Best 11 Footballers Who Have Their Careers Ahead of Them
After Tuesday's compilation of the best 11 footballers who are over the hill, it is time to look at things from the other end of the spectrum. The following are 11 players that have their best years well ahead of them.
The list includes some of the most promising players from around the world, those who could go on to establish themselves as the best in the business over the next few years.
This is not a definitive list of who will be the best in years to come. Rather, it combines potential, talent and maturity to put together a team that could be brilliant.
I am sure there are going to be many names which will be left out that could make the side, so feel free to comment with players that haven't quite made the 11.
Goalkeeper: Thibaut Courtois
We start the list between the sticks with Belgian goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois. On loan at Atletico Madrid from parent club Chelsea, the 6"6' shot stopper has made an incredible start to his career in Spain.
Quickly establishing himself as Atletico's first choice goalkeeper, Courtois—who will turn 21 on Saturday—is building a massive reputation. He is expected to take over as Chelsea’s first-choice keeper when Petr Cech retires or leaves Stamford Bridge.
Courtois has represented Belgium 10 times already, a sign of his rapid progression since coming through the ranks at Racing Genk. If he continues to emergence, it won't be long before we can start regarding Courtois as one of the finest goalkeepers in the world.
One of the most improved players at Manchester United, 22-year-old Rafael has established himself as United's first-choice right-back.
Always a problem position for the new Premier League champions since Gary Neville retired, Rafael has stepped up to the mark and made the slot his own.
His attacking play has been a real weapon for his side this year and a couple of spectacular goals have helped his reputation soar even more.
Arguably the weakest part of his game, Rafael's defensive ability has improved massively. His 40 appearances this season are a testament to his improved game.
Centre-Back: Raphael Varane
There aren't many players who can consider themselves first-team regulars at Real Madrid at the tender age of 20. Raphael Varane breaks the mold.
Recently turning 20, Varane has forced his way into Jose Mourinho's Madrid side this season. He's made 23 appearances, including both legs of the Champions League semifinal defeat against Borussia Dortmund.
Even managing to score in an El Classico—as Madrid beat Barcelona 3-1 in the Copa Del Rey semi-final—Varane's achievements in such a short space of time are nothing short of incredible.
Quick, strong and an excellent reader of the game, Varane could become one of the world's best defenders, and looks set for a long, illustrious career at the Bernabeu.
One piece of trivia for you: Varane was hours away from joining Newcastle United after being spotted playing for former club Lens by Magpies' chief scout Graham Carr. But Madrid gatecrashed the deal and the rest is history.
Centre-Back: Phil Jones
Twenty-one-year-old Phil Jones has been one of Manchester United's most impressive players in the Red Devils' recapture of the Premier League title this season. Jones' versatility makes him almost impossible to overlook, as he excels at either right-back, defensive midfield or arguably his best position, centre-back.
Quick, strong, intelligent and fantastic with the ball at his feet, Jones has been one of Sir Alex Ferguson's key players this season. Jones looks set to be a regular for the United team in years to come.
Also a regular member of the England squad, Jones could be a big player on the international stage too, with his national boss Roy Hodgson also a big fan.
If Jones was going to fail to make the grade at Man United, it would have been when he moved to Old Trafford for £17 million in the summer of 2011. However, Jones continued to show the form he did when he plied his trade at Ewood Park and has established himself as one of the best defenders in the Premier League.
Left-Back: Davide Santon
Making his debut for Inter Milan at the age of 18, Davide Santon has shown huge promise in his short career so far. Joining Newcastle United in 2011, Santon has been a regular for the Magpies at left-back and has struck up a good relationship with the fans at St James' Park.
It's easy to see why. Santon's attacking displays from left-back have been something special, leaving Newcastle fans begging for more.
Unfortunately though, Santon has struggled with injuries and is currently sidelined for the rest of the season with a hamstring problem. Next season should see him continue to enhance his reputation, possibly further forward on the wing as manager Alan Pardew looks to utilize his prodigy's attacking talents.
