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Remember that this list contains only those players who are 20 and under, thus born on or after 1st January 1993. We have taken into consideration factors such as their performance in 2013 and expected performance in 2014. Only those players who have made a fairly regular run of senior football appearances in the top division on any country have been included. 100 Best Young Players to Watch-Out for in 2014 | Midfielders (10 – 1)
10) Geoffrey Kondogbia
Who is he?: Geoffrey Kondogbia is a 20 year old midfielder who plays for AS Monaco. He is a regular for the French U-21 side and has already made his debut for the senior team.
Back in 2013: He started the campaign at Sevilla in Spain and despite his tender age, he was a regular starter for the Spanish club. He started 23 times in the previous season and made a further 8 appearances off the bench putting in eye catching performances in heart of midfield. He even managed to get on the score sheet in 3-0 win over Granada. After featuring for Sevilla in the first 2 games of the season, Kondogbia was snapped up by Monaco. He hasn’t enjoyed as much game time as he’d have liked thus far with 5 starts and 7 appearances off the bench. He did start in last weekend’s win over Toulouse setting up a goal in their 2-0 victory.
Kondogbia was an integral part of the impressive U-20 side that won the World Cup last summer. He started every game and even scored 2 goals for his side. He’s been a regular fixture of the U-21 squad and has started all 3 of their qualifying games thus far. He was an unused substitute in a World Cup qualifier against Belarus and played just more than an hour in a friendly against Belgium.
Looking to 2014: Kondogbia has seen limited opportunities at Monaco and will be hoping to force his way into the Ranieri’s plans sooner rather than later and play a role in their pursuit of table topping PSG. As for his World Cup aspirations, he finds himself in the same situation as many of the players on this list, should make the squad but the isn’t a starter as of now.
9) Adnan Januzaj
Who is he?: Januzaj is an 18 year old who plays for Manchester United. The left-footed player is eligible to represent a number of countries at the International level including the likes of Belgium, Kosovo and Albania but hasn’t made a decision yet.
Back in 2013: Januzaj spent the first half of the calendar year featuring in the U-21 Premier League as Manchester United went on to be crowned Champions at that level beating Spurs in the final. He was an unused substitute in Sir Alex Ferguson’s last game as Manager against West Brom. It’s this season under Moyes that Januzaj has got his chances and he’s certainly taken them well. He continued to play for the U-21 side at the start of the season, he got his chance with the senior side. After 2 substitute appearances, he got his 1st start for the club against Sunderland scoring a brace in 2-1 win. He’s made a total of 10 starts and 6 substitute appearances in the league thus far and has become an important member of the side.
Looking to 2014: While the team have endured a very disappointing season, Januzaj has been one of the positives for Manchester United. There’s no reason for him not to kick on and have a good 2014 campaign as well.
Who is he?: Rafinha is a 20 year old who currently plays for Celta Vigo on loan from Barcelona. He has represented both Spain and Brazil at different age groups. He is of course the younger brother of Thiago.
Back in 2013: He spent the first part of the year at parent club Barcelona playing for the B side in the Spanish Segunda. He enjoyed a successful season for them scoring 10 goals and 8 assists in 36 appearances. While older brother Thiago was the subject of much transfer speculation in the summer, Rafinha made the comparatively low key switch to Celta Vigo on loan. After 2 substitute appearances in the first 2 games, he got his first league start against Granada and duly obliged with a goal. He also scored a brace albeit in a losing cause against Real Sociedad. He’s also registered 3 assists in 15 starts and 4 substitute appearances in the league.
Looking to 2014: Rafinha has thrived in the La Liga given a regular run of games and has lived up to much of the hype surrounding him. However the disparity between Celta’s first team and that of Barca is quite large and it remains to be seen whether the Catalan giants will deem it fit to send him out on another loan.
7) Davy Klaassen
Who is he?: Klaassen is a 20 year old midfielder who plays for Ajax. The youngster also plays for the Dutch U-21 team.
