Manuel Veth –
The 2018 FIFA World Cup is rapidly approaching, and as always one of the big questions ahead of the tournament is: who will be among the rising stars?
Four years ago, it was the likes of James Rodríguez, who dazzled the world. The Colombian attacking midfielder scored six goals in six games for his country and earned himself a move from AS Monaco to Real Madrid and after joining Bayern this season is once again one of the best-attacking midfielders on the planet.
The question, therefore is who will be this year’s James Rodríguez. The Futbolgrad Network has taken a look at some potential stars from Latin America, who could use the tournament to reach eternal stardom.
Hirving Lozano #11 – Mexico (PSV)
The Mexican is tipped among many to be this summer’s biggest breakout star. The attacking midfielder moved from Liga MX side Pachuca to the Eredivisie joining Eindhoven based PSV.
By the end of April Lozano had scored 17 goals and 11 assists in 28 games for Eindhoven and was decisive in helping the club win their 24 Dutch championships. That performance on its own was already enough to link Lozano to several top clubs with Borussia Dortmund and Arsenal among the possible suitors.
Worth €22 million according to transfermarkt.de a successful World Cup with Mexico could of course further his market value. Mexico, however, are not among the top favourites when it comes to World Cup Betting Odds as the country has now failed to get past the round of 16 stage in the last seven tournaments.
Known “as the round of 16 curse” El Tri fans hope that “Chucky” Lozano can finally help Mexico to reach the later stages of the tournament, which in turn would without a doubt mean that he will be among the breakout stars in Russia.
Lautaro Martínez #22 – Argentina (Racing)
The 20-year-old Lautaro Martínez is one of the hottest prospects in South American football at the moment. Subject to a bidding war between Inter Milan and Borussia Dortmund the Argentine has since decided to join the Italian Serie A side this summer.
In the end, Inter Milan were just a bit quicker then Dortmund and were able to sign the striker for €20 million – despite a €32 million offer by Borussia Dortmund. It could be the deal of the century for the Italians given that Martínez could be playing a significant role in Argentine’s World Cup squad next summer.
Argentina head coach Jorge Sampaoli is not a fan of stars Paulo Dybala and Mauro Icardi and with both players possibly excluded from the World Cup squad the door is open for Martínez. Featuring next to superstar Lionel Messi, in turn, could give the 20-year-old striker the necessary service to score plenty of goals at the tournament. As a result, Martínez is certainly among the possible rising stars that could have their breakout performance in Russia.
Gabriel Jesus #9 – Brazil (Manchester City)
Admittedly Gabriel Jesus is no longer a hidden gem. The Brazilian has starred all season for Manchester City and is now a starting player for the Seleção as well.
Replacing superstar Neymar in recent months, Gabriel Jesus has now scored nine goals in 15 international matches for Brazil. Given that Neymar’s injury will be touch and go ahead of the World Cup some of the nation’s hopes will, in fact, rest with the 21-year-old forward.
But Gabriel Jesus should be more than ready to cope with the expectations. The forward managed 12 goals and four assists in 26 English Premier League games for Manchester City this season and has been part of a fantastic side that stormed to the title dominating the league at will.
With the EPL title wrapped up Gabriel Jesus will now look to become a rising star and further cement his place among the world’s best players with a fantastic performance at the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
Raúl Ruidíaz #9 – Peru (Monarcas)
At first glance, Raúl Ruidíaz appears to be an odd choice to feature among possible rising stars at the World Cup. But playing off the radar in Liga MX the 27-year-old Morelia Monarcas striker appears to be a bit of a late bloomer.
Ruidíaz, in fact, played a major role in two Cinderella stories over the last two years. First, he single-handedly saved his side Monarcas from relegation while simultaneously also qualifying Monarcas – part of the beauty of Liga MX’s three-year relegation rule – and winning the 2016/17 Liga MX Clausura goalscoring title.
He then helped Peru to qualify for the World Cup for the first time since 1982 and has also established himself among Liga MX’s best forwards. Scoring 14 goals in 28 games this season – Apertura and Clausura combined – Monarcas went from a relegation candidate to perennial playoff candidate as Morelia have now qualified for the playoffs in both half-seasons.
A small, yet dynamic forward, Ruidíaz is the sort of player that could burst on the scene out of nowhere at the World Cup making him the sort of unknown rising star people crave to see at such a competition.
Román Torres #29 – Panama (Seattle Sounders)
Román Torres is another left-field candidate among possible rising stars. The 32-year-old Seattle Sounders defender will be unlikely to become a major star in world football.
But the Panamanian defender is already the face of the Panamanian Cinderella story, and his status in world football as a likeable character could grow even further should his country manage to survive the early stages of the tournament.
Whether Panama will survive the group stage – they will face Belgium, Tunisia and England – will largely depend on the strong physical defender. The 188cm tall and 87kg bulky defender is an absolute rock in the backline and with his strong physical play could be a complete nightmare even for top attacking lines from Belgium and England.
Manuel Veth is the owner and Editor in Chief of the Futbolgrad Network. He also works as a freelance journalist and among others works for the Bundesliga and Pro Soccer USA. He holds a Doctorate of Philosophy in History from King’s College London, and his thesis is titled: “Selling the People’s Game: Football’s transition from Communism to Capitalism in the Soviet Union and its Successor States,” which is available HERE. Originally from Munich, Manuel has lived in Amsterdam, Kyiv, Moscow, Tbilisi, London, and currently is located in Victoria BC, Canada. Follow Manuel on Twitter @ManuelVeth. Or contact him via email: [email protected]