With a new year comes a new opportunity to prove yourself and for these 13 footballers ahead, 2013 will be the year that their careers truly start to take off and explode.
As great as 2012 and the years before them have been, the year ahead will be the one where they simply take it to the next level in terms of performances and achievements—establishing themselves as elite and superb as opposed to just solid and good.
Some are the up-and-coming stars who will finally break through; others are the players that have been around for a while, but are yet to truly make a name for themselves.
So because 2013 is just around the corner, let's have a look at 13 footballers who are set for the best year of their career in the next 12 months.
The 20-year-old Rayo Vallecano striker had an excellent season so far in a solid but inspiring team—netting six goals and four assists so far this year.
His smart footballing skills make him a handful for defenders to stay on top of at all times and he has shown that he can punish teams for even the most simplest of errors at the back.
Think of him like La Liga's Luis Suarez—he might not have a whole lot around him, but he can still bring others into the game well and pressure defensive units into errors and goal-scoring opportunities for himself.
Get Baptistao in a good team with some good players around him in 2013 and watch him shine.
Currently on loan at West Bromwich Albion, Romelu Lukaku is posed to have another strong season with the Baggies—cashing in on the new opportunities provided to him by his loanee club.
The former Chelsea prodigy striker was never really afforded an opportunity at the Bridge and is now showing just what he is capable of. That could then in turn allow for better opportunities either at West Brom this year or at Chelsea in the years to come.
He gets nowhere near the playing time or chances that Fernando Torres does, yet he still looks like a far more dominant striker in attack. Those in doubt should simply watch the Belgian international over the next few years and point out otherwise.
Lukaku is ready for a big 2013, which could well be the year that he makes a permanent move away from the West London club.
Mattia De Sciglio is one of the top defenders already in La Liga this season, and the AC Milan star looks set to build on his 2012 form to make a very strong and complete 2013 season.
The 20-year-old wins the ball back incredibly well and is technically sound on the ball; skills that will help the Rossoneri youngster throughout their respective Spanish and European campaigns this year. He has a bright future ahead of him, and one that will surely kick off in 2013.
It seems strange to consider that Mario Gotze is only 20 because the Borussia Dortmund midfielder has seemingly already played such a strong role for the German champions this season.
Yet Gotze, who has starred in the Champions League and Bundesliga this year, is primed for his best season yet in 2013. He engineers a very strong Dortmund attack—one with plenty of attacking potential that can hurt opponents from anywhere on the pitch.
Gotze has seven goals and five assists from his 17 appearances in 2012 for Dortmund; imagine just what he could do in 2013 with more time to develop and thrive at the club—particularly if they are still around deep into the UEFA Champions League tournament.
Lucas Piazon would be a regular starter in many other clubs, but given the talent that Chelsea currently have in their midfield/attack, the 18-year-old has patiently had to wait in line.
However, with the seemingly inevitable transfer of Daniel Sturridge to Liverpool, Piazon suddenly moves up behind Fernando Torres in the depth chart at Chelsea—becoming the next striker in line behind the Spanish International and thus assuring for himself better opportunities.
Piazon is a rare talent that the Blues are unlikely to let go of soon. Rafa Benitez is not going to be as naive as Roberto Di Matteo was by leaving quality strikers on the bench every game.
The Brazilian will get his chance to shine, which he has yet to do so far in his career—meaning that 2013 is set to be a fantastic year for the 18-year-old Piazon.
Erik Lamela has had a fantastic start to the 2012/13 campaign for Roma—netting 10 goals in 12 games for the Italian giants and putting them in great stead heading into the New Year.
And at just 20 years of age, Lamela has so much more to offer the club over the remainder of this year and then again next season, that he simply must be on the up next year—to the point that 2013 becomes the best year of his career.
Lamela recently netted two goals and a man of the match performance against AC Milan—something that Italian and world football fans alike will have to start getting used to next season.
It seems strange to consider that an England International is about to have a career-best year, but the trust is that Daniel Sturridge has been smothered at Chelsea as of late.
Seemingly unwanted by Roberto Di Mateo, Sturridge rarely saw playing time and when he did, failed to make an impact due to the fact he was not given any substantial minutes or involvement into the match. However, with a transfer to Liverpool looming, that should surely change for the 23-year-old.
