Hassan Chamas


Previously I examined the best rising talents currently with Spanish clubs, but it isn’t just Spanish sides that have an array of up and coming young talents. Here are in my opinion the top ten ascending stars in Europe right now.

10) Vincenzo Fiorillo – UC Sampdoria & Italy:

If Azzuri fans were biting their nails over Gianluigi Buffon’s recent injuries and ability to still complete at the top level, then they can rest assured with Vincenzo Fiorillo, as many have already labelled him as the heir to Buffon’s throne. Having debuted with Sampdoria at the tender age of 17, Fiorillo went on to become one of the hottest Azzurinis around, and has already represented Italy at different top levels, playing an influential role in helping the Blucerchiati win their first Primavera title last year. The latest piece of shot-stopping Italy has offered since Dino Zoff, Walter Zenga and Gianluigi Buffon.

9) Kerlon Moura Souza – Chievo Verona & Brazil:

Followers of Italian calcio would suspect my decision to include Kerlon in this article, especially since the Brazilian has seen little football with Chievo ever since the team’s return to Serie A this past summer. To be more specific, I find it a bit odd as to why a player so heavily praised and whose arrival has been long hyped since bursting onto the scene with boyhood club Cruzeiro has seen so little action. However, that doesn’t mean that the player is anything less than spectacular, since he is known to be the master of the “Seal Dribble” which consists of flicking the ball onto one’s head and running with it, something that makes it hard for the opposition, if not impossible, to stop him without being fouled or booked. Now, how many of us can do that? Surely one of the latest Samba gems. My only regret is for him to have chosen Chievo Verona over other potential suitors such as AC Milan and Real Madrid.

8) Fraizer Campbell – Tottenham Hotspur & England:

I personally have high ambitions for Fraizer Campbell, and was disappointed when the Manchester United hierarchy decided to include him as a make-weight in the deal that brought Dimitar Berbatov to Old Trafford, albeit on a loan basis. Originally a Man Utd youth-teamer, Campbell has been travelling across England and Europe over the past couple of seasons in order to pick up experience so as to come back eventually to Manchester, passing by the likes of Belgian outfit Royal Antwerp and Hull City. Despite Sir Alex Ferguson’s constant assertions that Campbell’s place is at Manchester United, the player was nonetheless sent to London on deadline day as part of the long-awaited deal that assured Bulgarian Berbatov’s “Dream Move”. The transfer came at the wrong moment for the player, especially since he started the league opener with United against Newcastle, providing the assist for Wayne Rooney’s equalizer. Yet Campbell has been superb for Spurs, despite the team’s mediocre season, and has found his name on the score sheet on a multitude of occasions. Expect him to be back at United next season.

7) Toni Kroos – Bayern Munich & Germany:

If Lukas Podolski was nagging the Bayern management about his lack of first-team action, imagine what Kroos must feel like as he stands in the shadow of Luca Toni and Miroslav Klose? Having passed by various youth clubs before settling for Bayern’s second team, Kroos’ ability was monitored by Bayern officials, who are plotting a sunny stay for him with the Bavarian giants. Shiny displays in the FIFA U-17 World Cup – he was named Man of the Tournament – makes Bayern believe they hold the next best thing Germany has produced since Gerd Müller. General Manager Uli Hoeneß went to the extent of naming him as the future man to don the legendary number “10” of Bayern Munich. A call-up to Joachim Löw’s senior squad could be on the horizon.

6) Sergi Busquets – FC Barcelona & Spain:

As I said in my last article concerning Spain’s rising stars – click here in case you missed it – Sergi Busquets is the latest Spanish product, and the last addition of the Barcelona youth team since Lionel Messi and Bojan Krkic. The discovery of coach Josep Guardiola when both were in the B team last season – and to whom Busquets is compared, for that matter – Busquets made full use of his chances whenever they presented themselves this term, until gradually imposing himself as a first-choice midfielder, relegating the likes of Yaya Toure to the bench. The player continues to be one of the leading factors in Barcelona’s impressive march to the title under Pep Guardiola. Madrid move over.

