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An XI of talents set to explode in 2022: Tchouameni, Julian Alvarez, Wirtz...

The end of 2021 and the beginning of 2022 needed to be celebrated in a significant way, and at MARCA we have produced the most promising XI of talents throughout world football that aren't necessarily household names.

These talents are young, highly talented and set to explode in 2022, whether or not they get a move away to a top club or are already in the perfect environment to continue their development.

We've looked to stay away from the obvious names, so you won't see Erling Haaland, Kylian Mbappe, Jude Bellingham and Mason Mount on this list. Also, it is a varied selection with nine leagues and nine different nationalities represented.

With all the players born either on or after January 1, 2000, this XI is set to define the next era of the sport.

Gavin Bazunu - Portsmouth (on loan from Manchester City)

  • DOB: 20/2/2002
  • Position: Goalkeeper
  • International team: Ireland

Manchester City loaned the Irish shot-stopper out to Portsmouth and he has proven to be way too high a quality player for the third tier of English football.

He is strong, makes fine reflex saves and is already a full international with Ireland, with whom he has saved a Cristiano Ronaldo penalty.

Tino Livramento - Southampton

  • DOB: 12/11/2002
  • Position: Right-back
  • International team: England (U21)

After being awarded the 'Best Academy Player' award at Chelsea for 2020/21, Livramento chose to sign for Southampton after becoming acutely aware his game time would be limited behind Reece James and Cesar Azpilicueta in the senior team.

He has since been one of the revelations of the Premier League season, shining in a struggling team as he provides incisive runs from the right.

Kaiky - Santos

  • DOB: 12-1-2004
  • Position: Centre-back
  • International team: Brazil (U16)

The teenage defender is one of Brazil's most promising defenders and is almost guaranteed a future within the Selecao. What he lacks in speed he makes up for in physical momentum, and his passing across the ground is incredibly reliable.

Kaiky developed at Santos, honing his skills, and became the youngest-ever scorer for the club in the Copa Libertadores, finding the net at just 17 years and one month old.

Goncalo Inacio - Sporting CP

DOB: 25-08-2001

Position: Centre-back

International team: Portugal (U21)

He may well be a young defender, but Goncalo Inacio has the touch of a veteran and is one of the very rare naturally left-sided centre-halves. At Sporting he has played on the right of a defensive unit, being a star performer in a team that has conceded just five goals in 16 league games this term.

Aaron Hickey - Bologna

DOB: 06-10-2002

Position: Left-back

International team: Scotland (U17)

Scotland have a vast array of left-sided defenders now, and Aaron Hickey is set to be the next off the production line.

He is the second-highest scoring defender in the top five major European leagues, netting five for Bologna in Serie A this term, and his athletic prowess is what makes him so effective. Many have compared him to a young Gareth Bale.

Aurelien Tchouameni - Monaco

DOB: 27-1-2000

Position: Central midfield

International team: France

Perhaps the highest-profile player on this list, Aurelien Tchouameni is a complete midfielder, having already attracted the interest of Real Madrid and Chelsea.

He can't be placed as a natural holding midfielder, but rather a box-to-box talent who has formed a dynamic pairing with Youssouf Fofana at Monaco this season. His height at 6-foot-2 is incredibly domineering and allows him to dominate the midfield from a physical standpoint.

Florian Wirtz - Bayer Leverkusen

DOB: 3-5-2003

Position: Attacking Midfielder

International team: Germany

Wirtz is destined to break all the Bundesliga records if he stays in the German top flight. At just 18 years old he has already played 68 matches for Bayer Leverkusen, in which he has scored 17 goals and contributed 19 assists.

He has already earned four senior caps with Die Mannschaft and will inevitably be sold for more than the 80 million euros that Kai Havertz cost.

Conor Gallagher - Crystal Palace (on loan from Chelsea)

  • DOB: 6-2-2000
  • Position: Central Midfield
  • International team: England

Chelsea are already thinking of another star name they can either add to their own team or sell for a huge profit next season.

Gallagher has been a revelation with Crystal Palace this season and has scored six goals and added three assists. His finesse has seen him compared to Jack Grealish and he does a little bit of everything in midfield.

Noni Madueke - PSV Eindhoven

  • DOB: 3-10-2002
  • Position: Right wing
  • International team: England (U21)

PSV Eindhoven have been a surprisingly strong challenger to Ajax's Dutch crown this season, and Noni Madueke is one of the key reasons why.

He scored six goals and added one assist in the first seven league matches of the campaign, although a muscle injury has kept him out since September.

Madueke's direct play was rewarded by Roger Schmidt and he is inevitably set for a move back to the Premier League.

Kamaldeen Sulemana -Rennes

  • DOB: 15-2-2022
  • Position: Left wing
  • International team: Ghana

After breaking through in Denmark with Nordsjaelland, Sulemana has continued his development in Ligue 1 with Rennes, often being compared to Neymar.

His style is so unique and fluid to watch, and you genuinely don't know what he is going to produce next. Natural pace is such a key part of Sulemana's game and it's not a surprise he has been linked to Manchester United.

Julian Alvarez - River Plate

  • DOB: 31-1-2000
  • Position: Striker
  • International team: Argentina

2022 will be the year of Julian Alvarez. Nicknamed 'The Spider', the Argentine forward has been scoring goal after goal with River Plate, proving to be a key part of the team which won the first Argentine championship in the Marcelo Gallardo era.

He spent a month on trial with Real Madrid when he was 11, and Alvarez's talent has been clear even since then. He is incredible mobile and can score with both feet.

Domestic football in Argentina is rapidly becoming too small for him, and at 21 he is ready for a move to Europe this year.

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