World Football: 25 Players To Watch for in 2011

Dan RogersContributor IDecember 26, 2010

World Football: 25 Players To Watch for in 2011

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    The New Year is just around the corner, as is the January transfer window. Reflecting on 2010, it has brought some fantastic games and many standout performers worldwide.

    It is now time to look ahead to a 2011 with more drama, goals, misses and rising superstars to come, but who will make their name in the new year?

    We have seen some glimpses of talent from a number of youngsters, but is it their time to take the limelight and write their names into the history books?

    Here are 25 players to watch out for.

Phil Jones

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    At just 18 years old, the young center back has become a regular starter for Blackburn Rovers. He is an extremely promising talent.

Danny Welbeck

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    The young Mancunian is really breaking through this season. Glimpses of his talent have been seen in previous years in F.A. and League Cup cameo appearances, but on loan this season he has been fantastic.

    At Sunderland he has scored five goals already, showing all the qualities of a great Premiership striker.

Carlos Vela

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    A fantastic striker, the 21-year-old Mexican has had limited first-team opportunities at Arsenal.

    He can now establish himself as a first-team starter and has the potential to do this. Quick and pacey with an eye for the goal, Wenger compared him to a young Robbie Fowler. The potential is there, he just has to live up to it!

Connor Wickham

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    At just 17 years old, the young striker already carries a £10m price tag. Ipswich are keen to keep Wickham, with Spurs extremely interested.

    Whether he is worth the speculation is yet to be seen.

Axel Witsel

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    Like teammate Steven Defour, the Belgian has been subject to intense transfer speculation in the last six months. The 21 year old is mainly a defensive midfielder, but is fairly versatile.

Steven Defour

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    Defour was subject to great transfer speculation during the summer, but stayed put at homeland club Standard Liege.

    Supposedly receiving letters from Sir Alex Ferguson himself, it is no surprise he is an obvious future target for Manchester United.

    A central midfielder, he offers defensive reliability and creativeness at just 22 years old.

Jack Rodwell

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    The 19-year-old Englishman has made a name for himself over the past year as a solid defensive option for boyhood club Everton. He has already made 54 appearances for the club and is tipped to be a future England star.

Sotiris Ninis

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    The 20-year-old Greek midfielder became the youngest ever Panathinaikos captain at 18. A great playmaker with 11 international caps, he is rumored to be a target of Manchester United.

Josh McEachran

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    The 17-year-old midfielder is a product of Chelsea’s youth system and part of the England Under 17 side, which won the European Championship.

    Comfortable on the ball with an eye for the pass, he may be one to watch.

Mario Balotelli

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    The 20-year-old Italian signed for Manchester City for £24m this season. Known for his temperament and emotional outbursts, the youngster offers great potential if he can control his temper.

    It seems that whether he will become a great Premiership striker is in his own hands.

Neven Subotić

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    The Serbian centre back has established a solid defensive partnership with fellow 22-year-old Mats Hummels. Now on top of the league, Borussia Dortmund may face a battle to keep the two young defenders.

Mats Hummels

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    The Borussia Dortmund centre back has helped take his team to the top of the Bundesliga this season.

David Luiz

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    Like his defensive teammate Coentrão, David Luiz has attracted the attention of big clubs globally, most prominently Chelsea.

    The 23-year-old Brazilian has established himself as a reliable and skillful center back with great potential.

Fábio Coentrão

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    Coentrão began to make a name for himself during the World Cup. The Portuguese left back has pace and skill on the ball, attracting the attention of clubs worldwide.

    With decent left backs hard to come by these days, it is likely Coentrão will not remain a Benfica player much longer.

Miralem Pjanic

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    The Bosnian showed vast amounts of potential and talent last season as a regular starter. Signed by Lyon as a future replacement for Juninho, this season the arrival of Gourcuff has limited his playing time.

    However, there is much more to come from the 20 year old.

Eden Hazard

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    The 19-year-old Belgian midfielder is making a real impression with Lille. Even Zinedine Zidane has touted him as a future star. Numerous top clubs are interested, with Arsenal and Manchester United top of the list.

    The youngster may soon be demonstrating his skills in the Premier League.

Alexis Sanchez

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    The skilled Chilean winger is said to be a transfer target of a number of top teams, offering explosive pace, great technique and an eye for goal.

    Currently playing for Udinese in Serie A, the 22 year old is interested in a move to Manchester United.

Neymar

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    The 18-year-old Brazilian striker is beginning to make a name for himself in his homeland and worldwide. With two international caps already, he scored on his debut after just 28 minutes.

    Chelsea are rumoured to be very interested in the youngster.

Ibrahim Afellay

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    The 24-year-old midfielder has just completed a £2.5m transfer deal to Barcelona.

    Winning the Eredevisie's best player award recently (as well as best attacker), he has been compared to Andreas Iniesta by Barcelona’s sporting director.

    Whether he will make the grade in Spain is yet to be seen.

Ricky Van Wolfswinkel

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    The 21-year-old Dutchman is said to be a top transfer target for Liverpool.

    The young striker has netted 11 goals in 17 appearances for Utrecht and is thought to be a hot prospect for the Netherlands national team.

Ryan Shawcross

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    The tough, solid center back started his career at Manchester United before he was sold to Stoke City.

    At the Potters, he has established himself as a reliable and solid defender with great potential. At just 23, he still has a lot to learn and his development is being closely monitored by a number of big clubs.

Arron Ramsey

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    One of two Welshmen on the list, Ramsey just suffered a tough season, suffering a horrific double leg break and months on the sidelines.

    Once recovered, he was sent on loan to Nottingham Forrest to regain match fitness and is set to return to Arsenal in January.

    Once fully fit, Wenger expects great things from the 19 year old.

Jack Wilshere

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    Wilshere has just begun to make his breakthrough this season, demonstrating class and skill on the ball in regular appearances for the Gunners.

    Last season, on loan at Bolton, he looked like a bright prospect. Back at Arsenal, we have seen his true potential being fulfilled. Slotting into a strong and talented Arsenal team at just 18, Wilshere is both a Premier League and England hot prospect.

Andy Carroll

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    Andy Carroll began to make a name for himself in the Championship after Newcastle’s relegation.

    This season, he has truly stepped up and proved his Premiership quality, scoring 10 goals already, equalling the tally of Carlos Tevez.

    He also received his first England cap this year and is speculated as England's next top striker. With pace, skill and fantastic aerial ability, at 21, he is one to watch next year.

Gareth Bale

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    The Welshman has fired his way into the limelight this season with his amazing pace and silky skills.

    He has become a key component of an extremely strong and skillful Spurs side, scoring nine goals so far in all competitions. In the space of three months, Gareth Bale has become a superstar, feared by some of the best defenders in the world.

    The Champions League match-up against Inter Milan saw Bale humiliate Maicon, one of the best right backs in the world. He scored a late hat trick, stunning the San Siro, and also inspired a comeback win against rivals Arsenal.