Breakout Stars who set football world alight in 2020
Another year has passed and another crop of youngsters made their names announcing themselves to the football world.
2019 brought the likes of Ansu Fati, Jadon Sancho, Joao Felix to name a few and 2020 has been no different.
Every transfer window each club looks to spend big on proven talents, but there are also players who are ready to take the next step in their careers and solve the problems managers look to fix in their teams.
We here at FootTheBall decided to take a closer look who left the mark this year and left us wanting for more.
Eduardo Camavinga is a rising star that has caught the eye of many and 2020 was one hell of a year for him
Still only 17, the Stade Rennes youngster has cemented his spot in the starting 11. In a match against PSG, he showcased his skills and announced himself to the world.
He showed flashes of brilliance from there on and does not look like stopping. He is a midfield anchor who has swift movement and ground duels are his area of expertise.
When a 17-year-old who command weekly starting spots at top sides, it has to be someone of immense quality like Mohamed Ihattaren of PSV.
Youngsters like him often look to begin every action by taking someone on although the game awareness comes later.
But Ihattaren’s maturity has been beyond years of his age who already is acting quickly and decisively, playing first-time passes to unlock defences and moving possession on quickly.
— Mohamed Ihattaren (@iamIhattaren) September 23, 2019
His ball carrying comes to devastating effect when the moment strikes. His left foot is a real gem and he can shift a yard to his side, create some space for a shot and let loose.
His development continues to impress and very soon his name will start being linked to the big teams across Europe, and rightly so.
When a player breaks a record held by Kai Havertz at Bayer Leverkusen, you cannot help but stand up and take notice. That’s exactly what Florian Wirtz did in the 2019/20 season.
The growing talent worked his way through the ranks of his local club and was described by the local Kölner Express newspapers as “the best midfielder to come through the club in 30 years”.
Bundesliga fans will soon see all the best of Wirtz as his time with Peter Bosz’s squad continues, and there’s a reason that the 17-year-old is already in the fold with the senior squad at Leverkusen.
Lyon’s incredible production line of young talent shows no sign of slowing, and injuries to Lyon first team players have helped open the door for 16-year-old Rayan Cherki to play regular first-team football.
Cherki is an extremely good dribbler, who uses his body and core strength to bounce off opponents. His change of direction is incredible, as is his burst.
He was already on the cusp of the first team, but these injuries sent him flying up the pecking order and into a position where his career can begin.
Still only 16, he has time on his side and could well end up being a world-beater.
Things have escalated quickly for Dejan Kulusevski.
In July, he was sent on loan to Parma to bag his first true experience of senior football, and just five months on, he’s being talked about as a potential €35 million signing for Inter Milan next year, as per Calciomercato.
The rise is remarkable but also reflective of how brightly he’s shone at Parma and how productive he’s been. Four goals and seven assists in 17 starts is fantastic going.
He’s an unorthodox watch at times, with his biggish 6’1″ frame and awkward stride looking a little out of place on the wing, but he moves efficiently, can wrap his left foot around a shot beautifully and never stops running.
With all that in mind, it’s perhaps unsurprising Inter manager Antonio Conte likes the look of him.
The Championship’s top creators are always picked off by the Premier League clubs. Eze will likely be the next.
After an impressive stint in the Championship with Queens Park Rangers, Eze joined Palace for a reported £16 million, promising to bring goals and creativity to a side that lacked both last season.
— Ebere (@EbereEze10) December 6, 2020
Eze led QPR with 14 goals and eight assists in the 2019-20 campaign and started every single league match – a considerable feat in a division as physically demanding as the Championship.
Maybe the plan is to replace Wilfried Zaha, who’s champing at the bit to leave for greener pastures. Whatever happens, Eze’s going to get loads of playing time.
Bayern Munich appear to have abandoned their policy of going after star players and are instead investing on up-and-coming talents.
One such player is Alphonso Davies. Davies made his debut in January last year but has truly come of age this year.
The Canadian international has been a revelation in the left-back position, keeping out David Alaba out on several occasions.
Davies possesses a wide range of skills like ball control and accurate passing. He has particularly impressed with his speed down the flanks, something he demonstrated to full effect against Chelsea in the Champions League.
The 20-year old prodigy has set the Bundesliga stage alight since his debut, coming off the bench to net an incredible hat-trick against Augsburg. He has netted nine more times in all competitions in ten appearances.
🟡Erling Braut Haaland⚫
— FootTheBall (@FootTheBall) December 29, 2020
Haaland has simply carried on from where he left off at RB Salzburg. The Norwegian teenager’s imperious exploits have now bolstered Dortmund’s push for the Bundesliga title.
His budding partnership with Jadon Sancho has also been exciting to watch. The young striker would surely aim to replicate his goal-scoring heroics once again when the Bundesliga season resumes this weekend.
Youssoufa Moukoko has been scoring for fun for Borussia Dortmund’s U19s. Having recently made his top-flight debut just a day after turning 16, he made his debut the following day when Dortmund brushed aside Hertha Berlin 5-2 this season.
If that sounds a little early, it’s not when you consider Moukoko has scored 141 goals in 88 youth team appearances and counting since rapidly ascending the junior ranks, and it’s even harder to argue against his inclusion in Favre’s squad at the earliest opportunity given that the youngster has already hit three consecutive hat-tricks for the Black-Yellows’ U19s this season.
And any doubters need look no further than Moukoko’s potential tutor-turned-partner-in-crime for an endorsement of the Dortmund prodigy’s pedigree.
