This is my first blog for Football Index, and here I am focusing on five genuine rising stars of the European game and what sets them apart from the rest.
1. Leon Goretzka (Bayern Munich)
Leon Goretzka first made an impact in the Bundesliga with Schalke, with whom he spent an impressive five seasons . He was also a part of Germany’s disastrous World Cup campaign, a year after playing a key role in helping them win the Confederations Cup, where he really came to everyone’s attention.
In a midfield replete with talent, Leon Goretzka always looked like he would have a fight on his hands to earn an automatic starting place in the Bayern Munich line up after joining the club in July.
At Schalke he made 116 league appearances, during which he scored 14 goals.
Even with the departure of Arturo Vidal to Barcelona and Sebastian Rudy to Schalke there are still seven players competing for three attacking midfield places.
But he is ever present in the Bundesliga this season and what has really caught the eye of new coach, Niko Kovac is the 23-year-old from Bochum’s ability around goal, his calmness coupled with his aggressive style of play in his role as a number eight.
A bigger more physical presence in the Bayern midfield – Goretzka is a towering 6′ 2″ tall – he manages to combine skills that can break down the tightest of defences with an aggression and work rate plus an understanding to work with star players like Muller and Lewandowski to give Bayern a new and different dangerous edge.
By nature an instinctive and assertive midfielder – and in the opinion of some, too much so for the disciplined ranks of Die Roten – his natural offensiveness has added yet another layer to the Bayern game and helped ensure that he is rapidly cementing for himself an automatic place in the starting line up.
2. Federico Chiesa (Fiorentina)
It’s fair to say that it hasn’t been a successful few years for Italian football. While Napoli last season occasionally caught the eye, this is still a league that has been dominated for the past seven years by the ‘Old Lady’ herself, Juventus. On the international stage, they suffered the embarrassment of failing to qualify for the World Cup for the first time in 60 years.
But on the plus side there are some sparkling young talents coming through to help restore them to former glories, and few shine brighter than Fiorentina’s Federico Chiesa.
Just 20-years-old he is already in his third senior season with the club amid rumours of potential a £62 million move away from Italy prove.
Fast, tricky, and capable of performing well on either flank, he is the sort of winger that the fans love to see and there is already a small, though very select, queue forming to try to coax him to the Premier League, with Liverpool and Chelsea rumoured to be the front runners.
Inter are also rumoured to be desperate to sign him though it seems unlikely that they will be able to raise the money to bring him to the San Siro while Juventus are also thought to be keeping a close eye on him.
Any move seems even more likely bearing in mind Fiorentina’s failure to guarantee European football last season and with the amount of attention he is currently attracting it seems unlikely that he will still be a ‘Viola’ player by the time the January transfer window closes.
3. Breel Embolo (Schalke)
Within so much as a point after five games this has been a truly dreadful start to the Bundesliga for last season’s runners up, Schalke, although in Cameroon born Swiss international Breel Embolo there is at least a glimmer of hope for them
It is easy to forget that Embolo is still only 21. He has been playing regular first-team football for four years, and has been a key player for the Swiss national team over much of the same period.
His career however has been ravaged with injury which caused him to miss most of the 2016-17 season and made just 28 appearances over two years.
He initially made his name with his first club, Basel, with whom he was a part of some impressive Champions League displays, including in the 2014/15 season, where they progressed from a group including Real Madrid and Liverpool.
A strong, powerful striker, with the pace to cause problems for defenders he will be hoping to add more goals to his game, and if he can do so, he will become a top striker and in the process help lift his Schalke side off the unfamiliar surroundings they currently find themselves at the foot of the Bundesliga table.
4. Dayot Upamecano (RB Leipzig)
With French football very much on the rise, Leipzig’s Dayot Upamecano is one of its brightest prospects.
Already a junior international who has represented his country at every level from under 16 upwards it can only, surely be a matter of time before he graduates to the top table of French international football.
Just 19-years-old, central defender Dayot already has three years’ experience at first team level firstly in Austria with Red Bull Salzburg and now in Germany with Leipzig who he joined for €10m aged just 18.
Fast and strong, he has already made 44 appearances for the club and, last season, helped his side to a sixth placed league finish and a spot in this season’s Europa League. This season he has established himself as an automatic starter in the heart of the Leipzig defence.
He has been compared by many as a player similar to Matts Hummels because of his shrewd ability to read the game, win back possession and distribute the ball and he is probably faster than Hummels.
5. Jadon Sancho (Borussia Dortmund)
No one was more disappointed to see Jadon Sancho opt for the chance to move from Manchester City to Borussia Dortmund than Blues boss, Pep Guardiola.
But City’s wealth of talent meant that they were unable to guarantee the precociously talented 17-year-old the first team exposure he craved and not even the carrot of a £30,000 a week contract was enough to persuade him to stay in England.
Borussia Dortmund’s £8m gamble to bring him to Germany now looks to have paid off for both the player and the club.
After initially struggling to establish for himself a first team place he gradually began to catch the eye and this season he is clearly part of new boss Lucien Favre’s plans even though he has so far been used predominantly as an impact player coming on from the bench.
His assists from the bench plus his first goal of the season against Nurnberg means the cries calling for him to be a regular starter grow louder by the day and he is clearly one for the future both for his club and hopefully also for his country.
Dortmund sporting director Michael Zorc has said that Sancho is “one of the greatest talents in European football” who “will definitely play at BVB”.
If Sancho does break into Dortmund’s starting XI in the coming months, it surely won’t be long before he comes to the attention, once again, of England boss, Gareth Southgate.
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