8 World Football Players Set to Surprise Us in 2013
With technology constantly in a state of evolution and the media providing us with a myriad of ways in which we source our news, it’s harder than ever to feel the sensation of surprise in modern football.
Social media and a 24-hour, seven-days-a-week turnover of news means that we frequently see things coming from a mile away, whether it be an emerging talent, an impending transfer or a player's retirement.
That said, the surprises are still there to be found—one needs to only dig a little deeper to find the hidden gems of shock that remain undiscovered.
Fortunately, the following preview will nudge you in the direction of just which players to keep your eye on in the coming 11 months.
It might be a youngster set to get his shot at the big time, or a star who has fallen out of the limelight and is ready to move back into stardom, but 2013 promises big things for each of those included.
Looked upon by many as one of the most talented prospects in what is looking like an ever-improving Belgian generation, Dennis Praet is already making some big waves at the age of just 18.
The teenager made his break into the Anderlecht first-team setup last season but failed to make a single start despite showing some massive potential.
This campaign has gone a little differently to say the least, and Praet has already notched up an impressive 14 league appearances for the Belgian champions—double that of his tally last season—11 of which have been starts.
With six goals and six assists across all competitions this term, the attacking midfielder—also capable of playing out wide—appears unfazed by the level of competition around him and has been a major driving force behind Anderlecht’s assured stride towards retaining the Jupiler League title.
Several months ago, Metro reported that Manchester United were weighing a move for Praet’s signature, and with other European giants allegedly tracking his progress, it’s possible that a summer transfer could make 2013 a very big year for the playmaker.
Struggling in somewhat of a limbo during his final few months at Stamford Bridge, Daniel Sturridge’s reputation fell substantially from the impressive youth who broke onto the scene at Manchester City.
As a result, few would have been happier with his January move to Liverpool (via Guardian) than the attacker himself, a transfer that all but ensures he sees more regular starting football.
It’s been little more than two weeks since the 23-year-old signed on the dotted line with the Merseyside club, but Sturridge has already gone some way in repaying the supposed £12 million outlay Brendan Rodgers' side forked out for his signature.
In three appearances for Liverpool, Sturridge has yet to fail to score as a Red and instantly enamoured himself with the Anfield natives by scoring his first Premier League goal for the club in a 2-1 loss to bitter rivals Manchester United.
Estimations of Sturridge’s talent have dropped in the last year or so, but the forward can come back onto the scene with a bang if current form can be maintained in 2013.
Pegged by many a Chelsea supporter as the future of the club’s creative midfield, Lucas Piazon might have already had a bigger shot in the Blues’ first team were it not for the money spent on more senior players.
BBC Sport recently reported that the youngster would spend the rest of the season on loan with Málaga in a bid to secure more first-team football, something Piazon had found difficult to come across since transferring from Sao Paulo last summer.
At just 19, Piazon’s attacking style of playmaking has earned frequent comparisons to former Ballon d’Or winner Kaka, a justified comparison given the youngster’s tendency to score goals from midfield.
In La Liga, Piazon has his first real chance of making an impression in a top European division and could be ready for a surge into Chelsea’s first team upon his return to the English top flight in the summer of 2013.
From successor to predecessor, 2013 is a potentially pivotal year for the man Piazon is regularly compared to, Kaka—who has fallen out of favour at Real Madrid in a major way.
The last two seasons have been unkind to the 2007 World Player of the Year, and it would seem that the Brazilian’s tenure at Real Madrid may be winding down to its inevitable conclusion this year.
Jose Mourinho has given his playmaker just four starts across all competitions this season, but that hasn’t stopped the midfielder featuring for his national side, scoring two goals and making one assist in three games, showing he still has great worth in the right setup.
It was with AC Milan, Kaka’s former side, that the 30-year-old made his greatest impression, and it’s of little surprise to see the Guardian reporting of a possible loan switch back to the San Siro this January.
A temporary deal could well turn permanent in the summer, and were Kaka to move back to his Serie A stomping grounds in any respect this year, there’s a firm possibility that we'll see the maestro return to his creative best.
Out of the first team and out of the spotlight, 2013 could see Kaka once again become a worldly force on the world football stage after slipping out of view for some time now.
After AC Milan president Adriano Galliani declared his interest in the Italy hitman, it seems that Mario Balotelli’s loss could be John Guidetti’s gain should the former complete a January move back to Serie A.
The Guardian reports that but for a disagreement over value, Balotelli could make his dream switch to AC Milan this month, calling an end to his controversial Manchester City tenure.
Although the forward proved himself in a big way during a season-long loan at Feyenoord in the 2011-12 term, it seems a 20-goal campaign still isn’t enough to earn the Swede the first-team recognition he deserves.
