10 Players Who Look Primed for a Huge Year in 2013
If you go by the name of Raheem Sterling, Lionel Messi or Isco, you'll agree that 2012 has been one hell of a year. It's been a great year for football in general, but especially for these three stars, two of which confirmed to the world that they will rule the next footballing generation for years to come, while the other continues to break one record after another as people attempt to prove he's not actually human. Yes, of course I'm referring to Messi.
With all seriousness, a year in football can be the turning point for a player. A good season can lead to a national team call-up, a good run in the national team can lead to a big move or new contract, and from there, a star could be born in just 365 days. That's generally how it's worked out for Sterling, who despite only turning 18 this month is a regular feature in Liverpool's starting lineup.
So Sterling was undoubtedly one of the players of 2012, now let's look ahead to who could make the big time in 2013. Drum roll please...
Eden Hazard (Chelsea)
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His future was very much the talking point as the 2011-12 season came to a close, but as Eden Hazard chose to join the newly-crowned Champions of Europe Chelsea, little did he know that the pressure of playing in France was about to tenfold when he arrived in England.
His debut for the Blues was nothing short of magnificent, as his threaded pass set up Branislav Ivanovic for their opener against Wigan, and then won a penalty later in the game which was converted by Frank Lampard as they secured a 2-0 win.
His start to life at Chelsea has been superb, contributing four goals and 10 assists in 19 games, and showing that he is well deserving of his £32 million price tag which was enough to prize him away from Lille.
That being said, Hazard has at times struggled to impose his magic in the more physical games and has come under fire from the media for being too soft in the tackle. As such, against Corinthians and Everton in the past few weeks, the Belgian international has been silenced by some hard tackles and high pressing from opponents, with Victor Moses preferred as a result in some games.
Nevertheless, the 21-year-old is still adapting to life in West London and if he can perform this well in his first season, it seems like 2013 could be the year for Hazard to light up Stamford Bridge and the Premier League with some breathtaking displays.
Viktor Fischer (Ajax)
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The wonderful thing about Denmark is the fact that every two or three years, a gem is unearthed from a Dutch academy. 20 years ago it was the legendary Johann Cruyff, then three years ago it was Christian Eriksen and now, it's Viktor Fischer who is making waves in Holland.
He's only 18 years old, but Fischer is your trademark trequartista. Pace, excellent technique and a hunger for scoring goals, he's a real livewire. He was the top scorer in last season's NextGen Series for Ajax, with seven goals in the tournament after moving from FC Midtjylland last summer.
He scored twice in Ajax's 4-2 win over Roda JC, repaying the faith shown in him by coach Frank De Boer. It also highlighted the rapid progress of Fischer in the last year or so. However, his contract is due to run out in the near future and although the Amsterdam club are keen to tie him up to a long-term contract, Fischer could be tempted by a move to Manchester City or Real Madrid with both said to be keeping tabs on his situation.
Whichever club he lands at in 2013, you can be sure in the knowledge that Fischer will be scoring and creating goals, and making a name for himself in world football.
Nick Powell (Manchester United)
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Recently, a flurry of questions have been presented to Sir Alex Ferguson regarding what he thinks of the pending retirement of Paul Scholes. The Scot simply replies: "I would be surprised if Paul had spoken to someone without speaking to me - and he hasn't - so we can dismiss that."
Although he's defiant about the matter, there's a clear signal that Ferguson is concerned that when Scholes finally hangs up his boots for good, there's no one suitable to bring in to replace him.
So instead, let's take a look at who he's got on the books at Old Trafford. Oh, there's Anderson, Michael Carrick, Darren Fletcher and, ah yes, Nick Powell, the youngster Manchester United signed from Crewe Alexandra for £6 million this summer.
Ferguson would not have made this signing without careful consideration and a full scouting report of Powell, something he has definitely learned from the £7.5 million signing of Portuguese flop Bebe. But unlike Bebe, Powell genuinely looks the real deal, scoring his first Premier League goal in the 4-0 rout over Wigan Athletic.
Originally starting out as a forward, Powell has converted into a deep-lying playmaker, capable of spraying passes out to the wingers but equally timing his runs into the box so that he's there on the edge of the box. Sound enough like Scholes yet?
If the 37-year-old does decide to quit football altogether, this 18-year-old would be a front runner to replace him. Powell looks like a level-headed player, and with the world's most respected coach as his mentor, 2013 could be the year he makes the breakthrough at Manchester United.
Lucas Moura (PSG)
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£30 million for a 20-year-old is a large sum of money. But for Lucas Moura, you feel that in a few years time, the money will be back in your bank account, and you'll still be reaping the benefits. And what is £30 million to Paris Saint-Germain these days anyway?
Arguably one of Brazil's biggest rising talents alongside Oscar and Neymar, Lucas Moura decided to stick with Sao Paulo as Manchester United and Inter Milan battled for his signature. Sao Paulo were defiant, claiming they would not accept any offer lower than his release clause, and they were within their rights to do so. Manchester United pulled out, balking at the price, but PSG seized the opportunity with their director of football Leonardo using his Brazilian connections to strike a deal to see Lucas move to Paris in January.
He's already been capped 22 times by Brazil, scoring three goals and usually plays in attacking midfield. Lucas is so versatile, however, that he doesn't really have a set position. His pace and energy allow him to play out wide or through the middle. Wherever he is on the pitch, he's a danger. And with PSG struggling in the league, the arrival of Lucas could be a timely boost as they seek their first Ligue 1 crown since 1994.
Alexandre Pato (AC Milan)
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Well, with Alexandre Pato's agent seemingly confirming that Club World Cup winners Corinthians will be the 23-year-old's next destination (Yahoo), will this move be a step forwards or backwards for the Brazilian international in 2013?
With no disrespect to Corinthians, many would've expected Pato to be scoring 20 or more goals a season at AC Milan by now after his £15.8 million move from Internacional Porto Alegre five years ago. But injuries and reports of excessive partying have led to the striker nicknamed the 'Duck' being muscled out of the San Siro.
Such is the standard of the Brazilian league these days—Ronaldinho, Clarence Seedorf and Neymar all play there—that it's unlikely that Pato will suffer from a lack of quality. Rather, it'll give him such much needed confidence by scoring goals for Corinthians. Either way, it looks as if 2013 could be the year that the forward reboots his career in South America.
Ricky Centurion (Racing Club)
Argentina are more renowned for producing little magicians in recent years, with Diego Maradona, Lionel Messi and Carlos Tevez the most obvious names that come to mind. Yet, even more recently, the likes of Javier Pastore and Angel Di Maria show that a new desire for players with a gangly frame is becoming more and more common. That's where Ricardo 'Ricky' Centurion comes in.
Like Di Maria, he started his career at Racing Club. Also bearing an uncanny resemblance to the Real Madrid star is that, despite being over six feet tall, Centurion is blessed with tremendous technique. He enjoys causing havoc to the opposition defence, with his infinite amount of stamina and pace troubling his rivals for the full 90 minutes.
Like many Argentines, Centurion has been mooted for a move to either Italy or Portugal, with Napoli and Sporting Lisbon keen to fork out €10 million despite Centurion making little over 10 appearances for his club. With more brilliant performances in Argentina, it could well force Racing Club to cash in on their valuable asset next summer.
Gerard Deulofeu (Barcelona)
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This is the Spanish starlet that Barcelona are currently fretting over, desperately hoping that Gerard Deulofeu will sign a new contract to stay at the club for the long haul. But his performances for Barcelona 'B' mean that he has no shortage of admirers.
12 goals in 16 appearances in the Spanish second tier is not a bad return for an 18-year-old winger, who has also made two appearances in the Champions League this season. Along with Cristian Tello and Thiago Alcantara, he's seen as the next golden generation to lead Barcelona when Andres Iniesta and Xavi hang up their boots.
Coach Tito Vilanova is known to big a huge fan of Deulofeu but is concerned about introducing him too quickly to the senior squad, and as a result, the teams in Segunda have been worrying about his name popping up on the team sheet.
Only time will tell if the speedy winger will get more playing time in 2013, but nevertheless, Deulofeu could be a huge success in the future at the Camp Nou, and perhaps next year is the time for him to develop into a rising star.
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If Corinthians midfielder Paulinho is looking for a move to another club in 2013, he certainly did himself no harm when he played in the Club World Cup earlier this month.
Starring in the 1-0 victories over both Al Ahly and of course, Chelsea, Paulinho is your tireless box-to-box midfielder and, at 24 years of age, has his best years of ahead of him. He helped set up Paolo Guerrero's winner in the Final, and was solid throughout as the European champions struggled to reach top gear against the Brazilians.
Interest from Inter Milan and Chelsea (Daily Mail) means that Paulinho could move on in January, but if reports stating he is happy to stay in Brazil are true, he could become one of the star names in South America if he can lead Corinthians to a championship title.
Wilfried Zaha (Crystal Palace)
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Wilfried Zaha is a strange case for Crystal Palace at present. He's made it publicly known that he'd like to play in the Premier League, but ever since doing so, it seems like his mind is elsewhere after a superb 2012. Will he be with the Eagles on February 1st?
The answer to that is probably not. With Arsenal looking to replace Theo Walcott, the Gunners are front runners to replace him with 20-year-old starlet Zaha, and the Ivory Coast-born forward is certainly an exciting talent.
His pace and confidence in his ability allow him to run at defenders and cause them all sorts of problems, and with that included he's scored a few goals as well—five in 24 Championship appearances to be precise. If a £20 million move is concluded as predicted, Zaha could become one of the most exciting players to grace football in 2013.
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There's no doubt in anyone's mind that Isco will become a Spain player for many years to come, and possibly, one of the best ever to put on a Malaga shirt.
If he hadn't proven his worth already with his superb double against Zenit St. Petersburg in the Champions League this season, then his opener against Real Madrid in the 3-2 win at La Rosaleda highlighted his natural ability. It was their first win over Los Merengues in 29 years, and Isco was magnificent throughout.
It seems that Isco will ignore all offers from abroad in a bid to help hometown club Malaga become a household name in Europe, with the club through to the Last-16 of the competition. 2013 can be the year that Isco breaks into the Spain squad and catches the eye of Vicente Del Bosque.
Because mark my words, this 20-year-old is going to be something really special.