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We always knew where we stood with Spanish football magazine Don Balon’s annual list of the 100 best young players in the world.

While there would always be blinding omissions, and a few names that should never have been anywhere near, the Iberian soccer periodical called things pretty well.  From each annual roster a few players would go onto become real superstars while the majority would never quite fulfil that youthful potential despite enjoying a reasonable career.  Some would blossom while others would ascend so far into their own posterior that you questioned how anyone could have ever rated them in the first place.  But that’s life, c’est la vie, asi es la vida; Don Balon judged what they saw and we liked that.  Continuity is a great thing.

Regrettably, due to a swirling vortex of issues and events that we won’t go into here, Don Balon is no longer with us, and no Don Balon means no annual 100 list.  Booooo!

We thought it was just us that lamented the demise of this annual roll call, but it turns out that we aren’t alone.  On the interweb there are plenty of decent stabs at recreating Don Balon’s critical century, but most end up being driven by hype rather than any bona fide justification.  Yes, we know Liverpool’s Raheem Sterling looks a player, and we’re sure he’s going to be great, but he’s not where Mario Götze is right now is he?  Come back next year son.

So having allowed a sizeable chunk of the last six months to be consumed assessing the performance of the 2010 Don Balon list, we ended up with a whole raft of other names that we thought could/should have been in there.  When this got to more than six hundred, we thought we’d best do something about it.

We’re not going to pretend that IBWM has anything like the clout that Don Balon wielded; this was a long running and well respected publication with a large audience after all.  But ultimately, Don Balon’s annual list would eventually be whittled down by a handful of editorial types in front of a computer, and we can certainly relate to that. 

For research, Don Balon would ask regional correspondents, journalists and media outlets to name names; so we asked regional correspondents, journalists and media outlets to name names.  Don Balon would ask players, scouts and coaches for their opinions; so we asked players, scouts and coaches for their opinions.  We’ve tried to get as balanced a view as possible, reviewing assessments, adding our two penneth and then prioritising names. 

We’re not what you’d describe as experts, but then again, who is?  You’d be hard pressed to find anyone that has digested and been involved in as much world football as we have over the last 20-30 years, so we think our views are reasonably valid…..well, when we’ve not had a drink anyway.   

We spoke to lots of people, watched games, checked videos, took notes, read everything we could, discussed, argued, fought, made up, reviewed stats and then started over….and then we asked a selection of people whose opinion we trust to tell us we weren’t going off on one with any of our selections.  The result is the 100 players listed below.

Our only criteria is that players should be have been born on or after January 1 1990 (yes, we feel old too).  We’ve attempted to maintain a good mix of nationalities and tried to make sure that all regions are represented, but the cut had to come at some point so several nations are not included. 

Most of the names are no brainers - Aaron Ramsey, Jack Wilshire and Mario Balotelli will be familiar to you, but players such as Joel Obi, Moritz Leitner and Valon Berisha might not.  We’ve had a good look at them all, and we’re confident that there is enough going on to warrant inclusion. 

We’ve tried to go with a more attacking feel, but there are some excellent defenders, defensive midfielders and goalkeepers included too.  Please leave comments, highlighting how wrong and stupid we are if necessary, there will be a good reason why your personal favourite is missing and we’ll certainly try to answer any questions via the comments section or on twitter.

For now its names only, no narrative, this is our watch list for the next twelve months.  We’ll talk about all in more detail this time next year, although we suspect you’ll be better acquainted with several before then.  Take note of the names and watch out for these kids, we’re backing every single one and 2012 could be really special for several of them.

So here it is, in the spirit of the festive fifty, the chart of the year and other new year’s honours lists, we present the annual IBWM 100: 2012 edition - the best 100 young players in the world (according to us) right now.



