Wednesday, 22 May 2013


Who is he? Where does he play?

He's the player providing a degree of comfort to those Borussia Dortmund fans upset over Mario Gotze's impending departure to Bayern Munich.  Never fear! Because the 20 year old Leitner is one of an impressive degree of stock available to Jurgen Klopp in midfield, with his emergence promising to brighten the lives of Dortmund's support as much as the yellow shirts they wear on the banks of the River Rhine.

Have to feel for the lad with such talent in front of him?

Just like the Dortmund dream didn't die when Shinji Kagawa left for Manchester United, with talents like Leitner, it won't die when Gotze heads to Munich after Saturday's small matter of the Champions League final. Only 20 and able to control matches from deep, to the extent he has drawn comparison to Bastian Schweinsteiger, he has been handed 10 starts by Klopp this year, as well as a further 19 as a substitute. This is on top of the 17 appearances he made as Dortmund bought home the Bundesliga title in 2011/2012.

His standout performance came in the Champions League at home to Manchester City, where he controlled midfield with composure and energy alongside Ilkay Gundogan.

Klopp certainly has an eye for a talent then doesn't he?

The eccentric 44 year old coach certainly does. After receiving his footballing education Unterfohring on the outskirts of Munich, Leitner joined 1860 Munich after a trial, impressing Klopp in his debut game, a DFB Pokal match against SV Verl. 17 matches later and he was a Dortmund player, now seen as the next big thing and the heir to Sebastian Kehl's defensive midfield spot. Having sad that, Leitner can also play on the wing, given his balance and vision which has allowed him to be involved inn creating a chance every 40 minutes. His slick passing, an 82% pass completion rate, together with a 73% shooting accuracy suggests he is a big threat in the final third.

So why is he being primed for a defensive midfield spot?

VERSATILITY?!!? Isn't that a lovely word? His main game is similar to Gundogan in that he can pass the ball on as well as getting involved with breaking the opposition's possession up, as shown by a huge tackle-success rate of 72%. He stands at a minute 5ft 9, but that doesn't phase him against more imposing players, chasing down the ball like an enthusiastic puppy down in the local park. His technique, control and comfort on the ball allows him to be effective anywhere on the pitch.

What does the future hold?

A possible breakthrough into the Dortmund first team in Gotze Anno Domini, or a loan spell should Klopp find another way of dealing with his loss and deems Leitner not quite good enough, yet. There should be no doubts about Leitner's potential however with him being raised in the same set-up that has produced many of those involved in Saturday's final.

Germany will also reap the benefits of Leitner's ability to cherish the ball and drift into pockets of space with excellent technique and vision. After first appearing for Austria's under-17s, he chose to represent the country of his birth at the same level, scoring a rather potent 7 goals in 8 games. He is now a regular in the much-gifted under-21 team, picking up 9 caps so far.

Not enough!? You can read more about him here

Tuesday, 21 May 2013


Who is he? Where does he play?

He is a 19 year old midfielder hoping to be the next talent to emerge into Bayern Munich's highly impressive squad. Hoping to follow in the footsteps of Toni Kroos, Thomas Muller and Bastian Schweinsteiger, Can has been playing regularly for Bayern Munich's second string, but club president Uli Hoeness has identified him as one for the future amid a breakthrough into the senior squad.

What did he have to say?

He called him "the midfielder of the future and a jewel for Bayern Munich", which is high praise indeed. Steffen Freund, his coach in Germany's under-17 World Cup squad in 2011, also got in on the plaudits, calling him the "most complete midfielder" he'd ever seen in his career. He is tall, strong and boasts excellent technique, able to play in the heart of midfield or further forward, as he did out in Mexico for the under-17s. During his time in the Bayern Munich II squad, he was also deployed as a centre-half such is the faith the club installs in his versatile talent and natural reading of the game.

Yet another option for Guardiola then? 

