World Football's 25 Future Stars We Can't Wait to See Hit the Mainstream

Nick AkermanFeatured ColumnistJune 4, 2013

World Football's 25 Future Stars We Can't Wait to See Hit the Mainstream

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    World football is crammed with future stars who we can't wait to see hit the mainstream.

    Young talents continue to make an impression on a domestic scale, but are yet to enter the consciousness of average football heads across the globe. Here's 25 exciting prospects who look set to break through the international barrier and, one day, take the footballing world by storm.

    Is your favourite starlet included? Read on to find out.

Oliver Torres, Atletico Madrid B

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    Oliver Torres joined the Atletico Madrid youth setup as a 13-year-old in 2008 and has enjoyed a rapid rise through the club's ranks.

    The creative midfielder—who possesses excellent passing ability and vision—made his senior debut on August 19, 2012, replacing Adrian Lopez in the 1-1 draw against Levante. The intelligent player has a decent turn of pace and carries out his duties meticulously; attributes that have seen him linked with a move to Manchester City in recent weeks.

Wilfried Zaha, Manchester United

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    Wilfried Zaha will be well known to followers of the English football, having signed for Manchester United from Crystal Palace during the January 2013 transfer window.

    He returned to Palace on loan for the remainder of the season and played a massive role in sending them to the Premier League. Zaha's double in the Championship Play-Off semifinal second leg, overcame a sturdy Brighton & Hove Albion side, while his ability to win a penalty in the final saw Kevin Phillips notch the vital goal for Ian Holloway's side.

    The 20-year-old winger made 49 appearances for Palace in all competitions during the 2012-13 campaign, scoring eight goals and providing 10 assists.

Juan Fernando Quintero, Atletico Nacional

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    Juan Fernando Quintero is part of Colombian football's emerging generation of young talents.

    He spent the 2012-13 season on loan at Serie A side Pescara, making 14 appearances and unfortunately suffering relegation. Quintero was hardly to blame for this heartache and showcased his skills in Europe for the first time.

    The 20-year-old can play anywhere along the midfield or wings and often flaunts ridiculous dribbling technique. He excelled at the 2013 South American Youth Championships where he was voted Most Valuable Player during Colombia's third U20 success, scoring five goals and providing three assists.

    Quintero made his senior international debut during the 3-0 friendly win over Cameroon in October 2012 and was recently linked with a move to Manchester United.

Samed Yesil, Liverpool

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    Samed Yesil's young career has already seen him represent four clubs at youth level.

    The German youth international signed with CFR Links at the tender age of six, before moving to BV 04 Dusseldorf and eventually Bayer Leverkusen. Impressive displays throughout the German youth international setup earmarked him as one of the nation's top prospects and forced Brendan Rodgers into a speedy move back in August 2012.

    Although Yesil has made two appearances in the Capital One Cup, he is yet to score his first senior goal for the Reds. The £1 million signing scored 19 goals in 21 appearances for the German U17 side and netted 21 goals in 31 appearances for Leverkusen's U19 squad.

Alen Halilovic, Dinamo Zagreb

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    It's ridiculous to think Alen Halilovic has represented Dinamo Zagreb in the Champions League at the age of 16.

    The impressive Croatian is the youngest player to appear in his nation's top flight, and also holds the record for youngest goalscorer. He is dynamic behind the striker and is a strong finisher. The left-footed player is often likened to Luka Modric due to his small size and looks.

    Although it's a solid comparison, he is likely to emerge as more attack-minded than his counterpart.

Andy Polo, Deportivo San Martin

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    Andy Polo is relatively experienced for an 18-year-old player, yet his name is unlikely to be spoken outside of his homeland Peru, or Italy.

    The striker's ridiculous pace and sharp finishing skills lured Genoa into bringing him to Serie A, although he remained on loan with Peruvian side Universitario for the 2012-13 season.

    He has enjoyed success with both the Peru U17 and U20 teams, scoring four goals in a total of eight appearances across the age groups.

Lazar Markovic, Partizan Belgrade

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    Lazar Markovic has represented Partizan Belgrade since 2011 and continues to impress as one of Serbian football's greatest talents.

    His best role sees him take up attacking positions behind a main striker. Markovic's speed is currently his greatest asset and has reportedly attracted interest from Chelsea.

Nick Powell, Manchester United

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    Nick Powell made two starts and two substitute appearances in his debut season with Manchester United, as Sir Alex Ferguson mainly deployed the English midfielder when the Red Devils could afford an indifferent result.

