With the FIFA World Cup 2018 in full swing, now is a good time to look at who might well be this year’s young stars and potential breakout players.
This joy is, of course, one of the thrills of watching the FIFA World Cup every four years; we hope to catch a glimpse of the as-yet little-known players potentially blooming on the world stage. Often, all it takes is one well-timed goal or a single great performance for a young player to go from virtual unknown to superstar. With a passing nod to young players like Gabriel Jesus of Brazil and Spain’s Isco—both of whom are utterly brilliant but already plying their trade at Manchester City and Real Madrid, respectively—here are the players who could make star turns in Russia.
Trent Alexander-Arnold, England
The 19-year-old fullback has blossomed in his first full season at Liverpool under the guidance of manager Jurgen Klopp. Remember, in Nathaniel Clyne and Joe Gomez, Liverpool already had two other England right backs in their ranks when the season started, with TAA ranked behind these two. And yet, it is the youngster who has found himself in Russia, as England look to build on their opening game win. In Alexander-Arnold, they have a speedy wingback who could supply the crosses that the waiting Harry Kane relies on and further his growing reputation.
Timo Werner, Germany
The 22-year-old Red Bull Leipzig striker first made his name a year ago when he played in (and won) the Confederations Cup for Germany. It was a tournament in which he was also the top scorer, bagging his first three goals for his country. He banked another four in World Cup qualifying, as well as in friendlies, although he did admittedly fail to find the back of the net in Germany’s opening defeat to Mexico. With a post-World Cup transfer to Bayern Munich looking increasingly likely, this could be the year in which the young man makes the jump from talented youngster to international superstar.
Hirving Lozano, Mexico
German conquerors Mexico have taken one of their most talented squads ever to this World Cup. Mexico’s star is the 22-year-old winger Lozano, nicknamed “Chucky”. Lozano plays as an inside forward on the left (like a Mexican Mo Salah) and is currently turning out for Dutch giants PSV Eindhoven, for whom he was the leading Eredivisie scorer last season with 17 goals. If his World Cup goes well, it is unlikely he’ll stay in Holland for long.
Gonçalo Guedes, Portugal
Guedes is a thrilling 21-year-old attacking midfielder contracted to Paris Saint Germain. He is much fancied by his compatriots to provide the creative spark to the Seleção attack. PSG, who picked him up from Benfica for €30m, sent him out on loan to Valencia last season, where he blossomed as a La Liga midfielder (scoring five goals in 27 appearances). This summer should give the player the perfect opportunity to prove his worth.
Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, Serbia
Lazio’s Milinkovic-Savic is another potential star and is helped by the fact that Serbia are much fancied to escape World Cup Group E. Expectations only grew after he stood out as one of the star players during Serbia’s 1-0 victory over Costa Rica in their first match.
The 23-year-old has good movement and presence, while his creativity, close control, aerial ability and dribbling make him a constant threat. Rumours of major club interest have already leaked, and more impressive World Cup matches will only further cement his status. But be warned—Lazio want big money for their superstar, with quotes already being reported as high as £131m.