Jupp Heycnkes had given Can a couple of opportunities on the fringes of the full squad, starting him at left-back (this lad can play anywhere) against Borussia Dortmund in the DHL Supercup, the German version of the Community Shield. He has had to settle for a place on the bench since then as Bayern have demolished all-comers in an irresistible campaign, but he has ben entrusted with four Bundesliga appearances, scoring 2 goals. Guardiola will be well-stocked in central-midfield, he Can call upon his talented deep-lying playmaker if he is forced too. (See what I did there).

Joachim Loew gets him too? We're jealous...

Yep, so we should be. An under-layer of sublime German talent under the likes of Gotze, Reus and co. all points to a decade of German dominance on the international stage. It is interesting that nationality should arise however, with Can being of Turkish descent, he has chosen not to follow in the footsteps of Yildaray Basturk, Mehmet Scholl and the Altintop twins, all former Turkish-German talents, in representing Turkey, but he will play for Germany instead. He has already captained the under-17 generation and has since played for the under-19 group.

Next stop, the seniors....?

One step at a time for Can you would think. He's got the Can-do attitude (sorry... couldn't resist) to emerge as a professional among some very gifted individuals at Bayern so you would predict that his career will be very bright. One option would be for Guardiola to send the teenager out on loan, similar to how Kroos developed with a season at Bayer Leverkusen. It would help his development as Bayern suffer death by outrageously talented central-midfielder.

Thursday, 16 May 2013


Who is he? Where does he play?

Benfica may have been unlucky in losing their seventh consecutive European final to Chelsea on Wednesday night, but they showed enough talent and skill to suggest it would have taken a black heart to react humorously to their extraordinary "bottle"-job. They have lost just 2 games this season, both this week, and a potential treble as gone out of the window. One must feel mightily sorry for their players, including 22 year old Eduardo Salvio, for their dramatic plight.

Why? Did he have a bet on it? Will he suffer physical injury as a result?

No, the young Argentinean winger deserved some success for his fine performances on the right side of Jorge Jesus's 4-2-3-1 system after returning from Athletico Madrid to Benfica for a club record 13.5 million Euros last summer. Despite standing at a relatively small 5ft 7, Salvio makes use of sublime balance and quick feet to tease his full-back, as well as possessing an impressive cross to supply Oscar Cardozo in the middle. He plays as a conventional winger, using a quick turn of pace to pick the ball up and run directly, preferring to take his man on out wide.

Return to Benfica? He's been here before?

Yes, it's slightly complicated. He began in his native South America with Lanus, scoring nine goals in his debut season before helping them win the following season's Copa Sudamerica. His rise earned him a 10 million Euro move to Athletico Madrid in January 2010, before a loan to Benfica was arranged the following season. Salvio impressed in Portugal, winning the League Cup and scoring 10 goals. A calf injury saw him go back to Madrid, where he spent the 2011/2012 season (winning the Europa League) and despite becoming a regular with 31 appearances for Diego Simeone's side, he returned to the Stadium of Light last July. It has been a strange journey for a player who is only 22, but now he seems to have settled in Lisbon.

Back to Athletico next year then?

I know you're being cynical, but it's unlikely. Salvio seems to have indeed settled into Jesus' plans, starting 38 games for Benfica this season, scoring 11 goals. Even though he does play as a conventional winger, his goals are a product of his adeptness on his left foot, cutting across his marker with pace to get on the end of balls into the box. It is this acceleration and clever, incisive runs that make up the main attributes of his game, as well as nimble, quick-footed skill that allows him to be comfortable on the ball when surrounded by numerous markers. His nous and reading of attacking situations are what elevated him to a call-up to the full-Argentina squad back when he was a teenager in 2009, he now has 5 caps.

Anything else to add?

Not really, even though Salvio's potential is clearly there, he will have to mature further before a bigger club takes a genuine look at his availability, but he is definitely one to look out for.....

Tuesday, 14 May 2013


Who is he? Where does he play?

