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World Cup: 10 potential breakout stars

As football’s showpiece event the World Cup has launched many a career, with Kylian Mbappe a prime example in Russia four years ago. We have a look at 10 players who could use Qatar as a springboard to global stardom.

Rafael Leao

Portugal and AC Milan forward Rafael Leao has the chance to shine on the world stage in Qatar after impressing during his time in Serie A.

Leao is a dynamic player capable of operating on either flank or as a lone forward, and has drawn lofty comparisons with Thierry Henry and Kylian Mbappe.

The 23-year-old has an impressive goal record for the Rossoneri scoring 26 goals in 101 appearances, better than one goal in four, which is impressive considering he joined the club as a raw 20-year-old talent.

Leao will be desperate to start brightly in Qatar and grab his first international goal as he is yet to score for his country in 11 appearances. Chelsea and Manchester City have been heavily linked with him in the past 12 months and a good World Cup campaign could be the catalyst for him to take the next step into the European football elite.

Rafa Leao was Milan’s joint top scorer last season, sharing the award with Olivier Giroud as they won the Serie A for the frist time since 2011. He has started this season in fine form as well, with four goals in nine appearances from the left wing, he’s currently 50/1 on the bet365 website to carry his goalscoring form to Qatar, and finish as the Top Goalscorer.

Gavi

Pablo Martín Páez Gavira, more commonly known as Gavi, is the latest product of FC Barcelona’s absurdly successful La Masia academy.

At the tender age of 18, the youngster already has 12 international caps for Spain and 40 first team appearances for the Barcelona senior team to his name.

Gavi broke the record as the youngest player ever to represent Spain at senior level, and then within a year broke the record for youngest ever goalscorer. His performances for club and country have drawn comparisons with the likes of Xavi and Andreas Iniesta – esteemed company indeed for a player who only turned 18 in the summer.

Operating as a central or attacking midfielder, Gavi is a player who excels in almost every area of the game. Standing at a little under 5ft 7in, he typifies the Barcelona philosophy, relying on intelligence and technical skills rather than physical attributes to play the beautiful game.

After Barcelona team-mate and fellow La Masia graduate Pedri lit up Euro 2020 as the breakout star of that tournament, Gavi, whose career has followed a similar trajectory so far, could be set to emulate him and make the 2022 World Cup his playground.

In a Spain team that love to play with rhythm, flair and passion, Gavi will look to be the lead dancer in their midfield tango. He is 66/1 to take home the Golden Ball on our website, an award it is entirely possible for him to win if he can help Spain match their 2010 World Cup efforts.

Jude Bellingham

England midfielder Jude Bellingham is the youngest Englishman to play at any major tournament at international level. The Birmingham City academy graduate was snapped up by German giants Borussia Dortmund for £25m aged just 17, becoming the most expensive 17-year-old in history.

Despite still being a teenager, Bellingham has racked up 68 appearances for Dortmund and has 17 caps to his name for England.

He is a central midfielder who has it all: outstanding physicality, fantastic technical attributes and the mental skills of a player far beyond his 19 years. It is little wonder he has been linked with a transfer to pretty much every major club in European football.

He is a central midfielder who has it all: outstanding physicality, fantastic technical attributes and the mental skills of a player far beyond his 19 years. It is little wonder he has been linked with a transfer to pretty much every major club in European football.

He is a central midfielder who has it all: outstanding physicality, fantastic technical attributes and the mental skills of a player far beyond his 19 years. It is little wonder he has been linked with a transfer to pretty much every major club in European football.

Edson Alvarez

Mexican star Edson Alvarez could be a player to watch in Qatar this winter as the defensive midfielder continues to be linked to a host of top European clubs.

He may be slightly older than some of the other players on this list at 24 years old, but Alvarez is already an established star in his home country. Boasting 58 caps already for the national team, he was a part of the Mexico squad that were crowned CONCACAF Gold Cup champions in 2019.

Plying his trade for Ajax in the Netherlands, Alvarez has become an integral part of the Eredivisie club’s midfield and recently scored his first Champions League goal against Rangers.

Disciplined, energetic, defensively astute and with a good range of passing, the Mexican number four is already appearing at his second World Cup.

Eduardo Camavinga

Regarded as one of the best young midfielders in Europe, 19-year-old Eduardo Camavinga became a Champions League winner in the summer as Real Madrid secured their 14th title.

The youngest player to ever represent France’s senior national team since 1914, debuting aged 17 in 2020, Camavinga is a midfielder with real presence and dynamism.

Having yet to fully cement himself in the national side, receiving just four caps to date, Camavinga will likely view the Qatar World Cup as the perfect chance to fully announce himself for Les Bleus in what looks set to be a long and illustrious international career for the Rennes academy graduate.

With established midfield stars Paul Pogba and N’Golo Kante both encountering injury issues, the door could well be open for Camavinga and new club teammate Aurelien Tchouameni to take centre stage for France in Qatar.

