20 Footballers Poised for Breakout Seasons Next Term

Allan JiangTransfers CorrespondentMay 22, 2014

20 Footballers Poised for Breakout Seasons Next Term

0 of 20

    Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

    Here are the top 20 teenage footballers playing for European clubs poised for breakout seasons next term.

    The teenagers will be subjectively ranked on upside in their position. 

    What is a breakout season? It varies from person to person, but this article will take the stance that a breakout season is when a prospect transitions into a star.  

    To give you an idea of the selection process, here are six teenage footballers who were breakout stars this season, thus will not be included in the slideshow.

    • Aymeric Laporte, Athletic Bilbao CB, Age: 19
    • Domenico Berardi, Juventus RF, Age: 19 [1]
    • Luke Shaw, Southampton LB, Age: 18
    • Raheem Sterling, Liverpool RF, Age: 19
    • Richairo Zivkovic, Ajax CF, Age: 17 [2]
    • Tonny Vilhena, Feyenoord CM, Age: 19

    [1] Starred for Sassuolo. Co-owned by Juventus.

    [2] Starred for Groningen. Moving to Ajax in the summer.


    Long-List Cuts

    • Adrien Rabiot, Paris Saint-Germain CM, Age: 19
    • Anthony Martial, Monaco CF, Age: 18
    • Bilal Basacikoglu, Heerenveen LF/RF, Age: 19
    • Bryan Cristante, AC Milan CM, Age: 19
    • Carlos Gruezo, Stuttgart DM, Age: 19                    
    • Corentin Tolisso, Lyon RB, Age: 19
    • Daley Sinkgraven, Heerenveen LF, Age: 18
    • David Costas, Celta Vigo CB, Age: 19
    • Fabrice Olinga, Malaga LW/RW, Age: 18
    • Jairo Riedewald, Ajax LB, Age: 17
    • James Wilson, Manchester United CF, Age: 18
    • Jeremy Toljan, Hoffenheim LB, Age: 19
    • Jorrit Hendrix, PSV Eindhoven CB/CM, Age: 19
    • Junior Malanda, Wolfsburg CM, Age: 19
    • Kaan Ayhan, Schalke CB, Age: 19
    • Kurt Zouma, Chelsea CB, Age: 19
    • Lucas Ocampos, Monaco RAM, Age: 19
    • Moi Gomez, Villarreal RW/LW, Age: 19
    • Morgan Sanson, Montpellier CM/RAM/CAM, Age: 19
    • Nahuel Leiva, Villarreal LW, Age: 17
    • Neal Maupay, Nice CF, Age: 17
    • Niklas Sule, Hoffenheim CB, Age: 18
    • Oliver Torres, Atletico Madrid CM, Age: 19
    • Santi Mina, Celta Vigo CF, Age: 18
    • Saul Niguez, Atletico Madrid CM/CB, Age: 19
    • Serge Gnabry, Arsenal RAM, Age: 18
    • Shadrach Eghan, Twente CM, Age: 19 
    • Steven Moreira, Rennes LB/RB, Age: 19
    • Yassine Benzia, Lyon RAM, Age: 19
    • Zakaria Bakkali, PSV Eindhoven RF, Age: 18


    Statistics via WhoScored.com

20. Ryan Thomas, PEC Zwolle LF, Age: 19

1 of 20

    Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images


    Youness Mokhtar's departure to Twente meant PEC Zwolle did not have a bona fide wide threat. Two months later, Ryan Thomas emerged. 

    He has quick feet, is skilful and brings energy to Zwolle.



    Thomas is nowhere near as consistent as teammates Kamohelo Mokotjo and Mateusz Klich. 

    In 19 Eredivisie games, Thomas scored once and did not register an assist.

    He shows glimpses of flair and then disappears. 

    His four-minute brace in Zwolle's 5-1 win over Ajax in the KNVB Cup final proves he has the ability to be a reliable match-winner. 

19. Jonathan Tah, Hamburg CB, Age: 18

2 of 20

    Frank Augstein/Associated Press


    Jonathan Tah is a colossal figure in Hamburg's defence and you will be flabbergasted at how strong he is.

