Top 100 Players to Watch in World Football in 2015

Sam Tighe@@stighefootballWorld Football Tactics Lead WriterJanuary 2, 2015

Top 100 Players to Watch in World Football in 2015

0 of 55

    Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

    Who are the top 100 players to watch in 2015? Bleacher Report brings you the No. 1 resource to track all the footballers well worth your attention for the year ahead, be it due to their pending retirement, status as a hot prospect or general story of intrigue.

    We polled a huge panel of world football experts from every corner of the earth in constructing this odyssey, so each continent and each country has been appropriately represented in selecting the players.

    Got one to add? Start the conversation in the comments section below.

100-91.

1 of 55

    Jan Kruger/Getty Images

    100. Harrison Reed, Southampton—After making his starting debut against Everton just before Christmas, he'll be eager for more first-team action.

    99. Harrison Shipp, Chicago Fire—Hit a "rookie wall" in the 2014 MLS season after starting strongly, but he should come back even stronger in his second year.

    98. Ondrej Duda, Legia Warsaw—Duda is a hard-working, impressive central midfielder who is earning his spurs in Poland. Slovakia will soon have another excellent body in their international camp.

    97. Fabrice Ondoa, Barcelona B—The Barca "B" 'keeper is now first choice for Cameroon in the international setup at just 19 years of age.

    96. Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa, Roma—Can't get a game for Newcastle United, yet plays first-team football for Roma in the Champions League? Yanga-Mbiwa's future will be an interesting watch.

    95. Maximilian Arnold, Wolfsburg—Die Wolfe love a playmaker, and here's another one fresh off the production line.

    94. Jurgen Damm, Pachuca—A 22-year-old versatile midfielder, capable of playing on both wings and rapidly improving.

    93. Alex Mejia, Monterrey—A soon-to-be stalwart in the Colombia national setup has just joined one of Mexico's biggest teams.

    92. Jores Okore, Aston Villa—Has finally broken into the Villa first XI and is now excelling. A potential world-class centre-back in the making.

    91. Santiago Arias, PSV Eindhoven—Arias has enjoyed a brilliant half-season in the Eredivisie and will be contesting for a full-back slot in the Colombia national setup.

90-81.

2 of 55

    Buda Mendes/Getty Images

    90. N'Golo Kante, SM Caen—A promising central midfielder making a sizable impact at Caen.

    89. Petar Stojanovic, Maribor—The youngest-ever debutant with the Slovenian national team.

    88. Aleksandr Kerzhakov, Zenit St. Petersburg—Andre Villas-Boas doesn't like him, and he could give mainland Europe another crack. A legendary Russian goalscorer.

    87. Timo Werner, Stuttgart—Drifts past defenders as if they weren't there and looks a rare bright spark in another poor Stuttgart season.

    86. Ezequiel Ponce, Newell's Old Boys—"The Tank" has been linked to Roma and Tottenham Hotspur, per the Daily Star, despite being just 17 years of age.

    85. Hirving Lozano, Pachuca—There's no Enner Valencia hangover at Pachuca, and Lozano is the reason why.

    84. Ignacio Camacho, Malaga—Has enjoyed something of a renaissance season with Malaga and looks his old self in holding midfield.

    83. Winston Reid, West Ham United—His contract expiry in the summer will have the Premier League's top teams sniffing around. On a free, why not?

    82. Diego Tardelli, Atletico Mineiro—Will he stay in Brazil and continue with the national side in a first-choice role or seek a big financial move away and risk his status?

    81. Bertrand Traore, Vitesse (on loan from Chelsea)—Another wonderfully talented player, but does he have any chance of making an impact at Chelsea?

80-71.

3 of 55

    Christopher Lee/Getty Images

    80. Morgan Sanson, Montpellier—An exceptionally popular French talent with Ligue 1 analysts, and a fairly under-the-radar prospect, too.

    79. Marko Pjaca, Dinamo Zagreb—His hat-trick against Celtic in Europe this season affirmed his potential. The next great Croatian attacking midfielder?

    78. Rubio Rubin, FC Utrecht—Doing superbly in the Netherlands despite his young age, and he could be elevated into a major role for the U.S. if Jozy Altidore's struggles continue.

    77. Bill Hamid, DC United—Had a career year at his current club in 2014. What does 2015 hold?

    76. Alfonso Gonzalez, Atlas—Gonzalez proved his worth during the 2014 Apertura tournament. He's debuted with the Mexico senior team and is looking to make the step permanent.