Right-Midfield: Eden Hazard
It almost seems like cheating putting Eden Hazard on this team, purely because he is already one of the world's most sought-after players. The Belgian winger is still only 22 years old though and therefore qualifies as having the best years of his career ahead of him.
Moving to Chelsea in the summer of 2012 for a fee of £32 million, Hazard has been a constant threat in Rafa Benitez's side and has shown no signs of crumbling under the more physical style of play of the English Premier League.
Hazard has netted nine goals in his debut season at Stamford Bridge. He has also been one of the chief playmakers in the side, setting up numerous chances for the likes of Fernando Torres, Demba Ba and Juan Mata.
Central Defensive Midfield: Geoffrey Kondogbia
Perhaps one of the lesser-known names on this list, 20-year-old defensive midfielder Geoffrey Kondogbia has made a massive impression in La Liga this season.
Kondogbia's physical style has been likened to that of Yaya Toure, although the 6'2" Frenchman is more defensive than his Ivorian counterpart.
If Kondogbia continues at this rate of progression for the next few years, he could soon establish himself as one of the leading defensive midfielders in the world.
Central Attacking Midfield: Mario Gotze
Twenty-year-old German Mario Gotze could well have the world at his feet.
Excelling in his career at Borussia Dortmund, Gotze is set to move to FC Bayern Munich in July. The German giants activated Gotze's release clause of 37 million Euros to bring him to the Allianz Arena.
Tricky, incredibly agile and excellent at making chances for teammates, Gotze has forced his way into the German national side, scoring five times in 22 appearances.
Linking up with manager Pep Guardiola at Bayern next season should provide Gotze with the chance to further establish himself as one of the world's best youngsters.
Left-Midfield: Viktor Fischer
The latest talent off the Ajax production line, Viktor Fischer already has a massive reputation as one of the world's most promising talents.
A speedy winger who can play on either flank, Fischer broke into the Ajax team at the beginning of this season. He has managed 10 goals in 23 appearances as he helped his side to the Eredivisie title last weekend.
Still only 18 years old, Fischer has even earned two caps for his native Denmark. He is expected to become their next big star, alongside Ajax teammate Christian Eriksen.
Two-footed, skillful and intelligent, Fischer certainly has a bright future ahead of him. He looks set to continue Ajax's incredible reputation as one of the world's best producers of top class talent.
Striker: Stevan Jovetic
Twenty-three-year old Montenegro international Stevan Jovetic takes the first place up front for this 11.
Making his debut for Partizan at age 16 and scoring his first senior hat-trick just a year later, Jovetic has became one of Europe's most sought-after forwards in recent years.
Incredibly tricky and at times impossible to take the ball off, Jovetic is the main man at Fiorentina and has built a huge reputation at La Viola.
Averaging just under a goal every three games in his 111 games for the Italian side, Jovetic isn't the most prolific goalscorer in the world. However, he has been involved in creating numerous other goals for his side.
Jovetic has been linked with a host of Europe's top sides, although Goal.com report that Manchester City have first refusal on the Montenegrin as part of the transfer that saw Matija Nastasic join the Citizens.
It is sure that Jovetic has a massive future ahead of him and could become one of the world's best if he continues to improve as he has so far.
Chances are, I am not going to be able to say anything about Neymar that you haven't already heard. Anyone that has seen the 21-year-old dazzle opponents with his breathtaking skill will find it hard to believe that he is so young.
Continuously rumoured to be joining either Barcelona or Real Madrid (h/t the Daily Mail), it is likely that Neymar could join forces with one of the two best players in the world to create a deadly attack somewhere in Spain.
Already having scored 54 goals in just 102 appearances for Santos, Neymar seemingly has the world at his feet, enjoying the reputation of the world's best youngster.
It is almost certain that we will see the best of Neymar in years to come and talk about him as one of Brazil's all-time greats.
Also, hit me up on Twitter: @91Marley
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