    His display against Galatasaray in the Champions League suggested Powell has added steal to his game. The 19-year-old is a scorer of memorable goals and powered home an excellent strike on his 18-minute Premier League debut against Wigan.

Andre Gomes, Benfica

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    Andre Gomes has all of the assets to be a midfield monster across the next decade.

    The 19-year-old is physically strong at 6'2", has decent passing ability and often tries his luck from long range. He has already represented Benfica in the Portuguese top flight and Champions League, making appearances against Barcelona and Fenerbahce.

    Gomes' fine run of performances saw him called up to the Portugal squad for February's 3-2 friendly loss against Ecuador, although he didn't make it onto the pitch.

Islam Feruz, Chelsea

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    Islam Feruz enjoyed a youth career with Scottish champions Celtic, before deciding to turn down the Hoops in favour of a move to Chelsea.

    Born in Somalia, the Scotland youth international favours a striker's role, but can be used on the wings. His combination of rapid pace and clever finishing ensured the Scotland U17 called for Feruz's services when he was just 14 years old.

    In November 2012, Feruz scored a brace during Chelsea's 6-0 NextGen series win over Molde.

Jese Rodriguez, Real Madrid Castilla

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    Jese Rodriguez is an exceptional winger that has many Real Madrid fans excited.

    The 20-year-old has been part of the Real Madrid Castilla setup since 2011, racking up over 80 appearances for the development side. He scored 22 goals in 34 appearances during the 2012-13 Liga Adelante season and has benefited from constantly playing against competitive professional sides.

    Jese has also moved through the Spanish international youth setup, representing all sides between U16 and U20 level from 2009 onwards. Unfortunately, the remarkable pool of talent in Spain's U21 squad has seen him miss out in the upcoming championship in Israel.

Bruma, Sporting Lisbon

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    Sporting Lisbon forward Bruma is reportedly attracting the interest of many English clubs.

    His breakthrough season with the Liga Sagres outfit has seen Bruma appear on 14 occasions, scoring one goal. The 18-year-old is agile, pacey and can play on the wing.

    The Portuguese youth international has scored plenty of goals for his nation's younger lineups and continues to draw comparisons with Cristiano Ronaldo and Nani. Which, if either, will he turn out to be?

Moussa Konate, FC Krasnodar

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    Moussa Konate is perhaps best known for his excellent displays at the 2012 Olympic Games.

    He scored goals against Great Britain, Uruguay, United Arab Emirates and Mexico in an impressive run to the quarterfinal for Senegal's young lions.

    The 20-year-old also posted a handful of goals for Maccabi Tel-Aviv before joining Russian Premier League team FC Krasnodar.

Emre Can, Bayern Munich

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    More like Emre "Yes He" Can, right?

    As if Bayern Munich needed more exciting talents, the 19-year-old German joins the aforementioned Yesil as one of the nation's most promising prospects. He made four appearances for Bayern in the 2012-13 Bundesliga campaign and even scored the winner in his side's 1-0 victory over Freiburg.

    The rapidly-rising player is a versatile playmaker who can easily switch positions when needed. He is likely to develop into a Bastian Schweinsteiger mould: the type of player who dominates wherever he is deployed.

Luis Muriel, Udinese

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    Luis Muriel is arguably the most established player on this list, but the average football fan outside of Colombia, Italy, and FIFA 13 is unlikely to have seen the striker strut his stuff.

    Much like Quintero, the future of Colombian football could rest on Muriel's shoulders. He fired 11 goals in 22 appearances for Udinese during the 2012-13 season, helping Francesco Guidolin's men to a fifth-placed finish.

    Recent reports suggest Muriel is being lined up to replace Luis Suarez at Liverpool. Whatever happens, he is on the brink of becoming a world star.

Serge Gnabry, Arsenal

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    Yet another talented German youngster? Maybe the country's youth setup is doing something right after all...

    Serge Gnabry has long been touted as a future Arsenal superstar. He joined the English side in 2011 after agreeing to a transfer the previous year and has subsequently improved under Arsene Wenger's guidance.

    The 17-year-old's explosive pace and versatility have made him a key feature of both Arsenal and Germany's youth teams. He has represented the Gunners in the Premier League, League Cup and Champions League, although it is clear he still needs to hone his skills before regularly featuring for the senior side.

Marquinhos, Roma

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    Get ready to remember Marquinhos' name.

    The former Corinthians player has shot into the consciousness of Roma fans with an excellent run of performances across the 2012-13 season. He averages two tackles and 2.7 interceptions per game, offering an assured consistency that is beyond his years.