Back in 2013: The 2012-13 season was supposed to be Klaassen’s breakthrough season but a groin injury and a series of set-backs meant that he spent almost the entirety of the season on the sidelines. He was eased back at the start of the season appearing for the Jong Ajax in the Eerste Divisie before finally being integrated into the first team towards the end of September. Following Christian Eriksen’s departure, Ajax needed someone to step up and Klaassen did just that. He scored in his 1st start of the season against Utrecht and hasn’t looked back since with 7 goals and an assist in 8 starts and 3 substitute appearances including a hat-trick against NAC Breda. He also started in 3 of Ajax’s group stage games.
Following his lengthy absence, Klaassen has been called up to the Dutch U-21 team and has appeared 4 times thus far mainly off the bench.
Looking to 2014: The youngster has made a great comeback and has established himself as an important part of Ajax’s title challenge. Hopefully he can stay injury free and continue to impress. There’s plenty of talk about giving him a run out for the Dutch senior team before the World Cup. Whether he does make the trip to Rio remains to be seen.
6) Florian Thauvin
Who is he?: Thauvin is a 20 year old midfielder who plays for Marseille. The left footed youngster is regular for the French U-21 squad.
Back in 2013: Thauvin started the year as a Bastia player but joined Lille in January. Lille sent him back to Bastia on loan for the remainder of the season. Thauvin enjoyed a successful season at Bastia with 10 goals and 3 assists in 32 league games including an impressive run of 6 goals in 3 games in March. Thauvin agitated for a move to Marseille in the summer and got his move having made no appearances for Lille. He’s had a good start to his time at Marseille notching up 5 goals and 4 assists in the league thus far. He also scored a goal and set up another in their recent loss to Nice in the Coupe de France in a game that incredibly finished 5-4.
Thauvin is yet another member of the French U-20 World Cup winning side to feature in our list. He started all 7 of the games impressing throughout the tournament and came to the fore against Ghana in the semifinal scoring both goals in a 2-1 victory. He’s part of the U-21 squad and has been in fine form in the qualifiers thus far with 5 goals in the 3 games.
Looking to 2014: 2013 was certainly an eventful year for Thauvin and 2014 should be the same (except the club hopping hopefully). Marseille are off the Champions league spots in Ligue 1 currently and will be looking to move up the able in 2014, something that a player like Thauvin could have a say in.
5) Adam Maher
Who is he?: Maher is a 20 year old midfielder who currently plays for PSV. He’s played for various age groups for the Dutch and has made 5 appearances for the senior side.
Back in 2013: He started the season at his old club AZ Alkmaar and enjoyed a successful campaign producing eye catching displays. He started 31 games in the league having missed the 3 other games due to injury and suspension scoring 7 goals and 5 appearances in the process. Maher made the switch to PSV in the summer and has had a lukewarm start to his stint at the club. The young PSV side had a good start to the campaign but have been very inconsistent and find themselves in 8th place. The player himself hasn’t quite hit the heights expected but he looks to be settling in as can be seen by his brace against Utrecht in December.
Maher was a part of the Dutch U-21 team for the Euros in the summer that lost to Italy in the semifinals. He started 3 of the 4 games and was rested against Spain in the last group stage game with qualification already secured. He scored against Germany in the first game of the tournament in a 3-2 win. He was also part of the squad for Netherlands’ World Cup qualifiers coming off the bench on 3 occasions.
Looking to 2014: On the balance of things, 2013 was quite a good year for Maher and he’ll be hoping to kick on in 2014. The first aim will obviously be to help his team move up the Eredivisie. The title may look beyond them but a sustained good run of form could see them qualify for Europe. Maher will probably be one of the Dutch contingent heading to Brazil.
4) Juan Quintero
Who is he?: Quintero is a 20 year old midfielder who plays for Porto. He’s already been capped for the senior Colombia side.
Back in 2013: The youngster started the year at Pescara in the Serie A. He was called up to the Colombia Under-20 squad for the South American Championship held in Argentina. This along with a later injury limited his impact in the second half of the season but he had already impressed in the first half of the campaign. He was snapped up by Porto in the summer transfer window. He marked his debut with a goal against Vitoria on debut after coming off the bench. He’s scored 2 goals and created 2 more in his 10 league appearances so far.
