The climaxes of celebrated tenures, the likes of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, allow for a new generation of stars to be introduced. Here are nine players whose accomplishments and potential for growth could lead to superstar status during the 2019-20 season:
1. Jadon Sancho
Club: Borussia Dortmund
International: England (6 caps)
Being an active wideman last season, Sancho was among the emerging stars of Borussia Dortmund. He recorded 14 league assists for Dortmund and bagged a dozen goals which got the attention of England boss Gareth Southgate, who handed the youth international his first senior cap in October 2018 against Croatia. The south London teen could soon approach storied status for his club and country.
2. Joao Felix
Club: Atletico Madrid
International: Portugal (1 cap)
Felix’s great start in the league has come after a stellar preseason, justifying a hefty €120-million fee. With former focal point Antoine Griezmann off to Barcelona, Felix can ascend at the Wanda Metropolitano and earn celebrity status if Atletico collect silverware domestically or on the continent. The Portuguese teen is also the heir apparent to Ronaldo as the leader of Portugal’s international efforts.
3. Frenkie de Jong
International: Netherlands (9 caps)
De Jong is set for stardom due to a varied set of skills that allows him to play as a defensive bulwark, a holding midfielder, a playmaker, or a box-to-box runner. With Ivan Rakitic suddenly out of favor, the Dutch international has snatched a starting spot in the Blaugrana XI. He is again on the rise, and De Jong is at the center of it.
4. Matthijs de Ligt
International: Netherlands (17 caps)
De Ligt was a jewel in the crown of Ajax’s stunning continental run. The former Golden Boy winner is a melange of a traditionally robust central defender and a slick-passing distributor. A starring role in the Netherlands’ pursuit of a return to major international tournaments will boost De Ligt’s standing, as will starting for Scudetto favorites Juventus.
5. Kai Havertz
Club: Bayer Leverkusen
International: Germany (3 caps)
Havertz is blessed with elite technical skills and the ability to play a pinpoint pass with either foot. He’s destined for an eventual move to one of Europe’s biggest clubs. The 20-year-old is poised to snatch Toni Kroos’ spot in the starting XI.
6. Christian Pulisic
International: United States (31 caps)
Pulisic is a dribbling whiz who routinely puts himself in dangerous positions. He will be Superstardom if he can add scoring to his game while papering over the club’s cracks after Eden Hazard’s departure.
7. Matteo Guendouzi
International: France (0 caps)
Guendouzi won the Man of the Match honors in a north London derby draw against Tottenham and earned a first call-up to France’s senior squad. With a starring role at Arsenal, the precise-passing midfield metronome has become one of the Premier League’s unassuming young stars.
8. Houssem Aouar
International: France Under-21 (14 caps)
Aouar is a technically astute player who’s dependable in possession and can play anywhere in the midfield. His eventual move to a massive club and Les Gones’ current participation in the Champions League should raise his profile, as should a promotion to France’s senior squad. Stardom beckons for the likable Aouar.
9. Duvan Zapata
International: Colombia (13 caps)
Zapata produced a career year last season for Atalanta. A bona fide late bloomer, Zapata’s 23 league goals were second only to Fabio Quagliarella in Italy’s top flight and 12 better than his previous best. He became Los Cafeteros’ leading scorer at the 2019 Copa America. He might become a celebrated underdog.