20 Unknown Stars Ready to Take World Football by Storm

Thomas Atzenhoffer@socceratzCorrespondent IIJuly 2, 2012

20 Unknown Stars Ready to Take World Football by Storm

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    World Football has plenty of stars that are nearing the end of their time in the spotlight. Striking legends Didier Drogba, Alessandro Del Piero, Thierry Henry and more are all in the limelight of their time of greatness.

    As the current generation's best players continue to see their golden years fade away, we are left to anticipate the future greatness of those that will do their best to fill their boots.

    When it comes to the unknown stars of the future the only way I see fit in looking ahead is to look to the youngsters waiting in the wings to take over the spotlight when our legends have gone.

Zakaria Labyad

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    PSV Eindhoven's 18-year-old Moroccan international, Zakaria Labyad had a great first full season in the club's first team.

    With 35 appearances and 10 goals, he looks poised to only improve and continue to exert his presence into the top of the Dutch Eredivisie's future transfer crop to come in a few years.

Tomáš Kalas

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    While TomአKalas is on the official books for Chelsea, he spent his first full season in action count on-loan to Dutch side Vitesse during 2011-12.

    A solid year with 33 appearances and two assists added in from the 19-year-old center-half that can also play on the right side of the defensive line continues to show his development.

    Kalas is sure to earn a full international debut for the Czech Republic in the coming year as the national start to prepare for the 2014 World Cup.

Granit Xhaka

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    Switzerland international, Granit Xhaka just recently joined German club Borussia Monchengladbach after an impressive season with FC Basel during the 2011-12 season.

    The 19-year-old is set for a chance to prove he is worth his hype as he will feature once more in the UEFA Champions League in the coming season.

Fabio Borini

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    Italian striker Fabio Borini has already made a massive splash with AS Roma in the past 2011-12 season.

    However, as the coming season begins to take full focus with clubs returning to training this first week of July, Borini is set of what could be his true breakout season.

Lucas Moura

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    Sau Paulo youngster Lucas Moura is certain to be one of the best young talents in the world at the moment.

    He may have his name known relatively well in some circles, but if he gets a move to Europe in the summer transfer window, he could be set for a massive unveiling to the world stage.

Matija Nastasic

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    Serbian international and Fiorentina defender, Matija Nastasic, is expected to have the potential to grow to be one of his nation's best defensive exports.

    After a two goal and 27 appearance season in 2011-12; Nastasic is thought to be ready for another solid year to prove he is only going to grow.

Stephan El Shaarawy

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    AC Milan's 19-year-old sensation Stephan El Shaarawy is destined to be a star and as he nears his 20th birthday, he is inching closer to taking his game to the next level and exploding onto the Serie A scene.

    With a four goal season in 2011-12 and 23 appearances, he is expected to be grow into the six-to-seven goal range and nearly 30 appearances in 2012-13.

Iker Muniain

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    Athletic Bilbao and Spanish international striker Iker Muniain is one of the brightest attacking talents in Europe.

    With his teammate Fernando Llorente looking set to possibly move on this summer, the 19-year-old that made 58 appearances for the Spanish club last season, scoring nine goals, is expected to take center stage for his club in the coming seasons.

Ivan Perisic

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    Another young and talented member of Borussia Dortmund's midfield is 23-year-old Croatian international Ivan Perisic.

    Last season, he made 38 appearances for Dortmund with nine goals and six assists. However, this season has to be his coming-out party, as the opening left by Shinji Kagawa is set to allow the young Croat to take full advantage of a more prominent attacking support role.

Moritz Leitner

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    While Mario Goetze and Shinji Kagawa tend to have taken all the spotlight from Borussia Dortmund's younger contingent, Moritz Leitner is not a force to be forgotten.

    The 19-year-old Germany scored five goals in 30 appearances for the club, and he is expected to double his goal production and time on the pitch with Kagawa having moved on to Manchester United.

James Rodriguez

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    There is no hiding that James Rodriguez has blown up this summer as a major transfer target of Europe's top club.

