Forget those knobby “best of 2010” lists, we want to look forward not back. We want to know what’s shaking in 2011 hip daddy, not went down in groove town way back when. Ya dig? (Trust us, this kind of lingo is how everyone will be speaking in 12 months).
So using BBM’s global scouting network (and we’re not talking about the hidden cameras in the girls toilets), we’ve hunted out the top five youngsters to watch out for in 2011.
And just to make it more interesting, we’ve ruled out players currently plying their trade in the Premier League – otherwise it’d just be the same old names you see every week. Ta-dah!
Connor Wickham (17) Ipswich, striker
Admittedly we’ve put Connor into the top five on nationality more than anything, but you can bet diamonds this boy wonder will be partnering Andy Carroll up front in about seven years time. Well maybe not diamonds. A fiver would be worth a punt though. We’d say a tenner but Carroll could well be doing a stretch for assault by 2018.
Anyway, back to Connor. A giant at 6ft 3ins – and still growing – he towers above those at his age range. For England’s Under-17 side he bulldozed through defences at the European Championships last year, which the Three Lions won and a big-money Premier League move seems almost inevitable this year. It’s just a question if when not if.
Thiago (19) Barcelona, midfielder
If there’s one thing Barcelona do well, it’s… well actually they excel in pretty much every area of football. Their Youth Acadamy is no different with no fewer than SIX of the players who started against Holland in the World Cup Final coming through Barca’s ranks.
So who’s next off the factory shelf then? Say hello to Thiago. Aged just 19, he’s already being likened to Xavi because of his passing ability. In fact, the only reason he’s not made more appearances for Barca is because he’s, well, playing for Barca. With his contract up in the summer though, we can almost hear the shuffle of Man City sheiks boarding a plane to Spain. Will he want to leave the world’s best club for the big bucks abroad? We’ll see in January.
Erik Lamela (18) River Plate, midfielder
Heard the one about the Argentine 12-year-old that Barcelona tried to sign? No, this isn’t Lionel Messi we’re talking about but another South American sensation.
Lamela was targeted by Barca’s scouts but failed to agree a move. Six years later and after becoming a key part of River Plate’s team he is wanted by Europe’s big boys once again.
Real Madrid, AC Milan, Juventus and Manchester City have all been rumoured to be chasing the £10million-rated starlet who has lived up to his early hype with some impressive performances in the famous River shirt.
Neymar (18) Santos, striker
Like Olivia Newton-John dressed in leathers and shaking her tits at John Travolta, this is the one they all want. Honey. Chelsea, Manchester City, Real Madrid, AC Milan, Inter Milan, Wycombe – it seems every club out there wants a piece of Brazilian boyhood brilliance. Weirdly, however, he refused to join any of the aforementioned last season, instead opting to sign a new contract at home town club Santos. Surely it’s only a matter of time before the lad officially known as the 15th new Pele moves to Europe.
Romelu Lukaku (17) Anderlecht, striker
Don’t let the fact he plays in Belgium fool you, this boy is not just good – he’s fucking awesome. Aged 16, he was last season’s top scorer in the Belgium top flight and has continued that form this season with 14 goals in 28 games. He’s 17 now but you wouldn’t think it – he’s 6ft 4ins and weighs in at around 14 stone. Rumours abound that kiddy-fiddler Arsene Wenger might make a bid – although the £20million price tag might put him off.