In­ter­na­tional new­com­ers

Nick Bid­well se­lects some of the most im­pres­sive per­form­ers from Septem­ber’s games

World Soccer - - Contents -

1 Ethan AM­PADU Wales

Af­ter fea­tur­ing in cup games for Chelsea lat­est sea­son, the 18-yearold has yet to even make the bench un­der new boss Mau­r­izio Sarri this term. But Wales’ Ryan Giggs has no such reser­va­tions, hand­ing him a com­pet­i­tive de­but in cen­tral mid­field in Septem­ber’s Na­tions League games. He im­pressed in a 4-1 win against the Repub­lic of Ire­land and earned praise for his per­for­mance in the 2-0 loss to Den­mark.

“He’s a ta­lented player. So bal­anced, so ma­ture for such a young player,” says Giggs. “He’s go­ing to be a mag­nif­i­cent player.”

The son of a Ghana­ian fa­ther and Welsh mother, he left Ex­eter City for Chelsea at 16, hav­ing rep­re­sented Eng­land at un­der-16 level. A bro­ken an­kle in March set him back and he now faces the same strug­gle for first-team recog­ni­tion in the Pre­mier League as Ruben Lof­tus-Cheek.

2 Dani CE­BAL­LOS spain

The mid­fielder spent most of last sea­son at Real Madrid frus­trated by a lack of game time un­der Zine­dine Zi­dane fol­low­ing a move from Real Betis. But af­ter “Zi­zou” quit in May and for­mer na­tional boss Julen Lopetegui took over, the 22-year-old has es­tab­lished him­self as a key first-team fig­ure at the Bern­abeu.

His el­e­vated sta­tus was con­firmed with his in­ter­na­tional de­but and a bravura per­for­mance in the 6-0 ham­mer­ing of Croa­tia in the Na­tions League. New Spain coach Luis En­rique de­scribes him as “a onein-a-mil­lion sort of player” and against the World Cup fi­nal­ists he was dy­namic and in­dus­tri­ous. In the thick of the ac­tion, he even man­aged to shackle op­po­si­tion play­maker Luka Mo­dric while driv­ing his side for­ward and tak­ing risks.

“He’s dif­fer­ent, he’s spe­cial,” gushed En­rique after­wards. “He can do it all. He doesn’t give the ball away, works well un­der pres­sure, beats peo­ple, pro­vides a fi­nal pass and puts him­self about phys­i­cally.”

3 Frenkie DE JONG Hol­land

Only an an­kle in­jury in the sec­ond­half of last sea­son pre­vented the Ajax star­let win­ning his first cap sooner, but that mo­ment fi­nally ar­rived for the 21-year-old against France in Paris.

Rated in the 50m bracket, he has come to the at­ten­tion of Barcelona and Manch­ester City for his per­for­mance in the libero role for his club side, stylishly bring­ing the ball out from the back. But he in­sists mid­field is his real vo­ca­tion – and it’s a view shared by Hol­land coach Ron­ald Koe­man.

From a fam­ily of Feyeno­ord fans, he had the chance to join their ju­nior ranks but opted for Willem II’s academy. “We told Frenkie to choose the club where he felt the most com­fort­able and that was Willem II,” ex­plained his mother Mar­ion. One can only imag­ine what she said when he joined Ajax at 18...

4 RICHARLI­SON

Brazil boss Tite opted to call up sev­eral young­sters for the re­cent friendlies against the USA and El Sal­vador, in­clud­ing Manch­ester United’s An­dreas Pereira and Ar­tur of Barcelona, as well as Fla­mengo’s at­tack­ing mid­fielder Lu­cas Paqueta, Flu­mi­nense striker Pe­dro, Gremio winger Everton and Porto cen­tre­back Felipe.

How­ever, it was wide at­tacker Richarli­son who made the head­lines, com­ing on as a late sub against the USA and then scor­ing twice in a 5-0 rout of El Sal­vador in Mary­land.

The for­mer Flu­mi­nense star’s rapid rise in the Pre­mier League has taken many in Brazil by sur­prise. But he has ben­e­fit­ted from the at­tack­ing ap­proach of coach Marco Silva, first at Wat­ford and now Everton, and he is firmly on Tite’s radar.

5 NICO SCHULZ Ger­many

A game-win­ning scorer on his de­but for the Na­tional­mannschaft against Peru, the 25-year-old Hof­fen­heim wing-back could not have wished for a bet­ter full bap­tism for his coun­try – and all in front of a fa­mil­iar au­di­ence at his club side’s Rhein-Neckar-Arena.

He has, how­ever, had his darker mo­ments. Dur­ing an ill-fated spell at Borus­sia Monchenglad­bach vir­tu­ally ev­ery­thing that could go wrong did go wrong, and af­ter torn cru­ci­ate lig­a­ments in his left knee kept him out for al­most nine months, his form was to­tally un­con­vinc­ing on his re­turn.

Hap­pily for the Ber­liner his luck changed on mov­ing to Hof­fen­heim in 2017 when, rather than use him as a con­ven­tional left-back, coach Ju­lian Nagels­mann thought him far bet­ter suited to the role of flank raider. And how ef­fec­tive he has proved in that task, with his in­ci­sive breaks and ac­cu­rate crosses.

6 Marko LIVAJA Croa­tia

A NextGen Series win­ner with In­ter­nazionale in 2012, his ca­reer has been any­thing but a smooth ride, with un­pro­duc­tive spells at Rus­sian side Rubin Kazan and Ata­lanta – where a train­ing-ground fight with a team-mate and a row with coach Ste­fano Colan­tuono saw him sus­pended at one point.

Now 25, he is back on track in Greece, where he won the ti­tle with AEK last term, and with his home­land, for whom he made his se­nior bow in a 1-1 draw with Por­tu­gal.

At his best as a sup­port striker, he is mo­bile, in­tel­li­gent and makes good, late runs into the box. His other strong suit is a com­mit­ment to the cause that saw him likened to Wayne Rooney by Marco Gi­ampaolo, his coach at Em­poli.

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