The Kanes In Wait­ing

Australian Four Four Two - - JUNE 2015 -

Harry Kane has been a soar­away suc­cess this sea­son but who else is there wait­ing in the wings to repli­cate his in­cred­i­ble year? We trawl the world for the finest young break­through tal­ent to match Harry.

KEVIN DE BRUYNE, 23

At­tack­ing mid­fielder, Wolfs­burg

It’s Septem­ber 2013, and Jose Mour­inho re­ally doesn’t want to talk about Kevin. Ex­as­per­ated by ques­tions re­gard­ing his de­ci­sion to leave Bel­gian at­tacker Kevin de Bruyne out of Chelsea’s match­day squad to face Steaua Bucharest, the Spe­cial One stiff­ens in his seat. “I didn’t like the match he played against Swin­don in the Cap­i­tal One Cup, and I didn’t like the way he was train­ing,” he snarls. Four months later, De Bruyne had been sold to Wolfs­burg for $30m. It seemed a mas­ter­stroke – an $20m profit on a player who had amassed just three Pre­mier League ap­pear­ances for the Blues. “Af­ter the press con­fer­ence in Bucharest I started train­ing harder, even on my days off,” said De Bruyne. “I lost three ki­los and two per cent fat, but my sit­u­a­tion never changed. That’s why I asked him, in a friendly way: ‘Please let me go.’” The move has rein­vig­o­rated the 23-year-old. Play­ing ev­ery week in an ex­cit­ing side that should fin­ish the cam­paign as Bun­desliga run­ners-up, the De Bruyne of 2015 is a much more con­sis­tent and fear­some beast than that which left West Lon­don in Jan­uary 2014. The bare 2014/15 statis­tics alone – 14 goals and 24 as­sists in his first 38 games of the sea­son – are tes­ta­ment to the stel­lar year De Bruyne has had. The choir­boy looks of his Chelsea days have evolved into a more ro­bust physique, even if those cheru­bic cheeks re­main as rosy red as ever. As a player, too, De Bruyne has changed. De­ployed pri­mar­ily as a wide at­tacker at Stam­ford Bridge – one ca­pa­ble of play­ing on ei­ther wing – the Bel­gian has fea­tured mostly as an in­verted No.10 for Wolfs­burg, oc­cu­py­ing a cen­tral start­ing po­si­tion and drift­ing nat­u­rally wide to over­load op­po­si­tion full-backs. If he pulls wide to the right, his more nat­u­ral side, a low cross be­tween the cen­tre-back and the goal­keeper is in­evitable; to the left, and he’ll cut in­side and shoot. One weapon in De Bruyne’s ar­moury hasn’t changed. Some play­ers saunter or pot­ter around the pitch; oth­ers pis­ton-run, arms and legs akimbo like a seven-year-old re­leased into the sum­mer sun; but only a se­lect few glide with such ease as De Bruyne. There’s no dis­cern­able dif­fer­ence in his top speed with the ball or with­out it.

His man-of-the-match dis­play in Jan­uary’s 4-1 de­struc­tion of Bay­ern Mu­nich was a case in point. De Bruyne cre­ated the opener be­fore scor­ing the third and fourth – the for­mer a trade­mark surge from deep past Jerome Boateng, the lat­ter a sav­age left-foot shot past Ger­many’s No.1, Manuel Neuer. His barely com­pre­hen­si­ble right-foot vol­ley against Lille in the Europa League group stage was a strike so spec­tac­u­lar it would leave Zla­tan Ibrahi­movic gaw­ping. “You re­ally have to say that Kevin de Bruyne is the best player in the Bun­desliga, and not only be­cause of his stats,” said team-mate Mar­cel Schafer ear­lier this sea­son. “He has al­ready ex­pe­ri­enced not get­ting so much time on the field at Chelsea. That is why I think the best thing for him would be to stay for a min­i­mum of one more year at Wolfs­burg.” And herein lies the prob­lem for the Bun­desliga up­starts. So good are De Bruyne’s dis­plays, Europe’s scav­engers have got a sniff of young blood – even if their coach Di­eter Heck­ing in­sists “there are only eight clubs in Europe that are a step up from Wolfs­burg”. Ru­mour has it that De Bruyne’s com­pa­triot Vin­cent Kom­pany has sounded out Manch­ester City about his sign­ing, while in news about as sur­pris­ing as bears defe­cat­ing in woods, Bay­ern Mu­nich are also keen. “I am a fighter,” De Bruyne in­sists. “I learned it from my very first days at Genk.” A fighter, with a score to set­tle, who could well come to haunt his for­mer boss as his big­gest mis­take. The next time Jose talks about Kevin, there may be a crack of fear in his voice.