“Moukoko is much better than I was at his age. I have never seen such a good 15-year-old in my life,” said Haaland after training alongside Moukoko in pre-season. “The advantage for him is that he’s already playing for Dortmund at the age of 15. At his age, I was still playing for my home town of Bryne.”
There may only be room for one forward in that particular formation, but Haaland is eager to see what would happen if they were together on the pitch at the same time. “Id love to play alongside him,” he said at the final whistle.
“I think he’s the biggest talent in the world right now. He’s 16 years and one day old, that’s amazing. He has a big career ahead of him. We’re lucky to have him.”
Moukoko’s youth, technical ability and evident thirst for knowledge and improvement suggest that he will become a highly versatile – and important – cog in the Dortmund frontline for years to come.
Clearly, there are ample options ahead for Moukoko. Wherever he lines up at senior level, he is guaranteed to shine.
In Giovanni Reyna, Borussia Dortmund might have discovered the next Christian Pulisic. An American international just like the now Chelsea-bound star, Reyna impressed with the U19-BVB side during the first half of the campaign before making a move to the senior team.
Reyna has featured in all of Dortmund’s Bundesliga games since his call-up, showing great promise with his performances.
The 17-year-old was on target in BVB’s loss to Werder Bremen in the DFB-Pokal Cup, in the process becoming the youngest player to score a goal in the competition.
He is now touted to be the US national team’s next big thing.
Jones has already captained Liverpool – becoming the youngest player to do so at just 19 years of age – and boasts a Premier League winners’ medal.
Now, it’s about nailing down a place in the starting lineup. Jones’ stellar performances at the U23 level led to a promotion to the first team, and he found himself right at home, needing little time to adjust to the demands of top-flight football.
His composure on the ball is superlative for a player of his age, and his versatility in midfield should be an asset to manager Jurgen Klopp. Jones signed a long-term contract with the Reds in the off-season and he should have more chances to rotate into Klopp’s midfield.
He’s one of the best finishers in the league, he doesn’t have a weak foot, and he’s only going to get better if United can keep up their current form.
He may not be as good as Marcus Rashford or Anthony Martial yet, but Greenwood has by far the highest ceiling of the three, and if Ole carries on playing him, he could be frighteningly good, more of world-class.
𝘽𝙞𝙜 moment ❤️
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) October 29, 2020
Despite Greenwood’s remarkable return of 21 goal contributions in limited minutes last season, the manager might look for a bigger name with more experience to play in that right-hand channel.
It would be a shame for sure, but Solskjaer may not want to take any risks in the position he’s in. Sancho or Ousmane Dembele may be too good to pass up, and Greenwood’s first team spot would be the most vulnerable if they do sign another big attacking player. Greenwood is Manchester United and England’s future, but it might be still be too early to expect consistent play time from the youngster.
Despite being only 17, Germany-born England youth international Jamal Musiala has broken into Bayern Munich’s first-team picture with his own rapid development.
He spent much of his childhood in England, where he and his family moved when he was seven. The attacking midfielder spent four months with Southampton before being spotted by Chelsea.
+3 points✅ pic.twitter.com/7I5N00TEKj
— Jamal Musiala (@JamalMusiala) December 16, 2020
Despite boasting a broad physique tailor-made to slither through opposition defences, Musiala admits he wants to add some more muscle to his rangy 6′ tall frame.
The Germany-born attacking midfielder prefers playing as a No.10 in behind the striker, but he can also play as a No.9. Predominantly right footed, but more than capable of using his left when needed, he also prides himself on his powerful shot.
The Bundesliga title race just got a bit hotter as RB Leipzig has announced the signing of Dominik Szoboszlai.
While Bayern Munich and those other clubs were often listed as potential suitors, it was always clear that RB Leipzig had the inside track on signing Szoboszlai.
The immensely talented Hungary international has nine goals and 10 assists in 21 games across all competitions this season for Salzburg.
Szoboszlai who can be deployed centrally as an attacking midfield or out-wide as a winger or wide-midfielder, should make an immediate impact for Julian Nagelsmann’s squad, which has struggled offensively at times this season.
With Szoboszlai in town, Nagelsmann can get back to the training ground and devise new and innovative ways to deploy his new weapon. There is no doubt that this makes Die Roten Bullen an even more viable contender for the Bundesliga crown this season.
Jens Petter Hauge
Despite falling short of qualification to their first Euros since 2000, there is plenty of reason for Norway fans to be optimistic about the new decade.
From Martin Ødegaard to Sander Berge to Erling Haaland, there is an unprecedented amount of Norwegian youngsters who are thriving in Europe’s top five leagues, and the next prospect who’s in line for a breakthrough campaign is Jens Petter Hauge.
At 16 years of age, Hauge signed his first professional contract, and the following day, he scored a hat-trick on his professional debut, having come on as a substitute in the 64th minute.
Whilst Hauge has only made one start under Stefano Pioli thus far, he has demonstrated the talent and intelligence needed to secure a starting spot in his first two months in Italy.
Going up against Napoli at the San Paolo, Hauge quickly changed proceedings after being subbed on. The Norwegian received the ball on the left flank, held off Kostas Manolas, before leaving the Greek center back in his dust with an audacious step-over and calmly slotting past Alex Meret.
Nominally a left winger, Hauge is best on his right foot, cutting into the middle of the pitch to either get a shot off or combine with teammates. Although a right-footed left winger can often have a detrimental effect on his team with the middle of the park becoming overly congested, an inverted winger like Hauge is precisely what Milan need on the left side of their pitch.