    At 6'4" and 198 pounds, Tah is a physical phenomenon.

    He will be heavily recruited like former Hamburg centre-backs Jerome Boateng, Stephane Henchoz and Vincent Kompany. 



    Like Hoffenheim's 18-year-old centre-back Niklas Sule (6'4", 205 lbs), you are wowed by Tah's physique, but the on-field play leaves you deflated. 

    Naive play, being out of position, lax marking and concentration lapses at inopportune moments will bring the hype surrounding both players to a halt. 

    This is why Sule did not make the list and Tah is at No. 19. 

    Yes, their upside is tremendous, but they need to tighten up their defence. 

18. Nabil Bentaleb, Tottenham Hotspur CM, Age: 19

3 of 20

    Alastair Grant/Associated Press


    Nabil Bentaleb has the make-up you want in a promising midfielder: composed in possession, makes high-percentage plays, passes well and gets stuck in. 

    In 15 Premier League games, he won back the ball 57 times and completed 595 passes. 



    Bentaleb had a tendency to miss tackles and his passing lacked imagination. 

    To avoid being Tottenham Hotspur's answer to Denilson Pereira, Bentaleb must expand his range. 

17. Divock Origi, Lille CF, Age: 19

4 of 20

    Michel Spingler/Associated Press


    Origi has height (6'1"), is comfortable on the ball, moves fluidly and can develop into a elite centre-forward.

    He received the extended run Gianni Bruno had craved. 

    In Bruno's first two seasons at Lille, he started three Ligue 1 games, whereas Origi started 12 of 30 league games this season. 

    Bruno spent the season on loan at Bastia while Origi outlined a case to be Lille's future No. 9. 

    Yes, Bruno scored seven league goals this season, but Origi has a higher upside being three years younger. 



    Origi needs to express himself like teammate Salomon Kalou.

    Be assertive, demand the ball and take control of the game. 

16. Benjamin Mendy, Marseille LB, Age: 19

5 of 20

    Claude Paris/Associated Press


    Benjamin Mendy provides Marseille with an extra option going forward.

    His cross completion percentage (28) is significantly higher than Everton left-back Leighton Baines (17.5), so Mendy has immense attacking pedigree. 



    Mendy's defending leaves a lot to be desired.

    He pushes forward so much that he often neglects his defensive duties. 

    His inconsistency at the back was why he shared the left-back position with Jeremy Morel. 

15. Calum Chambers, Southampton RB, Age: 19

6 of 20

    Mike Hewitt/Getty Images


    Calum Chambers and Nathaniel Clyne pushed each other knowing one poor performance meant a benching. 

    Chambers made 45 tackles and intercepted 36 passes, compared to Clyne's 56 tackles and 27 interceptions.

    The one advantage Chambers has over Clyne is a willingness to attack the ball in the air. 



    Chambers did not score a goal or create one in 22 Premier League games, whereas Clyne totalled four assists. 

14. Bruno Fernandes, Udinese CAM, Age: 19

7 of 20

    Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images


    Bruno Fernandes has shown signs he can turn into a high quality creator for Udinese.

    In a two-minute span against Livorno, Fernandes created two goals: one for centre-forward Antonio Di Natale and another for central midfielder Emmanuel Agyemang-Badu. 

    Fernandes finished second at Udinese in assists (five). 



    Fernandes needs to improve his shooting efficiency as he scored four goals from 54 shots.

    Giving the ball away 29.2 per cent of the time he passes is wasteful, so passing accuracy is an area he must also work on. 

13. Julian Brandt, Bayer Leverkusen RAM, Age: 18

8 of 20

    Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images


    Julian Brandt moves well off the ball, can take on players and will push Josip Drmic for a starting role next season. 

    Now if Bayer Leverkusen switch to a 4-4-2, then Brandt could start on the right wing, Heung-Min Son on the left wing, while Drmic compliments Stefan Kiessling up front. 

    Brandt is 6'1", technically brilliant and one of the countless German Wunderkinds in the Bundesliga.

    His rise to prominence could mark the end of Robbie Kruse's career at Leverkusen. 

