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Players hoping to follow Pele as best young player

Players hoping to follow Pele as best young player

The unheralded will be tussling with the established stars for the title of best young player at this year's World Cup.
While most players will be aiming to attract widespread attention for the first time as they attempt to follow Pele and Franz Beckenbauer in winning the trophy, at least one hopes the tournament helps get his club career back on track.
Mexico forward Giovani Dos Santos led his country to the Gold Cup title last year and was player of the tournament, but his progress at club level has stalled since he left Barcelona for English club Tottenham in June 2008.
But at 20, time is still on Giovani's side as he tries to live up to early comparisons with Brazil forward Ronaldinho.
Giovani is now on loan at Turkish club Galatasaray, where former Barcelona coach Frank Rijkaard is trying to coax the best out of him.
"It's my dream to play in South Africa and to fulfill it I have to be match fit and show the coach I'm playing well," Giovani said. "That's why I moved to Turkey, to show what I can do."
And Giovani has shown he can make an impact at the highest level, scoring a hat trick for Barcelona during his only full season with the Spanish club and claiming the second goal in Mexico's 5-0 Gold Cup final win over the United States.
FIFA says the best young player award goes to someone who displays, among other things, "exceptional skills," "tactical maturity and efficiency" and "fan recognition as a result of entertaining performances."
That could easily describe England winger Theo Walcott, if he is fit.
He was in England's 2006 squad despite having never played a Premier League match, but never made it off the bench.
Walcott seemed to be graduating to superstar status when, picked ahead of the aging David Beckham, he led England to a 4-1 qualifying win at Croatia in September 2008 with a hat trick. But injuries have contributed to inconsistent form over the past 18 months. He may only get a chance to impress this time if the 22-year-old Aaron Lennon, who was impressive as a teenage substitute at the 2006 World Cup, fails to bounce back from a groin injury that has hampered him this season.
"I feel fit as anything I've felt," Walcott said. "I feel really good now so hopefully I can stay fit and look after myself. I've had such a stop-start season, I've lost so many games I've lost count.
"The first thing is to stay fit now throughout the whole season."
FIFA has given its award ever since honoring Pele for his four goals in six matches at the 1958 World Cup.
The age of the winners ranges from Pele's 17 to the 21 of Teofilo Cubillas, Robert Prosinecki, Marc Overmars and _ in 2006 _ Lukas Podolski.
That places Spain forward Sergio Canales, Germany midfielder Mesut Ozil and South Korea midfielder Ki Sung-yueng among the other likely candidates for the solid steel trophy.
Ki signed a four-year contract with Scottish club Celtic in January and has already established himself in one of the most physical leagues in Europe.
"The football is physically strong in Scotland," Ki said. "Players close you down quickly, but that's the same in Korea."
United States midfielder Landon Donovan won the award in 2002, and teammate Clint Dempsey is predicting one of his teammates will make an impression this time.
"A young guy you could look at to do well is Jozy Altidore," Demspey said. "I think he's one that could be to watch."
The 20-year-old Altidore, who is on loan at English club Hull from Villarreal, scored in his team's 2-0 win over Spain at last year's Confederations Cup.
Another of the contenders for the award could be the son of three-time African player of the year Abedi Pele.
Abedi Pele never made it to a World Cup with Ghana, but 20-year-old midfielder Andre Ayew will be there with the country this year. He is registered with Marseille, for whom his father also played, but has been on loan with second-tier French club Arles this season.
Ayew helped Ghana reach the African Cup of Nations final in January and could be ready to play regularly alongside veterans such as Michael Essien, Stephen Appiah and Sulley Muntari.


Updated : 2021-04-19 00:42 GMT+08:00