The 2010-11 European football season has just kicked off after the month-long World Cup action. As the players warm up for another gruelling eight-month season, we profile some of the young players to watch out for.
Javier Hernandez (Manchester United)
When Man U boss Alex Ferguson signed him up from Mexican club Chivas de Guadalajara for a reported $15 million (Rs70.2 crore) price in April, he was quite an unknown entity. But in the 71st minute of the World Cup knockout game against rivals Argentina, Hernandez showed why the veteran coach loosened his purse strings. Getting the ball on the D, Hernandez skipped past two defenders to let fly a left-footed thunderbolt on the roof of the net. Surely Man U fans cannot be faulted for their high expectations from the 22-year-old.
David Silva (Manchester City)
Spain’s World Cup winger Silva is coming off a career-best season with Valencia, scoring 10 goals for the Spanish club in 2009-10. A product of the Valencia youth development programme, the 21-year-old shot into prominence at Euro 2008, but is coming off an average World Cup dominated by fellow striker and former Valencia teammate David Villa. Silva, transferred for £24 million (Rs173.5 crore), will have to compete for the first team with Brazilian playmaker Robinho and Paraguan Roque Santa Cruz, at the Roberto Mancini-led big spending City.
Mesut Ozil (Real Madrid)
The 21-year-old earned his stripes with the young German team in South Africa 2010 because of his swift movements, excellent ball control and the ability to make that killer final pass. Playing at the Santiago Bernabeu (Madrid, Spain) has its own pressures, but expectations transcend into something else after being named the “German Zidane”. At the World Cup, he scored a goal and assisted in another, forming the backbone of the German counter attack. Bought over from Bremen in the German Bundesliga, he could be Real’s playmaker in the absence of an injured Kaka in the first half of the season.
Bojan Krkic (Barcelona)
The 20-year-old Krkic holds many records at Barcelona because of his early start. At 17 years and 22 days, he was the youngest player at the club to make his Champions League debut in September 2007 and followed it up to become the youngest goal scorer for the Catalans the next month. He had 10 goals in the 2007-08 season, but one would hope that coach Josep Guardiola gives him more starts this season as he competes with the likes of Lionel Messi, David Villa and Zlatan Ibrahimovic for Barca in front of the goal.
Thomas Mueller (Bayern Munich)
Mueller’s five goals and three assists at the World Cup earned him the coveted Golden Boot award at the World Cup, pipping David Villa and Dutch playmaker Wesley Sneijder. A product of Bayern’s youth system, the 20-year-old Mueller will be more keenly watched this season after becoming the youngest player since Pele to score more than one goal in the knockout stage of the World Cup. He has signed a new contract to stay with Bayern Munich till 2015.