With the start of a new year, it is only natural to look ahead to the next 12 months and to the players who could enjoy a breakthrough at the highest level.
From one player who bears a striking resemblance to Diego Maradona to another hoping to follow in the footsteps of Erling Haaland, Stats Perform has identified eight youngsters to watch in 2023.
Gavin Bazunu – Goalkeeper, 20, Southampton
It was a difficult introduction to the Premier League for Bazunu. The Ireland international joined the club from Manchester City at the end of last season for £12m, underscoring his high rating in the game.
But his 30 goals conceded (excluding own goals) came from 21.3 expected goals on target (xGOT), which suggests Bazunu was to blame for 8.7 goals this season, the worst ever in the Premier League.
Can he turn the tide of the season and bolster Southampton’s survival hopes? Bazunu has potential, but at the moment he is struggling to realize it.
Devine Rensch – wingback, 19, Ajax
After Nussar Mazraoui moved to Bayern Munich in pre-season, Rensch has gained a broader picture of first-team football, with his 12 Eredivisie appearances already four more than in the 2021-2022 campaign.
He is less offensively dangerous than Mazraoui, but Rensch is an elegant player, as you would expect from an Ajax academy product, and quick.
Comfortable on the ball and versatile enough to play through a back four, Rensch is a very versatile defender with a big future.
Giorgio Scalvini – 19 years old, central defender, Atalanta
Scalvini broke into the Atalanta first team squad in 2021 when he was 17 years old. Since then, he has progressed rapidly and impressively to the point where the club is expected to make a significant profit from him in 2023.
An imposing but classy centre-back, Scalvini is in many ways the archetype of the modern centre-back in terms of how he plays: his 22.9 forward passes in 90 minutes this season are among the best of his role in Serie A.
Also comfortable playing in midfield, Scalvini loves to defend on his front foot, as evidenced by his 2.7 tackles per 90 minutes, which is also highly regarded among centre-backs.
Atalanta are reportedly looking to get at least €40m for him over the next year, with Inter, Juventus, Tottenham and Manchester City all said to be his fans.
Cobby Main – 17 years old, central midfielder, Manchester United.
Mainu looks to be one of the most talented players United have produced in recent memory. The teenager has caused a stir with his performances in the club’s youth teams over the past few years, which has recently led to an internal promotion.
The silky central midfielder Mainu was a key figure in United’s FA Youth Cup win last season.
Given his technical ability, comparisons to Paul Pogba are to be expected, although early signs indicate that Mainu can offer the deep playing qualities that the Frenchman lacked.
He signed his first professional contract in May, came off the bench for the second time this season in the Premier League in Saturday’s victory over Wolves and featured prominently for United at the World Cup half-time after being promoted to main composition.
If there’s a teenager in line to follow Alejandro Garnacho and establish himself at Old Trafford, it’s Mainu.
Andreas Schelderup – 18 years old, left winger, Nordsjælland
Martin Odegaard, Haaland… could Sjelderup be Norway’s next superstar? The first signs are extremely positive.
The 18-year-old is still waiting for his first match for the senior side, but he is really making a name for himself in the Danish Super League with his dazzling dribbling ability and goal-scoring ability that causes endless problems for the defense.
Sjelderup’s 74 dribbles are the second most in the league this season, while no one has surpassed his 10 goals and the teenager has been very effective at hitting from the left flank with his right foot.
Benfica are reportedly one of the clubs that are interested in him. Wherever he ends up, 2023 is likely to be a breakthrough year for the youngster.
Carlos Alvarez – 19 years old, attacking midfielder, Sevilla
A few seconds are enough to understand why Alvarez is compared to Maradona. Height, his tucked-in shirt, hair—then he hits the ball, and the realization hits him even more.
Left-handed with exceptional dribbling ability and a remarkably low center of gravity, Álvarez looks to be the most naturally gifted player to have trained at the Sevilla academy since Jose Antonio Reyes and perhaps beyond.
But the club has been very protective of him and his development, so much so that his 75 minutes against Juventud Torremolinos in the Copa del Rey last week was his first for the senior team.
He made his debut on their B-team just a couple of weeks after his 16th birthday in August 2019 and it finally looks like his senior breakthrough has arrived and Isco’s departure certainly hasn’t hurt his cause.
Alberto Moleiro – 19 years old, attacking midfielder, Las Palmas
A gifted young midfielder playing for Las Palmas, the ‘new Pedri’ label is all too obvious. Moleiro tends to operate in a more advanced role, although he is clearly just as blessed.
A skilled and talented dribbler, Moleiro is in his second season with the Las Palmas senior team and plays a key role in their promotion.
He has yet to score a goal in the league this season, but Moleiro’s creativity and courage with the ball are his real strengths: only two players in the Segunda have improved on his 29 chances created in open play, and only three have scored more than his 70 dribbling attempts.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Barcelona are said to be keeping an eye on him, but even if he doesn’t earn a transfer from the Canaries, it looks like there’s a good chance he’ll still be in La Liga before the end of 2023 with Las. Palmas top of the second tier.
Karim Konate – 18 years old, forward, Salzburg
Salzburg’s forward talent pipeline has been impressive in recent years. First there was Haaland, then Karim Adeyemi, and Benjamin Sesko has already secured a major move to RB Leipzig at the end of the season.
Konate hopes to be next.
Like Adeyemi and Cesko before him, Konate is a versatile striker with great aerial skills who has honed his skills this season at Austrian Second Division sister club Liefering FC Salzburg, scoring 10 goals in 14 league games.
He also played for FC Salzburg under-19s in the UEFA Youth League, with five goals in six games better than five players.
Konate probably won’t get his shot at the senior team until next season, but these days, with Salzburg playing regularly in the Champions League, he’s worth keeping an eye on.