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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 | Forwards/Wingers (10 – 1)
10) Gerard Deulofeu
Who is he?: Gerard Deulofeu is a 19 year old Spanish attacker. He is comfortable playing on either wing, but is seen on the right more often than not. The player is contracted to Spanish champions FC Barcelona, but is currently on loan at Everton.
Back in 2013: In the 2012-13 season, Deulofeu played most of his football for the Barcelona B team in the Spanish Segunda, aside from making a few sporadic appearances for the first team across various competitions. The attacker enjoyed a good season with the B team, notching up 18 goals and 6 assists in 33 appearances.
In the summer too, Deulofeu was very busy with the international side, participating in the U-20 World Cup, and the U-19 Euros, serving as an integral member of both teams. At the Euros, Deulofeu scored twice, and made 3 assists. Both his goals came at the right time, in a crucial semi final match against France. At the U-20’s too, he was satisfactory, scoring twice and assisting once in the game against USA. Deulofeu currently plays for the U-21’s, and has 4 goals in 10 appearances for them.
Fast forward to August, and the youngster found himself at Everton under the excellent Roberto Martinez. Despite the fact that he’s only made 2 starts, Deulofeu has been a regular in the side, making 12 appearances before injury hit him. His performances have been very good and have won praise from all quarters. The goal that rescued a point at the Emirates against Arsenal stands out in memory as a fabulous strike.
Looking to 2014: Before anything else, Deulofeu will look to make a speedy recovery and return to Merseyside, where Everton will need his considerable skill to continue their battle for fourth spot. In the summer, the player will have to work hard to impress the coaches at the Nou Camp, and with the competition for places so intense, we might just see him make another short term move.
9) Vinicius Araujo
Who is he?: Araujo is a 20 year old centre forward, who plays for Cruzeiro in Brazil. Araujo is also Brazilian, and is capable of playing on the left and the right, but mostly sticks to the middle.
Back in 2013: Araujo made his first foray into the Cruzeiro team midway through 2013, playing 68 minutes against Portuguesa. In the very next game, another start for the youngster, he netted a brace against Nautico. This helped him make a tremendous impact on the side, and helped him win a lot more appearances. Over the course of the year, he’s gone on to make 11 starts and managed to get himself 6 goals and 2 assists as well.
Looking to 2014: Araujo had a successful 2013, despite missing a few games. He’s back in the line up now, and that’s what is important. He’ll want to keep scoring to possibly make it as a back up to Fred, but also to bolster his growing reputation.
8) Jean-Paul Boetius
Who is he?: Jean Paul Boetius is 19-year-old Dutchman who plies his trade with Eredivisie side, Feyernoord. He is primarily deployed as a winger but could develop into a striker’s role as well.
Back in 2013: Boetius started off 2013 as a regular starter with Feyernoord as he earned his place in the side, and continued to establish it from the start of the 2012/13 campaign. Boetius scored a total of 7 league goals in 2013, setting up 8 others. Not the most appealing numbers but his performances definitely suggest potential. His only brace came against NEC Nijmesen towards the back end of the 12/13 season, following that up with a goal in the 13/14 campaign against the same side. He was instrumental in Feyernoord’s fantastic win over PSV as well, after going a goal down (by a player who will appear later in this list), Boetius scored one and set-up two to help Feyernoord to a 3-1 victory.
Boetius has failed to make a case for himself at International level, having not received a call-up to the senior side, neither establishing himself in the U-21 side, he did score on his U-21 debut in a 6-0 win over Georgia, but at only two caps, it hasn’t been easy for Boetius to get into the Dutch side.
Looking to 2014: Feyernoord have installed a fantastic youth project at the club which is proving fruitful as they continue to push for a Champions League spot. A return would be surprising but fantastic progress for both the club and Boetius himself. A more strong attempt at the National level will be needed as well.
7) Lucas Piazon
Who is he?: Piazon is a 20 year old on loan to Eredivisie side Vitesse Arnhem from Chelsea. He’s also appeared for the Brazilian U-15 and U-17 sides.