Sturridge will thrive under Brendan Rodgers and, in particular, alongside Luis Suarez at the top of the attack for Liverpool. He will have a great playmaker to work off and score goals from, but will also have somebody to grow off, learn under and create chances for as well.
2013, if he moves to Liverpool, will be a career-best year for Sturridge—there is absolutely no doubt about that what so ever.
Again, an England International poised to have a career-best year? Absolutely, when that England international is only 19 years old and yet has seemingly achieved so much already.
Arsenal winger Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is one of the Gunners' best players this season courtesy of his dynamic running and ability to win the ball back and spark attacking chances. Those skills are surely set to come to the fore even more so in 2013.
Gervinho has more chance of controlling his PlayStation than a pass given to him, meaning that Oxlade-Chamberlain should be considered above the midfielder in Arsene Wenger's future plans.
If Theo Walcott leaves also this winter or summer transfer window, then that would make the Ox Arsenal's starting right winger and in a great position to have a career-best season for the club.
One more England International.
Raheem Sterling, at just 18 years old, is one of the most exciting and raw talents currently in existence in the Premier League. This season, he's already been showing what impact he can have for the Merseyside club alongside Luis Suarez.
The winger creates a plethora of chances for his teammates, but has been let down in terms of assists numbers by their poor finishing—something that could improve should Sturridge arrive at the club this winter to offer another attacking option up front.
Sterling wins the ball back well. Under Brendan Rodgers, he will mature into a smart, savvy and very technically-sound footballer in 2013. Combine that with the raw skill, pace and sheer talent that the starlet already has and we're certainly in for one fantastic year next season.
Julian Draxler has been huge for Schalke through the opening half of the season—particularly in the UEFA Champions League, where his strong running with the ball and attacking presence has progressed the German side through to the final 16 of the competition.
He has four goals and an assist from his 12 appearances across both German and European competitions this season. He has shown to be a real talent in terms of involvement and game-changing ability, both of which the German club will need throughout 2013.
He might not have been afforded as many opportunities as he would have liked so far, but having shown what he can do for Schalke, simply has to receive more chances to succeed in 2013 and once that happens, the success (and goals) will roll in for Draxler in a big way.
Bigger than we've seen ever before from the 19-year-old.
Brazilian star Wellington Nem had a big year for Fluminense in 2012—helping them to a domestic title and earning himself a call up to the Brazilian national squad in the process.
Now Nem looks set to build on that form even more as he continues to dominate in midfield in 2013, but in particular if he can make a move across to the Premier League, where he is rumored to be wanted by several top clubs this winter transfer window.
The 20-year-old just has a genuine talent to beat defenders in attack, bring those around him int the game well and shut down anything that comes against him in defense—making him a vital player for Fluminense and Brazil in 2013, so much so it will be a career-best year for the youngster.
18-year-old Ajax forward Viktor Fischer might not attract the same headlines as some other of his Ajax teammates such as Christian Eriksen, but there is little doubting the class that the Dane currently has and the potential that he has ahead of him in 2013.
Fischer's game against PSV was superb and has now finally been given more opportunities to start in the first team of late—something that should reap big rewards for the reigning Eredivisie champions.
Watch Fischer thrive in 2013 with regular starting appearances.
Italian International Stephan El Shaarawy is already having a career-best year in 2012, but looking at his current form and immense attacking skills, you'd have to suggest that next season will be even bigger for the AC Milan striker.
El Shaarawy has netted a phenomenal 14 goals and three assists in 18 domestic appearances this year, and has scored twice in the Champions League also. Milan are in the final 16 of the competition there and slowly starting to play some quality football in Serie A—meaning that the 20-year-old El Shaarawy has a great chance to continue his dominance in 2013.
He is arguably the best young player in the world right now with a seemingly endless ceiling. 14 goals is not as good as El Shaarawy is going to get—he will be infinitely better than that—and I'd expect that we get a glimpse of just how good he's truly going to be in 2013.
It will be the best year of his career.
Who do you think is poised for a career-best year in 2013?
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