The Premiership: the league that excites fans across the world with its intense, passionate play. Last season, albeit having been won by an at times lacklustre Manchester United side, delivered worrying blood pressure levels to fans of all 20 teams, and who can forget the truly stunning performances from the most unlikely of sources. Scott Parker, Charles N’Zogbia, and Charlie Adam – all 3 lit up the league with dazzling displays, and although two ended up fighting a losing battle and couldn’t help their sides being relegated, both N’Zogbia and Adam have already been picked up by Aston Villa and Liverpool respectively and expect a side to recruit the services of Parker in the coming weeks.
However one thing that would truly make the Premiership stand out from the crowd, and perhaps even extinguish the prolonging argument as to which League is the best in the world, would be the recruitment of tomorrow’s footballing VIP’s. In this article I will suggest 4 wonderkids who we would all love to see in England’s top division. Whether or not these players would rather the passion of the Premiership, the spice of Spanish football or the rough and tough of Italy remains to be seen, but expect all giants of European football to trade punches when it comes to prying these players away from their routes.
Dubbed the next Pelé (no pressure, eh?), Neymar da Silva Santos Júnior is a Brazilian superstar who, at the ripe age of 19, has already been set a price tag of £40 million. If you haven’t heard of him yet then get out of your cave and hop on YouTube – a video of his latest piece of magic, uploaded just 5 days ago, has already received close to 2 million hits.
Even at 19 Neymar is imperious, and you can tell that this guy has learned the ways of Brazilian football. He has the skill level of Ronaldinho with the finishing of Pelé and pace of Roberto Carlos. Combine a faultless technique, exquisite eye for goal and perfect balance of speed and poise, and your result is Neymar. I’ve bought him on Football Manager, I should know. Expect huge things from this audacious young striker, and perhaps with it the dominance of the Brazilian national team.
Eden Hazard (Lille)
Belgian winger Eden Hazard is also a name expected to become household in the near future. The 20-year-old currently plays for Lille in Ligue 1, with many saying that he contains the best ingredients of both Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. Wow. Just like the little Argentian, when Hazard is in full flow it is impossible to dispossess him of the ball, and just like Ronaldo he is capable of leaving defenders on bums in an instance with his immense skill level. Even his name oozes danger.
Former France international Christophe Dugarry said of the winger; “Faster than Zidane, more technique than Henry”. So, why is Hazard still playing his football in France? (No offence to French football, but French clubs have never been able to hold onto their stars – Samir Nasri, Thierry Henry, Nicolas Anelka…) Well, Hazard is a footballer with a brain, which is hard to come by nowadays with all the money floating around the materialistic game. L’Equipe quoted the player as saying; “I am still a Lille player…and am not thinking about a transfer. I have plenty of things to learn at my current club”. Hazard is clearly one step ahead of French football, but perhaps staying in France will further allow him to develop his skills – Zinedine Zidane didn’t leave Bordeaux until he was 24, and look at how that turned out.
Mario Götze (Borussia Dortmund)
Germany proved in last year’s FIFA World Cup that they are not slacking when it comes to nurturing their youth players. The likes of Mesut Özil, Thomas Müller and Lukas Podolski were at the centre of the Germans’ attacking, attractive style of play; they scored 4 goals in 3 of their opening 5 matches against Australia, Argentina and oh, who were that last team? I just can’t remember who it was. Never mind.
One player who didn’t fly to South Africa was Mario Götze, the attacking midfielder labelled “one of the best talents (Germany have) ever had”. That is the view of German technical direct Matthias Sammer, who also considers Götze to possess speed, creativity and “outstanding technical skills”. The 19-year-old currently plays for Borussia Dortmund, contributing with 6 goals and 11 assists last campaign and helping The Borrussians to their 7th Bundesliga title. Manchester United have been linked with the playmaker, so watch this space.
Thiago Alcântara (Barcelona)
My final choice is Thiago Alcântara. Barcelona are renowned for producing excellent talent, and Thiago is the latest name to come out of their famous La Masia Academy, which has already given us Messi, Xavi Hernandez and Andres Iniesta.
Thiago has an exquisite vision, a quality range of passing and drifts around the park with the essence of an angel. Sound familiar? The similarities between Thiago and Xaxi are uncanny, and Barcelona is the perfect setting for Thiago to develop into one of the greatest midfielders in the world, just like the midfield maestro has done.
There will, however sad it is to say, be a time when Xavi has to hang up his boots and with that the truly beautiful on-pitch relationship he shared with Messi. The one-twos, the short triangles, everything that summed up Barcelona in just two players will go. Let’s just pray that Thiago will be there to pick up the pieces if he continues with the progression he is making. He helped the Spanish under-17 in there successful European Championship victory in 2008 and two years later helped the under-19 team reach the final of the same tournament.
I know the title of this article reads ‘Four players we would love to see in the Premiership’ but surely staying in Spain presents Thiago with the best opportunity for him to reach his full potential? That said, a move to England may be on the horizon anyway – the starlet’s contract is set to expiry shortly at the Catalan giants, and both Arsenal and Manchester United are said to be interested. Who wouldn’t be?
His father, Mazinho, won the World Cup with Brazil in 1994, and I for one wouldn’t bet against Thiago winning the Trophy at least once in his career.
So there you have it. Just four names, each with huge prospects (and price tags). The likes of Barcelona, Real Madrid, AC Milan and Inter Milan will all be in the running for their signatures, but let’s just hope each one chooses wet and windy England as their final destination.