    75. Enzo Perez, Valencia—Benfica's best player has become Valencia's newest €25 million addition. What kind of impact can he have with los Che after a long courting process?

    74. Denis Davydov, Spartak Moscow—
    He is fast, sharp, technically gifted and makes unexpected movements. One of Russia's most promising strikers.

    73. Tommy Oar, FC Utrecht—Shone at the World Cup and has put together an excellent season at Utrecht. What's his level?

    72. Jonny, Celta Vigo—Luis Enrique was enamoured with Jonny during his time at Celta Vigo, and team-mates have compared his character to that of Carles Puyol.

    71. Jordan Amavi, Nice—A two-footed full-back impressing greatly in Ligue 1. Keep an eye out and remember the name.

70-61.

4 of 55

    Marco Luzzani/Getty Images

    70. Marquinhos, Paris Saint-Germain—Injuries to Thiago Silva and David Luiz have allowed the Brazilian to prove his worth, but how will Laurent Blanc handle all three?

    69. Lucas Romero, Velez Sarsfield—A gifted young Argentinian who, per Sambafoot.com, is attracting interest from all over.

    68. Roman Shirokov, Spartak Moscow—Falling out with the manager, refusing to convert to the style of play and attracting the fans' ire? All in a day for Roman Shirokov.

    67. Andrej Kramaric, Rijeka—Held back by Dinamo, but now rolling with Rijeka. Has been labelled the next Robert Lewandowski. Should clubs take a chance on him at 23?

    66. George Puscas, Internazionale—The clear best prospect in the Internazionale primavera squad. How long until he impacts on a domestic and international level?

    65. Mateo Kovacic, Internazionale—Has really turned it on this season in a more attacking role, but can Roberto Mancini unlock his best?

    64. Britt Assombalonga, Nottingham Forest—With a wicked scoring record in the lower leagues, which Premier League club will take a punt here?

    63. Robert Kidiaba, TP Mazembe—You'll remember him as the bum-bouncing, celebrating goalkeeper. He's retiring soon and he's still fantastic fun. A maverick.

    62. Andre Ayew, Marseille—His career is at a complete crossroads, and his contract is expiring. Where will he go, and who will he choose?

    61. Yannick Bolasie, Crystal Palace—Surely a bigger club will come in for this electric winger?

60-51.

5 of 55

    Boris Streubel/Getty Images

    60. Kalidou Koulibaly, Napoli—Exceptionally raw, but so, so promising as a central defensive prospect.

    59. Dani Ceballos, Real Betis—Most people enamoured with Marco Asensio missed the raw talent of Ceballos. He's a brilliant prospect in the Segunda division.

    58. Sead Kolasinac, Schalke 04—Developing into a fantastic defender and has already made a splash at the World Cup with Bosnia and Herzegovina.

    57. Tin Jedvaj, Bayer Leverkusen (on loan from Roma)—A future top-class centre-back, but who for? Roma? Bayer? Another move?

    56. Allan, Udinese—A Brazilian cruncher in midfield and a prolific winner of the ball who is destined for a big move.

    55. Alejandro Bedoya, FC Nantes—Playing superb football in Ligue 1 and building on a World Cup showing that significantly boosted his reputation. 

    54. Mayke, Cruzeiro—One of the best and most consistent Brasileiro Serie A performers last season despite being aged just 22.

    53. Nabil Bentaleb, Tottenham Hotspur—A maturing central midfielder who can carry the torch for Algeria for the next decade.

    52. Gyasi Zardes, LA Galaxy—Will look to carry the load in LA in the absence of the retired Landon Donovan. An exciting forward; slightly Yannick Bolasie-esque.

    51. Kevin De Bruyne, Wolfsburg—Per The Telegraph, one of the Bundesliga's most consistent No. 10s could be a £30 million mover to Manchester City.

50. Alex Song, West Ham

6 of 55

    Christopher Lee/Getty Images

    A coup for the Hammers or a top four club's dream?

    Alex Song's future, decided in 2015, will be an intriguing storyline to watch. He's on loan at West Ham and excelling following a near-anonymous departure from Barcelona in the summer. He is using the Premier League—a platform he knows well from his time at Arsenal—as an opportunity to re-establish his own stock.

    If he continues on his current streak of form, then he'll be the apple of many a club's eye, as several of England's "top" sides are defensive midfielder needy.

    Will the Hammers pull off a permanent coup, or will another side coax him away?

49. Frank Acheampong, Anderlecht

7 of 55

    Michael Regan/Getty Images

    An emerging, under-the-radar left-back

    Frank Acheampong has been a revelation at left-back for Anderlecht, combining studious defensive aptitude with strong athleticism and work ethic.

