January Transfer Window: 15 Hot Prospects Who Are Worth the Money
With the January transfer window well and truly open for business, clubs will be scouring the globe for the next big thing.
Very few established stars move during the winter window as such sizable deals are taking ever longer amounts of time to be negotiated and completed (Cesc Fabregas, anyone?).
The smart move is to invest in youth, especially with the financial fair play rules now in effect in Europe. It makes more sense to sign a player who can give your club a potential decade of service and retain some sell-on value.
Of course, there is a premium that is attached to youth and potential, but some young players look as though they are already talented enough to minimize the risk.
Here are 15 young players, some more available than others, for whom it would be worth paying top dollar.
The young Athletic Bilbao forward is the most exciting young talents in Spain not on the books of Barcelona.
At just 19 years old, the Basque-born attacker has already got 77 appearances in La Liga under his belt and has scored 11 goals in the competition.
He has all of the supreme technical skill and passing ability you would expect from a young Spanish player capped at every youth level for his country, and would be a worthy addition for any side geared towards his style of play.
Barkley has impressed since making his Everton debut back in August at the age of just 17, but he could have broken into the first team a year earlier were it not for a horrendous triple-leg break injury suffered while playing for England under-19s in October 2010.
Now fully recovered, Barkley has made seven appearances in the Premier League and Carling Cup this season and shows immense promise.
A powerful, strapping central midfielder who likes to join in the attack, Everton manager David Moyes has marked him out as the prize asset among his current crop of youngsters.
One of the older players on this list, Leandro Damiao da Silva dos Santos has already represented his country at the highest level and earned an international reputation.
The 22-year-old forward has won both the Campeonato Gaucho and the Copa Libertadores in his short career, and last season scored at a rate of a goal every other game in the Campeonato Brasileiro.
Several of Europe's top clubs are targeting Damiao, and with Brazilian football currently in rude financial health, it was take some fee for Internacional to be persuaded to let him leave.
The Austria international has enjoyed a breakout season at Bayern Munich, mainly playing as a left-back in support of Franck Ribery despite being a midfielder by trade.
The 19-year-old has featured in 15 league games for the Bundesliga leaders, mainly as a substitute, and also played at least some part in each of Bayern's six Champions League group stage fixtures.
Alaba's successful loan spell at Hoffenheim last season has helped him develop into a player capable of regular first-team football in a top European league despite not turning 20 until June.
Yet another outstanding graduate of Barcelona's La Masia academy, Alba had to move to Valencia in order to make his name as a professional.
The left-sider has found success at the Mestalla by virtue of his versatility: Hs pace, skill and reading of the game mean he is equally adept on the wing or as an attacking full-back.
Alba impressed on his first two international appearances against Scotland and England recently, despite being on the losing side at Wembley, and he looks like soon becoming another prized asset that Los Che may struggle to retain.
Papadopoulos may still only be 19 years of age, but that has not stopped him becoming an integral part of the Schalke defence this season.
Last season's Champions League semi-finalists are currently third in the Bundesliga at the halfway point of the season, and the six-foot-tall Greek centre-back has made his contribution in that feat.
Schalke only signed him from Olympiacos 18 months ago, but if he continues the rest of the season in the same form and then impresses for Greece at Euro 2012, there may be a queue of clubs hoping to claim his signature and hand the Gelsenkirchen club a tidy profit in the process.
The highly-coveted Panathinaikos playmaker looks set to be one of the breakout stars of Euro 2012, even if Greece fail to set pulses racing in Poland and Ukraine.
The 21-year-old playmaker is highly skillful and creative, and was made his club's youngest ever captain at just 18.
His young career has been blighted by injury, must recently anterior cruciate ligament damage, but that has not stopped a number of clubs casting an eye over him.
The 21-year-old has taken League One by storm this season. In 20 league appearances for Huddersfield, he has scored the same number of goals.
Rhodes was born in Oldham, but qualifies for Scotland by virtue of spending much of his youth there while his father played for Dunfermline.
Now a fully-fledged Scotland international, Rhodes has a bright future ahead of him.
Despite making just a handful of first-team appearances for Sunderland as a substitute, there are plenty on Wearside who expect big things from the 20-year-old striker.
Injury and former manager Steve Bruce's seeming refusal to give him a shot have also limited his chances, but his recent goal-scoring exploits for the reserves have given him a burgeoning reputation.
Last November he scored a hat-trick against local rivals Newcastle United, and he soon bettered that by grabbing for in one game against Manchester United's second-string.
At just 21 years of age, Dzagoev already has more than 150 appearances for CSKA Moscow in the Russian Premier League and Europe under his belt.
The No. 10 is a highly creative attacking talent who also chips in with his fair share of goals, including one against Manchester United in the Champions League two years ago.
While Wesley Sneijder remains heavily linked with a move to Old Trafford, the Premier League champions are thought to be interested in signing Dzagoev in his stead.
Yet another exceptional piece of output from the Barcelona production line, Cuenca made his debut this season as a late substitute for David Villa in the Champions League.
Given the Spain striker's current extended absence with a fractured leg, the 20-year-old can expect to see a lot more game time this season.
Already he has made five La Liga appearances, four from the start and two of them including goals. If he can be tempted away from the Camp Nou, it would be a real coup for the buying club.
Speaking of transfer coups, Wigan looked to have pulled one off when they signed the highly-rated Moses from Crystal in January 2010.
How true it was that such luminaries as Real Madrid and Inter Milan were tracking the forward at the time is open to debate, but his talent is not.
The 21-year-old's development has perhaps been stunted slightly due to Wigan's constant battling against relegation, and the temptation to join a club with the resources to maximise his potential may prove too much.
Even before Eriksen overshadowed Jack Wilshere when Denmark hosted England for a friendly last year, the young midfielder's stock was already well on the rise.
Eriksen had caught the eye on several occasions following his consummate displays for Ajax in the Champions League that belied his young age.
His presence in South Africa last summer made him the youngest player at the World Cup, and it seems likely that his third season in the Dutch Eredivisie will be his last.
Shaqiri was one of the most talked-about players at last year's European under-21 Championship in Denmark, and he did not disappoint.
He was also one of the chief protagonists in FC Basel's 2-1 win over Manchester United that saw last year's finalists knocked out of the Champions League at the group stage this season.
The 20-year-old possesses plenty of skill and creative guile, and it looks as though he is not long for the Swiss Super League with several big clubs circling.
Luuk De Jong
The younger brother of Ajax midfielder Siem, Luuk de Jong is forging an excellent reputation of his own as a striker at FC Twente.
This season alone the 21-year-old has scored 10 goals in 17 Eredivisie appearances and has been capped several times by Netherlands.
Liverpool are thought to be the front runners in the race for his signature, and looks as though he is capable of transferring his goal scoring record to the Premier League.