    Kruse, a Socceroo, missed the majority of the season due to an anterior cruciate ligament tear



    Brandt gives away possession 28.2 per cent of the time he passes and has wasted several gilt-edged chances in front of goal. 

12. James Ward-Prowse, Southampton DM/RAM, Age: 19

9 of 20

    Jan Kruger/Getty Images


    James Ward-Prowse controls the pace of play in midfield, yet he can also slide out wide and deliver an accurate cross. 

    The way the ball dips in the air combined with his technique suggests he will develop into a world-class set-piece taker. 

    What you love about Ward-Prowse is that he can deliver long-passes, keep the ball with short passes and cross as well. 

    He is a complete passer.



    Ward-Prowse has given you glimpses of promise, but he needs to be more authoritative on the field.

    Another concern is that he has not developed as quickly as Luke Shaw, a left-back with world-class upside who is a £27 million summer transfer window target for Manchester United, per Jeremy Wilson at The Telegraph.

11. Nicola Murru, Cagliari LB, Age: 19

10 of 20

    Mario Carlini / Iguana Press/Getty Images


    Nicola Murru is a productive defender as he completed 57 tackles, intercepted 64 passes and made 70 clearances.

    At 19 years of age, he is already a more competent left-back than 24-year-old Danilo Avelar. 



    Murru needs to develop his attacking game. 

    He was 0-of-20 in shots at goal this season and misplaced 46 of 56 crosses. 

10. Leon Goretzka, Schalke RAM/LAM/DM, Age: 19

11 of 20

    Frank Augstein/Associated Press


    Leon Goretzka has physical tangibles (6'3", 168 pounds) which are comparable to Real Madrid left forward Cristiano Ronaldo (6'1", 176 pounds). 

    Like Ronaldo, Goretzka is not impeded by his frame and moves fluidly with the ball. 

    The combination of physique and technical excellence is why Goretzka gets past opposing players with ease. 



    Goretzka's identity crisis is a factor in why his performances have been hit-and-miss. 

    Is he a right-winger? A cut-in-and-shoot right-footed inverted winger on the left flank? Or, is he a commanding midfielder? 

    He only started 60 per cent of Bundesliga games he was involved in this season. 

9. Alessio Romagnoli, Roma LB/CB, Age: 19

12 of 20

    Mario Carlini / Iguana Press/Getty Images


    If Alessio Romagnoli can adjust to being out of position at left-back, how will he perform in an extended run in his preferred centre-back role? 

    He is a confident tackler—winning the ball 2.4 times per game—and an accurate passer, making 88.6 per cent of his passes. 



    Romagnoli offered nothing going forward at left-back and no one definitively knows if he can play at an elite level at centre-back. 

    While Romagnoli is a neat and tidy player, he might not develop into a week in, week out starter if Roma continue their standard as the second-best team in Serie A. 

8. Keita Balde Diao, Lazio LF, Age: 19

13 of 20

    Alessandra Tarantino/Associated Press


    Keita Balde Diao darts across the field, plays with flair and is an impact player. 

    He torched Napoli's defence, took over the game against Chievo Verona and dominated against Hellas Verona. 

    Keita's deep runs are reminiscent of Alexandre Pato at his best. 



    Keita is not the finished product. 

    He is erratic, drifts out of games and took 50 shots to score five league goals. 

7. Timo Werner, Stuttgart LAM/CF, Age: 18

14 of 20

    Michael Probst/Associated Press


    Timo Werner scored a brilliant brace against Freiburg.

    It is not just goals since he registered a brace of assists against Hannover 96 and Hoffenheim.

    He is a threat on the left wing, but could transition into a centre-forward. 



    Werner's first half of the season was promising and then he disappeared in the second half of the campaign. 

    He only scored once in his last 16 Bundesliga games. 

6. Tiemoue Bakayoko, Rennes DM, Age: 19

15 of 20

    Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images


    Listed as one of the best French-based prospects, per French Football Weekly (PDF), Tiemoue Bakayoko has shown great promise. 

    Bakayoko closes down opposing players, is a forceful tackler and a good interceptor and makes do-or-die blocks. 