Back in 2013: Piazon spent the first half of the year on loan to Malaga in what was a fairly unspectacular spell in terms of returns but as with most loans for youngsters, the overall experience helps in the long term. He did make 4 starts and 7 substitute appearances providing 2 assists for the Spanish club. His loan spell this season to Vitesse however has been a stark contrast. He took his time to get going after failing to find the back of the net in his first 4 games but a brace against PEC Zwolle broke the duck. He’s scored 11 goals and provided 8 assists in 17 starts thus far in the league as Vitesse have been the surprise high-fliers.
Looking to 2014: On a personal note, Piazon couldn’t have asked for a better time thus far. The youngster is one of the sizable Chelsea contingent out on loan and has certainly impressed. Having said that, the fact that the likes of Mata can be deemed surplus to requirement is testament to the difficulty of breaking into the current Chelsea attack. Another loan spell may very well be on the cards for the young Brazilian.
6) Raheem Sterling
Who is he?: Sterling is a 19 year old winger who plays for Liverpool. He plays for the England U-21 side and has made 1 appearance for the senior team.
Back in 2013: After a great first half of the 2012-13 season, Sterling was taken out of the firing line in 2013. The diminutive winger was perhaps overplayed a bit by Rodgers and the signings of Coutinho and Sturridge meant that Liverpool’s front line had been bolstered. Despite limited opportunities in the second half of the season, he did make 24 appearances in the league, 19 of them being starts, and registered 2 goals and 6 assists. He’s continued his development this season and has made 11 starts and 6 substitute appearances in the league scoring 3 goals and made a further 4 more.
After making his only senior appearance for England in late 2012, Sterling has been part of the U-21 set-up in 2013. He’s started all 3 of the qualifiers so far including the 9-0 rout over San Marino, a game in which he helped himself to a brace.
Looking to 2014: Sterling has continued to make strides and has hopefully made an effort to sort out his off-field problems. Liverpool are part of an interesting battle for 4th place and the pacy wide man will be looking to help them bring back Champions League football to Anfield. With respect to his World Cup hopes, if Walcott does miss out due to injury then Sterling could be one of the replacements lined up to make the squad.
5) Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain
Who is he?: Oxlade-Chamberlain is a 20 year old, who currently plays for Arsenal, and hails from the famous Southampton Youth system. He’s a right winger, but can also play through the middle and on the left. He’s already made 13 appearances for the senior international team, scoring thrice.
Back in 2013: There have been better years for AOC, but 2013 was by no means a bad year. The biggest problem for him was the competition he faced from a lot of in form Arsenal stars like Ramsey, Rosicky, Cazorla and Ozil. He was mostly a substitute in the first half of the year as Arsenal stormed into the final Champions League spot. He was a regular in the cup competitions, though, but couldn’t make much headway into the team. In the first half of this season, he’d been troubled by injury. He managed to make an assist on the first day loss against Villa, and made his next Premier League appearance last night against Villa.
Internationally, he’s been in fine form for the 3 Lions. He managed to get on the score-sheet in the 2-2 draw at the Maracana, and has been a regular spark of creativity for them. Sadly for him, he missed a lot of crucial games due to his knee injury.
Looking to 2014: Oxlade-Chamberlain is a very talented footballer, and has a long future ahead of him, especially if he stays at Arsenal, where he’ll get the best guidance. For now, he’ll be working hard to win his place in the Arsenal side, and try to get Hodgson to pick him for the World Cup, where he has to compete with the likes of Townsend, Lallana and Milner.
4) Memphis Depay
Who is he?: Depay is a talented 19 year old winger who plays for PSV Eindhoven. He also plays for the Dutch U-21 team and has made 3 appearances for the senior side.
Back in 2013: He spent most of the 2012-13 season on the periphery of PSV’s first XI and was limited to substitute appearances. In fact he made only 2 league starts in the first half of the calendar year. He did make the most of his first start getting on the scoresheet against VVV Venlo. This season however has been a highly successful one for Depay as he’s started 19 out of the 20 league games (he missed the game against PEC Zwolle due to a suspension). He’s scored 6 goals and registered 5 assists in the league and has been impressive to say the least most notably in the 5-1 drubbing of Utrecht, a game in which he scored 2 and made another.
