Ten players to watch this summer


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Bologna's Gaston Ramirez (left)

1. Gaston Ramirez

The Uruguay playmaker 21, has been linked with Liverpool among others following an excellent season for Bologna, during which he scored eight Serie A goals as the perennial strugglers finished in the top half of the standings.

Ramirez is a gifted, technical attacking midfielder who plays in the space between the midfield and the strikers. Ordinarily, players of this ilk struggle in the Premier League, but ordinarily, such trequartistas are slight of frame, and find themselves shunted out wide or forced to play in an orthodox four-man midfield.

But he is six-foot tall and has beefed up to around 12 stone since moving to Italy from Penarol; furthermore, new Reds boss Brendan Rodgers is looking to employ an attacking 4-3-3 formation, potentially allowing Ramirez to dovetail with compatriot Luis Suarez as veteran skipper Steven Gerrard adopts a deeper playmaking role.

Of course Ramirez may not join Liverpool; Gylfi Sigurdsson remains top priority provided Tottenham fail to hijack his transfer, while Chelsea, Manchester City and Bayern Munich are all sniffing around. Ramirez may not even leave Bologna, who have insisted he will not be sold for less than £16 million.

Date of Birth: December 2, 1990 (age 21)
Nationality: Uruguayan
Club: Bologna
Height: 1.83m (6ft)
Position: Attacking midfielder

Player attributes (/20)
Pace: 15
Passing: 18
Finishing: 15
Strength: 15
Vision: 18
Dribbling: 19

Approx. value: £16m

2. Anthony Martial

Lyon forward Martial, only 16, is being heralded as the new French striking sensation. From the notorious French suburb of Les Ulis that also spawned Thierry Henry, Martial is seen as a more 'complete' footballer than the Arsenal legend.

He is quick (if not as quick as Henry) and powerful, but his main strengths are technical. With two good feet, a natural first touch and what seems to be an ice-cool head in front of goal, he has all the attributes to become the heir to Karim Benzema.

He is only 16 though, with all his good work coming for the youth teams of Lyon and France. Averaging a goal-and-a-half per game for Lyon's U17s, including six in one match last season, and hitting eight goals in nine France U17 matches, he is certainly a cut above the rest in his age group.

But will he be able to keep his steady head when confronted with similar opportunities at senior level? Time will tell if he matures into another Henry, or another Jeremie Aliadiere.

Date of Birth: December 5, 1995 (age 16)
Nationality: French
Club: Lyon youth team
Height: 1.78m (5ft10)
Position: Striker

Player attributes
Pace: 18
Finishing: 18
Strength: 13
First touch: 17
Movement: 17
Dribbling: 17
Approx. Value: £3m

3. Jordan Rhodes

Huddersfield striker Rhodes emerged last season as the hottest property in English football outside the Premier League. Inexplicably offloaded by Ipswich in 2009 so then-boss Roy Keane could fill his side with Sunderland cast-offs, lethal finisher Rhodes immediately made an impact as he hit 19 goals in his first season, following that with 16 in 2010-11.

But last year he was truly outstanding, bagging 40 goals in all competitions and 36 in League One, hitting hat-tricks for fun, scoring all four goals in a memorable 4-4 draw with Sheffield Wednesday, and scoring five in one match as his side beat Wycombe 6-0.

Rhodes is a classic British centre-forward, tall and strong with decent pace and clever movement. He is surprisingly comfortable with the ball and — unusually for players on these shores — he has a good first touch and an ice-cool temperament in front of goal. His smart off-the-ball movement and willingness to take every finish first time are his core attributes, although his link-up play could improve.

His goals fired the Terriers to promotion, and he could well stay for one more season as he tests his mettle in the Championship. But with Premier League clubs — particularly promoted sides — looking for affordable striking talent, he could well make the step up.

Date of Birth: February 5, 1990 (age 22)
Nationality: Scottish
Club: Huddersfield
Height: 1.88m (6ft2)
Position: Striker

Player attributes
Pace: 15
Finishing: 19
Strength: 16
First touch: 14
Movement: 17
Heading: 17
Approx. value: £6m

4. Yevhen Konoplyanka

Much was expected of Euro 2012 co-hosts Ukraine, and their failure to get out of their group should not distract from some promising moments. Andriy Yarmolenko was touted as their great hope but he was outshone by energetic winger Konoplyanka.

