A little later then expected, here is part two of BPF’s Top 50 players to watch out for at the World Cup. Making an appearance in this section of the list is a marauding Brazilian full-back, a Serbian making waves around Europe, one of Chile’s biggest emerging talents and a rising star of English football.
37 Michael Bradley USA
We kick off part-two with the third American player to make the list, Michael Bradley. The Borussia Mönchengladbach midfielder was a shining performer in last year’s Confederations Cup competition, and at just 22 the son of the boss has already made over forty appearances for the States. Bradley is an all-round box-to-box midfielder. He’s got the presence and fitness to join in attack as well help out at the back, and it undoubtedly the first name on the teamsheet, not just because his dad makes it, but because Michael has developed into the US’ most important player. The debate is still open as to whether he’s more useful operating as a deep holding midfielder, but wherever you put him in the centre of the park he’ll impress.
36 Katlego Mphela South Africa
South Africa’s first name on the list is Mamelodi Sundowns forward Katlego Mphela. He might not be the biggest name in the South African line-up, but his goal of the tournament in last year’s Confederations Cup is reason enough to warrant such a high place in the list. After coming on as a sub Mphela turned around what was a very dull 3rd place play-off against Spain with a goal, and then a 90th minute cracker from a free-kick to take the game into extra-time.
35 Nilmar Brazil
Villarreal star Nilmar exploded on to the scene as an 18-year-old in 2003 and, after being hindered by injury problems over the subsequent few years, has re-emerged as one of the most exciting, efficient Brazilian forwards. Nilmar in knowen for his tantalising speed, elusive dribbles and assured finishing, but at twenty-five has yet to make a very big impact on a large stage. Nilmar spent four years in international exile before Dunga recalled him for the World Cup qualifiers against Chile and Bolivia. Nilmar has since put ten caps under his belt, and netted eight goals for his country, including the winner in a 1-0 friendly victory over England back in November.
34 Thierry Henry France
OK, so I’m sure you caught the hint in part one. Yes, the most controversial player that will line-up at the World Cup has got to be Thierry Henry. And for that, he makes it to a very respectable 34th spot in our list of players to watch out for. There’s no need to explain what he did again, but apart from handling balls the ex-Arsenal hero has been known to do good things, like score amazing goals and display unbelievable examples of his dazzling ability. Henry has scored 51 goals for Les Bleus, in over 110 games. Tune in to see some Va Va Voom when the French kick-off their campaign against Uruguay on the 11th.
33 Alexis Sánchez Chile
Known in Chile as “El Nino Maravilla” (the Wonder Boy), the 18-year-old Udinese forward is one of the hottest talents in the world at the moment, and one of Chile’s biggest assets ahead of the World Cup. The 21 year old has netted eight times for Chile thus far, in over twenty-five games. Chile have come on leaps and bounds in only the last two or three years, and have even been labelled as the most attractive South American team to watch at this year’s competition, even with Brazil and Argentina also taking part. This is testament to new guys like Sánchez, who is the pick of a very decent bunch.
32 Maicon Brazil
Inter Milan’s marauding Brazilian is probably the world’s best right back, keeping players like Daniel Alves on the bench at Brazil. He loves to get forward, and is a potent weapon to have in attack, as if Brazil didn’t have enough already in Kaka, Robinho, Luis Fabiano et al. Maicon has played over fifty times for Brazil. Adding to his solid defensive abilities that are clearly visible in his Inter team, Maicon has fantastic attacking capabilities where he roams forward making bursting runs into the box or wait on the edge to cross it in for the waiting attackers.
31 David Silva Spain
Valencia’s left winger David Silva is undoubtedly on Spain’s most prized talents, but has yet to make an impact on either stage to warrant a higher position on the list. David has been linked with Liverpool and Man Utd on more than one occasion, but has opted to stay put at Valencia where his sublime trickery and ability has helped overcome a difficult era at the Mestalla. Along with his namesake David Villa, he is the golden boy of the Valencians. Silva can play on either wing, or as a supporting striker, and has been capped thirty-three times for Spain. He’s been buoyed by injuries over the last few years, but should be in and amongst the action at the World Cup. Expect something big to come, and perhaps a move to England or a big European club afterwards.
30 Hugo Lloris France
The first goalkeeper to make the list is France’s number one Hugo Lloris. The Lyon ‘keeper is developing into one of the world’s best with his shot stopping ability and general impressiveness between the sticks. Before his €8.5million move from Nice, Lloris was recording clean sheets regularly and was even a top target of AC Milan who were keen for the youngster to replace Brazilian Dida as their number one. At Lyon Lloris made a debut clean sheetand did the same for Les Bleus. Hugo didn’t begin the World Cup qualification as France’s number one, but he soon took on the role and was applauded as the best player over the two-legged World Cup play-off against the Republic of Ireland.
29 Michael Essien Ghana
In 2005, Chelsea fought off stiff competition from Manchester United to pay £24.4 million for a Ghanaian central midfield with a fine reputation after some outstanding performances for Lyon – but few could have predicted just how crucial a player Essien would become for the Blues and Ghana. The captain of his country, Essien is well known around Europe and is regarded as one of the best central midfielders in the world today. His power, drive and relentless work-rate are some of strengths, running hard from box-to-box. Essien is a tough tackling player, not one to shy away from the dirty work in the centre, and he’s also equally as effective in attack. His strike against Barcelona in last season’s Champions League final is said to be one of the best left-footed strikes in history.
28 Diego Forlan Uruguay
Since his failure at Manchester Utd, Atletico Madrid striker Diego Forlan has gone on to be one of the most prolific strikers in the world. The Uruguayan scored over fifty goals in just over one hundred appearances for Villarreal, joint-winning the European Golden Boot with Thierry Henry . Replacing Fernando Torres in Madrid, Atletico splashed out €21million for the striker where he has continued his fruitful goal-scoring bounty with sixty goals in just ninety-two appearances. When he plays, he usually scores, and he’ll no doubt be amongst the scoring this summer for his home nation.
27 Miloš Krasić Serbia
The Serbian midfielder has been recently placed on an international stage with CSKA’s successful run in this season’s Champions League, most notably scoring against Man Utd in the group stages. He is a target for a number of Premier League clubs, and the first impressions you get of the Serbian is of a remarkable similarity to Pavel Nedved. Bodily with his long blond hair he is evocative of the Czech midfield genius, but also in his style of play. He has speed, balance and a composure that constantly threatens opposition defences and would be a tremendous asset for any side in the Premier League, and is Serbia’s biggest attacking talent and is expected to impress on the grandest stage of them all.
26 James Milner England
Currently in the season of his life, James Milner has gone from a good player to an amazing player in the space of a few months, so much so he is being tipped for a starting berth for England at the World Cup. Many would’ve laughed if you even asked the question a few years ago, but week-by-week Milner becoming a main component of an English World Cup team is becoming more realistic. Similar in style to perhaps Steven Gerrard, Milner gets down to his job be it on either wing, in the centre where he has been so effective, or even filling in at full-back. Milner has been very productive in terms of assists and goals this year for Aston Villa, and has stood out as one of the best performing English players in the Premier League. Will he start? He’ll play some part no doubt, but one thing’s for sure Milner has turned into one of England’s most talented assets. A must-watch.
Tune in soon for part three of this four part series, as we enter the top twenty-five of the list. Making an appearance is a Champions League winning captain, a South African midfielder who lives close-by, and another red hot Spanish talent.