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Finding the next Kvaratskhelia: Best breakout players in Europe this season

The emergence of 22-year-old Georgian sensation Khvicha Kvaratskhelia at Napoli in Serie A was one of the stories of last season, as Gli Azzurri delivered their first Scudetto title in 33 years in style.

Bursting onto the scene from seemingly nowhere, signing from Georgian outfit Dinamo Batumi for a fee in the region of €12m last summer, silky winger Kvaratskhelia was able to shine in both the Italian top flight and the Champions League as Napoli's scintillating form sent shockwaves throughout Europe.

We've taken a look at some relatively unknown talents who have sought to follow in the footsteps of the man Napoli's ardent supporters now refer to as 'Kvaradona', and make a big impact in Europe's top leagues - La Liga, Serie A, Bundesliga and Ligue 1.

La Liga

La Liga

Savio (Girona)

The success of Girona has been one of the stories of the La Liga season so far, with Michel's charges flying out of the traps to stand joint-top of the table with Real Madrid after 11 matches played.

One of the Blanquivermells' shining lights has been on-loan Troyes winger Savio, with the 19-year-old Brazilian dazzling with his sublime speed and direct style of play.

With three goals and four assists in La Liga so far this term, Savio's form has reportedly already drawn interest from Girona's neighbouring giants Barcelona.

Takefusa Kubo (Real Sociedad)

Japanese football is becoming more and more synonymous with dynamic, technically gifted players, with the early season form of Real Sociedad's fleet-footed forward Takefusa Kubo perhaps the perfect illustration of this.

Previously on the books of both Barcelona and Real Madrid as a young player, 22-year-old Kubo has been a standout performer for a Real Sociedad side who currently sit in fifth place in the La Liga table after 11 matches.

A constant menace for opposition defences with his outstanding dribbling and unrelenting stamina, Kubo has seven goal contributions - five goals and two assists - from 10 La Liga outings so far this term.

Serie A

Serie A

Matias Soule (Frosinone)

Signing on loan from Italian giants Juventus in the summer, 20-year-old winger Matias Soule has been a revelation for Frosinone in Serie A so far this season - scoring five goals and registering one assist.

Born in Argentina but also holding Italian citizenship, Soule's stunning form this term has prompted a tug-of-war between both nations who seek to introduce the precocious talent into their senior international setups.

6ft tall and an elegant dribbler, Soule's playing style has earned comparisons with Argentina World Cup winner Angel Di Maria, who he played alongside at Juventus.

Michael Kayode (Fiorentina)

Scoring the winning goal in the final as Italy's Under 19s claimed Euros glory in Malta in the summer, Fiorentina's 19-year-old right-back Michael Kayode has carried this success into the new Serie A season which he has began in fine form.

An athletic and fearless full-back, Kayode was able to shackle Napoli's star winger Khvicha Kvaratskhelia in impressive fashion last month as La Viola ran out 3-1 winners at the Diego Armando Maradona Stadium.

Kayode will be hoping a strong season in Serie A could see him catch the eye of Italy manager Luciano Spalletti and earn a call-up to next summer's Euros squad, should the Azzurri successfully qualify.

Michele Di Gregorio (Monza)

A nation long famed for outstanding goalkeeping talent - from the legendary Dino Zoff to the great Gigi Buffon - Italy can be acknowledged to have a fresh crop of distinguished keepers on their hands.

PSG shot-stopper and EURO 2020 hero Gianluigi Donnarumma still appears the number one option for Italy manager Luciano Spalletti, but the form of Guglielmo Vicario at Spurs and the emergence of a certain Michele Di Gregorio at Monza will be giving the ex-Napoli boss food for thought.

26-year-old goalkeeper Di Gregorio currently impressively boasts the highest total on the Goals Prevented metric amongst all keepers across Europe's top five leagues at 4.23.

Uncapped at senior international level, this type of form for 10th-placed Monza in Serie A is unlikely to go unnoticed for too long by Spalletti and his staff at the Italian national team.



Florian Wirtz (Bayer Leverkusen)

Xabi Alonso's Bayer Leverkusen have made a storming start to the Bundesliga season, sat two points above Bayern Munich at the top of the league after nine matches played, with 20-year-old attacking midfielder Florian Wirtz one of their standout players.

Recovering in admirable style from an ACL injury sustained last season, Wirtz has a remarkable 14 goal contributions in all competitions for Bayer so far this term - five goals and nine assists. 

With the German national team in desperate need of some fresh inspiration under new manager Julian Nagelsmann ahead of a home Euros finals next summer, the technically gifted Wirtz looks primed to emerge as a key figure for the four-time World Cup winners.

Serge Guirassy (VfB Stuttgart)

After narrowly avoiding relegation from the Bundesliga last season - overcoming Hamburg in a relegation play-off after finishing 16th in the table - VfB Stuttgart have made a brilliant start to the new campaign and sit third after nine games.

The blistering form of Guinean striker Serhou Guirassy has arguably been the primary factor in Stuttgart's early season success, with the 27-year-old having struck a sensational 14 goals in just eight Bundesliga matches to date.

Although currently sidelined with a hamstring injury, Guirassy's eye-catching exploits have already seen his name linked with a transfer move in the January transfer window, with the striker reportedly having a release clause in his contract of around £15m.

Victor Boniface (Bayer Leverkusen)

Guirassy is not the only African striker to have set the Bundesliga alight so far this season, with Bayer Leverkusen hitman Victor Boniface also enjoying an impressive start to the campaign in front of goal.

Signed from Belgian side Union SG in the summer, the Nigerian has registered 10 goal contributions in nine league matches for the Bundesliga leaders - seven goals and three assists - and provides an effective focal point for Alonso's swashbuckling Bayer side.

At just 22 years old, Boniface has the potential to improve his game even further and develop into one of the continent's most lethal strikers.


Ligue 1

Ligue 1

Warren Zaire-Emery (PSG)

Despite his tender age of 17, Warren Zaire-Emery is fast developing into a key player for PSG - appearing in all but one of the Parisians' Ligue 1 matches so far this term.

Boasting an all-round skillset, Zaire-Emery has typically been deployed as a defensive midfielder in his fledgling club career, and has proven efficient at reading the game and making interceptions, as well as dictating the tempo of PSG's possession.

A player who appears to have the potential to become a mainstay for club and country for many years to come, it will be interesting to see whether national team manager Didier Deschamps is tempted to fast-track Zaire-Emery into the senior France squad ahead of next summer's Euros in Germany.

Akor Adams (Montpellier)

After nine weeks of the 2023/24 Ligue 1 season, it is Montpellier striker Akor Adams who is closest to PSG talisman Kylian Mbappe at the top of the goalscoring charts - with the Nigerian's tally of seven trailing the French icon by three.

Signed from Norwegian outfit Lillestrom in the summer, Adams has made the transition to French football seamlessly - averaging a goal every 101 minutes in Montpellier colours so far.

At 6ft 3, Adams is a physically imposing figure, but the striker also possesses a sharp turn of pace and clinical goalscoring instincts inside the box.

Bafode Diakite (Lille)

Ligue 1 side Lille have proven to be a hotbed of emerging young talent in Europe in recent times, helping to develop players such as Eden Hazard, Victor Osimhen, Rafael Leao just to name a few, and talented defender Bafode Diakite could be the next star on the conveyor belt.

A versatile operator who can play all across the back four and in defensive midfield, Diakite has shone for Lille in Ligue 1 at the beginning of this campaign - scoring three goals and making one assist.

The 22-year-old - who has represented France at a number of youth levels - has all the tools required to grow into a top-level defender, including impressive pace, composure and ability to read the game.

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