    Some good showings in the Champions League were rewarded with a Ghana call-up to the provisional African Cup of Nations squad. If he can progress, then perhaps Kwadwo Asamoah can relocate back to central midfield where he belongs for the Black Stars.

48. Sinan Kurt, Bayern Munich

8 of 55

    Matthew Lewis/Getty Images

    A wonderfully talented Bayern youngster looking to impact this year

    Sixteen goals in 24 appearances for Gladbach's U19s last season quickly earned 18-year-old Sinan Kurt a move to Bayern Munich this summer.

    The left-winger is everything you'd want in a modern left-sided forward: tricky, quick and a perfect eye for the perfect pass. This German prodigy—more Franck Ribery than Lukas Podolski—is certainly one to keep an eye out for next season.

    He's even made fleeting appearances in central roles in this season's UEFA Youth League, playing up front or just off the forward.

47. Jetro Willems, PSV Eindhoven

9 of 55

    Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

    A different player to the one we remember from Euro 2012

    Jetro Willems was unfairly thrown in at the deep end at Euro 2012, as Bert van Marwijk started him at left-back despite barely making it out of PSV Eindhoven's academy. Our lasting memory of Willems was of him getting torn to pieces by average wingers, and his confidence took a monumental knock.

    Two and a half years on, though, he's recovered fully. He looks a brilliant left-back: quick, capable in all three thirds and in possession of a fantastic work ethic. Recheck Willems and re-form your opinions.

    He's good now. Honest.

46. Joao Mario, Sporting

10 of 55

    Francisco Seco/Associated Press

    A classy 21-year-old midfielder similar to Axel Witsel

    Joao Mario has been excelling in Marco Silva's 4-3-3 as a hybrid No. 8/No. 10. His touch, technique and vision are top-class, and his passing is wonderfully crisp.

    It won't surprise any regular watchers of Mario if he ends up forcing his way into the Portuguese national XI alongside current club-mate William Carvalho—perhaps even in place of Joao Moutinho.

45. Erick 'Cubo' Torres, Chivas Guadalajara (on Loan from Houston Dynamo)

11 of 55

    Jeff Gross/Getty Images

    Another remarkable young Mexican striker

    Erick Torres is the most promising Mexican striker in the talent pool. At 21 years of age, he's already a Mexico international and has returned to Guadalajara to help the club stave off relegation, before moving to MLS with Houston Dynamo in the summer.

    He struggled at Chivas USA—who didn't?—but still managed to show his immense potential.

44. Jesus Manuel Corona, FC Twente

12 of 55

    Claude Paris/Associated Press

    Mexico's brightest hope on the wing

    Jesus Manuel Corona is in the middle of a very handy season at FC Twente, turning in three goals and four assists at the time of writing, per WhoScored.com.

    His touch is fantastic, and he's silky fast when dribbling past defenders. With the ability to deliver the final ball or shoot from distance, Corona is maturing nicely into a dual threat.

43. Arkadiusz Milik, Ajax

13 of 55

    Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

    What does the future hold for Arkadiusz Milik?

    Despite being just 20 years of age, Arkadiusz Milik has seen his fair share of clubs. He struggled on loan at Augsburg last season but has looked fantastic for Ajax this time around, filling in for Luuk de Jong when asked and producing a brilliant goals/game ratio.

    Ajax have an option on him and will probably want to use it, but it wouldn't be a surprise to see other, financially stronger clubs show an interest, too.

42. Vincent Enyeama, Lille

14 of 55

    Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

    Will he finally make his big move?

    The 2014 World Cup will be considered by many as a tournament for excellent goalkeeping displays, and one of several elite performers was Vincent Enyeama.

    His brilliance is no secret—world football fans have been impressed with him for years—but at 32, he may finally make a move to one of the "bigger" clubs on the continent, finally departing Lille.

41. Toni Kroos, Real Madrid

15 of 55

    Steve Bardens/Getty Images

    How quickly will he mature into the midfield anchor Carlo Ancelotti desires?

    Toni Kroos has been magnificent for Real Madrid so far—no one is doubting that—but some feel Los Blancos cannot retain the Champions League sans Xabi Alonso, as Kroos isn't ready to plug all those gaps in such a wide-open system.

    We'll find out in the first half of 2015 just how good he is, and it's important to remember he's not long converted from a No. 10 who spent a year on loan at Bayer Leverkusen simply to play some football.

    His rise has been astronomic.