5) Fabiano Santacroce – SSC Napoli & Italy:

While he may not hold with him facial resemblance whatsoever, Fabiano Santacroce is hailed in Italy as the next defensive masterpiece the peninsula has produced since Alessandro Nesta. Born in Brazil to a Brazilian father and Italian mother, Santacroce opted to go to Italy to start his football career, and was signed by Brescia from his youth club Calcio Como. He only stuck around with the Rondinelle for a couple of seasons before being prized away by the resurgent Napoli, who quickly discovered just how much potential this young player has. The Partenopei were not disappointed, as Fabio quickly established himself as a centre-half next to Paolo Cannavaro, helping Napoli finish in 8th position in the standings. New-old coach Marcelo Lippi was impressed with him, handing him his first senior Italy call-up last month against Bulgaria and Montenegro, stating that Santacroce is a definite future Azzuri pillar.

4) Bojan Krkic – FC Barcelona & Spain:

I wasn’t going to include him in this article until I remembered that, despite being an already established big name, Bojan (main picture) is just 18 years of age. Known for his dribbling that has seen him compared to fellow Barca youth-teamer and superstar Lionel Messi, Bojan Krkic goes into his second season as a Blaugrana senior. Injuries to Ronaldinho and Samuel Eto’o last season earned him a regular spot under former coach Frank Rijkaard, and the young Spanish-Serb repaid the latter’s good faith with goals, finishing the season with ten marks, breaking Raul Gonzalez’s record for the most scored in a debut campaign. Originally part of the Spanish squad that went on to win Euro 2008; Bojan asked former coach Luis Aragones if he could be left out due to fatigue and personal reasons. New Seleccion manager Vicente del Bosque cited Bojan Krkic, alongside several other young players, as the pillar of the post-Euros Spanish team, effectively handing him his Furia Roja debut last September against Armenia. Another one of Barcelona’s genius productions.

3) Rafael da Silva – Manchester United & Brazil:

Rafael da Silva – along with twin brother Fabio – is the latest full-back to come out of the world’s largest football nation. Despite having an identical cosmetic copy, “Rafa” is very different than sibling Fabio. For once, while Fabio operates on the left flank, Rafael runs on the right side. Second, Rafa is much, much more gifted than his twin brother in terms of ability. Alongside Fabio, both players were recruited by United while playing for Brazilian club Fluminense and registered to be part of the 2008/09 squad. Having to compete with the likes of Patrice Evra, Gary Neville and Wes Brown for a starting berth, first-team football proved to be rough to find at the beginning for the debarking South-Americans. However, Rafael took full opportunity of his chances, and did not fail to impress on the small occasions he played for the Red Devils, quickly becoming an Old Trafford fan-favourite. Recently, he scored the sole goal in United’s 2-1 loss to Arsenal in the Premier League, after coming off the bench in the dying minutes. Could the Theatre of Dreams be witnessing the birth of the next Cafu? Only time will tell.

2) Sebastian Giovinco – Juventus & Italy:

Italy’s most spoken of player. Naturally the product of Juve’s youth team and long-term replacement to legendary captain Alessandro Del Piero, Giovinco is hastily maturing into a fan-favourite at Turin. Touted for his dribbling and playmaking skills, “Formica Atomica” – Italian for “Atom Ant”- uses his vast array of tricks to make up for his short 164 cm stature. His low standing earns him a low centre of gravity that allows him to combine well with the ball. Having won the Campionato Primavera – youth championship – with Juventus in 2005/06, “Seba” spent the next season with his team in Serie B, appearing sporadically throughout the campaign. After spending the following year with Tuscan outfit Empoli, Giovinco returned to the confines of the Stadio Olimpico to earn his chance with his boyhood club. At first, he wasn’t doing much other than warming the bench next to Claudio Ranieri, but niggles and fatigue couldn’t but catch up with the ageing Pavel Nedved, and pretty soon Gio was starting some matches. Small and fast, it’s no surprise that we might be witnessing Juve’s own Maradona in the making.

1) Karim Benzema – Olympique Lyonnais & France:

The most in-demand striker in all of Europe at the moment. The next golden boy that “Les Bleus” have managed to fabricate since the mythical Zinedine Zidane, Benzema is the fruit of OL’s youth team, having risen through the club’s ranks. His establishment in the top flight has long been hailed, and the young French-Algerian didn’t fail to impress, as he blossomed in the 2007/08 campaign under Alain Perrin, the latter opting to deploy him as the spearhead of Lyon’s 4-3-3 attacking trio. The youngster earned applause with 26 goals in 47 matches. His good start to this season’s Ligue 1 made him the talk of the town, as Lyon president Jean-Michel Aulas is hoping to scare-off potential suitors with the €100M tag placed on his star striker’s head. AC Milan, Barcelona, Manchester United and Real Madrid better dig deep in order to land this boy wonder.