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8 young players you need to watch during international break

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8 young players you need to watch during international break

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The international break is upon us, but that just means a host of young players have a chance to shine for their countries instead of their clubs. Who should you be on the lookout for over the next week?

Stream on ESPN+: LaLiga, Bundesliga, more (U.S.)

Facundo Farias, 21, AM, Inter Miami / Argentina

If Lionel Messi is fit to play, he could be accompanied by his Inter Miami teammate for the first time as he continues Argentina’s defence of the World Cup title against Paraguay and Peru. A €5m signing from Colon, where he notched up almost 100 first-team appearances before turning 21, Farias has wasted no time in making an impression in MLS. Albeit not as big as the famous No. 10 …

With his rapid instinctive acceleration, directness and limitless appetite to take on opponents in central areas, Farias is somewhat atypical for an attacking No. 8, but he covers a lot of ground, draws fouls, evades pressure and breaks lines with some intense and determined runs.

Castello Lukeba, 20, CB, RB Leipzig / France

With Dayot Upamecano, Axel Disasi and William Saliba pulling out of the France squad through injury, Lukeba deservedly gets a chance to represent his country at the highest level. Dominant for the under-21 national side, he has settled in instantly at RB Leipzig following his €34 million move from Lyon, where he was yet another product of their renowned academy, prompting legitimate questions as to why he wasn’t picked up by a Premier League side.

Quick, mobile and excellent at anticipating with early interceptions (2.20 per 90 minutes), he is a positive, calm distributor of the ball too. Indeed, the left-footed centre-back possesses all the prerequisites to stake his claim for a permanent slot in future Les Bleus squads.

Arthur Vermeeren, 18, CM, Antwerp / Belgium

Heavily influential in Antwerp’s title-winning season, the midfielder has carried on where he left off and landed a deserved first senior callup while almost entirely bypassing the U21 setup (he has just one cap for them) from the U19s.

Another talent who is being closely scrutinised by major European clubs, Vermeeren often lines up as the player afforded more freedom to roam in a double pivot. His energy and desire to get on the ball see him venture between the defensive lines and, when in possession, he tends to shift it swiftly.

Aside from his finesse and playmaking skills, the youngster is also a disciplined at recovering and pressing too.

Antonio Nusa, 18, AM, Club Brugge / Norway

In a Norway squad that also features Manchester City‘s Oscar Bobb for the first time, Brugge winger Nusa is stirring up almost as much excitement as Erling Haaland once did with his array of trickery, quick footwork and body feints.

Not only did the skillful and technically gifted teenager find the net in his senior debut against Jordan last month, but a few days later he repeatedly turned the Georgia full-backs inside out from the first minute and went on to set up two goals in a MVP performance that went viral.

Though this time he’s likely to start from the bench due to not having fully recovered from a minor injury, he was reportedly close to joining Chelsea on deadline day and will gather plenty of interest as the January transfer window draws closer.

Levi Colwill, 20, CB/LB, Chelsea / England

One of the outstanding performers from the England side that won the European Under-21 Championship this summer, the defender has been given the chance to shine for the senior side after impressing for Chelsea following a loan spell at Brighton last season.

As the only left-footed defender in the England squad, Colwill might have to settle for a left-back role, despite making a more-than-reasonable case to be slotted into his favoured left centre-back position.

Colwill is equally as capable playing out from the back as he is at defending his own box, with his physicality and commitment both strong areas of his game. There’s every reason to believe Colwill will be a fixture for years to come.

António Silva, 19, CB, Benfica / Portugal

Scouts from Europe’s top clubs will have booked their tickets for Portugal’s upcoming fixtures against Slovakia and Bosnia and Herzegovina to run the rule over Benfica’s promising defender. Only a year on from making his Benfica debut, when he was thrown in at the deep end by Roger Schmidt as an 18-year-old, he’s never looked back.

Silva has been continuously linked with European powerhouses, with Manchester United reportedly the latest to show an interest, and his game has reached another level. His distribution has improved and, despite a clumsy handball which led to a red card in the Champions League against FC Salzburg, he’s become an even more effective defender too. Silva might not be the flashiest around, but he’s efficient and consistent at what he does best.

Lazar Samardzic, 21, AM, Udinese / Serbia

The Udinese midfielder also looks set to be a hot transfer target in January. Samardzic looked set to join Inter a few months ago, but a €15m move fell through as the player failed to agree personal terms with the Champions League finalists.

So what makes the 21-year-old so sought-after? Well, not only are creative No. 8s hard to find at the highest level, but also the Germany-born youngster — who at 6-foot tall cuts an above-average size for a box-to-box midfielder — has excellent close control, energetically drives forward in possession and delivers precise set pieces. Perhaps more than anything, though, he repeatedly gets into favourable goal-scoring positions in the final third.

Bilal El Khannouss, 19, CM, Racing Genk / Morocco

With Eden Hazard retiring and Kevin De Bruyne recovering from injury, Belgium could have used the Genk midfielder (who was part of the country’s youth sides until 2021), but he opted to play for Morocco at the 2022 World Cup.

Rumoured to be closely followed by Manchester City and Arsenal, El Khannouss is an exceptionally gifted and elegant playmaker — almost a throwback, who drops deep to get on the ball before effortlessly pinpointing diagonal passes or picking out runs behind the opposing defence.

In additional to his wonderful technical ability and vision, it’s his decision making, purpose and maturity that makes El Khannouss so delightful to watch.

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