40. Aleksandar Mitrovic, Anderlecht

16 of 55

    Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

    A gifted target man with attitude problems?

    Aleksandar Mitrovic was the man who completed the embarrassment at the Emirates Stadium in 2014, drawing Anderlecht level with Arsenal despite going three goals down initially.

    He's a tall, powerful striker capable of bullying defenders, but he's one prospect the Belgian club may be happy to sell: He's got some attitude issues that form veritable red flags.

    Who wants a challenge?

39. Rodolfo Pizarro, Pachuca

17 of 55

    Eduardo Verdugo/Associated Press

    Can this exciting full-back shake up El Tri's defensive selection?

    Rodolfo Pizarro is still fairly wet behind the ears, but he's already made huge strides in the footballing world and looks an impressive young talent.

    His explosive style and ferocious, yet fair, attitude makes him an ideal fit for Miguel Herrera's 3-5-2 formation with Mexico's national team, and Pizarro is already challenging Miguel Layun and Co.

38. Sami Khedira, Real Madrid

18 of 55

    David Ramos/Getty Images

    He who needs to leave...

    Sami Khedira's future is a complete unknown, and although he has expressed an interest in extending with Real Madrid, per Reuters, he needs to leave.

    If he runs down his contract, then he'll be fielding offers from every angle, and he's a prize worth paying for if you're a top club. Knee injuries are a concern—he tore his ACL last season—but he's proved his durability wherever possible. The problem is he doesn't get enough games.

37. Luka Jovic, Red Star Belgrade

19 of 55

    Srdjan Stevanovic/Getty Images

    A contender to Aleksandar Mitrovic's Serbia "crown"?

    Luka Jovic, born in December 1997, is already on the scouting lists of most top sides across Europe. One of the most gifted natural strikers in Eastern Europe’s recent history, he scored two minutes into his senior Red Star debut at the end of last season, aged 16.

    Since then, he has played an increasing part this season. Although showing his rawness on several occasions (most notably in the derby against Partizan when he blew two open chances), he has the flair and acceleration to become a star.

    Mitrovic's path to become the No. 1 Serbian striker just hit a road bump.

36. Ruben Neves, FC Porto

20 of 55

    Getty Images/Getty Images

    FC Porto's next big star?

    Ruben Neves burst onto the scene early this season in improbable circumstances. Despite Julen Lopetegui's mass recruitment at FC Porto, the 17-year-old from the academy found his way into the starting XI early on.

    He's a defensive midfielder with obvious footballing IQ, combining composure, maturity and the tactical understanding of a seasoned veteran.

35. Abdul Rahman Baba, Augsburg

21 of 55

    Martin Meissner/Associated Press

    Who will secure one of the Bundesliga's most exciting, unheralded talents?

    Although Abdul Rahman Baba is already a first-team regular for Augsburg, at just 20 years of age, this left-back is undoubtedly one of the best-kept secrets within the Bundesliga today.

    With a talent for dribbling past two or three opponents at a time and creating goals (four league assists at the time of writing, per WhoScored.com), it won't be long before Baba moves on from the south-west Bavarian town.

    Left-backs are tough to come by; Baba is a potential lock for a "big" team, and interest seems just around the corner.

34. Gabriel Barbosa, Santos

22 of 55

    Flickr

    The U20 World Cup is Barbosa's big chance

    Gabriel Barbosa has already made more than 60 showings for Santos despite being aged just 18. He has earned the moniker "Gabigol"—a homage to the brilliant Gabriel Batistuta (Batigol)—for his obscene youth scoring records.

    The U20 World Cup is his chance to prove he's a proper prospect, and if he blows that competition away, then he can expect formal bids from major European clubs to flood in.

33. Lee Nguyen, New England Revolution

23 of 55

    Victor Decolongon/Getty Images

    Is a big move on the cards?

    Lee Nguyen was a breakout star of Major League Soccer's 2014 season, and for many fans he was a serious MVP candidate to rival the likes of Robbie Keane, Landon Donovan and Co.

    Per Futbol MLS (h/t Here Is The City), Southampton watched him closely during the conference play-offs and have shown an interest in bringing him to the Premier League.

32. Lucian Sanmartean, Steaua Bucharest

24 of 55

    EuroFootball/Getty Images

    Soon to retire? Catch a glimpse while you still can

    Lucian Sanmartean is one of Romania's greatest footballing exports in terms of talent, but his name has never attracted the glamour of those who trod the path to Europe before him.