Young and plying his trade in Germany, you'd be delighted to know he's not one of their nimble, highly-technical youth products who have been bred to lead the land of Vorsprung Durch Technik into an era of World domination like the second coming of the Aryan philosophy. Oh no, this lad is a well-built South Korean striker playing for Hamburg.

What does he offer Hamburg then?

Creativity and goals mainly, from his usual position on the right side of attacking midfield or as a centre-forward. He has 12 goals this season as Hamburg have struggled in the Bundesliga, showing his poaching quality when used as a central-forward. Coach Thorsten Fink, who gave the Korean a chance when Mladen Petric and Paolo Guerrero left last summer, prefers to field him on the right side of his attacking 4-3-3. He cannot be described as a "natural winger" however, as the opportunity to beat the full-back conventionally is often sacrificed for the chance to cut inside to get shots away, he has hit 2.4 shots per game this season as opposed to 1.4 dribbles. Fink has realised that this means the left-footed Son is more at home on the right side.

His direct quality is an asset to Hamburg, though Son does need to work on his vision and productive talent in the final third, as just 1 assist and 0.5 chances created per game suggests a scarcity of creativeness in his game.

"He knows the route to goal" then, to borrow the cliche?

He certainly does, but he has also developed an ability to drop deeper to run at defenders with his impressive pace and energy. Blessed with deceivingly brilliant technique, he can glide past players and act as the catalyst for Hamburg attacks, in much the same way as fellow Asian Kagawa did for Dortmund. Possessing immense close control and a robust physical frame, he can take the ball whilst holding off defenders, offering a clear outlet for Hamburg to launch attacks. His relentless work-rate and strong work-ethic also causes him to be a nightmare for defenders off the ball, chasing and harrying them as Hamburg press high up the field.

Might he be moving on in the summer?

With doubts about his new contract in Germany, Hamburg general manager Frank Arnesen has revealed that may be a possibility with Arsenal and Tottenham both in the frame for the striker. Hamburg are struggling financially and believe that he may be enticed away for as little as £3 million after the club failed to secure European football for next season. Borussia Dortmund are believed to be keen on keeping Son in Germany, though Spurs are also intently linked on the Asian star who could follow in the footsteps of Kagawa and Park-Ji-Sung in making a success of himself in England. He certainly has the talent to do so.


Who is he? Where does he play?

He is Porto's 21 year old winger who has seemingly blossomed into one of the most coveted young players in Europe. Take the time to peruse around your local newsagent and you will the see the name of James Rodriguez, the play-maker who crazy-haired icon Carlos Valderrama identified as his successor as the stand out player of Colombian football, naming him "El Nuevo Pibe" (the new kid) as opposed to Valderrama's "El Pibe" (the Kid).

But what if we can't make it down to the local newsagents?

It's a free country after all and we can't force the motivation for people to stop lazing around and get down the shop, but what we can do is cater for your needs and tell you that Rodriguez is an attacking midfielder, able to play right across the attack. He plays predominantly on the left wing, but his versatility allows him to switch fluidly with Jackson Martinez, his fellow Colombian at Porto, who plays on the right.

His direct playing style, in which he favours dribbling at defenders instead of slowing play down to thread passes through in the final third, has drawn comparisons to Cristiano Ronaldo. This is down to his upper-body strength and sharp mind, which allows him to make the right decisions when playing at a high octane pace in attack. He isn't as tall and imposing as Ronaldo however, standing at just 6ft, he can drift around with his low centre of gravity and make attacking runs from almost any angle.

Cristiano Ronaldo!? That means he's very good. 

He definitely has the same characteristics, intelligent wing-play partnered with impressive athleticism. An average of 9.2 crosses per game and an average of 83% passes per game in the Champions League shows how unselfish his game can be, showing productivity with his creativity. He can also finish chances off with astute composure as his 10 goals from 18 games has helped Porto to move to the brink of another Liga Sagres title this season. His 2.9 shots per game suggests just how direct his game can be. 