    He may end up having a better career than former Rennes player Yann M'Vila.



    When M'Vila was at his best, he averaged 71.8 passes per game. 

    Bakayoko only averaged 34.2 passes per game and is not an influential passing outlet for Rennes.

    He needs to have a M'Vila-like impact in the passing game next season. 

5. Maximilian Arnold, Wolfsburg CAM/RAM/DM, Age: 19

16 of 20

    Gero Breloer/Associated Press


    Maximilian Arnold has made steady improvements at Wolfsburg.

    League OnlyGamesGoals

    Next season is Arnold's time to dominate the Bundesliga. 

    Arnold is at his best operating behind the No. 9, but he has played on the right and started as a pivot. 



    Arnold needs to be more cognisant of his teammates being in advantageous positions as he is a shoot-first central attacking midfielder. 

    When Arnold played on the right, he lacked the cutting edge when you compared his displays to Monchengladbach-bound Augsburg right-winger Andre Hahn. 

    In terms of being a No. 6, Arnold is not suited to the role since he committed more fouls (65) than tackles (36).

4. John Stones, Everton CB, Age: 19

17 of 20

    Chris Brunskill/Getty Images


    John Stones is so poised at the back for Everton.

    Credit has to be given to former Everton manager David Moyes, who convinced Stones to snub Wigan Athletic, at the time managed by current Everton manager Roberto Martinez.

    "It was Everton and Wigan who were in for me and we decided on Everton," Stones said in February 2013, per the Liverpool Echo. "I've met David Moyes. He's a nice man and I'm looking forward to working with him."

    Fortunately for Stones, Martinez did not take the rejection personally and elevated Stones into the starting XI at a post-Moyes Everton.

    What makes Stones special is his positioning.

    That was why he only conceded three free-kicks in 21 Premier League games. 

    Stones should be a serious contender for next season's PFA Young Player of the Year. 



    Stones lacks the physicality of Hamburg's Jonathan Tah and Hoffenheim's Niklas Sule.

3. Simone Scuffet, Udinese GK, Age: 17

18 of 20

    Gabriele Maltinti/Getty Images


    It must be an uncomfortable feeling for Udinese goalkeepers Ivan Kelava (26) and Zeljko Brkic (27) that Simone Scuffet, 17, is already the club's best keeper. 

    Did Scuffet come out of nowhere? No. 

    Scuffet was identified by the FIFA technical study group as a "key player" during the 2013 FIFA U-17 World Cup along with four other keepers, per FIFA.com (PDF). 

    Goalkeeper Country 
    Anton MitryushkinRussia 
    Dele AlampasuNigeria
    Raul GudinoMexico 
    Simone ScuffetItaly
    Thiago CardozoUruguay 



    Scuffet made seven saves in his last five league games while Udinese conceded 10 goals, so the 17-year-old needs to be more proactive like Hellas Verona's Rafael or Genoa's Mattia Perin, two keepers who throw themselves at the ball. 

2. Adnan Januzaj, Manchester United LAM/RAM/CAM, Age: 19

19 of 20

    Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images


    Adnan Januzaj will thrive under Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal, who is famed for nurturing world-class prospects. 

    Januzaj is a technically perfect footballer with splendid balance. 

    He glides across the football field and can play across the attacking midfield positions. 



    Januzaj gave up on several plays by diving when he could have kept on dribbling. 

1. Max Meyer, Schalke CAM, Age: 18

20 of 20

    Francois Nel/Getty Images


    Max Meyer averaged more passes per game (36.4) in the UEFA Champions League than in the Bundesliga (27.1), so he is learning to become more of a facilitator. 

    Once Schalke's attack goes through him next season, he will be given the green light and has the chance to become a star. 

    Meyer is excellent on the ball, very good at dribbling, possesses vision, has an eye for goal having scored six times and is on his way to the top. 



    Meyer went through a 11-game streak in Bundesliga and UEFA Champions League play without scoring. 

    If he loses form again next season, he may need a loan move away like Nuri Sahin, who spent the 2007-08 season at Feyenoord. 



    Statistics via WhoScored.com