World Football: 10 Young Players Who Could Have a Breakout Season in 2011-12
As the 2011-12 season draws closer and closer, many have begun to predict which stars will erupt in the new season.
While the likes of Messi and Ronaldo are old news, many have looked to stars such as Mario Gotze, Samir Nasri, Xerdan Shaqiri, Christian Eriksen and more.
Though they're all likely to have good seasons and be as impressive as ever, they are already well established figures in football and for the most part, have all made their major breakthrough.
In this list, I decided to take a look at the young, up-and-coming stars of European football who could turn more than a few heads in the coming season.
Heung-Min Son (Hamburg)
Nicknamed the "Korean Müller" and touted as the next Cha Bum-Kun, Hamburg's 19-year-old forward Son Heung-Min is one you surely need to look out for.
After debuting with the first team last season and becoming the youngest ever Hamburg player to score in the Bundesliga, Son has started this season off auspiciously. The South Korean international has totaled a whopping 17 goals in seven preseason matches, including putting two past German giants Bayern Munich.
His promising displays will likely see him garner more first team action this season, and the player who operates as a forward or winger certainly looks like one for the future.
Alvaro Vazquez (Espanyol)
With the recent departure of Jose Callejon and the possibilty of Dani Osvaldo's transfer, Espanyol fans will be looking to young Alvaro Vazquez to speearhead their attack next season.
The 20-year-old forward, likened by many to David Villa, made his La Liga debut last season and was given increased minutes due to injuries in the squad. The Espanyol youth product played 30 games, starting only eight, and scored four goals as well as two in the Copa del Rey.
Alvaro Vazquez could very well be the starting striker in the next season and will be ready to impress.
Matthew Briggs (Fulham)
Fulham's Matthew Briggs feels that this season could could be a breakthrough one for him.
The English U-20 international became the youngest ever player to play in the Premier League when he debuted for Fulham at just 16 years and 65 days old, and now he is looking to be the starting left back with the exit of Carlos Salcido looking imminent.
Although the signing of John Arne Riise makes things a little more challenging for Briggs, he will surely be given more playing time this season, especially in the Europa League, where he already scored a cracker of a goal against the Crusaders in qualifying.
Francesco Grandolfo (Bari)
Francesco Grandolfo made a big name for himself when the 19-year-old scored a hat trick on the final day of Serie A, bringing the tally of his debut season in Italy to three goals in three games (one start).
It was reported that Juventus were looking to quickly snatch up the youngster, but he is most likely to remain in Serie B with current side Bari, a place which would be the perfect environment for the striker to develop.
He should be given much more playing time now that his team is in the second division, and while he won't be making the headlines, he could be developing into a top striker with a big future ahead of him.
Chris Lowe (Borussia Dortmund)
The 22-year-old Chris Lowe made a huge jump last season, going from the the third division of German football with Chemnitz to joining reigning Bundesliga Champions Borussia Dortmund.
Although many have questioned the move, Dortmund have a great eye for scouting and developing young talent, as shown when they brought in Shinji Kagawa, a player who spent most of his career in Japan's second division, and made him an instant European hit.
Lowe can operate on the left side of midfield or defence and he certainly won't be starting often, but expect him to receive ample playing time next season.
Kevin Lacruz (Real Zaragoza)
He may not have a big reputation or a recognizable name, but youngster Kevin Lacruz Coscolin has everything it takes to be successful.
Indeed, his skill, composure, and vision will all come in handy for Real Zaragoza, a side lacking in the midfield department given the recent sales of Gabi and Ander Herrera.
The central or attacking midfielder has only six La Liga matches under his belt, but does have experience with the Spanish youth sides, and will be asked to take a major step into the squad next season if the club have any hopes of retaining La Liga status.
Timothée Kolodziejczak (Lyon)
Another virtual unknown to most football fans, Timothée Kolodziejczak is a player you should get used to. The 19-year-old left back currently plays for Olympique Lyon in Ligue 1 and could see increased minutes in the coming season.
Produced from the esteemed academy of Lens, he joined Lyon at 16 and spent many years in the youth academy. It was reported that a handful of clubs were interested in the youngster, including Manchester United, but he opted for Lyon.
With Aly Cissokho possibly departing France for pastures new, Kolodziejczak could become a new first choice defender for his team.
Although it will be difficult for Porto's new signing Kleber to break into the first team of the reigning Europa League champions, you can expect the youngster to make some waves next season.
The Brazilian attacker played for Maritimo for the last two seasons, totaling 15 goals in 38 matches while there. He has said he is glad to be at Porto and he will look to learn from fellow players like Falcao and Hulk, who lit up Europe this season with spectacular displays.
In the unlikely event that Radamel Falcao decides to leave the club, the tricky yet physical striker could feature much more prominently, but still be prepared for Porto's next big star regardless of the circumstances.
Already widely considered one of the most promising young players in Spain, Isco has recently completed his transfer from Valencia to Malaga.
While you would imagine it would be hard for the youngster to break into a stacked Malaga side, the club have been known for giving their young players valuable minutes, something Isco struggled for at his old club.
Now the attacking midfielder will be itching to show the world what he's got and he'll have the perfect opportunity when he plays for Spain at the U-20 World Cup this summer.
Barry Bannan (Aston Villa)
Aston Villa have some big questions to answer this summer following the departure of key players such as Ashley Young, Stewart Downing, and Nigel Reo Coker, and one of the many young stars who could be given a chance with the first team is Barry Bannan.
A central midfielder who can operate as a winger, the young Scottish international has drawn comparisons to top footballers like Iniesta, Xavi, and Paul Scholes.
He had a short spell in the Premier League with Aston Villa last season, and impressed many before being loaned out to Leeds United, but will definitely feature for Villa more often this season.