The purpose of this list is to give you a rough idea of potential breakout stars for the 2013-14 European football season.
It will be ranked in terms of players most likely to break out this season and will only include players I’ve seen.
Invariably, with this requirement, there will be oversights from the Russian Premier League, Turkish Super Lig, Ukrainian Premier League, etc.
So feel free to comment below with your own examples of players you believe will break out this season.
To shed some light on the selection process for this article, a 2012-13 European football breakout stars list would have included the likes of Adrien Rabiot, Ben Davies, Dani Carvajal, Inigo Martinez, Juan Quintero, Kevin Trapp, Koke, Kurt Zouma, Leo Baptistao, Luke Shaw, Marco van Ginkel, Marquinhos, Mateo Kovacic, Matija Nastasic, Matthew Lowton, Mattia De Sciglio, Paul Pogba, Pedro Obiang, Raphael Varane, Sebastian Rode, Stephan El Shaarawy, Tonny Vilhena, Viktor Fischer et al.
Last Five Long-List Cuts: M'Baye Niang (AC Milan), Moritz Leitner (Stuttgart; on loan from Borussia Dortmund), Leonardo Bittencourt (Hannover 96), Richairo Zivkovic (Groningen), Fabrice Olinga (Malaga).
Alvaro Morata, Casemiro and Jese (Real Madrid): Morata has scored 15 times in 18 combined U-19 and 21 games for Spain, but he’s unlikely to force a way into Real’s loaded attacking lineup.
Casemiro had a strong debut against Real Betis last season; however, his progression is blocked by Asier Illarramendi, who will be afforded every opportunity to justify his significant transfer fee.
Real can either blindly start Jese and trust his world-class talent or loan him out to a bottom-tier La Liga club where he’s guaranteed to start 30-plus league games.
Given how inept their management is—a trait they share with Barcelona—Real are likely to do neither and keep Jese in the first-team squad, which delays him from breaking out into a La Liga star.
Bruma (Sporting Lisbon): Possibly Sporting’s most hyped prospect since Cristiano Ronaldo, Bruma has burnt his bridges at Sporting due to a contract dispute, so he can’t make this list with his future in limbo.
Gerard Deulofeu (Everton; on loan from Barcelona): He’s potent as an inside-out wide threat, but this limits him to the left flank, and who started there against Norwich City? Steven Pienaar, a player who wins free-kicks, creates chances, tracks back and has played Premier League football since 2007.
Lack of first-team opportunities is the reason why Deulofeu, who spent the Norwich game warming the bench, has been excluded from the main list.
Jack Butland (Stoke City): He’s already represented England at U-16, 17, 19, 20, 21 and senior level. The 20-year-old chose Stoke presuming Asmir Begovic would be sold. Begovic made 15 saves—yep, 15—against Liverpool, so as long as Begovic is at the club, Butland will have to be content with League Cup football.
Jonas Hofmann (Borussia Dortmund): May end up like Ivan Perisic—shows promise but will never fully kick on.
Max Meyer (Schalke): He has the highest upside of all players on this notable omissions list. He’ll be eased into occasional first-team football this season unless Christian Clemens suffers a long-term injury, forcing Julian Draxler, who’s started Schalke’s first two league games in a central attacking position, to the left and therefore giving Meyer an opening.
Neal Maupay (Nice): The French Chicharito wasn’t going to displace Dario Cvitanich as the starting No. 9, but Maupay snapping his anterior cruciate ligament in April curtails his upward trajectory. Nice manager Claude Puel looked on the bright side saying, via Ligue1.com: "At least now he'll be able to prepare for his school exams in peace."
Oliver Torres (Atletico Madrid): Using one of Ray Hudson’s buzz words—majestic—is a fitting way to describe Oliver, a brilliant passer who hasn’t been able to force his way into Atleti’s starting XI. According to Guillem Balague, Barcelona secured the first option on Oliver in return for relinquishing David Villa at such a low transfer fee to Atletico.