With 2015 pretty much done, we now look to 2016! This last year has seen the rise to prominence of quite a few players, Ayoze Perez making his mark, to name but one…
Rather than reel off all the ones you already know of – Embolo, Halilovic or Odegaard etc – I thought it would be good to introduce many of you to a new breed of talent, ones that you may have not heard about yet, as I believe some of these could be coming to shores near us in the coming seasons. Let’ start with a rising Albanian starlet:
Milot Rashica – Vitesse (19, Albania – Attacking Midfield)
Rashica got his move to a bigger European league this summer and has not looked back! He has bagged 6 goals in 19 games for Vitesse in Holland, and despite not featuring in Albania’s Euro 2016 qualifying campaign should earn himself a ticket on the plane next summer. He plays as an attacking midfielder, and as you can see has an eye for goal. He is more towards the ‘a few seasons’ yet’ stage at the moment before being good enough for anything bigger, but is certainly one to watch this coming year.
Federico Bernardeschi – Fiorentina (21, Italy – Winger)
Bernardeschi is already attracting glances and scouts from the likes of Barcelona. His first full season in the Fiorentina team, and he has bagged 3 goals in 5 Europa League games, as well as 4 assists in a dozen or so league games – however it is his overall performances that have impressed and many are looking at him as the next big thing in Italy, despite his unknown nature at this point in time. It’s probably too early to see a move to Barca materialise, but if he keeps going the way he is, it won’t be long!
Andrija Zivkovic – Partizan (19, Serbia – Winger)
Zivkovic is being very closely watched by Man City after several injuries to Samir Nasri, who is increasingly becoming very injury prone. The inverted winger has been on fire for Belgrade this season, with 13 goals in 27 games in league/Europe. At just 19, he is definitely looking close to a big move as he is getting to be too good for the Serbian league – the worry is he goes too soon and could end up like Zoran Tosic or Adem Ljajic, who both failed to impress at Man Utd, or even the latter did not even arrive there, and the former is now in Russia playing for CSKA. A humongous talent, this lad!
Florin Tanase – Viitorul Constanta (20, Romania – Winger)
This lad has really rose to prominence this season – in a Viitorul side that are scoring for fun in the rather droll Romanian league, he is causing plenty of excitement. Under the watchful of of Gheorghe Hagi, he has flourished with 9 goals in 22 games, with countless assists. Hagi’s son Ianis – has just earned a move to Fiorentina, and been loaned back (and is captain at 17 somehow) – but this kid is better, yet has gone relatively unnoticed. He has just earned his first cap for Romania, and is definitely one to watch next summer – their last big prodigy was Gabriel Torje, who is now a nobody. Tanase can do much better!
Antonio Sanabria – Gijon, on loan from Roma (19, Paraguay – Striker)
This guy was once at Barcelona, but instead chose to leave for Roma, and in turn go on loan to Gijon in Spain. I believe he thought that he would never get the chance with so much other talent coming through at Barca, and needed to spread his wings. At Gijon now, along with another Barca man in Alen Halilovic, he has done well. 5 goals in 9 games after 6 weeks out with an injury, and he is living up to some of the hype around him. 2 years on from Barca, and another good 6 months in Spain could see him afforded a chance at Roma next season. Fail to impress, and it’s likely it will be another loan or sold. Big few months ahead!
Andraz Sporar – Basel (21, Slovenia – Striker)
This is a very unknown one for most, including myself until I’d found him. He has just left Ljubljana for Basel for £2m after a prolific last season or two. Between the start of the 14/15 season and now, he has bagged 30 goals in 50 games, including 17 in 18 this season which has prompted Basel to move after Liverpool were seen to be after him. It’s a good step, and he will play alongside Breel Embolo, which could be a deadly partnership if played together! Is he the next Tim Matavz, or something better? I think the latter…
Adam Armstrong – Coventry, on loan from Newcastle (19, England – Striker)
For fans of the English football league, you will have met Armstrong this season. He is seen as a huge prospect at Newcastle, and had been given 10-15 games already before this move. What was surprising though was he hit the ground running! 13 goals already in League One, and for an 18 year old to be top scorer in such a hard league is unheard of! 13 in 16 games so far, and it would be tempting for Newcastle to pull him back out and try him in the Championship. however under Tony Mowbray he is developing nicely and with Joe Cole and James Maddison – past and future England players (potentially, in the case of Maddison) he is in the right place. A big future ahead, if things go well!
Armin Hodzic – Dinamo Zagreb (21, Bosnia – Striker)
Hodzic was on the books at Liverpool until recently, having been snapped up from his native Bosnia nearly 5 years ago. He could never get the work permit to enter the UK for long enough to play competitively for them. With that and a few injury issues, he was sold on to Zagreb and has been on fire since, with 15 in 29 for Zagreb, and including his loan spell with his old Bosnian PL side, 34 in 85 when playing competitively. He could be one that slipped through the net that comes back to haunt – he could be a clichy…well the ‘Next Dzeko’ as everyone likes to say, but maybe the first ‘Hodzic’? Keep an eye on him, he shouldn’t be in Croatia for long!
Marko Grujic – Red Star Belgrade (19, Serbia – Central Midfielder)
Grujic has been subject of bids from many in Europe – Liverpool have had one accepted, while Anderlecht and Roma have been turned down. His father seems to hold the key, threatening to hide his passport as he thinks the club are flogging him far too soon, and that his value will be greater once his side have won the league title (they are nearly 20 points ahead and unbeaten in 22 games…) – he is a talented central midfielder, and after the likes of Brozovic and Kovacic have moved from similar places and done well, you’d think this lad will too. He is tipped for great things – but would a move to Liverpool be too much too soon? We will soon find out. I’d say he was better off moving to a European league where he will get game time, as the Premier League is not a place for testing the water with kids.
Luka Jovic – Red Star Belgrade (17, Serbia – Striker)
Grujic’s team mate is the last on our list of 10. At 17, he is the main striker at Belgrade and valued at £8m. 12 goals in 42 games doesn’t look great, but at 17 that is very good. He has been compared in style and stature to Falcao – and at 17 I think far too soon to move. 18-19 and another 50-100 games would stand him in good stead for the future, and possibly a move to Spain or Italy rather than England as they are a bit more forgiving, and you have more time too – England seems to be in a big rush to find superstars, and when they don’t do amazingly to start with, clubs cut their losses and get the next big thing in on a 5 year deal.
So! That is my 10 to watch next year – I hope I have enlightened you to a few new players that you had previously not heard of. It’s a very Yugoslavian based list, with 5 from Serbia, Slovenia or Bosnia…but 10 very talented players that I will be keeping an eye on!
Have a great Christmas!