Ranking the Top 25 Young South American Talents in World Football
The perennial seedbed of footballing talent that is the South American continent continues to produce top-class young players in impressive numbers.
Here we rank the top 25 talents from the region currently plying their trade at home or abroad, using 21 as the cut-off age for the list.
Traditional powers Brazil and Argentina feature most prominently, with the 2014 World Cup hosts boasting the highest number of players in the top 10.
There are dozens, if not hundreds more youngsters behind those mentioned here who have the ability to make it big in the world of football, but the following are already well on their way to stardom.
Club: Dynamo Kiev
Though he often occupies an advanced midfield position, Dynamo Kiev's Dudu is more of an industrious player in the center of the pitch than a traditional Brazilian playmaker.
This is not to say he doesn't contribute in attack, but his greatest assets are his footballing nous and hard running along the forward line rather than any great flair.
The Cruzeiro old boy appears to be settling well in the Ukrainian competition and has plenty of scope to get even better.
24. Manuel Lanzini
Club: River Plate
Long considered a bright prospect, it is somewhat surprising that Manuel Lanzini has made it out of his teens without signing a contract with a European club.
Lanzini started his career with River Plate and is now the club's primary playmaker after a season-long sojourn in Brazilian football with Fluminense.
The 20-year-old boasts an elegant passing game and advanced ball skills. He chips in with the occasional goal but is best utilized as a classic South American No. 10.
23. Paulo Dybala
So impressive was Paulo Dybala when playing for Instituto de Cordoba in his homeland that he made the switch straight from the Argentine second division to Serie A to play with Palermo.
With his Sergio Aguero-like dribbling skills, clever movements across the attacking third and deadly shooting abilities, Dybala has plenty of weapons in his arsenal.
He can play as a second striker, a playmaker a frontman or a false nine and, despite his early success, gives the impression there is so much more to come.
22. Jherson Vergara
Following in the footsteps of countrymen Mario Yepes (who has now moved on to Atalanta), Cristian Zapata is the latest Colombian to join the defensive ranks at AC Milan.
Jherson Vergara was a standout in the Colombia side that claimed the South American U-20 championship in Argentina and he was procured by Milan in May of this year.
An athletic and formidable center-back, Vergara is also adept at distributing accurate passes out from defense.
21. Mauro Caballero
The son of mythical Olimpo forward Mauro Antonio Caballero is making his own waves at just 18 years of age.
He is a clinical finisher with the pace to create plenty of chances for himself or teammates and stood out as one to watch with his first club side, Libertad, and the U-15 and U-17 Paraguay teams.
His surname and obvious gifts will ensure there is plenty of hype surrounding this youngster. Time will tell whether he lives up to it.
20. Juan Iturbe
Club: Hellas Verona (loan)
Though he was born in Buenos Aires, Juan Iturbe could have elected to play his international football for Paraguay, the country where he grew up. Instead he opted to represent Argentina at U-20 level and has pledged his allegiance to the Albicelestes.
Small and extremely quick with the ball at his feet, Iturbe can be sensational when he runs at defenders and attacks the goal.
He must improve his consistency if he's to make the grade in Europe, but his potential is unlimited.
19. Ricardo Centurion
Club: Genoa (loan)
Explosive and unpredictable, on-loan Genoa winger "Ricky" Centurion is dynamite down the left-hand flank.
Similar in style to a young Angel di Maria, the new Genoa signing is a raw, but undeniable talent.
He has all the tricks to dazzle crowds and infuriate right-backs up and down the Italian peninsula.
18. Igor Lichnovski
Club: Universidad de Chile
Strapping centerback Igor Lichnovski is a key member of the powerful La U side which has performed so well at local and continental level in recent seasons.
He has the kind of commanding presence at the back that reassures the players around him and even captained the Chilean side at the U-20 World Cup in 2013.
Fearless and cool-headed, Lichnovski has all the attributes of a master defender.
17. Bryan Rabello
After making his debut for Colo-Colo at the tender age of 15 back in 2009, Bryan Rabello transferred to Sevilla three years later to begin his European adventure.
The pocket-sized attacking midfielder is most comfortable starting on the left flank but can also play centrally or down the right.
He is yet to make a significant splash in Spain yet but has performed admirably for Chile's U-20 team and has represented the full national side on two occasions.
16. Andy Polo
Club: Universidad de San Martin
Perhaps the brightest emerging star from Peruvian football is Universidad de San Martin's bustling forward, Andy Polo.
South American football guru Tim Vickery gives his take on Polo for BBC Sport:
"A strong, stocky, sinuous runner, he is reminiscent in style to his compatriot Jefferson Farfan. Earlier this year, Polo helped his club win an under-20 version of the Copa Libertadores, the continent's Champions League."
15. Angelo Henriquez
Club: Real Zaragoza (loan)
Sir Alex Ferguson signed Angelo Henriquez for Manchester United in September of 2012, but the Chilean has thus far been unable to work his way up the pecking order and into the senior team.
The center-forward was loaned out to Wigan Athletic, but only appeared sporadically, and is currently on loan at Real Zaragoza.
His lack of playing time at club level has failed to diminish his reputation back in his homeland, however, and after impressing at underage levels he won his first cap for the full national team in November, 2012.
This budding goal machine just needs to be given a chance to show his natural ability on a regular basis and he will no doubt prove his worth.
Having starred at the 2011 U-17 World Cup in Mexico, this majestic midfielder was linked with Manchester United soon after, but reportedly turned down an offer from the English club according to the Mirror.
He has appeared sporadically for Flamengo since then, as the various managers at the club have chosen to gradually ease him into the side.
