B/R Football Ranks: 10 Players Set to Have Breakout Years in 2020

Sam Tighe@@stighefootballWorld Football Tactics Lead WriterDecember 30, 2019

Ryan Gravenberch of Ajax during the Dutch Eredivisie match between Ajax Amsterdam and ADO Den Haag at the Johan Cruijff Arena on December 22, 2019 in Amsterdam, The Netherlands(Photo by ANP Sport via Getty Images)
ANP Sport/Getty Images

Every new year brings a fresh wave of footballing stars.

2019 brought Joao Felix, Erling Haaland, Takumi Minamino, Ansu Fati and more. What will 2020 bring?

Here, B/R takes a look at the young talent primed to break out and announce themselves to the wider world. You'll be seeing these names in your headlines, in the goals column and linked to big moves—just like the guys listed above—very soon.

10. Eberechi Eze, 21, Queens Park Rangers

Attacking midfielder

LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 28: Eberechi Eze of QPR warms up during the Carabao Cup second round match between Queens Park Rangers and Portsmouth at Loftus Road on August 28, 2019 in London, England. (Photo by Alex Pantling/Getty Images)
Alex Pantling/Getty Images

If the second half of Eberechi Eze's season is anything like the first, he won't be in the Championship much longer.

Nine goals and four assists tell half the story; he's QPR's most productive player, so he jumps off the stat sheet immediately.

The other half of the story comes from watching him move and drift with the flow of the game, popping up in little pockets here and there, dinking passes into the box for team-mates or driving toward goal himself.

He's the lifeblood of the team's attack, the one with an X-factor—and he obliges, regularly; he's the key reason QPR aren't troubled by relegation at the moment and sit in 15th.

The Championship's top creators are always picked off by the Premier League clubs. Eze will likely be the next.


9. Yacine Adli, 19, Bordeaux

Central midfielder

Bordeaux's English forward Josh Maja (R) celebrates with Bordeaux's French midfielder Yacine Adli (C) after scoring a goal during the French L1 football match between FC Girondins de Bordeaux (FCGB) and Nimes (NO) at the Matmut Atlantique stadium in Borde

It has taken a little longer than expected, but Yacine Adli is now making his mark on senior football.

He reportedly came close to signing for Arsenal in the summer of 2018 but turned his back on the deal at the last moment. He joined Bordeaux six months later but needed a further half season to break into the team, losing a year in his development.

But now he's rolling, and once Adli finds his groove, he's a wonder to watch. He sweeps across the pitch with grace and strikes the ball sweetly.

His three goals this season have all come from outside the box, putting that technique to good use, but it's his ball-carrying and through-ball delivery that really define him as a player.

He's flying a little under the radar at Bordeaux for now, but that will change soon. 


8. Sekou Koita, 20, RB Salzburg


GRAZ, AUSTRIA - OCTOBER 19: Sekou Koita of Salzburg celebrates after scoring during the tipico Bundesliga match between SK Puntigamer Sturm Graz and FC Red Bull Salzburg at Merkur Arena on October 19, 2019 in Graz, Austria. (Photo by David Geieregger/SEPA
David Geieregger/Getty Images

Given the impact RB Salzburg's attackers made in the UEFA Champions League this season, and the January transfers of Erling Haaland to Borussia Dortmund and Takumi Minamino to Liverpool that have come off the back of their story, eyes will be peeled for the Austrian club's next wave.

Enter: Sekou Koita.

An abdominal injury held him out of Salzburg's final two Champions League games, allowing him to fly under the radar a little. But the club know he's a real gem, hence their extending of his contract this month in the aftermath of Minamino's transfer.

A star for Mali at the under-20 World Cup last summer, and excellent as part of a rotating attack in Austria, Koita's a forward who floats into little pockets of space, links with others extremely well and hits a vicious strike when he finds a yard of space.

He'll receive even more opportunities now Haaland has departed and will likely form a mean combination with the similarly talented Patson Daka. All eyes will be on them because everyone is scouting Salzburg for talent right now.