    Back at Steaua Bucharest now in his latter years, he's proving why he's still one of the most skilful and technically talented players in Liga I.

31. Yacine Brahimi, FC Porto

25 of 55

    Matthias Hangst/Getty Images

    Could he break Portuguese transfer records?

    Yacine Brahimi has only been with FC Porto since the summer of 2014, but his level of play has been so consistently excellent that he'll already be attracting bigger suitors.

    After a good World Cup 2014 with Algeria, it came as a surprise to see Europe's bigger leagues resist the temptation; they won't make the same mistake in 2015.

    Quick, agile and renowned as a dribbling monster, Brahimi's time at the Dragao will not last any longer than two years.

30. Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, Bayern Munich

26 of 55

    Michael Regan/Getty Images

    Big-time prospect, future up in the air?

    Back in November 2014, Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg admitted to Kicker that he needed to leave Bayern Munich to find more first-team football (h/t Goal). He's a huge talent, a high-ranked prospect in B/R's Top 100 European Prospects Aged Under 21 list and a full Danish international with one goal to his name already.

    But at Die Bayern, he's not getting the game time he needs, despite crippling injuries to Thiago Alcantara, Philipp Lahm, Javi Martinez and Co. The rumours of his exit, perhaps on loan, haven't gone away.

    Hojbjerg is worth watching in 2015 to see how he develops—and at which club he develops at. Will Pep Guardiola grant him an exit wish?

29. Jozy Altidore, Sunderland

27 of 55

    Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    He can't possibly stay at Sunderland, can he?

    At the time of writing, Jozy Altidore has played just (81) minutes across six Premier League substitute appearances this season. That's not good enough for the U.S.'s No. 1 striker.

    His tenure at Sunderland, frankly, has been a bit of a disaster, and Eurosport tracked a curious tweet by the player intimating that MLS club LA Galaxy are attempting to lure him over.

    The big striker needs more game time or a new club, but which is it to be? MLS will fight hard to bring back their finest exports, and we could well see Altidore follow the Michael Bradley path.

28. Ayoze Perez, Newcastle United

28 of 55

    Nigel Roddis/Getty Images

    An exciting find by Alan Pardew

    Not many in England knew an awful lot about Ayoze Perez ahead of his arrival at Newcastle United, but in just half a season the youngster has seriously impressed.

    He's minute, but that doesn't limit his play. He's an exceptional forward when it comes to running the channels and deceiving defenders with movement, and he's got a good finish to boot.

    Perez is a talent. Tune in and watch him go.

27. Lucas Moura, Paris Saint-Germain

29 of 55

    Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

    Finally set to deliver on his absurd promise

    Lucas Moura's time in Paris has been difficult so far, but he's now turning a corner. He's focusing on assisting as well as scoring, and he's truly won a role in the starting XI despite the presence of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Edinson Cavani.

    He moved for an astronomical sum and struggled initially but now looks set to deliver on his wicked potential. Watch out for Lucas moving through the gears.

26. Jack Grealish, Aston Villa

30 of 55

    Cooper Neill/Getty Images

    The offensive spark to save Villa from obscurity?

    Aston Villa need a new hero; Villa Park needs someone to get excited about. With Ron Vlaar and Fabian Delph’s contract situations up in the air and Christian Benteke part of the furniture, fans will logically turn to youthful prodigy Jack Grealish.

    Paul Lambert is being very, very careful with the Irishman—he told reporters after the Queens Park Rangers loss in October that he shouldn't be rushed into action—but his attacking verve and mazy, dribbling talents are needed in order to lift spirits around the club.

25. Moises 'Moi' Gomez, Villarreal

31 of 55

    Manuel Queimadelos Alonso/Getty Images

    One of the most entertaining young players in La Liga

    This 20-year-old has done enough this season for Villarreal to convince people he's something special. Fans feel they have the next Santi Cazorla on their hands, and what's truly appealing about Moises Gomez is his high-energy style of play.

    He's quick, decisive on the counter-attack and has the ability to work small spaces well. He also plays with a smile on his face—a rare commodity nowadays.

24. Denis Cheryshev, Villarreal (on Loan from Real Madrid)

32 of 55

    Manuel Queimadelos Alonso/Getty Images

    Another exciting Real Madrid cast-off ripe for picking?

    Denis Cheryshev seems the only Russian player bold enough to play in mainland Europe and try to impress Fabio Capello, who has a known preference for Russian Premier League players.

    He's been incredible for Villarreal, though, and although he likely has no future at Real Madrid, he's carving out a career for himself at the top level by showing a penchant for assists from the left.

