With Europe’s big leagues gearing up for the start of their domestic league seasons we take a look at eight young players looking to kick on and take the Premier League, Serie A, La Liga, Bundesliga and Ligue 1 by storm.
Jordon Ibe, Liverpool
Raheem Sterling’s £49 million (Dh280m) move to Manchester City provoked much discussion this summer, but Liverpool will hope that all the talk will be about another young winger brought to the club in 2012 once the season gets under way this weekend. Following an impressive loan spell at Derby County, Ibe showed glimpses of his ability for Brendan Rodgers’s side last term, making 12 appearances in the Premier League. Quick and tricky, Ibe, 19, is an intelligent player who fits in well with Liverpool’s fluid attacking style. If he can improve his decision-making in the final third of the pitch, Ibe could be one of the stars of the campaign.
Daniele Rugani, Juventus
Gaetano Scirea, Franco Baresi, Alessandro Nesta, Fabio Cannavaro — Italian football has always been famed for the strength of its central defenders, and Rugani, 21, could be the man to continue that tradition. Back at Juventus after a two-year loan spell at Empoli, Rugani will be determined to become a regular member of both his club and country’s backline in 2015/16. Fast, athletic and rarely caught out of position Rugani is comfortable in possession: the archetypal modern-day centre-half. With Leonardo Bonucci, Giorgio Chiellini, Andrea Barzagli and Martin Caceres also around to call upon, Juve coach Max Allegri may just have the best pool of central defenders in Europe.
Pierre Hojbjerg, Bayern Munich
"I think the time has come for me to go a different way," a frustrated Hojbjerg said in an interview with Kicker magazine in November. Having made just 14 Bundesliga starts in three years for Bayern at that point, it looked likely that the 19-year-old Denmark international would seek pastures new this summer. Instead, Hojbjerg signed a new three-year deal earlier this year, and looks set to be a big part of Bayern's future. Given the other midfielders at Pep Guardiola's disposal, Hojbjerg could yet be loaned out to another German side — he joined Augsburg on a short-term loan in January — for the upcoming campaign to gain more experience.
Jose Gaya, Valencia
David Silva and Isco are among the world-class attacking midfielders to have graduated from Valencia’s academy in the last decade, but it seems that producing left-backs are the Spanish outfit’s speciality: Barcelona’s Jordi Alba and Bayern Munich’s Juan Bernat both began their careers at Mestalla, and Gaya looks like the next class act off the production line. Gaya, 20, is an attack-minded full-back capable of bombing up and down the flank for 90 minutes. After some promising showings in 2014/15, Gaya, who was born in Alicante, will be looking to progress farther this year as Valencia celebrate a return to the Uefa Champions League.
Adama Traore, Monaco
Multibillionaire oligarchs may be expected to simply throw money at big-name signings when they take control of a football club but, after an initial lavish outlay, Dmitry Rybolovlev has introduced a different approach at Monaco, one based on the purchasing and nurturing of young talent. Traore, a Malian winger who was voted Player of the Tournament at the Under 20 World Cup in New Zealand in June, scoring four times, looks to be the most promising of the latest recruits. Full of drive and thrust in the engine room, Traore, 19, signed from Ligue 1 rivals Lille on a five-year deal, is also a fine passer with an eye for goal.
Andreas Pereira, Manchester United
Louis van Gaal has shown throughout his managerial career that he is willing to give young players a chance, with Pereira a potential beneficiary of the Dutchman’s mantra this term. The Belgium-born Brazilian has been deployed in a number of different positions in his fledgling career to date, but, with his creativity and invention, identifies the No 10 role as his preferred one. He may find game-time hard to come by in his favoured central playmaking role, but Pereira is talented and versatile enough to excel on either wing, and could be the latest youngster to make the breakthrough at Old Trafford.
Mattia Perin, Genoa
Dino Zoff called him the “heir to Buffon”, high praise indeed from the legendary Italian goalkeeper, but the fact that Perin has been Genoa’s No 1 for two years now makes it easy to forget that he is still just 22. Agile and commanding, Perin is a bundle of energy between the sticks. A third excellent season in Serie A would make it difficult for Genoa to hold onto him for much longer, with Arsenal, Liverpool and AC Milan all linked with a move for the 1.87m-tall custodian over the past 12 months.
Luciano Vietto, Atletico Madrid
Labelling Vietto a possible breakout star in 2015/16 would ignore the terrific campaign he enjoyed for Villarreal last time out, but the upcoming season represents an opportunity for the 21-year-old Argentine to confirm himself as one of the hottest young strikers in Europe. Diego Simeone and Atletico saw enough in Vietto’s performances for Villarreal — he scored 20 goals in all competitions last term — to part with €20 million (Dh80.4m) to bring him to the Vicente Calderon this summer. Explosive in the area and lethal in front of goal, it is easy to see why Vietto is being compared to compatriot Sergio Aguero.