7. Dejan Kulusevski, 19, Atalanta (on loan at Parma)


PARMA, ITALY - DECEMBER 22: Dejan Kulusevski of Parma Calcio controls the ball during the Serie A match between Parma Calcio and Brescia Calcio at Stadio Ennio Tardini on December 22, 2019 in Parma, Italy.  (Photo by Alessandro Sabattini/Getty Images)
Alessandro Sabattini/Getty Images

Things have escalated quickly for Dejan Kulusevski. 

In July, he was sent on loan to Parma to bag his first true experience of senior football, and just five months on, he's being talked about as a potential €35 million signing for Inter Milan next year, per Calciomercato.

The rise is remarkable but also reflective of how brightly he's shone at Parma and how productive he's been. Four goals and seven assists in 17 starts is fantastic going.

He's an unorthodox watch at times, with his biggish 6'1" frame and awkward stride looking a little out of place on the wing, but he moves efficiently, boxes off markers, can wrap his left foot around a shot beautifully and never stops running.

With all that in mind, it's perhaps unsurprising Inter manager Antonio Conte likes the look of him.


6. Reinier, 17, Flamengo

Attacking Midfielder

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - NOVEMBER 10: Reinier of Flamengo celebrates his goal during a match between Flamengo and Bahia as part of Brasileirao Series A 2019 at Maracana Stadium on November 10, 2019 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Wagner Meier/Getty I
Wagner Meier/Getty Images

Reinier's a bit of a throwback; he's probably not what you imagine when you hear there's an up-and-coming Brazilian attacking midfielder.

He's not flashy, nor is he particularly fast or agile. But what he does possess is good vision on the ball, brilliant technique, touch and balance, and a penchant for the spectacular which frequently manifests itself into goals and assists. He had six and two, respectively, in the Brasileirao this past season.

He finds cute angles for passes into the box most can't, and he's already scored some pretty unorthodox goals: His 30-yard chip against Colombia's under-17s, for example, or his 12-yard header against Fortaleza.

What defines his game is intelligence. That's how he ends up in such good positions to score so frequently, and it's why he so often dispossesses opponents in high positions, sparking dangerous counter-attack scenarios.

The big guns of Europe are keeping tabs. Mundo Deportivo (h/t Metro) suggests Arsenal have made contact already.


5. Rayan Cherki, 16, Lyon

Attacking midfielder/winger

SAINT PETERSBURG, RUSSIA - NOVEMBER 27: Rayan Cherki of Lyon passes the ball during the UEFA Champions League group G match between Zenit St. Petersburg and Olympique Lyon at Gazprom Arena on November 27, 2019 in Saint Petersburg, Russia. (Photo by Mike K
Mike Kireev/MB Media/Getty Images

Just before Christmas, Lyon suffered a double blow in the form of long-term injuries to both Memphis Depay and Jeff Reine-Adelaide. The former is out for the season, the latter perhaps too.

While these developments are always hard to swallow for fans, Lyon are at least well positioned to take advantage of it. Their incredible production line of young talent shows no sign of slowing, and these injuries could open the door for 16-year-old Rayan Cherki to play regular first-team football.

Cherki is an extremely good dribbler, who uses his body and core strength to bounce off opponents. His change of direction is incredible, as is his burst.

He was already on the cusp of the first team, but these injuries send him flying up the pecking order and into a position where his career can begin.


4. Ryan Gravenberch, 17, Ajax

Central midfielder

AMSTERDAM, NETHERLANDS - DECEMBER 22: Ryan Gravenberch of Ajax, celebrates his goal during the Dutch Eredivisie  match between Ajax v ADO Den Haag at the Johan Cruijff Arena on December 22, 2019 in Amsterdam Netherlands (Photo by Erwin Spek/Soccrates/Gett
Soccrates Images/Getty Images

Player comparisons are a dicey game, as every footballer has their own unique traits.

That said, it's difficult to watch Ryan Gravenberch operate in midfield and not think of "Paul Pogba."

