One 2 Watch: Revisiting Wonderkids

A number of players have passed through the One 2 Watch microscope, so we’re opening the filing cabinet and reviewing the progress of some of the players who have featured in our series of potential world stars. From the successful, to those yet to really make a breakthrough, here’s a handful of One 2 Watch graduates from the past two and a half years.

Mario Balotelli (21, Manchester City & Italy)

The very first One 2 Watch featured Mario Balotelli, a cocky 18-year-old who had just made his way into the Inter Milan side. Today he’s a cocky 21-year-old starting for Manchester City and earning about £180,000k a week. Not bad at all. We certainly hit a home run with Mario, who in his early days showed a phenomenal promise that might only be hampered by his personality. His progress since then, particularly over the past six months as he has developed at City, may actually have been increased by his unique personality. He’s achieved cult-like status in the Premier League. When he walks out onto the field, all eyes are on him and that’s just how he likes it.

Balotelli has notched fourteen goals in twenty-nine games for City, having joined them in the 2010 summer transfer window for around £24million. On the international front, things have gone slower for the forward having just earned seven caps. Balotelli is just going to get better and better. The former One 2 Watch is now that must-watch tv show that nobody misses.

Toni Kroos (21, Bayern Munich & Germany)

When One 2 Watch featured the German midfielder, he had joined Bayer Leverkusen on loan and had played about ten games. From there he went on to help Leverkusen into the Champions League. These days, he’s a regular in a Bayern Munich side which is sitting atop the Bundesliga, is in consideration for a place in the German side for the Euro 2012 – despite competition from talented midfielders like Mesut Ozil and Mario Goetze – and helped Bastian Schweinsteiger become one of the most lauded central midfielders in the game. Not a bad career for the 21-year-old.

Kroos has already put his quality on show in Europe, scoring twice in the group stage against Villarreal and Napoli. A complete midfielder who keeps getting better and better, Kroos is on his way to a long and successful career at the top of the Bundesliga and in an extremely talented German national team.

Stevan Jovetic (22, Fiorentina & Montenegro)

The Montenegrin attacker had just made mince meat of a Liverpool side which was playing Champions League football when he was featured, putting two goals past Pepe Reina. Sadly, his progress has been hampered greatly by injury. Before the 2010/11 pre-season, Jovetic tore ligaments in his right knee which sidelined him for the entire season, ruling him out of a large chunk of Montenegro’s Euro 2012 qualifying campaign as he watched his club finish in mid-table.

Things have began to look up this season however. Jovetic has notched seven goals in just thirteen appearances, and signed a new contract which will keep him in Florence until the 2016 season.

Jordan Henderson (21, Liverpool & England)

When Jordan Henderson was getting the One 2 Watch treatment, he was still plying his trade up in the north-east at the Stadium of Light. In fact, he had just played sixteen games for the first-team, having been thrown in the deep end by Steve Bruce who clearly believed in his ability. Henderson continued to impress, and a season later played all but one of Sunderland’s thirty-eight Premier League games; scoring three goals and adding five assists.

He raised some eyebrows when he joined Liverpool in a £16million deal. He’s taken time to find his feet at Anfield, but has recently been putting in the sort of performance Liverpool were hoping they’d see. In his first season at the club, he’s already lined out nineteen times – scoring a single goal.

Adam Johnson (24, Manchester City & England)

The Middlesbrough midfielder had just made the move to big-spenders Manchester City, expected to take on Carling Cup duty and perhaps a role warming the bench. On the contrary, Johnson made an immediate impact playing sixteen times in the second half of the 2009/10 season. In the following season, Johnson lined out over thirty times, mostly from the bench, but he continues to strike fear into full backs with his speed and trickery.

Despite little playing time, Johnson is regarded as one England’s most talented and unique midfielders and this ability may see him into the Euro 2012 squad for Poland & Ukraine.

Jack Rodwell (20, Everton & England)

We reviewed an impressive looking 18-year-old, a player who the media had already name-checked as the future of English football. Things haven’t played out as well as some might have hoped, but Rodwell is slowly getting games under his belt in a career that’s been hampered slightly by injury.

Rodwell only managed twenty-four games last season, less than the amount he managed in the season he was featured. He’s often been linked with a move to a big club, but many still await the moment Rodwell finally breaks out. We’re still waiting, but it’ll come…

Shinji Kagawa (22, Borussia Dortmund & Japan)

The Japanese midfielder had just joined Borussia Dortmund from Cerezo Osaka, and had taken to the Bundesliga like a duck to water. Kagawa had played a handful of games for the eventual German champions when he was featured, but he went on to play eighteen times in the league and score eight goals.

This season Kagawa is already half-way to his debut season’s scoring tally, as Dortmund go in search of defending their German title. Kagawa is still only 22, but has firmly made his mark on German football and instilled great quality in a young and exciting Dortmund team. Kagawa is set for a long career as the number one talent of Japanese football, as he sets Europe alight.

Dedryck Boyata (21, Manchester City/Bolton & Belgium)

The Belgian defender said, after making his debut unexpectedly against Chelsea last season, that he’s ready to remain patient about his career at Eastlands. He might be kept waiting. Boyata made seven league appearances last season, one of which included a sending off in a 3-0 loss to Arsenal. This season he’s on loan at struggling Bolton, but missed a chunk of the season with an ankle injury. His  time will come, but it mighn’t be at Manchester City.

Xherdan Shaqiri (20, Basel & Switzerland)

I was excited about this one at the time, and for good reason. Shaqiri may still be plying his trade in the Swiss League with FC Basel, but his performances – particularly in Europe, where he faced Manchester Utd – has highlighted the small bustling winger, and a move to a bigger club is undoubtedly on the horizon.

Unfortunately we won’t get to see Shaqiri at the European Championships, but nonetheless – there’s a Xherdan Shaqiri coming to a league near you soon.

Mapou Yanga M’Biwa (22, Montpellier & France)

Another successful One 2 Watch graduate. The French defender has made over 140 appearances for Montpellier, at just 22-years-of-age. His manager says he’s not for sale, despite being linked to a number of clubs in Europe – including Arsenal.

M’Biwa is yet to make a showing for the French senior team, but has already been given the captaincy for Montpellier. He’s admitted that he’d love to play in England, so don’t be surprised to hear commentators brutalizing his name in the Premier League in the not-so-distant future.

Spotted a future star and want to contribute to One 2 Watch? Contact BPF and join the team.

The Author

Kevin Coleman

Founder and co-editor of Back Page Football and current host of our 'Three At The Back' weekly podcast.

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