Quintero starred for Colombia in the U-20 World Cup last summer as they went out on penalties to South Korea on penalties in the Round of 16. He started all 4 games for his side chalking up 3 assists and a goal in the tournament. He came off the bench in Colombia’s 1-0 win over Serbia in a friendly.
Looking to 2014: For the first half of 2014, Quintero will hope to play a bigger role as Porto challenge for the title. Then of course it’s all eyes on the World Cup with Colombia featuring in an interesting group. The player will be hoping to make the squad and play some part for the South Americans.
3) Ross Barkley
Who is he?: Barkley is a 20 year old Englishman who plays for Everton. He’s represented various age groups for his country and even made 3 appearances for the senior side.
Back in 2013: The year started Barkley out on loan to Sheffield Wednesday in the Championship where he made 15 starts and 2 appearances off the bench scoring 4 goals in the process. His involvement in the Premier League was fairly limited with only 2 starts and 5 more appearances off the bench. This season is the one in which Barkley has been given more chances and he’s taken them with both hands. He’s made 19 appearances in the Premier League, 16 of which were starts. He scored in the first game of the season against Norwich and has subsequently added 2 more goals to his tally. He also scored 1 and made another in the 4-0 victory over QPR in the FA Cup.
Barkley was part of the England U-20 side that was eliminated in the group stage of the World Cup starting all 3 of their games. Barkley has made 3 appearances for England so far, all of them being substitute appearances.
Looking to 2014: Barkley is England’s next big hope and it appears that for once, much of the hype is warranted. With Everton pushing for a top 4 spot, Barkley will have a big role to play in his club’s fortunes. There has been speculation linking him to other sides but for now we see no reason for him to leave his boyhood club. With respect to the World Cup, we’re pretty sure he’ll be on the plane to Rio.
2) Paul Pogba
Who is he?: Pogba is a 20 year old midfielder who plays for Juventus. The young Frenchman has already forced his way into the senior squad.
Back in 2013: The start of the calendar year represented the second half of Pogba’s debut season at Juventus and it’s also when he established himself as a regular starter for them. He scored a brace in a 4-0 win over Udinese in January and finished the season with 5 goals in 18 league starts and 9 substitute appearances. Pogba has continued his fine form this time around as well with Juventus sitting pretty atop the Serie A. He’s started 17 of the 20 league games of the campaign thus far with 3 substitute appearances in the other games. He’s chalked up an impressive haul of 6 goals (most of them from long range) and 6 assists in the same period.
Pogba captained the French U-20 team to World Cup glory in the summer, even managing to get on the score sheet in a 4-0 win over Uzbekistan in the quarterfinals. He also started all of France’s World Cup qualifiers in the year including both legs of their playoff victory over Ukraine. He’s also got off the mark in terms of goals for France with a strike against Belarus in a 4-2 victory.
Looking to 2014: Pogba is undoubtedly one of the most talented players in world football. His career has progressed at an impressive rate since his move to Juventus and looks like it will continue to do so. He’s already established himself in the French line-up ahead of the World Cup and the only way is up for Pogba.
1) Julian Draxler
Who is he?: Draxler is 20 year old who plays for Schalke. The highly rated youngster is already a member of the German national side.
Back in 2013: Draxler was already a regular at Schalke last season as he scored 10 goals and 4 assists in 30 appearances playing in a variety of positions across midfield. His standout performance in the first half of the calendar year came against Wolfsburg when he scored 2 goals and made another on a convincing 4-1 win. Draxler has made 14 league appearances thus far predominantly in a wider position and has notched up 1 goal and 5 assists thus far. Draxler also had a fruitful Champions League group stage with 3 goals and an assist.
Draxler started in 2 of Germany’s World Cup qualifiers in 2013 and came off the bench on a couple of other occasions. He also came off the bench in Germany’s friendly victory over England in November.
Looking to 2014: Draxler has been linked to Arsenal for quite a while now and it remains to be seen if he does make the move to North London. Regardless of the outcome of the transfer speculation, what is for sure is that Draxler is very much in Germany’s plans not only for Brazil but also for years to come.