He's tall (6'1" and growing) and rangy, moves with both subtlety and power, he can carry the ball with ambition and his passing range is superb.

Gravenberch has been given a few chances in the Ajax first team late this year and impressed, helping destroy ADO Den Haag 6-1 on December 22. He scored and assisted as well as completing six dribbles in that game.

That showing, in addition to the fact he offers a marauding presence that Ajax otherwise lack, will see him earn more minutes in 2020. He'll turn heads quickly.


3. Mohamed Ihattaren, 17, PSV Eindhoven

Attacking midfielder/winger

Mohamed Ihattaren of PSV during the Dutch Eredivisie match between PSV Eindhoven and PEC Zwolle at the Phillips stadium on December 21, 2019 in Eindhoven, The Netherlands(Photo by ANP Sport via Getty Images)
ANP Sport/Getty Images

There aren't many 17-year-olds who command weekly starting spots at top sides. But then, not many 17-year-olds are like Mohamed Ihattaren of PSV.

Excellent dribblers like him often look to begin every action by taking someone on—particularly at this age. The game awareness comes later.

But Ihattaren's already acting quickly and decisively, playing first-time passes to unlock defences and moving possession on quickly.

He's also carrying the ball forward to devastating effect when the moment strikes. Speaking of strikes, he's scored some real beauties with his left foot this term. He can shift a yard to his side, create some space for a shot and let loose. The curl, accuracy and loop are all there.

As he continues to impress and develop, his name will start being linked to the big teams across Europe, and rightly so.


2. Fabio Silva, 17, FC Porto


PORTO, PORTUGAL - OCTOBER 27: Fabio Silva of FC Porto celebrates after scoring his team's third goal during the Liga Nos match berween FC Porto and FC Famalicao at Estadio do Dragao on October 27, 2019 in Porto, Portugal. (Photo by Quality Sport Images/Ge
Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

2019 saw Benfica produce a generational talent in Joao Felix; the forward exploded onto the scene, earned a €126 million move to Atletico Madrid and won the European Golden Boy award.

2020 will be Porto's turn, though Perhaps Fabio Silva won't quite hit those lofty heights.

Silva's buyout clause has been upped from €25 million to €125 million as the club prepare for his big breakout. They've been careful with him so far; he's largely come off the bench for the last three months and has been given only one league start, against Boavista, in November. 

But they'll let him loose at some point in 2020, and then the hype train will gather steam. You'll know it's him; his distinguishable curly locks can't be missed.

His finishing is stellar, his movement and timing impeccable, and his football IQ is levels above others. He dominated at youth level because he was two steps ahead of everyone, and that looks like it'll be the case when he steps up further too.


1. Eduardo Camavinga, 17, Stade Rennais

Central midfielder

Rennes' French midfielder Eduardo Camavinga (L) fights for the ball with Saint-Etienne's French defender Harold Moukoudi during the French Ligue 1 football match between Stade Rennais Football Club and AS Saint Etienne (ASSE) on December 1, 2019, at the R

Eduardo Camavinga began the campaign as one to keep an eye on. He hits the midpoint of it as a rising star you must be au fait with, as 2020 is set to be one hell of a year for him.

According to L'Equipe (h/t AS), Real Madrid have set their sights on him. A midfield refresh is at the top of Zinedine Zidane's agenda, and that Camavinga's on the shortlist speaks volumes.

The Stade Rennais kid only turned 17 in November, and it was at 16 that he gatecrashed the first team, featuring toward the end of last season and cementing a spot in the XI this term.

He bullied Paris Saint-Germain in August, announcing himself to the world, and has flashed brilliance from there on. He moves smoothly, pirouettes around tackles and slaloms forward with grace. Ground duels are a speciality of his—he's averaging 4.5 tackles per game this season—as he drops his weight and rotates well.

The year 2020 will bring continual improvement, more links to big clubs and potential French national team call-ups once his passport comes through (something that's in the works, per ESPN).

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