He came through the ranks at Dnipro and quickly established himself as first choice, operating mostly on the left for Ukraine but equally comfortable on the right. Primarily right-footed, he likes to cut inside, has a good shot and loves taking men on. He is quick, nimble, skilful and fairly strong, and his delivery both from set-pieces and open play is sharp, with a preference for driven crosses.

Like most wingers, he has a tendency to blow hot and cold, but he has improved steadily and is probably ready for a step up in level of competition. One criticism would be that he is reluctant to use his left foot, meaning he is likely to be a greater threat on the right. His style of play is suited to the Premier League, and probably only clubs in England and Spain could afford him.

Date of Birth: September 29, 1989 (age 22)
Nationality: Ukrainian
Club: Dnipro
Height: 1.76m (5ft9)
Position: Winger

Player attributes
Pace: 16
Dribbling: 17
Crossing: 17
Passing: 15
Set-pieces: 17
Approx. value: £20m

5. Marco Verratti

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Marco Verratti of Pescara

Verratti has been widely touted as the 'new Andrea Pirlo', and there are striking similarities between the 19-year-old Pescara midfielder and the veteran Juventus playmaker. Like Pirlo, he started out as a more advanced midfielder but has flourished in a deep-lying role. He has wonderful passing skills, vision that belies his age and a great first touch.

These passing skills are what set Verratti apart — he can play it long, short, can use the slide-rule pass or dictate the tempo. He's a proper little Xavi, and with the right coaching and avoidance of injury, he could become one of the top midfielders in world football. He is so highly-rated that he was named in Italy's provisional Euros squad, despite only playing in Serie B.

However, Verratti is very small — 5'5" and 10 stone in weight — and could get outmuscled in the all-action Premier League. As such, he is more of a tip for progress in Italy, with Juventus keen, while Paris Saint-Germain are also looking to add him to their star-studded roster.

Date of Birth: November 5, 1992 (age 19)
Nationality: Italian
Club: Pescara
Height: 1.65m (5ft5)
Position: Midfielder

Player attributes
First touch: 18
Dribbling: 16
Crossing: 17
Passing: 19
Vision: 20
Set-pieces: 16
Approx. value: £8m

6. Javi Martinez

The Athletic Bilbao defender-midfielder is hardly an unknown quantity on account of his work for club and country, although the latter has mostly seen him shine at age-group level.

A strapping lad with typically Spanish technique, Martinez is set apart from his compatriots by his sheer size and aerial ability. Those attributes have recently seen him used as a centre-half by Athletic coach Marcelo Bielsa, but he is primarily a central midfielder and one ideally suited to the hustle and bustle of the Premier League.

Martinez is now a senior European champion although admittedly spent these Euros on the bench. But he was a key player as Spain won the Euro U21s and will be the main man in the middle at the Olympics, where his presence on British soil could expedite a move to the Premier League, if one has not already materialised by mid-August.

Date of Birth: September 2, 1988 (age 23)
Nationality: Spanish (Basque)
Club: Athletic Bilbao
Height: 1.90m (6ft3)
Position: Midfielder/defender

Player attributes
Strength: 18
Passing: 16
Tackling: 17
Heading: 17
Shooting: 13
Approx. value: £16m

7. Neven Subotic

It is fashionable to covet Dortmund players, although none are more suited to the Premier League than Serbia centre-half Subotic.

A brilliant header of the ball, he stands at 6ft4 and is a phenomenal physical specimen. But he can also play the ball, and what he lacks in acceleration he more than makes up for in positional guile and leadership qualities.

Subotic is also a fluent English speaker — he spent part of his childhood in the Unites States, where he played college football for the University of South Florida. But, having left the former Yugoslavia as a child during the civil war, Germany is where he was raised, and he returned there for his first professional contract with Mainz. He only lasted a season there before Dortmund swooped, and the rest as they say is history.

Date of Birth: December 10, 1988 (age 23)
Nationality: Serbian (holds German and US citizenship)
Club: Borussia Dortmund
Height: 1.93m (6ft4)
Position: Central defender

Player attributes
Pace: 10
Strength: 20
Tackling: 16
Heading: 20
Positioning: 18
Approx. value: £20m

8. Younes Belhanda

Olivier Giroud has made the big-money move to Arsenal, but his success last season for shock Ligue 1 title winners Montpellier was in part down to the brilliance of team-mate Belhanda.

