2012: Ones To Watch

With 2012 almost upon us, a year that contains some noteworthy footballing dates, especially EURO 2012 and the Olympics, it is worth considering the men to keep an eye on for next year. Some you may have heard of, some you may have not, but this lot are set to make 2012 a year to remember.

  1. Mario Gotze – Whilst some in England may not be too familiar with this 19 year-old midfielder, the Germans are raving about their equivalent to Lionel Messi. German Football Association’s technical director Matthias Sammer called him “one of the best talents that we’ve ever had,” some praise considering this is the country that produced Franz Beckenbauer, Rudi Voller and Jurgen Klinsmann. He helped Dortmund to the German title last year and his speed, skill and creative ability have got Arsenal on the lookout. A move to Real Madrid looks more likely however, but watch out for this kid at the EUROS, he could light up the tournament.
  1. Phil Jones – You may say well Phil Jones has broken through in 2011 but there’s so much more to come from this highly talented superstar. A few eyebrows were raised given his £16.5million transfer fee, yet I doubt even Sir Alex expected him to have the impact he has done. Already looks a certainly for a seat on the plane to Poland and Ukraine, despite winning just 3 caps and he could well partner John Terry at the heart of defence. Just one thing Fergie, stop playing him in midfield.
  1. Ravel Morrison – 2012 is make or break for someone Manchester United rate very highly. Just 18, he inspired the Reds to their FA Youth Cup triumph last year and is said to be one of the more talented players to come off England most industrious production line. Attitude remains the problem though, indeed Morrison could well be in the first team squad already if it hadn’t been for run-ins on a number of occasions with the police. United are said to be at the end of their tether with him and given his contract runs out in the summer, he needs to buck up his ideas. Watch this space…
  1. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain – Arsene Wenger has already touted his young winger to have a big impact in the New Year. He signed in the summer from Southampton for £12million but has found first team chances limited so far. His race paw and strength make him a better version of Theo Walcott though, and if Alex gets a run in the Gunners side, Theo could well find his place under threat for both club and country.
  1. Wilfried Zaha –CrystalPalace’s 19 year-old hotshot has been lighting up the Championship with some wonderful performances and spectacular goals that have caught the eye of many a Premiership scout. Despite recently signing a new 5 year contract, it would be a surprise to see Zaha still wearing Palace colours by the end of 2012, indeed Barcelona and Bayern Munich were believed to be interested in securing his signature.
  1. Jack Butland – Unless you play Football Manager, you probably won’t be aware of Birmingham’s young goalkeeping sensation. At just 18 years of age, he is impressing between the sticks at League 2 Cheltenham Town and manager Chris Hughton has big plans for him when he returns in the summer. 5 appearances to his name in the England u21 jersey, Joe Hart could be facing some serious competition at long last for his spot between the Wembley posts.
  1. Connor Wickham – All the talk surrounded this lad when he signed for Sunderland in the summer but he seems to have been forgotten in the midst of the Black Cats miserable performances and Steve Bruce’s sacking. Found opportunities hard to come by despite Sunderland’s lack of strikers and has scored just one goal, struggling to justify his £8million price tag. However, I back him to come good in 2012 under Martin O’Neill’s supervision, he definitely has the natural ability and there were bigger teams than Sunderland after him in the summer.
  1. Luuk De Jong – The Netherlands are a team with great international pedigree and are always there or thereabouts come international tournament time. This summer will be no different and whilst the stars of yesteryear are long gone with the likes of Davids, Van Nistlerooy and Clarence Seedorf now collecting their pensions, it is time for a new breed of Dutch talent to step forward. One man who could light the touchpaper is Luuk De Jong, a talented 21 year-old striker from FC Twente. Already with 6 international appearances under his belt, his name is sure to pop up at some point this summer.
  1. Steven Fletcher – A surprise choice, but the Scottish striker is enjoying a purple patch in the Premier League despite Wolves’ poor form. Already notched 7 goals for a side that traditionally struggle in the forwards’ department, the joint-record signing could well have a few bigger teams sniffing around in January and the summer. Back him to continue his goal scoring form into the New Year.
  1. Ross Barkley – Everton have another supremely talented player on their books and just like Wayne Rooney before him, astronomical fees are already being mentioned. One can only hope the likes of Chelsea leave him well alone and allow Ross to continue his footballing development under the superb David Moyes as the tough tackling midfielder has made quite an impression already. Watch out for him and Jack Rodwell forming an all-English combination to ensure Moyes works wonders on Merseyside again.

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