As the long countdown to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil begins, I’ll be taking a look at the young talent that will be making names for themselves between now and the next finals kick off in just less than four years’ time. In the four year build up to the last World Cup, we saw the emergence of Cristiano Ronaldo, Fernando Torres and Lionel Messi as global stars, and there is now plenty of time for young players to make names for themselves. Here are my three to watch.
Neymar – At 18, Neymar has a big future in the game. Currently at Brazilian club, Santos, the 5ft 8in front man’s impressive performances have caught the eye of Chelsea, who failed to secure the signature of the striker after he stated that he wanted to continue his development as his hometown club.
Known for his pace, trickery and intelligence, Neymar has already made an impact on the international scene: scoring on debut for the senior Brazilian national team in a 2-0 victory over the USA.
With Brazil looking for a young striker to develop into a talisman for the 2014 finals on home soil, Neymar certainly looks the real deal, and with time on his side, he will definitely be a key figure for the Samba Boys for the foreseeable future.
Romelu Lukaku – This 17 year old striker has a strike rate of better than a goal every three games for his club, Anderlecht. Standing at 6ft 3in, Lukaku has a big presence upfront and his impressive goal scoring ratio has attracted interest from several English clubs, most notably Arsenal, who have been rumoured to have made an £11.9million bid for his services.
Lukaku is the son of former Congo-born player, Roger Lukaku. Lukaku Jr made his international debut for Belgium in February 2010, and has so far made four appearances for the Belgians. The forward is part of a strong, young squad who will be set for a bright future and potentially a strong qualifying campaign for both the European Championships and the World Cup, with Lukaku spearheading this new era in Belgian football.
A combination of talent and hard work is essential if they are to fulfil their true potential…
Wellington Silva – Another 17-year old attacking player with a big future in football, Wellington Silva signed for Arsenal at the end of 2009 from Brazilian side, Fluminese, but was allowed by the Gunners to stay in Brazil until he is 18. He will then join up with the rest of the Gunners first team squad. A tricky winger with pace to burn, Silva has all the attributes to make it in the English Premier League. What he lacks in size he makes up for in agility and in a position where pace is crucial; Silva will be looking to thrive on the flowing style of Arsenal’s passing game.
These three players just scratch the surface of the fantastic young talent throughout the football world. Also keep an eye out for the son of Zinedine Zidane, Enzo Fernandez, who at just 15, has shown glimpses of his father’s flair and certainly looks to have a big future ahead of him. Fernandez is currently involved in the Real Madrid youth set-up, responsible for bringing through world stars such as Iker Casillas and Raul (although the latter spent some of his adolescent career at Real’s bitter rivals, Atletico Madrid).
Of course, these players won’t make it to the very top on talent alone. A combination of talent and hard work is essential if they are to fulfil their true potential. Many young players in the past have been given the label of ‘Wonderkid’, but have failed to find their feet at the summit of club and international football. These include:
Freddy Adu – Signed for MLS side, D.C. United at the tender age of 14, Adu attracted interest from Manchester United, who invited him for a trial. The American, however, failed to impress and returned to the US. Portuguese side, Benfica saw enough in him to sign the forward in 2007. The move failed to work out for him and a series of loan spells followed. Adu now finds himself on loan at Greek club, Aris Thessaloniki. The 21 year-old still has time on his side as he attempts to rebuild his career, but has so far failed to live up to his previous tag of Maravilha garoto.
Adriano – Although Adriano has scored his fair share of goals, he has still failed to fulfil his potential since leaving Flamengo for Inter Milan as an 18 year-old in the year 2000. Adriano went on to score a very impressive 48 goals in 123 appearances for the black and blue half of Milan. However, a series of personal problems led to him being put on unpaid leave by Inter president, Massimo Moratti. He then rejoined Flamengo, initially on loan but then made the move permanent. In the summer of 2010, he secured a move to Italian side, Roma and will be looking to recapture his goalscoring form. At 28, he is at a decent age to still prove his doubters wrong.
These players have shown that it takes a lot more than talent and potential to make it to the very top of football. It is up the young crop of talent throughout the world to learn from the likes of Adu and Adriano to ensure that they do not go down the same road.