Rabu, 1 Ogos 2012

Top Ten Players To Watch At The Olympics

The potential stars of London 2012

10. Gaston Ramirez

Ramirez has been the subject of much transfer speculation this summer, with both Liverpool and Man City linked with a move for the £20million-rated Uruguayan. The 21-year-old possesses both speed and strength and his keen eye for goal saw him notch eight strikes in 28 Serie A starts last season. 

Ramirez provides Bologna's attacking thrust with his bursts from midfield and willingness to create chances for teammates, and Uruguay coach Oscar Tabarez will be looking for a similar contribution at the Olympics.

9. Cristian Tello
Tello burst into the Barcelona first-team last season, scoring on his first La Liga start in a 2-1 win over Real Sociedad. The 20-year-old's impressive combination of blistering pace and neat control should see him further involved under new coach Tito Vilanova, but before that Tello will be hoping to fire Spain to glory. 

The winger is still a raw talent, demonstrated by his frustrating performance in Barca's 2-1 title-losing defeat to Real Madrid in April, but he's certain to stand out as one of the brightest prospects in a strong Spanish side.

8. Sebastian Coates

Coates only featured 14 times for Liverpool last season following his £8million transfer from Nacional, but the centre-back certainly made an impression with his acrobatic strike against QPR. The 21-year-old replaced the injured Diego Godin in Uruguay's starting line-up at the Copa America last year and went on to lift the trophy as well as claiming the Best Young Player award. The Olympics provide Coates with another opportunity to display his qualities, with the added pressure of leading the defence in Diego Lugano's absence.

7. Leandro Damiao
If transfer rumours are anything to go by, Damiao is available for as little as £16million this summer, with wage demands of £35,000 a week. For some reason that has deterred AC Milan, but Spurs should be encouraged to nip in and finally secure a deal for the striker. 

The powerful 22-year-old has scored 70 goals in 115 games for Internacional and played a part in the club's Copa Libertadores victory in 2010 and follow up success in the Recopa Sudamericana. If Damiao lives up to his reputation at the Olympics, his price-tag could take a huge jump.

6. Ki Sung-Yeung
Describing Ki as the 'South Korean Steven Gerrard' is a bit far-fetched, but the Celtic midfielder is certainly playing below his level in the SPL. The 23-year-old possesses a wide range of passing and has already been the subject of a £6million bid from Russian champions Zenit St Petersburg. 

Celtic are loath to lose their star player, whose composure and vision will be key to South Korea's chances at London 2012. However, should Ki perform to expectations, he's certain to attract more suitors to test the Scottish champions' resolve this summer.

5. Joe Allen
It will be interesting to see how Allen performs at the Olympics in a team with a vastly different playing style to Swansea. The midfielder has been a key cog in the Swans' system over the past two years but could struggle under Stuart Pearce's less refined (to put it kindly) approach. 

The 22-year-old bases his game on the clever use of possession and space and attracted many plaudits for his performances last season as he helped Swansea to a comfortable mid-table finish. Brendan Rodgers is keen to take Allen to Liverpool and he could be forced to meet the £15million valuation if the Wales international has an impressive tournament.

4. Oscar
Oscar did me proud when I picked him as one to watch at the Under-20 World Cup last summer, helping Brazil reach the final and then scoring a hat-trick to see off Portugal. The attacking midfielder is now a year older, a year wiser and a year more expensive, with Chelsea linked to a £25million move for the 20-year-old. The transfer would make the Internacional playmaker the most expensive player ever to be signed from a Brazilian club and he could well prove his worth at the Olympics.

3. Iker Muniain
Anyone who saw Athletic Bilbao play last season will know that Muniain is supremely talented. The 19-year-old was instrumental in Marcelo Bielsa's team reaching the Europa League final and picked apart Manchester United with a goal and an assist in the 3-2 victory at Old Trafford. 

The youngster's mature performances belied his years but unfortunately the Europa League defeat to Atletico Madrid was followed with a humbling by Barcelona in the Copa del Rey final. Playing at the Olympics as part of a brilliant Spanish team presents Muniain with the opportunity to rectify last season's disappointments.

2. Lucas Moura
When a 19-year-old has 15 caps for Brazil you know he's pretty special, and Lucas is a fantastic talent whose participation at the Olympics is eagerly awaited. The speedy Sao Paulo forward is a top target for Manchester United and a £35million price-tag shows how highly rated he is.

Lucas is a bag of tricks who can create goalscoring opportunities out of nothing with his mazy dribbling and burst of pace. Along with the other Brazilian players on this list he threatens to disrupt Spain's summer trophy march.

1. Neymar
The man with the mohawk has won almost all there is to win in South America, adding the continent's Footballer of the Year award to his Copa Libertadores crown with Santos. Indeed, he would surely have moved to Europe by now if it weren't for reported wages of around £140,000 a week (including endorsements) and the eyes of the world will be on him when he arrives in London. 

Neymar didn't exactly light up the Copa America in 2011, but we're all aware of what he's capable of by now. The Olympics give the 20-year-old a stage to flaunt his talents and he'll be aiming to live up to the hype.

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