Position



Nationality



Club



Aaron Ramsey



Midfielder



Wales



Arsenal



Abel Hernández



Striker



Uruguay



Palermo



Adam Maher



Striker



Holland



AZ Alkmaar



Alan Dzagoev



Midfielder



Russia



CSKA Moscow



Alex Sandro



Defender



Brazil



Porto



Alexander Merkel



Midfielder



Germany



Milan



Alexandre Laczaette



Striker



France



Lyon



André Carrillo



Midfielder



Peru



Sporting CP



André Schürrle



Midfielder



Germany



Bayer Leverkusen



Ante Vukusic



Striker



Croatia



Hadjuk Split



Bernd Leno



Goalkeeper



Germany



Bayer Leverkusen



Bojan Krkić



Striker



Spain



AS Roma



Chris Wood



Striker



New Zealand



Birmingham City



Christian Eriksen



Midfielder



Denmark



Ajax



Clément Grenier



Midfielder



France



Lyon



Danny Welbeck



Striker



England



Manchester United



David Alaba



Midfielder



Austria



Bayern Munich



David De Gea



Goalkeeper



Spain



Manchester United



David 'Junior' Hoilett



Midfielder



Canada



Blackburn Rovers



Diego Rubio



Midfielder



Chile



Sporting CP



Douglas Costa



Midfielder



Brazil



Shakhtar Donetsk



Dudu



Midfielder



Brazil



Dynamo Kyiv



Eden Hazard



Midfielder



Belgium



Lille



Emmanuel Mayuka



Striker



Zambia



Young Boys



Erick Torres Padilla



Striker



Mexico



Chivas



Erik Lamela



Midfielder



Argentina



AS Roma



Gastón Ramirez



Midfielder



Uruguay



Bologna



Georginio Wijnaldum



Midfielder



Holland



PSV Eindhoven



Granit Xhaka



Midfielder



Switzerland



FC Basel



Gueïda Fofana



Midfielder



France



Lyon



Iker Muniain



Striker



Spain



Athletic



İlkay Gündoğan



Midfielder



Germany



Borussia Dortmund



Inigo Martinez



Defender



Spain



Real Sociedad



Isaac Cuenca



Midfielder



Spain



Barcelona



Isco



Midfielder



Spain



Malaga



Jack Rodwell



Midfielder



England



Everton



Jack Wilshere



Midfielder



England



Arsenal



James Forrest



Midfielder



Scotland



Celtic



James Rodríguez



Midfielder



Colombia



Porto



Jano Ananidze



Midfielder



Georgia



Spartak Moscow



Jeffrey Bruma



Defender



Holland



HSV



Joel Campbell



Striker



Costa Rica



Arsenal



Joel Obi



Midfielder



Nigeria



Inter



John Guidetti



Striker



Sweden



Feyenoord



Jordan Ayew



Midfielder



Ghana



Marseille



Juan Iturbe



Midfielder



Argentina



Porto



Julian Draxler



Midfielder



Germany



Schalke



Kevin De Bruyne



Midfielder



Belgium



Genk



Kevin Strootman



Midfielder



Holland



PSV Eindhoven



Kolbeinn Sigþórsson



Striker



Iceland



Ajax



Kyriakos Papadopoulos



Defender



Greece



Schalke



Lacina Traoré



Striker



Ivory Coast



Kuban



Lazar Marković



Striker



Serbia



Partizan Belgrade



Leroy Fer



Midfielder



Holland



Twente



Lewis Holtby



Midfielder



Germany



Schalke



Lorenzo Insigne



Midfielder



Italy



Napoli



Luc Castaignos



Striker



Holland



Inter



Lucas Moura



Midfielder



Brazil



Sao Paolo



Lucas Ocampos



Midfielder



Argentina



River Plate



Luuk de Jong



Striker



Holland



Twente



Mamadou Sakho



Defender



France



PSG



Manolo Gabbiadini



Striker



Italy



Atalanta



Manuel Lanzini



Midfielder



Argentina



Fluminense



Mario Balotelli



Striker



Italy



Manchester City



Mario Götze



Midfielder



Germany



Borussia Dortmund



Mateo Kovačić



Midfielder



Croatia



Dinamo Zagreb



M'Baye Niang



Striker



France



Caen



Michele Camporese



Defender



Italy



Fiorentina



Miralem Pjanić



Midfielder



Bosnia & Herz.



AS Roma



Moritz Leitner



Midfielder



Germany



Borussia Dortmund



Neymar



Striker



Brazil



Santos



Ola John



Midfielder



Holland



Twente



Oriol Romeu



Midfielder



Spain



Chelsea



Oscar



Midfielder



Brazil



Internacional



Pablo Sarabia



Midfielder



Spain



Getafe



Pajtim Kasami



Midfielder



Switzerland



Fulham



Phil Jones



Defender



England



Manchester United



Phillippe Coutinho



Midfielder



Brazil



Inter



Rafael



Defender



Brazil



Manchester United



Raphaël Varane



Defender



France



Real Madrid



Ricardo Rodriguez



Defender



Switzerland



FC Zurich



Richmond Boakye



Striker



Ghana



Genoa



Rodrigo Moreno



Striker



Spain



Benfica



Romelu Lukaku



Striker



Belgium



Chelsea



Ryad Boudebouz



Midfielder



Algeria



Sochaux



Sebastian Coates



Defender



Uruguay



Liverpool



Ŝime Vrsaljko



Defender



Croatia



Dinamo Zagreb



Son Heung-Min



Striker



South Korea



HSV



Sotiris Ninis



Midfielder



Greece



Panathinaikos



Stefan Savic



Defender



Montenegro



Manchester City



Stephan El Shaarawy



Midfielder



Italy



AC Milan



Takashi Usami



Midfielder



Japan



Bayern Munich



Thiago



Midfielder



Spain



Barcelona



Thibaout Courtois



Goalkeeper



Belgium



Atlético Madrid



Toni Kroos



Midfielder



Germany



Bayern Munich



Valon Berisha



Midfielder



Norway



Viking



Wojciech Szczesny



Goalkeeper



Poland



Arsenal



Xherdan Shaqiri



Midfielder



Switzerland



Basel



Yann M’Vila



Midfielder



France



Stade Rennais



Younes Belhanda



Midfielder



Morocco



Montpellier


 

Posted
AuthorIBWM Staff