25 Most Exciting Young Attackers in World Football
Everyone loves a good exciting attacker; whether it be a pacey striker with an eye for goal or a blinding wing wizard with dribbling skills aplenty.
They are frequently the game-changers, often the game winners and certainly above all else the biggest fees paid for in the transfer window.
Up and coming talents add an extra layer of excitement to the position; while the potential is there for all to see, there remains an amount of mystery as to how much they can improve.
On the other hand, what their future transfer worth will be—and therefore how much a team should pay to sign them now—and how they perform against some of the most experienced and excellent defenders in the world game should be taken into consideration as well.
Here are the current 25 most exciting young attackers in the game, comprising forwards or advanced midfielders from the line behind the striker.
Players up to age 22 were considered.
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Brazilian talent Neymar continues to draw the headlines and the plaudits, having wowed fans at Santos, then with the Brazil national team and most recently in the London 2012 Olympics.
He will eventually move to Europe, of course, and whichever team signs him will be picking up an almost certain superstar.
Neymar has pace, bags of dribbling ability and is a calm finisher.
He will also come with a massive price tag.
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Iker Muniain, currently with Athletic Bilbao, is perhaps the most talented teenager currently playing in Europe's top leagues.
The wide forward plays from the left for the most part but is more than comfortable centrally too, dropping deep to link up with his midfield teammates and racing forward with the ball at his feet—committing defenders and making space for others to attack.
Muniain is a massive talent and will likely be a big part of Spain's next tournament squad.
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Love him or hate him, mad Mario Balotelli is an exceptional talent on the football field.
He possesses the strength, touch and rocket of a shot to make something happen out of not very much, and he is as calm as they come with the goal in his sights.
Scorer of both spectacular and mundane goals, he's a big player for Manchester City despite his off-field antics.
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Powerful Montenegrin forward Stevan Jovetic is just about still eligible for this list, turning 23 later on this year.
His goalscoring ability is a big part of his game; but more important is his touch, movement off the ball and ability to link up with his midfielders.
Fiorentina have seen three good years out of him, punctuated by one full of injury, but they might struggle to keep him past the end of the 2012-13 campaign.
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Chelsea swelled their ranks early on in the summer transfer window with the capture of Marko Marin, but it was the signing of Eden Hazard which really excited their fans.
Hazard was a big player for Lille, playing either from the left flank or in behind the forward and utilising his exceptional close control and dribbling skills to create plenty of chances for his team.
The price tag will place a huge amount of expectation on him to perform for the Blues, but as one of the best players in a talented young Belgium squad, he should have no trouble being a big hit in the Premier League.
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German whizkid Mario Goetze is a sublime talent. Capable either playing from the flank or behind the forward, he has proven already that he is a major talent in the European game.
A creative outlet for Borussia Dortmund and already a fixture in the national team squad—if not the starting XI—Goetze has an abundance of talent on the ball and is a real match-winner.
A definite candidate for one of the top young players to watch for excitement value.
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One of Barcelona's latest graduates of La Masia, Tello is a hugely promising talent capable of playing from the flanks or in the centre of their three-man attack.
Tello netted seven goals in all during his debut season in the first team, and will hope to add considerably to that tally—whether that be at Barcelona or elsewhere—over the coming season.
Pace, an eye for goal and two good feet are his biggest strengths.
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Portugal's talented forward playmaker Nelson Oliveira has just joined Deportivo La Coruña on loan from his parent club, Benfica, and will spend the season trying to get regular first team football in La Liga.
Oliveira is certainly a talented player with great vision, touch and technique.
He is used mainly as a sub by Benfica and will hope that more regular game time will also see him add goals to his repertoire.
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Arsenal's rising star Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is England's most precocious young talent, with blinding acceleration down the flanks or behind the forward.
Great close control and phenomenal strength make him a real danger on the ball in the final third.
He's another one who has not yet established himself as a week-in, week-out starter—but that could all change over the coming season.
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Liverpool's only recruit of the summer transfer window so far is the Italian forward Fabio Borini, signed from AS Roma.
The powerful striker has made a name for himself after a single season in Italy's top flight, where he showed great movement and technique as well as hard work and an ability to finish.
He scored 10 times for Roma last season and was part of Italy's Euro 2012 squad.
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Germany and Bayer Leverkusen wide forward Andre Schurrle is a potent threat from the left side of a three-pronged attack.
Cutting in on his right foot, he possesses a fine strike from anywhere around the edge of the area and is direct enough to not mess about when a shooting chance presents itself—but he's also classy enough to fashion a moment of magic for his teammates too.
He will be a big part of Germany's next generation.
Ajax's Lorenzo Ebecilio has not quite yet managed to have the same impact on the European or international stage as some of the names before him, but is a fine young player even so.
Playing most of the time on the left of Ajax's attack, he has skills galore and can beat multiple defenders on a run.
His end product is still improving, and he is turning into an important player for the Dutch giants after just two seasons in the team.