    He's a role model to young Russians due to his willingness to play at a "smaller" club rather than sit on the bench at a "big" one.

23. Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting, Schalke 04

33 of 55

    Matthew Lewis/Getty Images

    Cameroon's "other" alternative to Samuel Eto'o?

    Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting was a low-risk, high-reward free signing for Schalke last summer, and so far he's been an absolute revelation wherever he's played.

    Capable of slotting in on the left, right or through the centre, the Cameroon international will carry the load in the absence of Samuel Eto'o on the international scene soon enough, helping Vincent Aboubakar make up for his absence.

22. Elmir Nabiullin, Rubin Kazan

34 of 55

    Epsilon/Getty Images

    A promising young left-back in Russia who has earned Fabio Capello's interest

    Voted Russian Young Player of the Year in 2014, Elmir Nabiullin has excelled for Rubin Kazan at left-back since breaching the senior setup.

    Given the state of Russia's left-back rotation at the 2014 World Cup—Dmitri Kombarov and Co. were suspect to say the least—his emergence could be perfectly timed ahead of the 2018 edition.

    Strong in both attack and defence, he impresses in every third of the pitch.

21. Heung-Min Son, Bayer Leverkusen

35 of 55

    Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images

    The talisman of South Korea

    Heung-Min Son is the kind of opportunistic, clever forward that Roger Schmidt adores, so he was always going to excel in his new manager's system. He's loving life at Bayer Leverkusen, and that won't be changing any time soon.

    But the toughest task he'll will face this year will be carrying the weight of a nation's expectations on his shoulders, and South Koreans will look to him to spearhead a 2015 Asia Cup victory. He'll be the key to success in January.

20. Greg Garza, Tijuana

36 of 55

    Mike Lawrie/Getty Images

    Is he the answer at left-back for USMNT?

    Greg Garza has made five senior appearances for the U.S. national team since the 2014 World Cup finished, and it seems as though Jurgen Klinsmann wants to give him an extended look and trial for the role.

    Left-back was a problem position during the summer with DaMarcus Beasley stepping in for the sake of the team. If Klinsmann can blood Garza to play opposite a Fabian Johnson/DeAndre Yedlin combination, that'd be ferocious.

19. William Carvalho, Sporting

37 of 55

    Julian Finney/Getty Images

    Where will he move to?

    William Carvalho was arguably the Primeira Liga's best player in 2013-14, but he's enduring something of a sophomore dip this time around. Sporting are prone to selling and would be happy to offload an under-performing, possibly over-hyped youngster for a big fee.

    That's not to detract from his ability—he's still a defensive rock with all the physical tools necessary—but his passing has been sloppy, and he needs to sharpen up his game. He's ideal for the Premier League should he find form again, but which club will take the plunge?

18. Marco Asensio, Real Mallorca (on Loan from Real Madrid)

38 of 55

    When Real Madrid sign someone to a six-year deal, you know the talent's for real

    Real Madrid are so sure of Marco Asensio's talent, they've decided to secure him on a six-year deal from Segunda Division side Real Mallorca this winter. The 18-year-old has been loaned back for the rest of the season and possibly next, allowing him to play and learn his trade.

    Whenever Los Blancos plump for a fresh young talent and show such signs of faith, it's bound to pique interest. Take a peak, if you can, at Asensio as he continues to defy belief despite such inexperience.

17. Nathaniel Clyne, Southampton

39 of 55

    Alex Livesey/Getty Images

    England's best right-back...?

    Sometimes it feels like the whole world sees it before Roy Hodgson does, and that feeling has rarely been stronger when it comes to Nathaniel Clyne.

    The year 2015 represents a chance for the Southampton right-back to nail down a starting role with England in defence—but only if Hodgson comes around to it.

    The right flank has long been a weak link due to Glen Johnson’s presence. Even in his absence, Hodgson had tended to play a centre-back (Phil Jones, Chris Smalling, John Stones, Calum Chambers...) instead.

    Clyne has two caps after being introduced to the international scene in November, but his form must stay consistent. However, Kyle Walker will soon return from injury—how will that impact Clyne's England tenure?

16. Wil Trapp, Columbus Crew

40 of 55

    Steven Senne/Associated Press

    Theirry Henry's favourite holding midfielder

    After receiving glowing praise from Thierry Henry in the 2014 MLS season, Wil Trapp automatically becomes one to watch.

    The French footballing legend said, "Wil Trapp was outstanding today. I know [Federico] Higuain usually gets all the [credit], and their striker [Aaron Schoenfeld] will get credit because he scored two goals. But Wil Trapp was the key."