If the player, who is comfortable playing through the middle, from a wider position or as a support striker, can fully harness his amazing abilities, there is no telling what heights he could reach in the world game.
13. Guillermo Varela
Club: Manchester United
It may be some time before this Uruguayan right-back is in contention for a starting spot at Manchester United, but there is no doubting he has tremendous promise. As David Moyes' first signing for the English giants, many United fans will be closely observing his progress.
Varela was a standout player for his national U-20 side in the 2013 World Cup where, unlike many young South American full-backs, he proved himself a capable defender as well as an attacking threat bombing forward.
12. Gino Peruzzi
After three outstanding years with Velez Sarsfield in Argentina's Primera Division, right-back Gino Peruzzi was acquired by Catania for the bargain price of €3.4 million.
Best known for doing a number on Neymar when Velez met Santos in the Copa Libertadores, the tactically savvy defender is a fine athlete with a mature footballing brain.
He should prove a fruitful investment for Catania and is a candidate to make the right-back position for Argentina his own in years to come.
11. Eder Alvarez Balanta
Club: River Plate
The reputation of this rugged Colombian defender has flourished rapidly, and deservedly so. As a center-back or left-back he rose to prominence for River Plate in the latter stages of last season.
Despite only having played a handful of games, Balanta has shown such composure and ascendancy over the attacking players he has come up against that River were quick to sign him up to a three-year contract.
Several top European sides have already shown an interest in signing him, including Serie A outfit Napoli, according to forzaitalianfootball.com, quoting Corriere dello Sport.
10. Nicolas Lopez
Questions over Nicolas Lopez's capacity to cope with top level football due to his diminutive size are gradually fading away as he passes each test of his developing career with flying colors.
The forward showed flashes of his talents in a handful of substitute appearances for Roma last season, but he really shined for Uruguay at the U-20 World Cup in Turkey, contributing four goals and two assists as his side reached the final.
Lopez joined Udinese in July, and the northern Italian club should provide the perfect environment to nurture Nico into a champion.
9. Antonio Sanabria
Club: Barcelona B
Though he is yet to play senior football, Antonio Sanabria is an immense talent who is well worth keeping an eye on.
The center-forward has been a member of Barcelona's La Masia academy since 2010 and shown great promise playing for Paraguay's underage teams.
A target man with stacks of ability on the ball, it shouldn't be too long before Sanabria is scoring goals in top-flight football.
8. Lucas Ocampos
This flying winger-cum-forward burst onto the scene with a sensational season for River Plate while they were languishing in the Argentine Nacional B. He then transferred to a side in the French second division, in Monaco, where he once again impressed.
With Monaco's promotion back to Ligue 1, Ocampos is currently enjoying his very first season of top-flight football.
The Argentine's value as a player lies in his speed, stamina and work ethic, all combined with superb technique on the ball. No wonder he has drawn comparisons to a certain Cristiano Ronaldo. He has the gifts to become one of the game's most potent attacking weapons.
At first glance, Marquinhos appears too slight to be a top center-back, but his light frame did not prevented him from being a dominant force in defense for Roma last season.
The Brazilian reads the game like a veteran, anticipating the passes and movements of his opponents to play the role of master pickpocket at the back.
He faces stiff competition for a starting spot at PSG but has the class to become a regular fixture.
6. Juan Quintero
The next bright young star to come off the Colombian production line, Juan Quintero impressed as a teenager for Envigado before carrying through his good form with Atletico Nacional, Pescara and the national U-20 side.
Now with Porto, the attacking midfielder has the opportunity to take his game to the next level by competing for the Portuguese title and in the Champions League.
He has all the makings of a world-class playmaker, with jaw-dropping dribbling skills and an eye for decisive passes.
5. Philippe Coutinho
Following an injury-ravaged start to his European career with Internazionale, Coutinho has finally begun to fulfill his immense potential in the EPL with Liverpool.
Equally threatening when he is cutting in from wide positions or creating chances through the middle, this tricky customer must be popular with his teammates as he sets up scoring opportunities on a regular basis.
If he can shake off his injury woes he could become an Anfield hero.
4. Lucas Moura
Having racked up 74 matches for Sao Paulo, Lucas Moura was more than ready for a European move when he joined Paris Saint-Germain in January of 2013. His 30 caps for Brazil also give an indication of a player who is already close to the complete package, despite his tender years.
Though not particularly tall, Lucas is powerful and physically imposing, but at the same time nimble on the ball and notably quick. Fans in the French capital can look forward to witnessing his dazzling skills on a regular basis as he seeks to establish himself as an influential member of a star-studded side.
Club: Shakhtar Donetsk
The zippy and elusive Brazilian international Bernard will likely prove a tremendous asset for his new club Shakhtar.
Extremely comfortable on the ball, the diminutive left-winger is quick and dynamic and has the weapons in his arsenal to make a mockery of any defense.
He could even be a household name by the time the next World Cup is through.
2. Erik Lamela
In all the brouhaha surrounding Gareth Bale's move to Real Madrid, the fact that Tottenham managed to secure the services of this Argentine jewel was somewhat overlooked by some.
Lamela is the kind of player a champion team can be built around. He has it all; audacious skill, speed, footballing intelligence and a confident swagger.
Already on the fringes of the Albiceleste team, the former River Plate playmaker has the potential to make headlines in both South America and Europe for years to come.
As the main weapon of one of the strongest national teams going around, how could Neymar occupy any other position on this list?
There are few players in the world as thrilling to watch as the new Barcelona signing, and as he gains more experience he is quickly learning how to make the most out of his extraordinary talents.
In a decade or so we could well be speaking of Neymar as one of the finest players of all time.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!