Ooohhh... tell me more about his past....

He's only 21 remember, but his individual record is very impressive. He won the 2011 Toulon tournament as captain with Colombia's under-20 side, also being voted as the tournament's best player. He also captained the side at the 2011 under-20 World Cup, earning him a fast-track promotion to the senior squad, for whom he's made 12 appearances. He was also clocked at number 59 on the Guardian's countdown of the 100 Best Players in the World.

At club level, he won last season's LPFP award for breakthrough player and also won the Liga Sagres Golden Ball, which recognises Portugal's best domestic player, for 2012, becoming the youngest ever player to do so. After Andre Villas Boas gave the youngster a chance back in 2011, he has progressed rapidly and the £5 million Porto spent on him in 2009 seems now to be an absolute bargain.

He'll surely bring in a tidy profit then?

That's if Porto decide to sell of course. Manchester United have reportedly already had a £30 million bid knocked back as Sir Alex Ferguson is known to be a big admirer of the winger. Manchester United have still been repeatedly linked with the Colombian, with Nani and Anderson both mentioned as potential makeweights. Athletico Madrid have also been linked with the player who has a huge reputation right across the continent.

Wednesday, 8 May 2013


Who is he? Where does he play?

He is Pescara's diminutive central-midfielder who stands at a teeny 5ft 6 inches (167 cm), aged just 20 and already with a cap for the very-talented Colombian national side, he is recognised as one of the most promising talents in world football.

Great stuff, but seriously small, does that phase him?

It doesn't seem to. Mainly popping up in the attacking midfield area, his immediate instinct is to get his head up and look for the through ball, refusing to be stopped by the physical specimens of the Italian Serie A as he has created 19 chances, assisting 2 goals, from 12 starts this season. He is stereotypical of the South American creative playmaker, dropping deep into pockets of space to move the ball forward and link the play fluidly in attacking areas. He has attempted 719 passes this campaign, a superb rate for just 12 appearances, completing 87% of them, suggestive of his ability to keep the ball moving.

So an attacking midfielder then? In the number 10 mould?

His primary role is to pop up in areas between the lines to create chances, though he usually drops deep to use his technical qualities in order to carry the ball forward. He also averages 3 shots per game, gaining a reputation for shooting from long range with a superbly gifted left-foot. Blessed with wonderful technique, vision and a dangerous set-piece delivery, he really is a threat with the providing ball.

Do you have any third person testimony?


“He is a young man with great talent. We have high hopes for him. He has made his name at Pescara and we want to defend him from these [transfer] rumours. He needs to have some continuity and play regularly, enhancing his quality.” - Daniele Sebastiani, Pescara president, January 2013.

Will he stay with Pescara this summer?

Manchester United watched him in the South American under-20 Championship where he finished joint-top scorer with 5 goals, so they could have a move for the youngster in the pipeline. Links to Juventus and Lokomotiv Moscow have also been reported, whilst the player has personally suggested he would like to join the Andrea Stramaccioni revolution at Inter Milan.

Udinese have also been impressed with his form in Pescara

It is believed that Pescara would demand around 10 million Euros for his services, even though it looks unlikely they can hold on to the talented South American for much longer. However, with the under-20 World Cup looming in the summer, plus a potential call-up to the senior competition looking increasingly likely for Brazil next year, hey may stay in western Italy for a little longer.


Who is he? Where does he play?

He is Vitesse Arnhem's 24 year old Ivorian striker who has been scoring goals for fun over in Holland. A strapping lad at 6ft and weighing 85kg, defenders in the Dutch league may be getting a reprieve as he is linked with a move away from the Gelredome as his scintillating form has forced clubs from around Europe to sit up and take notice of his availability.

24? That's a bit old for us isn't it?