    He's a promising holding midfielder and should be inducted into the national setup soon enough.

15. Paulo Dybala, Palermo

41 of 55

    Tullio M. Puglia/Getty Images

    Could the Argentinian move for a huge fee?

    Get ready to hear the name Paulo Dybala a lot. The Daily Star believe Manchester United, Arsenal and Liverpool are all interested, despite Palermo slapping a £31 million price tag on the Argentinian's shoulders.

    He's been phenomenal in Serie A this season, stepping up in the absence of Abel Hernandez following the Uruguayan's move to Hull City, netting seven and assisting six, per WhoScored.com.

14. Lucas Silva, Cruzeiro

42 of 55

    Pedro Vilela/Getty Images

    Will he move to Europe? Will he win the Copa Libertadores?

    Lucas Silva is heavily in demand, with Real Madrid in particular credited with serious interest. Per O Tempo (h/t Goal), the Brazilian has been told in no uncertain terms to focus on his career with Cruzeiro until a move arises.

    That likely gives him a chance to win the Copa Libertadores before inevitably leaving—a challenge he should relish.

13. Wilfried Bony, Swansea City

43 of 55

    Could he be on the verge of a huge move, and could he lead Ivory Coast to glory?

    It's a big year for Wilfried Bony at both domestic and international level. A new contract should keep him at Swansea City in January, but what about the summer? He's been one of the Premier League's most prolific goalscorers over the course of 2014 and could attract a £30 million-plus fee.

    For the Ivory Coast, he'll be asked to lead the line in Equatorial Guinea. Can he do what Didier Drogba failed to and lead the Elephants to glory?

12. Memphis Depay, PSV Eindhoven

44 of 55

    Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

    His days in the Eredivisie are numbered

    Memphis Depay has impressed on a consistent basis for PSV Eindhoven this season, proving himself a match-winner for what has essentially been the Eredivisie's best club so far.

    After a few fleeting cameos at the 2014 World Cup, where he showed his remarkable physical and technical gifts, he'll have scouts aplenty watching his progress, waiting to pull the trigger.

    Trust us: He's good enough for a top, top European team and will move to one soon.

11. Zhang Xizhe, Wolfsburg

45 of 55

    Masashi Hara/Getty Images

    Was Zhang Xizhe bought for talent or commercial reasons?

    Wolfsburg have purchased Zhang Xizhe from Beijing Guoan, and China as a country are understandably excited.

    They're still working hard to push through talented youngsters and improve their own standing in the game, so to see the clear second-best Bundesliga team this season plump for one of their own has sparked optimism and interest aplenty.

    What some are wondering, though, is whether Zhang has been bought largely for commercial reasons rather than a summation based on talent. Volkswagen, owners of Die Wolfe, will likely be eager to penetrate the East Asian market.

    We'll find out in 2015.

10. Giannelli Imbula, Marseille

46 of 55

    Kaz Photography/Getty Images

    Future French international, future big-money signing?

    Giannelli Imbula has done well to recover from an awful debut season with Marseille, and Marcelo Bielsa has unlocked his box-to-box best in midfield this year.

    The Mirror (h/t Metro) has mentioned him as a possible Chelsea signing, and if he continues on his current trajectory at the Stade Velodrome, then he might be playing international football and attracting serious overtures for a big move soon enough.

9. Radja Nainggolan, Roma

47 of 55

    Gabriele Maltinti/Getty Images

    A more desirable target than Kevin Strootman, perhaps?

    The more European audiences see of Radja Nainggolan, the more they fall in love with him. "How was Marouane Fellaini taken to the World Cup over this guy?!?!" is a common question on Twitter while Roma are playing.

    The Belgian is all-action, holding, box-to-box or slightly attacking. He puts in 100 percent effort, passes superbly and thunders into challenges. We may even be at the stage where teams want Nainggolan over the much-lauded Strootman.

8. Nabil Fekir, Olympique Lyonnais

48 of 55

    Laurent Cipriani/Associated Press

    How good can he become, and which country's allegiance will he take?

    Nabil Fekir is at the centre of attention for a number of reasons. Not only is he a vital part of a one-two punch up front for Olympique Lyonnais (with Alexandre Lacazette), but he's also busy choosing which country to represent.

    His performances in Ligue 1 will have France interested, but Algeria are vying for his pledge, too, as they continue to try and build a young, exciting team that can challenge for top African honours.

    Who will he pick, and where will he be playing by year's end?

