Gourcuff to set world alight in South Africa
Mark Carter reviews the young footballing talent tipped to shine at next summer’s World Cup.
Our ‘wonderkid watch’ in Europe draws to a close with a visit to former World and European Champions, France.
Les Blues have produced phenomenal young talent in recent years, and the current burgeoning French hope, Yoann Gourcuff is no exception.
The young Frenchman is Ligue 1 side Bordeaux’s influential playmaker, and has recently drawn comparison to one of the game’s greatest-ever players, icon and legend, Zinedine Zidane – French newspaper L’Equipe actually ran the headline “Gourcuff is Zidane” in January.
Gourcuff, who recently celebrated his 23rd birthday, won Ligue 1 Player of the Year award last season during his loan spell from AC Milan, which was made permanent in a £15 million deal during the summer, and scored 12 goals in the process as he led his side to their sixth Coupe de la Ligue title.
His failure to impose himself at Milan was largely down to his position – in the hole behind the striker – which was inhabited by Kaka, with another special Brazilian, Ronaldinho, second in line to the throne.
Following Kaka’s move to Madrid, Milan coach Leonardo made an attempt to scupper the deal that saw Gourcuff’s departure, but failed as the French club had a firm option to buy the player for £15 million – a right Bordeaux boss Laurent Blanc was not about to give up.
The country’s hopes for success at South Africa 2010 will lie on the young man they refer to as the Ã¢â‚¬Ëœnew Messiah’.
Next stop: South America
The South American Football Confederation is the smallest of the FIFA confederations, yet despite only consisting of ten nations, it has produced the winners of nine out of the 18 World Cups to date.
The nations that are most synonymous to the continent in a football sense are, of course, Argentina and Brazil; however, we are going to begin our search in the country that occupies a long and narrow strip wedged between the Andes and the Pacific Ocean: Chile.
The national side, known as Ã¢â‚¬ËœLa Roja’, has failed to propagate a wealth of international superstars in its history – only Ivan Zamorano and the nation’s top scorer, Marcelo Salas during my time on the planet – however, the current crop boast several talented youngsters.
We should all be keeping a watchful-eye over Sporting Lisbon’s Matias Fernandez, 22-year-old Arturo Vidal of Bayer Leverkusen, and Boca Junior’s controversial prospect, Gary Medel.
However, the player that deserves our full and undivided attention is known in his homeland as Ã¢â‚¬ËœEl Nino Maravilla’ (Ã¢â‚¬ËœThe Wonderboy’ to me and you!) – Alexis Sanchez.
The explosive Chilean – known for his audacious style – signed for Udinese last summer and, to the surprise of many, appears to be remaining at the Stadio Friuli for the coming season.
At just 20 years of age, Sanchez has wowed crowds in Chile, Argentina and Italy, and has amassed 20 caps for his country – bagging five goals along the way – and the versatile attacker will be expected by millions of hopeful Chileans to shine brighter than anyone competing in next year’s finals.