These are my three players to keep an eye on this season. These are players that football lovers will enjoy watching and range range in age from 16 to 22. They are all exciting players who have the ability to be global superstars.
16 | Forward | Lyon | French
Anthony Martial is the most promising teenager in French football and has the ability to become the next French superstar. Martial currently plies his trade at Lyon. The Lyon forward Martial, only 16, is being heralded as the new French striking sensation. The teenager has all the ability in the world but must remain grounded if he is to take the next most important step in his development.
If he wishes to remain grounded then he is probably best ignoring some of his coaches who describe him “as a more complete player than Thierry Henry”.
The comparison with Henry is inventible especially as the teenager is from the same banlieue as the Arsenal legend. Martial is, however, a different type of player to Henry.
He is quick and powerful like the former Barcelona striker, but does not drift wide as often Henry did in his pomp. Martial has superb feet, a delicate first touch and ruthlessness in front of goal that reminds me of a Ruud Van Nistelrooy in his prime.
Martial is still extremely young though and must be nurtured through the system rather rushed into the first team. In that sense he is lucky to be at a club like Lyon that prides itself on taking the long term into account. His record shows he is head and shoulders above most footballers at U17 level; the challenges now for Martial is to breakthrough and establish himself as the next star of French football
19 | Midfielder | Paris St Germain | Italian
PSG’s little genius is one of Europe’s brightest stars. Verratti, who is 5ft 5, is a joy to watch, his tactical discipline awareness as well as his ability to combine the sublime with the simple means that many in Italian football see Verratti as the heir to Andrea Pirlo.
Verratti’s talent has already being recognised by Cesare Prandelli who named in his provisional squad for Euro 2012. Prandelli was no doubt impressed with the diminutive Italians ability to control the pace and tempo of a game from the centre of the park. Verratti achieves this control through his crisp incisive passing.
Perhaps the most impressive aspect of Veratti’s game is his self-control. He has the ability to play “Hollywood passes” all day but instead opts for the more effective short incisive passes with a few slide rule passes thrown in for good measure.
Veratti’s talent is such that with the right coaching, club and a slice of luck, he could become one of the top midfielders in world football.
Verratti’s move to PSG is both a huge opportunity and a huge risk. The challenge for Verratti is to adapt to a new country and language. At this stage in his career this may serve as a distraction and hamper his development. The positive for Verratti is that PSG are club on the march. PSG’s owners are determined to establish the French club as a European super power. The challenge for Verratti is a big one but one thing is for sure though- the tiny Italian is destined for a bright future.
22 | Winger | Cruz Azul | Mexican
Aquino is the oldest of the three on the list but still has the potential to be a huge star in Europe. Aquino plays for Cruz Azul in Mexico. The little Mexican is currently a relative unknown in the world of European football but his good performances so far at the Olympic Games for Mexico have surely put Aquino on the radar of Europe’s top clubs.
Javier Aquino is a jet heeled winger, who loves to attack his full back directly. In terms of style he is similar to Antonio Valencia at Manchester United and the quality of his crossing is every bit as an impressive as the Ecuadorian’s.
Aquino must develop his game though if he is to take his game to the next level. His directness is refreshing but his lack of finishing and variety in his game is holding him back from becoming a top level wide player in the mould of a Santi Carzola or Antonio Valencia. These players are at the top of their game because their skill set is defined by variety not predictability.
The winger is crowd favourite at Cruz Azul, where they love his raw speed and his ability to embarrass the opposition full back. Despite his poor finishing, Aquino’s magnificent crossing and lightning speed mean that he is definitely a player worth keeping an eye on over the next year. Don’t be surprised if you see Aquino terrorising full backs in La Liga very soon.