Top 10 players under 21 to watch in 2014

Saido Berahino

Everton, West Brom, and Derby players feature along with transfer targets for Arsenal, Manchester United and Chelsea.

The World Cup will dominate football in 2014, but a number of youngsters will be using next year as the platform to stardom. With the New Year fast approaching, here are ten young stars who will flourish next year...

Ross Barkley – midfielder, Everton/England

The Everton midfielder has enjoyed a promising end to 2013, and expectations will be high going into next year. Manchester United have already been strongly linked with a move for the England international, having worked with boss David Moyes at Goodison Park. Barkley's athleticism enables him to be a driving force in the midfield, whilst he also has the passing and shooting ability to provide an end product.

Michy Batshuayi – striker, Standard Liege/Belgium

Rumoured Arsenal target Batshuayi has been tipped to become the latest Belgian striker to take the Premier League by storm, after the impressive displays of Romelu Lukaku and Christian Benteke. Batshuayi is another athletic striker to catch the eye in Belgium, with his pace and clinical finishing taking him to the fringes of the national team. The World Cup might come too soon for Batshuayi, but he's certainly a name to follow in 2014.

Saido Berahino – striker, West Bromwich Albion/England

Berahino burst onto the scene with the winning goal in West Brom's 2-1 win over Manchester United at Old Trafford, and finished the year with six goals in just four games for England Under 21's. The Burundi-born striker recently signed a new deal at The Hawthorns to ward off interest in the 20 year old, who could have a big year in 2014 should he continue to develop and improve.

Will Hughes – midfielder, Derby County/England

Another England Under 21 international with a growing reputation is Derby's midfield maestro Hughes. Liverpool have been reportedly tracking the 18 year old's progress with a £12m price tag over his head, and with Steve McClaren's side hurtling towards the automatic promotion places, Hughes will be a key player if the Rams are to return to the Premier League for the first time since relegation in 2008.

Mateo Kovacic – midfielder, Inter Milan/Croatia

19 year old Kovacic already has seven caps for the Croatian national team, and despite interest from Juventus and Bayern Munich, left Dinamo Zagreb for Inter Milan last January. There are already rumours that he could be sold to Manchester United in order to solve the Red Devils' midfield problems, and his technical ability and passing range have already made him a young star, but may be a key player for Niko Kovac's Croatia in the 2014 World Cup.

Lazar Markovic – forward, Benfica/Serbia

Markovic was a target for Chelsea before leaving Partizan Belgrade for Benfica last summer – and possibly still is – having impressed early on in Portugal. The speedy forward has also been making an impact with the Serbian national team, and if he continues to show his pace, dribbling ability and eye for goal, it won't be long before Jose Mourinho comes calling once again for the 19 year old.

Juan Fernando Quintero – attacking midfielder, FC Porto/Colombia

Quintero, a former Manchester United target, left Pescara last summer in order to move to Porto, where compatriots Fredy Guarin, James Rodriguez, Falcao and Jackson Martinez have all enjoyed success. The Colombian has missed a large chunk of the season with injury, and is on the comeback trail, meaning 2014 will be a big year for the left footed playmaker, whose long range shots have already taken the world by storm.

Florian Thauvin – winger, Marseille/France

Whilst his exit from Lille was somewhat acrimonious, Thauvin has already shown his vast ability since his summer move. A left footed winger with great pace and dribbling ability, Thauvin has attracted the interest of Arsenal, who he faced in the Champions League group stage. With his future more settled since leaving Lille, Thauvin now needs to take the opportunity at Marseille next year and reach his potential.

Oliver Torres – midfielder, Atletico Madrid/Spain

Diminutive playmaker Torres has already been labelled as the next Xavi, and rumours linked the Atletico Madrid starlet with a move to Barcelona as a future part of the deal that saw David Villa move to the Estadio Vicente Calderon. Torres has been used sporadically by manager Diego Simeone as he looks to ease Torres into the first team, but the possible departure of Koke to Liverpool or Manchester United could force him into the lineup next year.

Kurt Zouma – centre back, St. Etienne/France

Centre back Zouma has attracted the interest of Chelsea and Manchester City in recent times, and France manager Didier Deschamps has recently stated that he sees Zouma as the future captain of Les Blues. Having starred for St. Etienne, the physically imposing 19 year old is seen as one of the future defensive stars of world football, and will look to continue his path to stardom with the French club in 2014 – for the time being, at least.

image: © Catherine Kõrtsmik

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