DANILO, 23

Full-back, Porto (join­ing Real Madrid)

“If I work re­ally hard, I’ll get to Maicon’s level,” a young Danilo promised upon his ar­rival at San­tos in 2010, two years be­fore join­ing Porto. He was fi­nally pre­sented with the op­por­tu­nity to meet his idol when the pair were both se­lected in Brazil’s first squad fol­low­ing last sum­mer’s hu­mil­i­at­ing World Cup de­feat. That was un­til Maicon re­turned to the team ho­tel late af­ter a night out, and was promptly given the boot by Dunga. Sud­denly, the Porto man was his coun­try’s first choice right-back. He’ll soon be Madrid’s first-choice right-back, too, as they’ve agreed to make him their priciest de­fen­sive sign­ing for $40m. Danilo of­fers ver­sa­til­ity on top of at­tack­ing prow­ess – some of his best per­for­mances for San­tos came in cen­tral mid­field – and he’s no stranger to big games, scor­ing the win­ning goal in the 2011 Copa Lib­er­ta­dores Fi­nal.

JOSE MARIA GIMENEZ, 20

Cen­tre-back, Atletico Madrid

This time last year, the Uruguayan had made just one out­ing for the Mat­tress Mak­ers, but the 20-year-old has since shone at the World Cup – im­press­ing in the de­feat of Eng­land – and forced his way onto Manch­ester United’s radar. Gimenez’s aerial prow­ess stands out a mile in a league of in­tri­cate tap-dancer for­wards. He can play, too – his stunning vol­ley at Elche in De­cem­ber is tes­ta­ment to that. And he’s pretty fond of be­ing a foot­baller. “When I came off the bench for the sec­ond half,” he re­called of his pro­fes­sional de­but, for the mod­est Danu­bio in Uruguay, “my heart nearly sep­a­rated.” Sounds painful. Fi­nally, the bull-like Gimenez’s head is made of weapons-grade gran­ite. Against Getafe in March, he blocked a shot by div­ing head­first at the feet of mid­fielder Fredy Hine­stroza. His boss, Diego Sime­one, would have been proud.

GUS­TAVO BOU, 25

Striker, Rac­ing (on loan from River Plate)

Bou is so popular, he’s even had a catchy Latin ditty writ­ten in his hon­our ( Bai­lando con Bou, or ‘Danc­ing with Bou’) – but the Ar­gen­tine has spent a great deal of his ca­reer to date do­ing... well, not very much. One goal in 13 games on loan at Gim­na­sia La Plata was the sum to­tal of his ef­forts in 2013/14, in a ca­reer mostly spent loi­ter­ing around on the fringes at River Plate. Then, sud­denly, ev­ery­thing changed. Gus­tavo went from ‘booo’ to ‘Bou!’, ex­plod­ing onto the scene dur­ing a loan spell at Rac­ing, scor­ing goal af­ter goal. Bou is the 2015 Copa Lib­er­ta­dores’ dead­li­est marks­man, al­ready out­do­ing the top scor­ers in the en­tire 2014 tour­na­ment. His strike part­ner­ship with for­mer In­ter Mi­lan Cham­pi­ons League win­ner Diego Mil­ito has been a joy to be­hold.

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