7. Nemanja Matic, Chelsea

49 of 55

    Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

    The best defensive midfielder in football?

    First up, you never truly need to be given a reason to watch Nemanja Matic play football; his smooth, yet overwhelmingly powerful style of play awes the viewer every week.

    But for the Serbian, 2015 represents a year in which he may be able to overtake Sergio Busquets and Xabi Alonso in the standings for "best defensive midfielder in world football." Alonso is playing brilliantly, but Busquets' form has fallen off a cliff and there's a legitimate discussion to be had.

    Watch Matic’s game closely in 2015. Does he deserve to be crowned king?

6. DeAndre Yedlin, Tottenham Hotspur

50 of 55

    Mike Lawrie/Getty Images

    The whole of the U.S. will be eagerly watching his Premier League adventure

    Gasps of horror accompanied Fabian Johnson going down at the World Cup 2014, but Jurgen Klinsmann simply sent on the raging DeAndre Yedlin in his place.

    Exceptionally raw, granted, but Yedlin is one of the most exciting young full-backs in the game. Phenomenal pace and acceleration, an improving defensive ethic and a hammer low cross in the making make him impossible to ignore.

    He joins Tottenham Hotspur in 2015 after remaining with the Seattle Sounders until the end of the MLS season. What impact will he make? Will he oust Kyle Naughton and compete with Kyle Walker or take in a Premier League loan?

5. Jose Gimenez, Atletico Madrid

51 of 55

    Denis Doyle/Getty Images

    Will his remarkable improvement force Miranda out of Atletico Madrid?

    Diego Simeone will have been fairly happy with his reserve options at the start of the season. Should one of Diego Godin or Miranda go down, he had the talented young Jose Maria Gimenez in reserve.

    But no one expected the young Uruguayan to perform at such a high level after stepping in for the injured Miranda, and now Simeone is faced with keeping three excellent centre-backs happy.

    Miranda-Godin was an elite partnership in 2013-14; Gimenez-Godin, an all-Uruguayan selection, could top it soon enough.

4. Ricardo Rodriguez, Wolfsburg

52 of 55

    Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

    Quickly emerging as one of the world's best left-backs

    Ricardo Rodriguez is stating a case to be considered a top, top left-back in world football—especially now that David Alaba is playing different positions and Filipe Luis is stuck on the Chelsea bench.

    For Wolfsburg this season, it's been a case of young talent maturing as a collective and making them a force. Rodriguez will, at the very least, be playing Champions League football in late 2015 and forcing his talent down big clubs' throats, or he could even move on in the summer.

    Does anyone want a brilliant player who plays a position tough to ace?

3. Morgan Schneiderlin, Southampton

53 of 55

    Will Arsenal finally take the plunge?

    No Southampton fan wants to see Morgan Schneiderlin leave the club, but they rest easy in the knowledge they'll fetch a massive fee for him if he does depart.

    The world of football fans are expecting Arsenal to bite the bullet and sign what would be, in all honesty, the perfect player to fix many of their issues.

    If they continue to hold off, then a European rival could nip in and steal him from under their noses, and Schneiderlin will be added to the long, long list of defensive midfielders the Gunners failed to sign.

2. Alexandre Lacazette, Olympique Lyonnais

54 of 55

    Kaz Photography/Getty Images

    Set to explode in 2015

    Olympique Lyonnais may have Nabil Fekir to boast, but the cream of their crop right now is Alexandre Lacazette.

    The 23-year-old is a gifted, versatile attacker who looks certain to forge a wonderful career and make Lyon an awful lot of money some day soon. Once he managed to add goalscoring consistency to a technically talented game, he vaulted into a position of great interest to many of Europe's biggest suitors.

    He's already a Ligue 1 star, and he can really affirm his burgeoning talent in 2015.

1. Kevin Kampl, Borussia Dortmund

55 of 55

    EuroFootball/Getty Images

    Can he reignite Borussia Dortmund's season?

    Kevin Kampl was very obviously superior to most in the Austrian Bundesliga, and it's no surprise to see a team like Borussia Dortmund roll the dice on him. For approximately €10 million (his release clause), Jurgen Klopp has equipped himself with another dazzling playmaker.

    He can and will subscribe to the pressing game of BVB's and has the technical ability to take the next step.

    Is he just the sort of "lift" Dortmund so desperately need this season? Lord knows they need it; the 2013 Champions League finalists are spending the winter break 17th in the Bundesliga!

🚨 SPORTS NEWS ➡️ YOUR INBOX

The latest in the sports world, emailed daily.


X