    Roma's 19-year-old is extremely quick and has great concentration. B/R's Chris Atkins called him "Roma's most important centre-back" in an article for ESPN, analysis that I find extremely hard to argue against.

    Although he is yet to represent Brazil at senior level, a future alongside Thiago Silva is a frightening prospect to consider.

Lucas Piazon, Chelsea

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    Lucas Piazon is a well-known name amongst Chelsea fans.

    Although the Brazilian has suffered a slightly stunted growth after the likes of Eden Hazard, Juan Mata, Oscar and Marko Marin joined the club's first-team ranks, he continues to show plenty of promise across a variety of stages.

    The 19-year-old joined Malaga on loan during the latter half of the 2012-13 season, making 10 appearances and providing two assists for Manuel Pellegrini's side. He is a stylish player who is both a gifted dribbler and accurate passer of the ball.

    Piazon's set-piece delivery is also likely to develop into a significant attacking weapon over the next few years.

Cristian Benavente, Real Madrid Castilla

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    Peruvian fans rejoice: another top prospect signals a bright future for the South American side.

    Cristian Benavente is an energetic midfielder who offers a deft touch, clever dribbling skills and willingness to throw his body into difficult situations. He has already represented the senior Peru squad and scored the winning goal against Panama in his second match for the Incas at the beginning of June 2013.

Gerard Deulofeu, Barcelona B

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    In a future not so far away, Gerard Deulofeu could be the man to lineup alongside Lionel Messi and Neymar at Barcelona.

    Similar to Jese Rodriguez, the versatile forward has already excelled in Liga Adelante. He scored 18 goals in 31 appearances for Barcelona B during the 2012-13 season and was even rewarded with appearances in La Liga and the Champions League for Tito Vilanova's main squad.

    Despite Neymar's arrival, Deulofeu recently committed his future to Barcelona by signing a contract that keeps him at the Camp Nou until 2017.

Mateo Kovacic, Inter Milan

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    Inter Milan's lack of inspiration shouldn't dampen the excellent performances of Mateo Kovacic. The 19-year-old Croat has been a key member of the Italian side's squad, pulling on the blue and black shirt 34 times during the 2012-13 season.

    The deep-lying playmaker is a technical specimen who has already overcome a broken leg early in his career. He is a keen dribbler and smart passer of the ball, offering Inter fans something to cling to after a difficult season.

Thorgan Hazard, Chelsea

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    It's easy to dismiss Thorgan Hazard as "just" Eden's brother, but the 20-year-old played well across 10 appearances for 2012-13 Belgian Pro League runners-up Zulte-Waregem.

    He absolutely destroyed Club Brugge with a goal and two assists, underlining the talent that made Chelsea grasp his signature along with his famous older brother. Hazard's displays have been rewarded with a call up to the Belgian national team, as he is being touted to go further than Eden.

    Football's most exciting brothers since Gary and Phil Neville, no doubt.

Samuel Umtiti, Lyon

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    Samuel Umtiti represented Lyon 32 times across the 2012-13 campaign.

    The 19-year-old defender is strong, quick and an effective tackler, averaging 1.9 successful challenges per game throughout the year. He is the kind of player who acts calmly on the ball, prioritising the retention of possession over gung-ho tactics.

    Umtiti's Europa League goal against Tottenham Hotspur was also one of the season's greatest strikes. Hit the play button and weep joyous tears.

Nathaniel Chalobah, Chelsea

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    While so many Chelsea players have appeared on this list, many of Stamford Bridge's youngsters have excelled away from Roman Abramovich's gaze across the past year.

    Nathaniel Chalobah is an 18-year-old midfield destroyer with a special future. He is beginning to grab real attention in England with a string of performances that helped Watford reach the Championship Play-Off final.

    He keeps hold of the ball well, is a smart tackler and battles readily in the air. Chalobah's energy has been an important part of Gianfranco Zola's setup at Vicarage Road and England U21 boss Stuart Pearce will be pleased to see him travel to Israel with the Three Lions' youth team.

Juan Iturbe, Porto

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    Juan Iturbe is a classic Argentinian forward: quick on the ball, hard to dispossess and excellent at skipping beyond the threat of his opponents.

    He joined Porto in 2011 but was loaned to River Plate for the 2012-13 season. The 20-year-old has scored one goal in 14 appearances for the eighth-placed team and is likely to gain valuable experience at Porto next season, as James Rodriguez and Joao Moutinho's combined £60 million switch to Monaco is confirmed.

     

    Which young stars are you excited to see hit the mainstream? Who will become one of the world's best? Let me know in the comments section below and be sure to follow me on Twitter right here: