field and turn heads while doing so.
Abel Hernandez has been a regular for Palermo and is probably more well known in Italy and Uruguay at the moment. He has contributed a decent amount of goals so far in his career and there is definitely more to come.
Hernandez has experience and it is time that begins to show in his productivity. He has yet to get into double digits for his team despite his ability to do so.
Isaac Cuenca has had a solid start to this season when given his chances at Barcelona. With David Villa injured for the rest of the season, it is very possible that Cuenca will see an increase in his playing time.
He has done well with his opportunities so far—2012 could be a big year for the winger and he could see a rise to prominence much like Pedro did some years before.
Seydou Doumbia has been lighting things up in the Russian league, but he is not a full-fledged star yet. He has reportedly attracted interest from big clubs like Chelsea and that is why he makes this list.
If Doumbia can continue his hot form, prompt a big move, and continue playing at a high level on a bigger stage, he will be a potential breakout player.
Javier Pastore's inclusion may raise a few eyebrows, but let's consider this. He recently made a big money move to PSG in Ligue 1, some would consider that a step down from Seria A in Italy, and he is not among the world's best.
Pastore is a great talent but he has a lot on his plate now. He has to lead his new team to the French title as well as a Champions league spot. Add that to him establishing himself on a regular basis in the Argentina starting lineup and Pastore is a breakout player in that sense.
Miralem Pjanic has made a decent start to life in Italy and has continued to show he is a creative force. Pjanic has a chance to continue showing his prowess in Italy and increase his reputation.
Jan Vertonghen's big money move is around the corner but he will have to show that he can perform at whatever new high level he reaches.
He may continue to excel at Ajax but what will really determine his newly found status are his performances for his new club.
Danny Welbeck has seen his playing time increase so far this season, and deservedly so. He kept Dimitar Berbatov on the bench earlier in the season and now he faces even more competition from the returning Javier Hernandez.
2012 will be big for Welbeck. If he continues to command a starting position and makes a significant contribution to Manchester's season his status will have improved.
David Alaba has seen his playing time increase due to Bastian Schweinsteiger's injury but that does not mean it will decrease when he returns.
Alaba has put in some solid performances and built a foundation for a great 2012. He can continue to make some telling contributions for Bayern Munich and become their breakout player.
Ander Herrera has proven to be a good addition to Athletic Bilbao since his summer move and he is a player with great talent.
Herrera has the ability to make a solid contribution to Athletic Bilbao for the remainder of the season and he should be able to build on that in 2012/2013.
James Rodriquez has had a solid start to the season for Porto. The Colombian youngster has six goals and five assists to his name in 16 appearances.
Rodriquez could very well end up being hot property in Europe if he continues to build on his solid form during 2012.
Rodrigo has done a decent job for Benfica so far this season and seems to be finding his footing in the European game. He has seven goals in Spain's U-21 qualifying campaign so far.
As Rodrigo continues to get playing time in Europa league and Portugal, his talent will show.
At 25, Olivier Giroud may seem a bit old for a breakout player, but that is not the case. He is currently the league leader in goals scored.
Giroud's form has helped him attract attention from some of the big European clubs and if it continues in that light, a move might be imminent.
By the end of this year Phil Jones could really become a star in this game. This season he has had to shoulder a bit more responsibility than may have been expected at first, but he has done well.
Jones has a chance to cement himself as a starter in either the defense or midfield of Manchester United for years to come.
Tom Cleverley started off the season brightly for Manchester United but an injury cut his positive growth short.
When he returns from injury, Cleverley has a chance to pick up where he left off and really make the Manchester United midfield his own.
Aaron Ramsey finally seems to be regaining his full talent after his comeback from his broken leg against Stoke. He still has his moments that frustrate the fans but his playing time is what matters.
This year could be really be his chance to shine as he has had a couple months of steady play under his belt. Ramsey will put in some big performances for his team throughout this year.
Mateo Musacchio could very well be the future of Argentina's defense. He has cemented a place in the Villarreal lineup at a young age and he will only get better.
Musacchio will have to put in some strong performances to help a depleted Villarreal side get back into the Champions League places. His talent makes him very capable of doing so.
Other attacking players like Neymar and Lucas have received lots of acclaim and Oscar should be right up there with them.
The young Brazilian midfielder had a very effective season for Internacional with 13 goals and 10 assists to his name.
If he repeats those feats, it is only a matter of time before big European clubs come calling, if they haven't already.
Gaston Ramirez had a solid debut season for Bologna last year and he has already built on that with four goals and four assists so far this year.
If he continues to progress at this rate it will only be a matter of time before he makes a move to a bigger club.
Iker Muniain's talent has never been in question and the fact that he constantly makes appearances as well as produce the occasional goods for his club Athletic Bilbao is evidence of that.
This season could be the one where Muniain reaches double digits in both goals and assists. He has one half of the year to do that and another half to build on it.
Although it is very slight, if Muniain really performs before the summer, he could probably even make Spain's provisional squad for Euro 2012.