As the European club football season reaches its end, there have been multiple youngsters who have broken through the shackles of academy and lower league football to star for the some of the biggest clubs in the world.
So, we, at FootTheBall, have decided to look at Eleven of the Breakout Stars this season who have made their name across the European Continent.
GOALKEEPER – Illan Meslier
One of the younger names on the Leeds team sheet, Meslier has become one of Marcelo Bielsa’s trusted lieutenants in Leeds’ comeback season in the Premier League.
— Leeds United (@LUFC) May 23, 2021
Bielsa’s murderball style at Leeds has led to the opening of Leeds’ defence quite a few times, and Meslier has been a rock in front of his goal, saving 134 shots on goal.
A proactive goalkeeper, Meslier has enormous scope for development and with Hugo Lloris touching 35 at the end of this year, the Leeds youngster can be seen as one of the future stars of French football.
RIGHT BACK – Noussair Mazraoui
The lesser-known Moroccan right-back, Mazraoui currently plays for the Dutch champions Ajax in the Eredivisie and is at Amsterdam based club since the past 15 years.
Mazraoui has been one of the breakout stars this season at Ajax. (Image Courtesy: AFC Ajax / Website)
Although the 23-year-old has a bucket load of appearances for Ajax, injuries have stalled his career growth and is finally on the right track after a stellar 2020-21 season.
An athletic and attacking full-back, Mazraoui has been touted to replace Hector Bellerin at Arsenal this summer while Spurs and PSG, to an extent, are keeping tabs on the Moroccan international.
CENTRAL DEFENDER – Wesley Fofana
Another example of Leicester City’s outstanding recruitment, which has seen them lift the FA Cup this season, Fofana has been a revelation in the team’s defence alongside Jonny Evans and Caglar Soyuncu.
Another breakout stars this season has been Fofana at Leicester. (Image Courtesy: Leicester City / Website)
The centre-back possesses all the attributes one could seek in a defender and has silenced all those who questioned the Foxes when they paid north of £30 million to recruit the Frenchman from Saint-Etienne.
A confident player, Fofana has established himself as one the leading centre-backs in the league, and if he can continue this seismic progression, no one can tell how far he can reach.
CENTRAL DEFENDER – Josko Gvardiol
Heralded as the next big thing in Croatia, Gvardiol just needed a handful of appearances for Dinamo Zagreb’s first team before impressing the scouting teams of Leeds United and RB Leipzig at the end of the 2019-20 season.
Eventually he signed up for the German club for €16 million, a record fee for a Croatian teenager, before coming back on loan to Zagreb, where his performances have indicated that Leipzig have signed him on a steal.
One of the main reasons in Zagreb’s run to the quarterfinals of the Europa League, Gvardiol has been likened to Thiago Silva, whose tremendous self-confidence and strong leadership traits are visible in the Crotian from a young age.
LEFT BACK – Nuno Mendes
Sporting, having won the Portuguese championship after 19 long years, will now have to take a decision on whether to sell the star in Nuno Mendes this season or not.
Mendes has played a key role in Sporting’s championship win. (Image Courtesy: Sporting / Twitter)
Such has been the impact of the 18-year-old this season that the likes of Manchester City and Manchester United are eyeing for the services of the youngster.
Skillful, inventive, and nonchalant in possession, Mendes loves bombing forward and makes runs which make him difficult to mark. Truly a the next biggest thing to come out of Portugal, it is just time that is making him wait to make the big move.
DEFENSIVE MIDFIELDER – Aurelin Tchouameni
The backbone of the AS Monaco this season, Tchouameni has been one of the young breakout stars this season who have emerged from the talent pool of Ligue 1 and the and the youngster has proven to be one of the most important pieces in a year of revival for Monaco and will continue to be so as long as he’s there.
— AS Monaco 🇲🇨 (@AS_Monaco) May 28, 2021
Although the rumours of Real Madrid and Chelsea might be interesting to him, the best option is to stay and work under the project the Niko Kovac is building at the Monegasque club as the Frenchman is certainly at the heart of it.
CENTRAL MIDFIELDER – Dominik Szoboszlai
A star in the making, the move from Salzburg to Leipzig seemed perfect for Szoboszlai, as it provides an already tremendous player to portray his talents to the upper echelons of European football.
Szoboszlai has been the heart of Salzburg this season. (Image Courtesy: RB Salzburg / Twitter)
Arguably, Hungary’s best player in the present scenario, Szoboszlai already has 40 goals and assists for Salzburg just at the age of 20, and it is just time that he goes into the German Bundesliga and rips apart the whole league.
It might be just one or two seasons in Leipzig before the big clubs swarm around for his services but until then Leipzig will feel lucky to have a future superstar in their hands.
CENTRAL MIDFIELDER – Pedri
Moving from a team that finished 9th in the second division of Spanish football to the one of the biggest clubs in the world isn’t easy for anyone let alone a 17-year-old.
— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) May 25, 2021
But for Pedro Gonzalez Lopez, commonly known as Pedri, the move has been rather smooth, to an extent where the teenager has gone on to make 52 appearances for the Spanish giants in just one season.
Regarded as the heir apparent to Lionel Messi, because of his vision and understanding of the game at such a young age, this has been a true breakout season for Pedri, as he prepares for the Euros to try and get the championship back to Spain.
RIGHT FORWARD – Pedro Goncalves
When Bruno Fernandes left for Manchester United in January 2020, Sporting were looking everywhere to find a replacement for their talisman. 18 months later, his replacement, Pedro Goncalves, has led the club to their first title in 19 years.
— Pedro Goncalves (@Pedro70Pereira) May 12, 2021
While reports to Manchester United might seem pre-mature and untrue, its one of those that represent the kind of season the 22-year-old is currently enjoying.
His current form could continue into the upcoming Euros, and who knows where a good tournament could take him in the future.
CENTRE FORWARD – Dusan Vlahovic
Serie A’s Young Player of the Season, Dusan Vlahovic is now a known quantity to the rest of the world. The young Serbian’s season in Italy has already made furores across Europe, with the likes of Manchester United and Tottenham looking at acquiring his services.
Best Under-23: Dusan Vlahovic! 🔝
Physical strength, amazing technique and 21 goals: a season to remember for the young Serbian 🔥
— Lega Serie A (@SerieA_EN) May 31, 2021
While AS Roma, who are going to be managed by Jose Mourinho next season, are also eyeing for a move, it is certain that the 21-year-old will leave Florence after being one of the breakout stars in the league, as he has everything a modern “number 9” needs, coupled with a fiery and hard-working attitude which can take him to one of the top clubs in Europe very soon.
LEFT FORWARD – Phil Foden
The most known player from this eleven, Foden has been given cameo roles from the bench rather than starts in the previous three seasons by Pep Guardiola but that can be seen as a developmental stage for the Englishman as stepping into one of the toughest leagues in the world for one of the best teams isn’t easy.
Foden has been a revelation this season under Guardiola. (Image Courtesy: Phil Foden / Twitter)
This season, however, the youngster seems to have broken the shackles and has confirmed his name in Guardiola’s starting line-up.
Seen as the replacement to David Silva in the midfield, Foden has made name for himself, and as things go, the 20-year-old could potentially be the next global superstar in the coming years.