Jonathan David

If Canada are to make any telling impression in their first World Cup Finals since 1986, a lot will depend on the shoulders of star striker Jonathan David.

Having impressed in European football for a number of years now, emerging at Belgian club Gent before becoming a Ligue 1 champion with Lille, 22-year-old David also boasts an impressive international goal record of 22 goals in 34 caps for Canada.

David played a key role as Lille were able to prise the Ligue 1 title away from PSG in 2020-21, registering 13 goals and impressing with his power and technical prowess.

Long-linked with a lucrative transfer away from the Ligue 1 club, a strong showing for his homeland in Qatar could well be all it takes for a suitor to make their move.

This extremely underrated, young Canadian team are looking to take their country into new territory at the World Cup, having only qualified once before and crashing out in the group stages, and they face an uphill battle against Belgium, Croatia and Morocco.

However, if they do end up being the surprise package of the tournament as some people think they could, Jonathan David and his goals will be central to that. He is currently a long 150/1 to be the competitions top goalscorer.

Mohammed Kudus

First making his mark in Europe in Denmark with Nordsjaelland, Ghanaian Mohammed Kudus has impressed at Ajax since arriving at the Amsterdam club in 2020.

A versatile player, typically deployed as an attacking midfielder but also capable of leading the line up front, Kudus has shone in the Champions League group stages for Ajax with goals against Liverpool, Napoli and Rangers.

The 22-year-old will be aiming to transfer his form at the highest stage of club football to the pinnacle of the international game at the World Cup in Qatar, and help inspire The Black Stars in their first Finals since 2014.

Kudus will head to the World Cup as a key player for the Ghanaians, looking to add to his five goals from 18 international appearances.

Julian Alvarez

The latest in a long line of esteemed Argentine strikers, 22-year-old Julian Alvarez has certainly looked the part in his fleeting Manchester City appearances following his transfer from River Plate in the summer.

Such is his reputation in his homeland, Alvarez is expected to get substantial gametime for Argentina in the World Cup Finals as part of the supporting band for the great Lionel Messi, as La Albiceleste attempt to aid arguably the sport’s greatest ever player towards the major international honour which has always eluded him.

Likely to compete for the central striking berth with Inter’s Lautaro Martinez, Alvarez can also be utilised out wide to good effect with Argentina boss Lionel Scaloni not short of options in the attacking third.

He is currently 50/1 with bet365 to be the top goalscorer at the World Cup, the third favourite from Argentina behind Lionel Messi of course, and Lautaro Martinez, who he may well end up replacing with a few good performances from the bench. Will he be able to show the world what exactly made Pep Guardiola rush for his signature at the end of last season?

Should Alvarez nail down a starting berth, he could have a big tournament with Argentina entering the World Cup on a record-breaking run of 32 games without defeat.

[World Cup 2022 Outright Odds]

Josko Gvardiol

A versatile centre back that has also been deployed as a left back when required, Josko Gvardiol is one of the hottest prospects in world football. He was the subject of a €90m bid from Chelsea during the summer transfer window, and the interest in the RB Leipzig man shows no sign of cooling.

The Croat is a cool head at the back, who likes to drive out of the defence with the ball at his feet. His range of passing allows him to turn defence into attack very quickly as well, as he will look to assist an ageing, yet quality, Croatia midfield in providing some urgency going forward.

Don’t get Gvardiol confused for a flamboyant, ball-playing centre back however, he is also a fierce defender who puts his body on the line whenever it is needed. He played a key part in RB Leipzig keeping 15 clean sheets in all competitions last season as they won the DFB Pokal, reached the Europa League semi-finals, and finished fourth in the Bundesliga.

Jamal Musiala

19-year-old Jamal Musiala is a player the England setup will know all about, having played for them from U16 to U21 levels before opting for Germany’s senior squad.

The Bayern Munich man has enjoyed a meteoric rise into the Germany team, from becoming Bayern’s youngest player to play a Bundesliga game at 17 years and 115 days old, to scoring for them in a 3-0 win over Barcelona in the Champions League just 90 days later.

Since then he has gone from strength to strength. Musiala is a player who loves to receive the ball between the lines, using his swift feet to beat a press and find a pocket of space for him to drive into or release a pass to a teammate.

He has started to add goal contributions to his game, moving him to the next level. After scoring eight in 40 games last season, he has started this season in blistering form, one off that total after just 11 games this season.

Musiala has started to play 90 minutes for Germany more and more regularly, in a squad packed with midfield talent, suggesting that Hansi Flick sees him as a key player for Germany’s World Cup hopes, despite not even being 20 yet.

If Germany want to replicate their 2014 success then Musiala will be key to that. The then eleven year old will be desperate to announce himself by helping the German old guard of Muller, Kroos and Neuer to a second triumph of their career, in what will be their final World Cup. You can find him priced at 66/1 to win the Golden Ball on the bet365 website.

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