Born and raised in the south of France but electing to play for Morocco, Belhanda is the latest of the seemingly endless production line of French North African playmakers. As one would expect, he is a similar player to the likes of Samir Nasri and Hatem Ben Arfa but is less of a pure dribbler, more inclined to pass than take another man on.

He has pretty much everything to his game — goals (13 last season), assists (five) and a hugely entertaining style reminiscent of Robert Pires. It's hard to believe that he started his career as a sweeper, then a defensive midfielder, and was only asked to play as a winger when he graduated to the first team in 2009.

He has since been converted to a trequartista, where he has found his greatest success, and if he moves to England would no doubt operate as a wide forward with licence to cut back inside.

The only real question marks over Belhanda are — and this is no great surprise — his fiery temperament. He was banned early last season for kicking out at an opponent and then, with his side two games from the title, was involved in a brawl in the 2-2 draw with Evian before turning on Giroud over who should take a penalty. He was suspended for the remainder of the season but fortunately his team held on to win the league.

Date of Birth: February 25, 1990 (age 22)
Nationality: Moroccan (holds French citizenship)
Club: Montpellier
Height: 1.74m (5ft9)
Position: Attacking midfielder

Player attributes
Pace: 15
Dribbling: 17
Crossing: 16
Passing: 18
Vision: 18
Approx. value: £13m

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Younes Belhanda of Montpellier

9. John Guidetti

Guidetti is an exception to this list in that he already is at a Premier League giant, Manchester City. But the Swedish striker has only played once for City, in the Carling Cup, and he is not expected to be at Eastlands next season. He is expected to either leave the club on loan to another Premier League side, or be sold, with Feyenoord heading the queue.

Hailed as one of the brightest prospects in Swedish football, the gifted finisher struggled to make an impact at Eastlands, as have most young players. His loan spell at Burnley was nothing to write home about, although aged only 19 it was perhaps a bit soon to send a technical player down to the Championship.

It was at Feyenoord where he really flourished, scoring a remarkable 20 goals in 23 matches last season as the Rotterdam sleeping giant came second after a long spell in the doldrums. Unfortunately for Guidetti he picked up a virus that ruled him out of the end of the season, meaning he missed out on the Euros too.

Guidetti is rangy, powerful, has a good first touch and is lethal in the box. He also took Feyenoord's penalties, showing variety and composure from the spot. Possessing a good long shot and strong aerial ability, he is reminiscent of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, and shares his fellow Swede's self-confidence to boot.

Date of Birth: April 15, 1992 (age 20)
Nationality: Swedish
Club: Feyenoord (on loan from Manchester City)
Height: 1.85m (6ft1)
Position: Striker

Player attributes
Pace: 14
Finishing: 19
Strength: 17
First touch: 15
Movement: 16
Heading: 17
Approx. value: £8m

10. Mattia Destro

A product of the Internazionale academy, Destro initially struggled to live up to his promise as one of the most talented schoolboys in Italian football. The quick, skilful striker scored goals for fun for Inter and Italy's underage teams — hitting 16 in 14 matches for the Azzurri U19s — but could not make the breakthrough to the senior side, thanks in no small part to the more physically mature Mario Balotelli.

He left Inter two years ago but also struggled to make an impact at Genoa, his place in the starting XI blocked by more experienced strikers — he was only 19, after all.

It is at Siena where he has really flourished, starting slowly before going on a fine run that saw him end the season with 12 Serie A goals in 30 games. This form saw him named in the preliminary 32-man Euro 2012 squad, but he was never expected to make the cut. A repeat of last season's form, however, and he could well be the heir to Antonio Di Natale's position.

Destro is an outright finisher, with searing pace and a similar repertoire of goals to Javier Hernandez — he plays off the shoulder of the last defender, scores with both feet, from close and afar, with his head and other parts of his body, and usually takes his shots early.

Siena own half his economic rights, with Genoa hanging on to the other half, and there has been talk of the likes of Roma moving for the Ascoli-born poacher. A loan deal to a Premier League club would suit Destro — the jury is out as to whether he would cope with the faster-paced English game — but either way a bright future beckons.

Date of Birth: March 20, 1991
Nationality: Italian
Club: Siena (co-owned by Genoa)
Height: 1.81m (5ft11.5)
Position: Striker

Player attributes
Pace: 17
Dribbling: 15
Finishing: 17
Strength: 11
First touch: 16
Movement: 18
Heading: 14
Approx. value: £10m

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