The 2018 FIFA World Cup is less than a month away and anticipation slowly reaches its boiling point.
Participating nations are slowly beginning their preparations as manager begin polishing their squads after a grueling season.
As we approach the showpiece tournament in Russia, here is a look at some of the young players who could end up stealing the limelight and lighting up the stage at the World Cup.
Four years ago it was the Colombia star James Rodriguez who took it on his own to turn the heads of many with his absolutely incredible exploits at the World Cup in Brazil. At just 23 years of age, James Rodriguez was rewarded with a £63 million move to Real Madrid which made him the most expensive Colombian player of all time.
Looking at all the talent expected to arrive to Russia this summer, there is a long list of players who could take centre stage at World Cup and we did our best to trim it down to Top 10 players who are likely to explode at the global stage.
Kicking it off straight away, we start from the most obvious.
Paris Saint-Germain forward needs little introduction. Already a superstar at club level who has gone a great length over the period of just one year, Kylian Mbappe is a 19-year-old wonderkid who is expected to be one of the leading forces in the French squad.
An already established name in the Champions League, as well as in Ligue 1 where he made a double impact – first with AS Monaco and then at PSG – Kylian Mbappe is wearing a £166 million price tag on his back. It won’t prevent him from showing what’s he all about, however.
From painting the streets of Rio De Janeiro ahead of the 2014 World Cup to becoming one of the leading stars in the Brazilian national team, Manchester City forward is another player who went a long way in just a short period of time.
Jesus joined Citizens as a 19-year-old kid from Palmeiras and used all of his style, swagger and incredible attacking versatility to set the Premier League on fire. It took him only months to establish himself as one of the biggest attacking stars in Europe and he is out to strut his stuff at a global stage at Brazil seek a chance to lift the coveted trophy.
Four years after the semi-final embarrassment against Germany, the Celesao are now the biggest tournament favourites at 4/1 betting odds.
Giovani Lo Celso
The diminutive Argentina midfielder enjoyed a fantastic season in Ligue 1, helping PSG to their French title with 33 appearances, four goals and 3 assists. The 22-year-old ended up being a PSG player with most appearances in the league, which is a small prize that came as a huge confirmation of his ability.
Usually a part of the middle three at Parc de Princes, Giovani Lo Celso is a versatile attacking midfielder comfortable in a number of positions at the centre of the park. As he prepares to travel to Russia in Leo Messi’s shadow, Lo Celso will once again bide his time hoping to seize his opportunity to shine in Russia.
A surprise inclusion in Gareth Southgate’s World Cup squad, the England right-back Trent Alexander-Arnold is coming off from a fantastic season with Liverpool. Coming on as a replacement for injured Nathaniel Clyne, the 19-year-old Liverpool-born teenager came of age to cement a starting berth at Reds this season and notch up the total of 30 appearances across all competitions for the Champions League finalists.
And although lists like these often highlight the attack-oriented talents who are more easily noticed at a competition such as the World Cup, Trent Alexander-Arnold definitely could be one of the players to emerge from the talent-packed Three Lions squad. Instead of going for a sure choice – Marcus Rashford – we decided to back the Liverpool youngster who is over the moon with England inclusion and will be blowing flames in Russia.
A promising Morocco international is another defender on this list who is simply too good to miss out on. the 19-year-old Real Madrid defender has had a difficult season with Los Blancos but has already received backing from Zinedine Zidane and a promise that he will be a part of 20-25 games next season in order to continue his development.
Nine La Liga appearances this season were not enough for the Moroccan talent to display his full array of talent. Russia stands as his chance to further raise his stock and claim his stake on a first-team place at Santiago Bernabeu. Ranked among Europe’s 50 most promising Under-20 footballers by the CIES Football Observatory earlier this year, Achref Hakimi is definitely one to watch.
Serbia star midfielder did not take part in his team’s World Cup qualifiers which ended up costing Slavoljub Muslin his job as Serbia manager. The FA see Lazio midfielder as one of the best Serbia have and were willing to sacrifice the man who brought Eagles back of the map after long eight years just to have Milinkovic-Savic back in the team.
Serbian midfielder enjoyed a formidable season in Serie A. Milinkovic-Savic established himself as one of the key players for Lazio and the hottest prospect in Italy. Compared to Paul Pogba from his Juventus days, the Sergeant as they call him in Italy has already alarmed the likes of PSG, Juventus and Manchester United. Russia could very much end up being his springboard to worldwide prominence.
The PSV stalwart has inherited a torch previously held by the likes of Javier Hernandez, Carlos Vela or Andres Guardado and it’s now Hirving Chucky Lozano’s turn to shine. Chucky has been the shining light of the Eredivisie this last season. His 14 goals and seven assists were enough to turn the heads of Europe’s most prominent sides.
Still 22 years of age, the Mexican star winger is quick, agile and incredibly talented. His staggering performances carry a huge entertainment element along them and Hirving Chucky Lozano definitely is a player who could end up lighting the stage on fire in Russia.
Not exactly a new name on this list, Timo Werner has been a constant and consistent attacking force in Germany for several years now. The RB Leipzig sensation has enjoyed another fruitful season which resulted in 47 first team appearances in all competitions, 22 goals and a tally of 9 assists.
The 22-year-old German international is the leader of a new generation of talented players world champions have at their disposal and the showpiece tournament in Russia will be his chance to further prove why a side such as Real Madrid have him in their scouting books.
Colombia international Davinson Sanchez earned a reputation of a quiet but strong defender while playing at Ajax. The 21-year-old took his composure and level-headedness with him to England as well where he dominated the Tottenham backline alongside Jan Verthongen.
The total of 31 Premier League appearances for Spurs speak volume of an instant impression Sanchez made on Maurizio Pochettino. The Tottenham starlet is expected to form a stronghold in Colombia’s defense and help the undyeable attacking talent in Colombia’s ranks move forward and potentially do something big in Russia.
The total of 50 competitive outings in a single season is a remarkable tally for a 22-year-old. Such a huge number of first-team appearances serves as proof of Marco Asensio’s significance for Real Madrid.
Ferocious shot is not all you need to know about the Spanish international. Marco Asensio thrives in a central midfield role behind the striker where he is best capable of splashing his vision and creativity. An intelligent player, Asensio is fantastic at dribbling and not easily dispossessed. A commanding presence at Real Madrid’s midfield, this young player could end up being an integral part of Julen Lopetegui’s squad in Russia.
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