The new world beaters #4 Paul Pogba

Sir Alex Ferguson knew that the boy had potential, he could see that in him from day one. It was definitely one that got away for Manchester United. Fergie did everything possible to keep Paul Pogba at the club, and not only did he send Patrice Evra to his house to have one last go at convincing him to stay, United offered him their highest ever contract for a reserve player.

But, in the end, the deal had been done, and the young Frenchman was on his way to Juventus, and also on his way to becoming a superstar, on the books of Barcelona, Real Madrid and Chelsea to name just a few.

In his fairly short career so far, he has already won two Italian cups, three Italian Super cups, and four Serie A titles, and there will surely be more to come, whether that be with Juve or another big team.

Pogba is impressive in all areas, as he can combine pace, strength and power, along with outrageous skill and a fearsome shot from midfield, so there really isn’t any wonder why there is such hype around him.

His age and attributes would suggest that he really could become a world beater, and he began doing it on the world stage two years ago, when he had an impressive World Cup campaign as France reached the quarter finals, whilst picking up the ‘Young Player’ award.

However, where he will really be striving to prove just how good a player he really is is at this summer’s Euro 2016 in his home nation of France, and there shouldn’t be any reason why he can’t steal the show, and be as influential as fellow countryman Zinedine Zidane was in his day.

Still, although he shares a similar skill level with Zidane, he is often likened to Patrick Viera, and if his career can reach the heights of the Arsenal invincible, then of course Pogba himself would be delighted, but the question is, what team will he be playing for?

Juve, who paid nothing for the Frenchman in 2012, would of course love to cash in on their star, but keeping him at the club would definitely be their ideal world, whilst it is generally unknown what Pogba wants from his own career, whether that be staying in Italy, or moving elsewhere.

Manchester United contract dispute aside, La Pioche has acted as a true professional in his short career so far both on and off the pitch, and providing that he keeps it that way, the future looks bright – not that anyone really knows what the future is for Paul Pogba, but still, there is no doubting that the skilful classy midfielder is going to play a big part in the future of football itself.

The new world beaters #3 Kevin De Bruyne

From not making the grade at Chelsea to setting the Premier League alight in his first season at Manchester City, Kevin De Bruyne could be something special, if, of course, he isn’t already.

The Belgian, who is still just 24 years old, has big potential, and the move to City could be his big chance to show the world what he’s made of.

He has been very impressive so far in England, but it didn’t all go his way in his last spell in this country.

After being signed from Genk in 2012, De Bruyne went through various loan spells in both Belgium and Germany, before Jose Mourinho said he wanted him back at Chelsea, and so he returned to London for the start of the 2013/14 season.

However, it was suggested that De Bruyne was promised more game time than he actually got, and after just half a season and very little game time, the Belgian took it upon himself to tell Mourinho that he wanted to leave.

And in January 2014, his time at Chelsea was up, as Wolfsburg brought him to Germany for a fee of £15m.

This move, De Bruyne thought, would give him a significantly increased chance of playing at the World Cup that summer, and it seemed to work a treat as the Belgian had an exceptional qualifying campaign, dazzling defences with goals, assists and all round impressive play. The end result was a place booked in Brazil.

His good qualifying campaign was accompanied by an equally good start to life at Wolfsburg, and in the end it was inevitable that he would be called up for his country’s World Cup squad that summer.

On the whole, the tournament didn’t go too badly, but there is still a sense that Belgium could have gone further than the quarter finals, where they were knocked out to eventual runners up Argentina in a 1-0 defeat. De Bruyne had a reasonable tournament and he scored an extra time goal as they saw off USA in the round of 16, but his hopes had been set higher than being knocked out at the time they did.

However, that didn’t bother the youngster at all, as he followed up a respectable World Cup campaign with an even more incredible season with Wolfsburg, as they defied the odds and finished 2nd in the Bundesliga behind only Bayern Munich – and guess who was at the heart of it all.

Deployed in a central attacking position with the freedom roam by Dieter Hecking, he was able to cause havoc in opposition defences, and was undoubtedly  the stand out performer in an historic season for the Wolves, who also achieved German Cup success, as De Bruyne scored in a 3-1 victory over Borussia Dortmund in the final.

Those performances then earned him yet another move, which would see him return to England in the form of a Manchester City player for around £55 million.

As you would expect there was immediate hype around him in the UK. He was the Premier League’s next big thing. And despite having all this pressure, he has excelled in his first season with City.

After scoring on his full debut, he has been a pivotal part of Manchester City’s season, and his recent injury has also coincided with a drop in form of a side who appear to be missing a world class player – and who wouldn’t.

And although signs are showing that De Bruyne already is one of the world’s best, the future offers the possibility of even more success.

Firstly, there is the small matter of the European championships coming up this summer, where Belgium are among the favourites to win the tournament. The squad looks like it could be finally reaching its potential, and depending on his form, the competition could be pivotal to De Bruyne’s career.

Secondly, Pep Guardiola is set to take over the reigns in Manchester next season, and it could be the start of a new era for the club. How will he use De Bruyne? Can he win the title? Will they do well in the Champions League? It looks like the story of the Premier League’s next gem has only just begun…



The new world beaters #2 Neymar

When you look to the future of football, you look to James Rodriguez, Antoine Griezmann, Kevin De Bruyne, but, most of all, you look to Neymar. Outrageous talent and skill have lead to comparisons with Pele and team-mate Lionel Messi, but Neymar is Neymar. He is a unique player. And most of all, a very, very good player, who has the potential to get even better.

