With 2021 almost over, it’s time to look forward. 2022 promises plenty in the football world, not least a World Cup. The great and good of international football will assemble in Qatar for a tournament that only takes place once every four years, despite the best efforts of Arsene Wenger. Legends will be made.
But which players are set for a big year in 2022? We looked at five names that could rise to the top over the next 12 months or so. These aren’t unearthed wonderkids (although there will undoubtedly be many of those to surface in 2022), but talents who are ready to hit the heights and make next year a landmark one.
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2021 was a breakthrough year for Gavi, but 2022 could see him take the next step. There are already signs that new Barcelona manager Xavi Hernandez will install the 17-year-old as a key figure at club level and it appears Luis Enrique is also a big fan of the midfielder at international level. He will be important for Spain in Qatar.
Gavi embodies a lot of what both Xavi and Enrique want from their respective teams. His energy and drive epitomises the energy Barcelona and Spain used to play with a decade ago while his technical ability on the ball means he can also play his part in the ‘tiki-taka.’ Gavi’s potential is clear and 2022 could be the year he becomes one of the best around.
Aaron Ramsdale (Arsenal)
Barring injuries, Gareth Southgate’s England team that starts the 2022 World Cup will likely be very similar to the one that played much of Euro 2020. If, however, there is one position up for grabs, it’s surely in goal and this is where Aaron Ramsdale could make himself England’s first-choice before heading to Qatar.
While Arsenal’s signing of Ramsdale in the summer raised eyebrows, the 23-year-old has since more than justified his place at the Emirates Stadium. He isn’t just an instinctive shot-stopper but also a defensive organiser. Ramsdale is a vocal presence at the back and is a popular figure in the dressing room. It seems inevitable that he will one day be England number one and that day could come in 2022.
Dominik Szoboszlai (RB Leipzig)
2021 was a frustrating year for Dominik Szoboszlai. The Hungarian sealed a move to RB Leipzig from Red Bull Salzburg in the January window, but was sidelined through injury for the rest of the season. This saw him miss out on representing Hungary at Euro 2020 as well, but there are signs that Szoboszlai is finally finding his feet for his new team.
RB Leipzig will play no further part in the Champions League after the group stage, but will be one of the favourites to win the Europa League. Domenico Tedesco will surely look to build his side around Szoboszlai such is the Hungarian’s natural talent. By this time next year, he could be one of the best in the Bundesliga.
Donny van de Beek (Manchester United)
Until Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s departure, Donny van de Beek’s Manchester United career looked to be over before it had even truly began. Now, though, the Dutchman could be about to embark on a redemptive career arc. Mauricio Pochettino, reportedly believed to be United’s first-choice to replace Solskjaer, has previously spoken of his admiration for the midfielder while Eric Ten Hag, another candidate strongly linked with the job, worked with him at Ajax.
What’s more, with Paul Pogba out of contract at the end of the season Van de Beek will surely have the opportunity to make himself one of the first names on the team sheet at Old Trafford. The Dutch midfielder’s natural talent is in no doubt, but the circumstances at Manchester United in 2022 might finally be right for him to thrive.
Florian Wirtz (Bayer Leverkusen)
Bayer Leverkusen have a strong track record of producing world-class players and Florian Wirtz looks set to be next off the conveyer belt. The teenager is already proven at Bundesliga level and has been linked with the likes of Chelsea, Newcastle United and Real Madrid who would have to break the bank to sign him.
The World Cup at the end of 2022 could be the perfect place for Wirtz to truly announce himself at the top of the sport much like Mesut Ozil did in 2010. The 18-year-old is destined for greatness and the next 12 months could give him a showcase to prove why there is so much excitement in Germany around him.
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