Depay was an unused substitute in the World Cup qualifier against Hungary and made a brief appearance against Turkey in the next one. He started the friendly against Colombia and came off the bench against Japan. He also started twice for the Dutch U-21 team in the European qualifiers registering an assist in both games.
Looking to 2014: PSV have been maddeningly inconsistent in the league thus far but they do have a very young team with some talented players. They’ll be looking to add some maturity to their play and string a run of results together. Depay has been bright throughout the season and will be looking forward to showcasing his talents further hopefully even at the upcoming World Cup.
3) Juan Iturbe
Who is he?: Iturbe is a gifted 20 year old who is currently on loan to Hellas Verona from Porto. After appearing for Paraguay for various age groups, he’s switched allegiance to Argentina and has made a number of appearances for their U-20 team.
Back in 2013: Iturbe has spent almost the entirety of the year out on loan. He was initially loaned out to River Plate for the Torneo Final and enjoyed a decent amount of game time there starting 9 times and making a further 8 appearances off the bench. He managed to score 3 times and make 2 assists in the period of his loan. Iturbe then went out on loan to Hellas Verona and has been very impressive so far. He came off the bench to make his debut against Juventus in a 2-1 loss. He scored in his first start of the campaign as his side beat Livorno 2-1. He has enhanced his reputation in Italy scoring 5 goals and 1 assist in 14 starts and 3 substitute appearances.
Iturbe appeared for the junior Paraguayan teams but made the shift to Argentina after a falling out. The youngster is yet to be capped for Argentina.
Looking to 2014: Hellas Verona have surprised a lot of people this season and find themselves close to the European spots. They will have to deal with the loss of Jorginho though. Iturbe will complete the season at Verona but there’s already speculation linking him to a few of the bigger European clubs, and rightly so.
2) Mitchy Batshuayi
Who is he?: Batshuayi is a 20 year old striker who plays for Standard Liege. He also plays for the Belgian U-21 side.
Back in 2013: Having been on the fringes for the start of the 2012-13 season, Batshuayi broke into the starting line up in the last couple of months of 2012 and continued in 2013. He finished with a decent haul of 7 goals and 4 assists in 17 starts and 5 substitute appearances in the regular season. He did well in the Playoffs too scoring 4 times in the 10 games, 7 of which he started in. This season has seen Batshuayi hit the ground running. He scored in the first league game of the season against KV Mechelen setting the tone for the campaign. He’s scored 15 goals and registered 3 assists in 22 league appearances so far including a hat-trick against KV Oostende.
He has started 4 of the 5 U-21 qualifiers for Belgium so far scoring 2 goals. He also started in a 1-1 friendly draw against the Spanish U-21 team.
Looking to 2014: Standard Liege have opened up a gap between themselves and the rest of the sides, a process definitely helped by Batshuayi’s goal scoring form. They’ll be looking to stretch their lead heading into the playoffs and will be looking to their main man to keep the goals flowing.
1) Romelu Lukaku
Who is he?: Lukaku is a 20 year old striker who currently plays for Everton on loan from Chelsea. The youngster has already made 23 appearances for the Belgian senior side, a very impressive feat given his age.
Back in 2013: He spent the first half of the calendar year on loan at West Brom in what was a a highly successful spell. He scored 17 goals and 7 assists in 35 league appearances furthering enhancing his reputation as one of the most promising youngsters in Europe. He played a bigger role in the second half of the season and capped it off with a hat-trick on the last day of the season in a 5-5 draw against Manchester United. He surprisingly went out on another loan, this time to Everton and has had a good time at Merseyside thus far. After being eased into the team at the start, he’s been a regular for Everton and scored 9 goals and 6 assists in 20 appearances to date.
Lukaku was a part of the Belgian squad for all of the World Cup qualifiers and even started twice; notably against Croatia when he scored a brace. He’s also started 2 of the last 3 friendlies.
Looking to 2014: Lukaku will stay at Everton for the remainder of the season as they look to qualify for the Champions League. After that of course is the World Cup where Belgium have already been labelled dark horses.