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Young attacking midfielder Alan Dzagoev is a regular starter for club and country and excelled in Russia's ultimately disappointing Euro 2012 campaign this summer.
Blessed with superb control and no shortage of dribbling ability, the aggressive nature of his game often leads to him besting defenders where there seems no chance of winning through.
Dzagoev can play centrally or from the right side in attack, and will be the recipient of huge interest this winter with his CSKA Moscow contract set to expire.
Lucas Moura is now officially a PSG player, having agreed to sign for them earlier on Wednesday.
The skilful Brazilian attacker will join up with his new club in January 2013.
Another gifted operator in the final third, Moura can play on either side or centrally in the second line of attack—though does his best work from the left.
He joins the growing ranks of stellar attackers at the disposal of the current French Ligue 1 runners up.
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Spartak Moscow's young Georgian dynamic attacker Jano Ananidze has been playing first team football since he was just 16.
In fact, only a few days past his 17th birthday, he became the youngest-ever scorer in the Russian top flight.
Now 19, he has already been capped almost a dozen times by his country and plays a regular role for Spartak, playing centrally most often.
Great skill and technique allied with a determined outlook on the game make him a genuine star of the future.
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Now playing his trade in Munich with Bayern, Xherdan Shaqiri has been tipped for greatness since his mid-teenage years.
Now 20, he signed a deal last season to join Bayern in a long term deal which no doubt netted former club Basel a hefty sum.
The left-footed winger can play on either flank but will likely feature more often on the right for the Bavarian side, allowing him to cut in on his left foot to shoot at goal.
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Former Chelsea reserve Gokhan Tore has already travelled around a fair bit, despite his tender years.
Now aged just 20, he is already at his fourth professional club, having been on the books of Bayer Leverkusen before the Blues and Hamburg last season—and now Rubin Kazan in Russia.
The talented attacking midfielder has dribbling ability, is tough and can use both feet well.
He needs to perhaps become settled at a club and establish himself now, in order to achieve the maximum he can from his undoubted potential.
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One of the games biggest young talents, Colombian attacking midfielder James Rodriguez is a top player.
A brilliant left foot lends itself to trickery, dribbling past defenders, a good cross and no shortage of goals—which he has really added to his game since joining Porto from Banfield in Argentina.
Rodriguez is a marvellous player either from the left or a more central role.
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22-year-old Abel Hernandez is a Uruguayan striker of enormous promise, though he hasn't quite yet lived up to the big expectations of him.
Even so, he could change all that within a season.
This is a player with power and presence up front, pace and movement allied to a strong shot with his left foot.
He only managed six league goals last season for Palermo—so he needs to improve this area of his game in particular—but he is certainly capable.
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Sticking in Uruguay for now, Gaston Ramirez is another of immense promise, and one who has started to deliver on it in Italy playing for Bologna.
The attacking midfielder can play through the middle or on the left, and possesses a wicked left foot capable of scoring from set pieces, putting a dangerous cross over or playing exquisite through-balls for his forwards.
Ramirez was part of Uruguay's 2012 Olympic squad.
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If Eden Hazard is the signing who could make something out of "nothing" for Chelsea, then Oscar is the signing who will make something happen on a regular occurrence and make sure that "nothing" isn't on the cards too often.
A wonderful playmaker who thrives in the space behind the forward, Oscar sees the game evolve around it and matches his tempo and passing to take full advantage.
He might not get on the scoresheet for Chelsea much, but he will certainly ensure others do.
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Romelu Lukaku didn't have a great first season at Chelsea, but his time spent at Anderlecht proves enough that he has a big future in the game.
The powerfully-built striker will hope to fare better under Roberto di Matteo this season, having not scored in his debut season in London.
Top scoring in the Belgian top flight at just 17, though, shows he knows where the net is.
Lukaku faces a big season, but has the quality to get himself through.
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Flying attacker Raheem Sterling is ready to burst onto the first team scene this year for Liverpool, after making fleeting substitute appearances at the back end of last campaign.
Best playing from the left of a front three, Sterling possesses a wealth of pace and great acceleration, is confident in dribbling past three or four defenders at a time and always looks to adjust his position to shoot at goal from anywhere around the edge of the penalty area.
A slight figure, he will have to bide his time to get regular starts—but can prove his class by making a big impact off the bench.
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Christian Eriksen is a real game-controlling type of attacking midfielder who loves to pull the strings for club and country from a central position.
Possessing calmness on the ball and a range of passing, he can out-manoeuvre an opposition defence with a quick shift of his talented right boot.
Decent at set pieces, Eriksen isn't exactly a regular goalscorer but makes things happen for Ajax and Denmark in the final third.
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Former River Plate wonderkid Erik Lamela finishes out this list.
The Roma attacking midfielder is a creative outlet for his team playing in an advanced central midfield role; and with his talented left foot is never afraid to run at defenders, shoot from range or thread accurate passers forward for the willing runner.
Lamela has been capped once by Argentina, last summer, but will surely add to that over the coming seasons if he can continue to prove himself and improve with his club.