Perhaps, but when you're scoring 31 goals in 28 games in your second full season in a new league, it is hard to ignore. Bony is powerful, able to throw defenders around with his robust physical strength which also makes him a force in the air. He is not particularly quick, but he is adept at finding space with good movement, or even by shrugging defenders off in order to link the play. The defending in the Dutch league affords him a lot of space from which to work his quality, allowing him to make chances for himself and find space in the box.

This is what his game is about

Ivorian, big, powerful, plentiful scorer of goals, there is no surprise in the fact he is often described as the "new Didier Drogba".

Would that bode well for the future?

It remains to be seen. Scoring goals in the EreDivisie is good, but Afonso Alves, Middlesbrough's Brazilian figure of mockery, was potent, as was Bas Dost and Luuk De Jong who have both moved on to Germany. Bony's sheer athleticism and powerful strength will stand him in good stead against continental defences, but he may struggle against improved markers who will reduce the space he is allowed to produce his quality. 

The surprise at Bony's form is best summed up by this Dutch football blog, who indicated some may think he was on drugs if he was a cyclist. 70% conversion rate??? Test him for doping...

Will he move on in the summer?

Aston Villa had an £8 million bid rejected for him last summer before they moved for fellow striking powerhouse Christian Benteke, whilst Liverpool have also shown an interest. After signing from Sparta Prague for 4 million Euros, hitting 46 goals in 63 games and becoming a regular for the Ivory Coast with 18 caps, they should be prepared to make a substantial profit on the one they call "the African Hulk". He has also been linked with Chelsea and West Ham as the Premier League calls for another physically dominant force. 

Tuesday, 7 May 2013


Who is he? Where does he play?

He's Ajax's talented Danish youngster who is not Christian Eriksen. At 18, is 3 years younger than his fellow countryman but the similarities are clear. He can play as a centre-forward, or in his more natural role on the left side of a three-pronged attack. Like all good graduates from the famed academy in Amsterdam, Fischer is blessed with the basics of close control and astounding balance.

Ajax definitely like their Danes don't they?

They certainly do. After Frank Arnesen, Soren Lerby, Michael Laudrup and Jesper Gronkjaer have passed through history, Fischer has joined Eriksen and Nicolai Boilesen at the Amsterdam ArenA has Ajax's future looks eternally bright. The ex-Midtjylland teenager is tipped to be one of the most promising talents however, with his pace, technical ability and vision making him an awesome attacking force at such a tender age. He can play as a number 10, but the Dutch club view him as better feeding off the work of a play-maker, hence his impressive tally of 10 goals from 21 games so far this season.

So he plays out on the left?

He does, playing alongside the wonderfully gifted Eriksen, he has helped Ajax go four points clear at the top of the EreDivisie with performances which showcase his superb ability. He has earned comparisons to Dennis Bergkamp after scoring this lovely chip. He can finish chances off well and create them with skill and poise, starting out on the left but popping up in various positions as manager Frank De Boer urges fluency and cohesion in his 4-3-3. He is a nightmare to mark given his fantastic balance and wizardry on the ball.

All this at 18?

Yep, it's frightening right? After coming from Midtjylland for a fee of 1.3 million euros in 2011, he helped Ajax reach the final of the Next-Gen series in 2011 before De Boer saw fit to promote him into the senior side, saying he reminded him of Barcelona's midfield magician Andres Iniesta. He has been slowly immersed into the side since then as Ajax remain cautious with his progression, though he has won the prestigious Ajax Talent of the Year award for this campaign. He can drift into space, dribble from deep and finish chances off with unerring composure, but remember, he's only 18! Just take a minute to marvel at that if you will.

We'll see the name much more often then?

We almost definitely will. Ajax's business model will probably dictate his sale but given his burgeoning career in Amsterdam, he will be in no rush to move on. It is indicative of his growing reputation on the continent that Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal and AC Milan have all been linked with the 18 year old.

With 2 caps for the Denmark national team and at a club that will afford him first team chances to aid his progression, it is hard to see why Fischer would leave in a World Cup year. But he surely will be a huge talent to keep an eye out for.