Chelsea teen one of five young guns to watch for 2018 World Cup
The likes of Jack Wilshere, Mario Gotze and Neymar are already big names on the football stage despite their tender years, but there are a number of other emerging talents who may be more unknown and should be watched ahead of upcoming major tournaments.
Five such youngsters are below and they could be some of the top players being talked about by the time the 2018 World Cup roles around in Qatar.
Mateo Kovacic – Inter
Kovacic is not a total unknown, especially to fans of Football Manager or those to take a keen interest in the European transfer windows.
Snapped up for €11m by Inter Milan from Dinamo Zagreb in January, Kovacic has been described as the most exciting Croatian talent since Robert Prosinecki.
The ball-playing central midfielder has already made his international debut in none other than the fiery clash with Serbia and a partnership with Luka Modric has the capacity to blossom.
Jasper Cillessen – Ajax
Looks destined to become the Dutch number one in the fairly close future and with regular goalkeeper Kenneth Vermeer recently sent off, a few games in the Ajax goal beckon, starting at PSV Eindhoven.
He has been compared to Edwin Van der Sar given his abilities as a sweeper-keeper and was in the Holland preliminary squad ahead of Euro 2012.
Lucas Digne – Lille
Bayern Munich’s David Alaba will be one of the first names mentioned when speaking of talented young left-backs playing in Europe, but Digne’s name shouldn’t come too far behind.
Premier League interest has already been rife for Digne, who has quickly jumped the queue to be first choice in his position at Lille and has all the attacking instincts expected of a modern-day full-back.
Contracted until 2017, some of Europe’s bigger clubs will certainly have to splash out to land the 19-year-old.
Carlos Mane – Sporting Lisbon
Sporting certainly have the right scouting structure in place when it comes to uncovering talented wingers, with Cristiano Ronaldo and Nani already rising through the club.
Next to follow in their footsteps is likely to be Mane, who has already caught the attention of Manchester United and Liverpool.
He was the star of the show when Lisbon won the 2012 NexLions Cup in Singapore.
Lewis Baker – Chelsea
It was Baker who lapped up the plaudits at this year’s instalment of that event, even though it was not his Chelsea that won the tournament, but fellow English club Aston Villa.
Baker was regarded as the player of the tournament and his ability with both feet in the attacking midfield position suggests he has unlimited potential.
Starts for the Chelsea first-team may be a few years away, but he is certainly one to follow, especially given his knack of having an impact on the big stages; he also scored in the 2012 FA Youth Cup final.