10 Uncapped Players Primed for a Huge Year in 2014

Matt CheethamCorrespondent IJanuary 19, 2014

10 Uncapped Players Primed for a Huge Year in 2014

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    Cristiano Ronaldo's third Ballon d'Or ends the reminiscing of 2013 and switches the focus onto the coming 12 months.

    It's easy enough to pick the leading contenders to shine, with most nations housing several hyped prospects already playing for their national side.

    The likes of Paul Pogba, Julian Draxler and Isco will undoubtedly enhance their reputations during 2014, as will countless others. However, what about some slightly lesser-known names poised to make a major impact?

    Here's a look at a few younger names with the potential to star in 2014—with one key stipulation being they are yet to earn full international honours.

Eder Alvarez Balanta

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    Eder Alvarez Balanta has already been linked with a big-money move to Barcelona, such is his obvious pedigree.

    Powerful, yet surprisingly skilful at centre-back, he is comfortable playing out from defence and possesses an excellent passing range.

    Still only 20, Balanta remains in South America, where he's a regular for River Plate, and is yet to taste international football.

    Expect that to change in 2014. Balanta's capable of not only gatecrashing Colombia's World Cup squad but also making a strong case to start.

Luc Castaignos

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    Luc Castaignos shared the attention of players named in the opening slide, hyped from an early age and expected to become a future star of the game.

    An unsuccessful, premature switch to Inter Milan rather stalled his development, although he's beginning to make up for it at FC Twente. In 2014, expect that reputation to be fully restored.

    The Dutch striker has 11 goals in 19 games this season and can still force his way into the Netherlands' squad in time for the World Cup in Brazil.

Domenico Berardi

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    Domenico Berardi has already started 2014 in style, hammering in four goals during a stunning individual display against AC Milan.

    The tall yet nimble striker is currently on loan at Sassuolo from Juventus, where he's already notched 11 goals in Serie A.

    His tally accounts for over half of Sassuolo's goals this season, enough to make him second top scorer in Italy.

    Berardi is uncapped at any level, but 2014 will almost certainly change that. He should also be seen featuring for Juventus at some stage.

Kurt Zouma

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    Another player linked with a big-money move is Saint Etienne's Kurt Zouma, who's said to be attracting the attention of Chelsea.

    The French centre-back is especially strong and shows exceptional anticipation, an increasingly key trait in modern football.

    At 19, Zouma's already been called up to the French squad by Didier Deschamps, without yet receiving his first cap.

    This year should bring several more call-ups, a possible World Cup trip and even a blockbuster transfer, as he fully announces himself to world audiences. 

John Stones

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    Everton's John Stones will become an increasingly prominent name in 2014.

    The centre-back grabbed attention during preseason with an assured display against Juventus, capped off by a cheeky paneka to win the penalty shoot-out.

    That's a measure of his confidence, which he combines with composure and elegance as well as a constant eagerness to play out from the back.

    Roberto Martinez has used him sparingly, but recent injuries have provided him a taste of first-team action, which he's taken in style. Expect an international call at some point in 2014.

Fede Cartabia

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    Fede Cartabia has been in Spain from a young age and seems poised to fully establish himself in 2014.

    The left-sided attacker's threatened to do so over the past few months, featuring in several La Liga games and scoring a brace in the Europa League.

    Cartabia can be a devastating runner and possesses a slick first touch, a polished technique and an array of flicks and tricks.

    He's already appeared for Argentina's Under-20 side and has been targeted by Spain, with Vicente Del Bosque urging him to switch his allegiances.

    He remains committed to Argentina, and don't be surprised if he's fast-tracked into international football over the next 12 months.

Serge Gnabry

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    Serge Gnabry is a familiar name to Arsenal fans and is slowly introducing himself on the Premier League scene, featuring in seven games so far.

    The attacking midfielder can beat a man with skill, trickery or just his sheer pace and will see increasing time on the pitch for the Gunners.

    Though Gnabry is uncapped at full-international level, Arsene Wenger has recently tipped him to make Germany's World Cup squad, which would be quite some achievement.

    Whether he makes Brazil or not, this year will see Gnabry's reputation continue to rise across Europe.

Adnan Januzaj

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    Adnan Januzaj's emergence has helped mask many of Manchester United's failings during the summer transfer window.

    The 18-year-old has quickly become a key player at Old Trafford despite making just 16 Premier League appearances.

    He is two-footed and has an array of tricks, a precise delivery and an explosive, unpredictable element to his play.

    Januzaj has several options at international level, and if he pledges his allegiance in 2014, he will undoubtedly earn a first call-up. 

Tonny Vilhena

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    The second Dutch player to make this list is Feyenoord's Tonny Vilhena.

    The 19-year-old has already played over 50 games for his club side and has been called up to the Netherlands squad, without yet featuring.

    Vilhena is a tenacious midfielder with a low centre of gravity that makes him difficult to dispossess. His best work often comes in the final third, and his ability to find and create space buys him extra time to work in.

    This coming year will bring a first international cap, as well as some potential interest from Europe's top clubs.

Jorginho

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    Jorginho has been instrumental in Hellas Verona's impressive season, scoring seven goals from midfield.

    He has dictated his side's tempo, averaged 20 passes per game more than any of his team-mates and been key to his side's creativity. He's also been important off the ball, regularly disrupting an attack with a crucial interception.

    His fine form has recently earned him a January move to Napoli, where he can develop into one of the leading midfielders in Italy.

    Jorginho can still play for Brazil but has been called up to Italy's Under-21 squad. The coming 12 months should see an international call for the 21-year-old.