Born on 5th February 1992, the Brazilian starlet lived in a family where money was tight, but he was closely bonded with his loved ones, and they made the most of what little cash they had, for example lighting candles when there was no electricity. He also had to make the most of what little space he had to play football, but as he said in his autobiography, “Improvising is essential in football. I learned this early in life.”

The young future star would set up the furniture in his grandfather’s house and go dribbling around the obstacles, honing his technique. He would be the commentator, narrating his imaginary games that he played with his cousins and sister, Rafaela.

On March 7th 2009 he made his debut for Santos as a sixteen year old against Oeste, and he only had to wait a week longer to get his first goal in a 3-0 victory over Mogi Mirim.

It was never debated that he had talent, but there were questions over his attitude, with a tendency to stray adrift from the law. Many people said that he was an overhyped star being payed too much money with too much pressure on him to deliver. Many even said that a move to Europe would be a bad idea. But how wrong could they be.

Before his eventual move to Barcelona in 2013, he scored five goals in an 8-1 win over Guaraniin the Brazilian cup, he scored a goal in the second leg of the final of the Libertadores Cup as Santos beat Penarol, he scored on his international debut for Brazil against USA, he scored four goals over two legs of the state championship final as Santos won 7-2, he won a silver medal at the Olympics, and he scored a hat-trick for Brazil against China. All before his 21st birthday. And there was much more to come.

Despite a trophyless first season with Barcelona in which he should glimpses of his talent, he performed well in Brazil’s home World Cup in 2014, scoring 4 goals, before finishing the tournament early due to injury.

The Brazilian had performed well despite the huge pressure surrounding him at such a young age, and he kicked on from that the next season, forming a formidable trio with team mates Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez as Barcelona won an historic treble, with Neymar scoring in the Copa Del Rey final and the Champions League final.

That was the season where Neymar showed the world just how good he is, and along with his blistering start to 2015/16, he finished third in the Ballon D’Or, which is something to be proud of when you’ve finished behind Ronaldo and Messi.

Although the incredible expectation will probably never ease up for Neymar, he seems to have got used to the pressure, as he showed with his goals in the finals last season, and as long as he stays mature and on the right track, there is a bright future ahead of him.

But it is maturity that has sometimes not been there back home with Santos or with the national team, whereas he has always kept his head since he’s been at Barcelona. He demonstrated this when, after he was fine all season with Barca, he lost his head at the Copa America with Brazil and was sent off.

If he can show the same level of maturity that he does with Barcelona with the national team, there is no reason why Neymar won’t go on to become one of the all time greats.

The new world beaters #1 Griezmann

For the past 7 years, world football and Ballon D’Or awards have been dominated by, well, you know who. But, as the Messi and Ronaldo era begins to draw to a close, it is time for a new crop of outstanding talents to take the reigns. This series will be analysing the potential new world beaters, the players who, in four or five years time, could be the real deal.

We will begin with 24 year-old Frenchman Antoine Griezmann. Griezmann started his career at Spanish side Real Sociedad in 2009 after spending 4 years in their youth academy, and immediately became a regular starter in the left wing position. In his first professional season, he scored 6 goals in 40 appearances including a goal against Huesca in his first start. His performances helped Real Sociedad gain promotion to Spain’s top division in 2010.

The following season in the top flight, having turned down interest from Arsenal, Manchester United and Lyon, Griezmann, now under a contract until 2015, had another good season in which he scored 7 goals in in 39 games. This was when people first started to take notice of the young talent, as he displayed skill, ability, and from a young age, he was scoring quite a few goals.

After three more impressive years for the Basque team which included the goal that secured qualification for the Champions League and a stunning overhead kick against the club he supports Lyon, Griezmann attracted interest from Atletico Madrid, who were willing to pay the 30million euro release clause in his contract. It was then that he decided that it was time to move onto a bigger club and challenge for silverware, as Atletico had just beaten all the odds and won La Liga and become just seconds away from winning the Champions League.

In his first season with Atletico,  Griezmann delighted the Madrid faithful with 25 goals in 54 games along with some dazzling performances, and after the recent success of forwards Radamel Falcao and Diego Costa at the club, it looked to be that he was overshadowing fellow attackers Fernando Torres and Mario Mandzukic and becoming a real star.

This season Griezmann has continued his rich vein of form, and it’s looking like this so called ‘form’ is more likely to be permanent class. With this summer’s Euro 2016 in his home country of France, he will have the chance to produce his magic on an even bigger stage and show the world what he is capable of.

However, it could be possible that if he, ironically, performs TOO well in this summer’s tournament, he could be snapped up by local rivals Real Madrid, as club president Florentino Perez seems to have a habit of spending record fees on ‘the next big thing’. Surely, looking at the history if these types of players moving to Real, it would be a huge gamble, as it seems that Real Madrid at times look like an unbalanced team of superstars that put the manager under pressure to play them all and therefore not play his favoured system, and therefore, at times, it has cost Real trophies. Of course, some of these signings have been successful, like Ronaldo and James, but meanwhile, some of them, not so successful, like Kaka or depending on opinion, Gareth Bale. If he does decide to go there, Griezmann will hope to be in the bracket of  the former, rather than the latter.

Some suggestions have been made that a move to the Premier League could be on, and the most likely club for that would be Arsenal, with there lack of firepower up front. The move could be increasingly likely if Arsenal win the league this season, but it still doesn’t seem all that likely that move could be on.

What does seem to be a possibility would be a move to his home country, and PSG or Lyon would be candidates, PSG because they want to become a major force in world football and conquer Europe, Lyon because they want to shift PSG off their throne in domestic French football, and also because Lyon is the team that he supports.

So, Antoine Griezmann. 24 years young, a bright talent with a bright future – but we will see if success beckons.