7 Most Hyped Players in the World Right Now
After an intense summer of transfer speculation and international football at all levels, the 2013-14 season is almost underway in every major league.
With new campaigns come new talents to watch out for, and players that rose to prominence last season have great expectations to live up to.
Some have changed clubs, many for large sums of money.
A number of those players have already started to justify the hype that surrounds them, and others come across as overrated and grossly over-priced.
Now focused on the coming year, here are seven of the most hyped players in world football right now.
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A fortnight ago many of us had not even heard of Zakaria Bakkali, let alone knew that he plays for PSV Eindhoven. Dutch football fans may well have been aware of his progress through the youth ranks as the Rood-witten’s emphasis on young talent intensified of late.
However, nobody could have predicted the frenzied reaction that the 17-year-old’s early actions for Phillip Cocu’s exuberant young side would create. One goal in a 3-0 win against Zulte Waregem in Champions League qualification (5-0 on aggregate) was swiftly followed with a devastating hat-trick against NEC Nijmegen in the Eredivisie.
International recognition has already followed. The Belgian-born starlet has Moroccan roots, and his country of birth already invited him to join their international set-up after impressing at under-21 level in the Toulon tournament earlier this summer.
Unfortunately, injury prevented him from featuring in Marc Wilmots’ side’s friendly against France, so expected the furore around his progress to continue at least until he is tied to either Belgium or Morocco.
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France and Sevilla’s Geoffrey Kondogbia has enjoyed similarly rapid success to Bakkali, albeit a few years later. After moving to Spain from second tier RC Lens last year, the 20-year-old enjoyed a breakout season at the Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan and is now one of European football’s hottest properties.
Part of the under-20 World Cup-winning France team, the combative midfielder’s stock has risen further in the offseason. He featured from the start for Les Bleus’ senior side against Belgium earlier this week and is now a fully fledged international.
Speculation continues to link him with a move away from Spain, with James Dickenson of the Express reporting that Manchester United are heading the chase for his signature.
Regardless of whether or not he moves, expect this Frenchman’s impressive development to continue unabated.
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Italian sensation Marco Verratti has also been in plenty of headlines this summer, although not for his on-field exploits. The 20-year-old was involved in a messy contractual wrangle with his current club Paris Saint-Germain that was eventually resolved with the diminutive midfielder settling for a vastly improved deal.
Despite Verratti agreeing to commit his future to the club, his agent, Donato di Campli, used the exercise to show the French champions just how highly valued his client is. The Italian international’s representative is believed to have used interest from Napoli, Fiorentina and Juventus to try to force PSG to agree to improved terms.
Whether that improvement in pay is fully justified is a point of debate. The Azzurri star impressed during the first half of last season but tailed off in the second with bad disciplinary issues hampering his progress.
It was thought that he was on relative peanuts, so an improvement in salary was perhaps justified after he proved himself an important member of the capital club’s first team. Verratti and his agent appear to have an over-inflated opinion of the youngster’s status within the game, though, meaning the pressure is on for the former Pescara man to live up to the hype.
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At a time where transfer fees are becoming more and more obscene for talented young players, Real Madrid’s capture of Asier Illarramendi turned heads earlier this summer. Los Blancos stumped up €38 million to sign the midfielder from Basque side Real Sociedad.
The 23-year-old Spanish youth international from Mutriku, whose local club received a massive boost with a slice of the giant transfer fee, is part of Real’s summer focus on young domestic talent. Without a senior international cap to his name at present, though, the expectations surrounding his switch to the Spanish capital are sky-high.
Carlo Ancelotti is the man tasked with overseeing this youthful revolution, and Illarramendi’s arrival has already started to push some more established names toward the Santiago Bernabeu exit.
After an impressive season with the Txuri-urdin where he helped them qualify for the Champions League, can he justify the fuss?
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German football is awash with so much young star talent that it would have been possible to construct an entire list dedicated solely to the Bundesliga’s ability to successfully nurture youth. However, one player in particular has enjoyed a continued rise in the last year and is seen as one of Die Mannschaft’s brightest upcoming gems.
Schalke 04’s 19-year-old midfield sensation Julian Draxler has even put the injured Mario Gotze in the shade since the turn of the year. After a revelatory 2012-13 campaign, the German international has spurned offers from the likes of Real Madrid and Manchester City in order to stay in Gelsenkirchen, as reported by ESPN's Stephan Uersfeld.
Now with the Royal Blues better equipped to challenge for the title, can Draxler lead his boyhood club to an unlikely title? "Unlikely" is the key word there, but with such talents as Leon Goretzka, Christian Clemens and Max Meyer reinvigorating Jens Keller’s side, Schalke will be an exciting team to watch.
With Champions League football once again coming to the Veltins-Arena should the German side dispatch Greek side PAOK—who replace disqualified Metalist Kharkiv as Schalke’s opponents—Draxler’s development will continue.
How much longer can the seven-time German champions continue to harness a player of the teenager’s potential without winning a first domestic title since 1958, though?
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Following his move from Santos to Barcelona earlier this summer, Brazilian star Neymar is still one of the most-talked about players in world football. The Selecao international is expected to hit the ground running for the Catalan giants after an impressive Confederations Cup showing.
With the World Cup just around the corner, the 21-year-old will send the hype machine into overdrive should his arrival have the predicted effect at the Camp Nou. Brazil are emerging as one of the favourites to win the competition on home soil, but much will depend on how Neymar adapts to Europe and what sort of debut season he enjoys.
How will he cope with the pressure at Barcelona, and can he and Lionel Messi coexist? We shall see.
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Even Neymar’s arrival at Barcelona has paled in comparison to the on-going transfer saga surrounding Tottenham Hotspur’s Gareth Bale and a potential move to Real Madrid, as reported by ESPN's Dermot Corrigan. In terms of hype, the Welshman is probably the most talked-about player in world football right now.
Whether or not he now moves to Madrid, Bale will be the centre of attention once the new Premier League season kicks off.
However, Spurs’ coach Andre Villas-Boas has already ruled his star man out of Sunday’s season-opening clash at Crystal Palace, according to ESPN.
Will Bale even play again for the club? For now, this transfer saga rumbles on.
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Valued at €32 million by PSG, Marquinhos is unlucky not to make the list. Plenty is expected of the 19-year-old who has not even experienced continental competition yet and has only featured for Brazil at youth level. He joined the French champions from Roma earlier this season.
Youri Tielemans is another rapidly emerging talent, having made his debut at the beginning of the Jupiler Pro League season for Anderlecht. Despite having only featured twice, the highly rated 16-year-old midfielder is already being touted as a potential star of the future and looks to have the ability to back those claims up.
German sensation Mario Gotze has yet to play in a competitive fixture for Bayern Munich, but plenty is expected of him following a controversial €37 million move from Bundesliga rivals Borussia Dortmund.
French starlets Florian Thauvin, Raphael Varane and Paul Pogba are all worthy candidates from Les Bleuets’ under-20 World Cup-winning squad.
Spain’s Isco is also expected to excel in Madrid with Real after his switch from Malaga, while Jese Rodriguez enjoyed an impressive under-20 World Cup and is expected to continue his impressive development after signing a new contract.
Wilfried Zaha and Adnan Januzaj are two promising youngsters who have received rave reviews and are expected to help David Moyes usher in a new era at Old Trafford.
Portuguese teenager Bruma is another player whose reputation is rapidly growing and could be hot property if he frees himself from current side Sporting Clube de Portugal.