However, having scored on his return to the City reserve ranks after nine months out with injury (via Daily Mail), it seems 2013 could be the year where the club finally gives Guidetti his chance in the Premier League as several pieces proceed to fall into place.
Should Balotelli move on, the space is there for Guidetti to occupy, provided Roberto Mancini chooses to keep the chequebook closed and not bring in a replacement.
Yet to really make his projected impact on the Liverpool first team, Samed Yesil may soon convince Brendan Rodgers to place more faith in his talent and throw him into the Premier League fray this season.
It was a shock to some when the former Bayer Leverkusen starlet completed a summer switch to Anfield, as he was looked upon as one of the Bundesliga’s brightest prospects and one who might remain in his native Germany to mature.
Regardless, the Dusseldorf-born forward signing on at Merseyside was a major coup for the club, and it won’t be long until Yesil features more prominently for the first team, as he has been impressive for the club’s reserves in recent months.
If club form is little to go on, the 18-year-old has also scored seven goals in just six games for the Germany Under-19s this season, showing that he certainly knows where the goal is.
Whether he makes a loan move elsewhere or chooses to fight for his spot at Anfield, those with previous Bundesliga know-how will tell you that Yesil certainly has the potential to make it in a big way, and 2013 could be where that starts.
The latest in what seems like an endless line of midfield talents to emerge from the Bayern Munich system, Emre Can has a wealth of expectations to live up to as far as many a Bundesliga fan is concerned.
In truth, it was at Eintracht Frankfurt that the defensive midfielder went through some of the more significant years of his development and attracted the Bayern eye, but that won’t stop der FCB from retaining a portion of the bragging rights for his production.
One of many German starlets of Turkish descent, the Frankfurt-born anchor has thus far chosen to represent Germany internationally and is expected to make his break into the senior frameworks upon receiving more first-team football.
A modern day central midfielder, Can’s talents cater more to the defensive side of the game but hold the potential for attacking touches, earning some comparisons to Real Madrid’s Sami Khedira.
2013 holds a lot of promise for the 19-year-old, and as some of Bayern’s premier stars begin to age, Can is likely to be gradually inducted into first-team matters. If his performances in Germany’s lower ranks are anything to go by, he will go on to succeed under the added responsibility.
“Where will David Beckham end up?” is a question that has been regularly raised since the former MLS star called an end to his US ventures after seeing out his contract with LA Galaxy.
The former England star is now a free agent and appears to be sampling the single life before once again settling down with a club—which one, at this point, is anyone’s guess.
In recent months, Beckham has been linked with outfits spanning the globe including Paris Saint-Germain, West Ham, Queens Park Rangers, Monaco and Tottenham Hotspur, as well as offers from Russia and China, all of which John Halloran explains here.
Wherever the football icon does end up calling home for the next season (or two), you can pretty much guarantee that “surprise” will be one feeling associated with the news.
Beckham’s career is one that’ll be followed to its very end, and this latest move will undoubtedly be where the 37-year-old finally calls it a day, making 2013 a very important year for the midfielder indeed.
Mattia de Sciglio
After making just two Serie A starts for the Italian giants last season, the 2012-13 campaign has already been considerably good to Mattia de Sciglio, with the youngster making 21 appearances for AC Milan this term.
The 20-year-old right-back is one of a few defenders being considered as a future staple in the Italian back line, and 2013 is set to be the year he really makes his name felt on a worldwide stage.
An unselfish playmaker built in the Mario Götze mould, Leonardo Bittencourt is in good hands in terms of youth development at Borussia Dortmund.
The Yellow and Blacks haven’t done too badly in building somewhat of an academic dynasty in recent years.
Although Bittencourt was brought in from Energie Cottbus last summer, he’s set to be nurtured into the German club’s first team this season, and one would be smart to remember the 19-year-old’s name for future reference.
As Sid Lowe tells via Sports Illustrated, Jonas Ramalho made Athletic Bilbao history after becoming the first ever black player to feature for the club, putting to bed some longstanding notions that the Basque club held racist beliefs.
A centre-back or right-back by nature, Ramalho is yet to feature greatly for the San Mamés club as of yet, but he is likely to get more of a shot in 2013, considering his potential displayed in the club’s Europa League campaign as well as with the Spanish Under-19 setup.
One doesn’t receive the honour of being labelled “the next Juan Roman Riquelme” without showcasing the talent necessary to the comparison, especially in Argentina.
However, seeing the skill Leandro Paredes has and how he earned the comparison, it seems he certainly will.
Like Riquelme did, Paredes plays for Argentine giants Boca Juniors, and despite being just 18 years old, is influencing club matters quite substantially.
With four goals in just nine starts this season, the attacking midfielder has already shown that he has a knack for scoring goals and in his most prominent campaign as a professional, is likely to continue his burst onto the main stage in 2013.