Roberto Baggio

Roberto Baggio
Il Divin Codino

Sunday, 9 September 2012

10 Europeans Ready to Shine

Étienne Capoue - France

For the last couple of years, the Toulouse midfielder has managed to fly under the radar of many fans due to the prominence of Yann M'Vila, but with the Rennes' man's fall from grace, the more defensively astute player can now step into the spotlight. Boasting plenty of Ligue 1 experience from his time with les Violets, he is a more physically imposing player than his compatriot, smarter positionally and stronger in the air. Technically he is strong too, and now is his time to shine in the national team. His pedigree is well known among the top clubs, and the likes of Barcelona and Arsenal have been following him for several seasons now.  

Thibaut Courtois - Belgium


Having joined Atletico Madrid on loan from Chelsea to replace David de Gea, the 20-year-old Courtois put in a number of fine displays last season. Despite De Gea's critics since moving to the Premier League, the Belgium international certainly had big gloves to fill at the Vicente Calderon, and fill them he did. Producing some scarcely-believable saves to complement his commanding performances, he picked up where the Spaniard left off. If this promising Belgium side are to live up to the hype, then they are going to need a solid base on which to build. Fortunately, Courtois can be that very cornerstone for the next two decades.  

Leroy Fer - Netherlands


The versatile midfielder made his Oranje debut in the friendly against Ukraine in August 2010, but had not been called up since. However, due to his excellent start to the Eredivisie season with Twente, national team coach Louis van Gaal had no other option but to recall the 22-year-old for Netherlands' first World Cup qualifier against Turkey. Fer, nicknamed 'The Bouncer' for his impressive physique, is a typical modern midfielder, who not only does plenty of work defensively, but brings something to the table in attack. He has shown over the years that he has an eye for goal, and his well-timed runs forward can trouble any defence. 

Lorenzo Insigne - Italy


At 21 years old, Lorenzo Insigne received his first international call-up on Sunday evening. The diminutive forward has spent the last two seasons away from parent club Napoli, but impressed while at Foggia and Pescara with his eye for goal. The departure of Ezequiel Lavezzi has opened the door for him at the San Paolo, and his frightening dribbling ability in one-on-one situations and from set-pieces marks him out as a notable prospect. He has scored twice in three Under-21 appearances for his country, and the 2014 World Cup qualification campaign could be the perfect platform for him to burst into football's global conscience.

Javi Martínez - Spain

The curious case of Javi Martinez. At the age of 23, he has already won the World Cup and the European Championship, but he has been little more than a squad player in both of Spain's most recent successes. Fresh from his €40 million move from Athletic Bilbao to Bayern Munich, he will be keen to show that he has what it takes to thrive at one of Europe's biggest clubs. And with La Roja coach Vicente del Bosque likely to need defensive or midfield reinforcements along the road to Brazil, the Basque midfielder will have ample opportunity to cement a first-team place for himself. 

Pablo Osvaldo - Italy

Pablo Osvaldo has been threatening to explode for a couple of seasons now after two promising terms at Espanyol and Roma, but the 2014 World Cup qualifying campaign could be when he really hits his peak internationally. The 26-year-old has enjoyed a stunning start to the Serie A season, scoring a brilliant acrobatic bicycle kick against Catania and a delightful chip at San Siro to down Inter. Blessed with power, pace, technique and a bullet header, Osvaldo is expected to start for Italy in Bulgaria and has set his sights on a long-term partnership in the Azzurri attack with the currently injured Mario Balotelli. 

Marco Reus - Germany

From keeping Borussia Monchengladbach in the Bundesliga to firing them into the Champions League, Marco Reus has been making quite the name for himself. His progress on the international scene, however, has been stunted. Blighted by injuries, he was unable to make his Germany debut until October 2011, some five months after receiving his first call-up to Joachim Low's squad. Since then, though, he hasn't looked back, and now looks set to be an automatic pick at the expense of either Thomas Muller or Lukas Podolski. Now with champions Borussia Dortmund, he has all the ability to star not just in qualifying, but in Brazil itself. 

Axel Witsel - Belgium

One year on from joining Benfica, Witsel is on the move again, this time to Zenit St Petersburg in the Russian Premier League for a whopping €40m. He has been in and around the Belgium set-up for around four years now and, like many of his undoubtedly talented team-mates, he has yet to make a significant impact in the international arena. He gained notoriety for his unedifying stamp on Marcin Wasilewski in a Belgian league game between Standard Liege and Anderlecht in 2009 but, the occasional red flash aside, he is undoubtedly one of the key figures in this most promising of Belgian outfits.

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