Football Features

12 rising stars we can’t wait to see during the international break

By Ben Green

Published: 15:35, 19 March 2019

Another international break means another chance for football’s up-and-coming stars to showcase their worth and introduce themselves on the global stage.

With important Euro 2020 qualifying matches coming up some managers have turned to their nation’s budding starlets to get the job done.

Germany coach Joachim Low has already axed the old guard, heralding the start of a new era for Die Mannschaft, while Fernando Santos has called up four uncapped players for Portugal.

But it isn’t just qualifying matches where managers have called on their nation’s promising stars, with international friendlies being played out across the globe, and there are some exciting names to look out for.

So without further ado, here are 12 rising stars we can’t wait to see during the international break.

Nicolo Zaniolo (Italy)

Age: 19

Club: Roma

Position: Attacking midfielder

Transfer guru Monchi recently parted company with the Giallorossi, but this could prove one of his finest finds, having signed the teenage tyro in a part-exchange for Radja Nainggolan from Inter Milan. Zaniolo is one of the hottest prospects in Italian football and Roberto Mancini has certainly recognised that after gifting the 19-year-old his first call-up to Gli Azzurri.

The 6ft 3in forward has football elegance that transcends his imposing height and has been a shining light in a difficult Roma season, scoring five goals and registering two assists, including a brace against Porto, in which he became the youngest Italian player to score twice in a single Champions League match.

Eder Militao (Brazil)

Age: 21

Club: Porto

Position: Centre-back

Such is the prodigious talent of the Porto Paulistano that Real Madrid have wasted no time in securing his services, agreeing a bumper £42.7m fee for the young defender last week, giving newly-appointed Zinedine Zidane some much-needed technical quality to his backline.

At 21, Militao joined the Dragoes in the summer from boyhood club Sao Paulo but immediately caught the attention of Europe’s elite clubs with his eye-catching performances. His versatility makes him a rare and valuable commodity in the game, capable of playing anywhere in defence, or even central midfield.

Joao Felix (Portugal)

Age: 19

Club: Benfica

Position: Attacking midfield

Felix is seen as the heir to Cristiano Ronaldo’s throne in Portugal, such has been his rapid rise to prominence at the Estadio da Luz, scoring 10 Primeira Liga goals and providing four assists, prompting a first international call-up for the teenager.

At the start of the campaign many would have felt the fledgling forward was the archetypal YouTube player, someone who appears a world beater in a highlight reel but lacks the requisite consistency to make it at elite level. Well, Felix has come of age under Bruno Lage, proving much more than just a show pony, but instead, a player of real substance.

Declan Rice (England)

Age: 20

Club: West Ham

Position: Central midfield

Having switched international allegiances from the Republic of Ireland to England, Rice offers Gareth Southgate a very unique dimension to his midfield.

More than just a ball-winning midfielder, Rice has showcased his technical skill and creativity in east London this season, endearing himself to the Hammers faithful and proving a key figure for Manuel Pellegrini.

David Neres (Brazil)

Age: 22

Club: Ajax

Position: Forward

One of the key players in Ajax’s humbling of reigning European champions Real Madrid, Neres was a chief tormentor of Los Blancos’ defence on that famous night.

But this will come as no shock to the Amsterdammers as the Brazilian talent produces performances of that level regularly in the Eredivisie. He has now taken that domestic form to the grandest of all European stages, the hallowed Bernabeu turf, and Brazil manager Tite has rewarded his efforts.

Diego Lainez (Mexico)

Age: 18

Club: Real Betis

Position: Winger

Lainez became the second most expensive Mexican player to be signed by a European club when Real Betis parted with £14m for his services in January.

The Tabasco-born winger was in red hot form for America in his homeland, persuading Quique Setien to acquire his services, and he has already showcased glimmers of his undoubted potential at the Benito Villamarin.

Subscribe to Squawka’s Youtube channel here.

Daniel James (Wales)

Age: 21

Club: Swansea City

Position: Winger

James has flourished under the guidance of Graham Potter in recent months, impressing the Swansea fans with his twinkle-toed feet, lightning pace and refined end product.

The Beverley-born winger is now a mainstay in the Swans XI, and is also in esteemed hands at national level, with former wide man Ryan Giggs at the Wales helm. He has even drawn comparison with Kylian Mbappe due to his speed…

Tyler Adams (USA)

Age: 20

Club: RB Leipzig

Position: Central midfielder

Move aside Christian Pulisic, the United States have a new rising star from the Bundesliga, and his name is Adams.

Signed from New York Red Bulls in the winter market, RB Leipzig have pulled off a major coup and got their hands on a real player in Adams, who has come in and transformed the club’s midfield. Such has been his seamless transition from Major League Soccer to the Bundesliga that manager Ralf Rangnick said: “it feels like Adams has been with us for some time.”

Ozan Kabak (Turkey)

Age: 18

Club: VfB Stuttgart

Position: Centre-back

At 18, Kabak is years above his age, a player who has shown immense maturity and understanding of the game since joining Die Roten from Galatasaray in January.

He has been an immediate hit with the club and is a regular feature under Markus Weinzierl, scoring twice already and aptly prompting a first international call-up from Turkey.

Steven Bergwijn (The Netherlands)

Age: 21

Club: PSV

Position: Winger

Bergwijn is enjoying a blistering season with PSV as the club sit atop the Eredivisie, which has intensified rumours of a possible move to an elite club, with the winger reportedly in Manchester United’s crosshairs.

Gifted with the ball at his feet, Bergwijn can play anywhere across the front line, but is most devastating from the left, cutting in on his wonderful right boot before shooting with venom, which has ultimately yielded 11 goals this term.

Moise Kean (Italy)

Age: 19

Club: Juventus

Position: Striker

Already capped by the national team, Kean is considered one of Italy’s brightest talents, catching the eye of Juventus manager Massimiliano Allegri in recent weeks with the teenager netting three goals already in 2019.

Blessed with an eye for goal and innate positional awareness, Kean is an exceptional talent and is tipped to break into the Old Lady XI in the coming years.

Niklas Stark (Germany)

Age: 23

Club: Hertha Berlin

Position: Centre-back

As part of Low’s Germany overhaul, Stark has stepped into the equation with both Mats Hummels and Jerome Boateng being dropped from the national team.

Stark has been a rock for Hertha Berlin this season, meanly locking up their defence with his aggression, tenacity and industrious attitude. In fact, such has been his authoritative performances in the capital that Bayern Munich have even been linked with a move.