    The 20-year-old Colombian has been strong at FC Porto being part of six trophies with the Portuguese club between 2010 and 2012.

    After 19 goals in just 66 games for the club, he is turning heads throughout the continent as perhaps the best young winger in Europe at the moment. He is certain to be a major player to watch this coming season, as he is set to be only better.

Jordan Ayew

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    While the majority of football fans recognize Andre Ayew, many have missed his younger brother, who is also on the books at Olympique Marseille.

    The 20-year-old Ayew scored seven goals for Marseille last season in 45 total appearances largely off the bench for the club.

    This coming season, the young Ghanaian is expected to take a prominent role in Marseille's attack as they look to return to the top of French football.

Luc Castaignos

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    Inter Milan are in need of some new blood to take them forward after a disappointing 2011-12 season.

    They may not have to look too far, with their talented young attacker in Luc Castaignos on the bench. After a sensational 15 goal season with Feyenoord Rotterdam in 2010-11 he made the switch to Inter at only 18 years of age.

    Castaignos is poised to make a further foray into the plans for Inter's future, and his talent has already shown through in his few Serie appearances from 2011-12.

Thibaut Courtois

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    Chelsea's Thibaut Courtois spend last season plastering his name across the lips of every Atletico Madrid fan in the world, as he helped the Mattress Men to their second UEFA Europa League title in three seasons.

    The young Belgian keeper is set to become the hottest up-and-coming goal tender in Europe, so Chelsea are going to have a fight on their hands to hold onto him until it is time for him to take over for Petr Cech at Stamford Bridge.

Alexander Merkel

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    German youngster Alexander Merkel was originally co-owned by AC Milan and Genoa.

    After time split between both clubs, he continues to look an impressive young talent ready to take on a much more prominent role with Genoa. He heads into the 2012-13 season, with the club having bought his remaining rights from Milan.

Erik Lamela

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    AS Roma signed Erik Lamela from Argentine club River Plate before the 2011-12 season. After his final season in Argentina saw him make 34 appearances, scoring four goals and adding four assists, big things were expected of the 20-year-old.

    His debut season at Roma did not disappoint as he made 31 appearances for the Wolves with six goals and six assists in the best season of his career so far.

    If 2012-13 proves to follow that trend, Lamela is destined to be one of the next best young Argentinians in Italy and in Europe.

Jeffrey Bruma

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    Chelsea owned Holland defender, Jeffrey Bruma is believed to be one of the next great defenders in Europe.

    After loan spells to Leicester City and currently still with Hamburg HSV, the player has already earned a place in the Netherlands national team but was not chosen to participate in the 2012 UEFA European Championship.

John Guidetti

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    Manchester City owned striker John Guidetti is a top young talent that is on the verge of taking a huge leap up the ladder in Europe.

    The 20-year-old attacker made a huge splash on-loan to Feyenoord Rotterdam in the Dutch Eredivisie last season with 20 goals and eight assists in only 23 appearances.

    With continued regular playing time, Guidetti has all the tools to be a force in any of Europe's leagues.

Afriyie Acquah

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    Italian Serie A side Palermo has had a knack for launching the careers of the next biggest stars in world football during the past few years. All you have to do is look at Paris Saint Germain midfielder Javier Pastore and Napoli striker Edinson Cavani to know that.

    One of the next rising stars in their ranks is 20-year-old Ghanaian midfielder Afriyie Acquah. Two seasons in Italy have seen him make 33 appearances for the Sicilian-based club and the coming 2012-13 season should see him take a primary role with the Aquile.

Kyriakos Papadopoulos

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    Schalke 04 and Greek international defender Kyriakos Papadopoulos has burst onto the European football scene in the last season and during the UEFA European Championship.

    The 20-year-old already is nearing the century mark for appearances with Schalke between the German Bundesliga, German Cup and UEFA competitions and will be the rock of their back line in this coming season's Champions League campaign.

    Papadopoulos not only is a solid defender but he is a threat in the air after scoring five goals last season as well.