Lucas Moura: The star of Sao Paulo’s recent Copa Sudamericana success, 20-year-old attacking midfielder Lucas will join Ligue 1 leaders Paris Saint-Germain in January in a deal believed to be worth 45 million euros (£36.8 million, $59. 5 million). A sinuous, virtuoso dribbler, he compares himself to Lionel Messi and was named in the Brazilian top flight’s team of the year alongside Ronaldinho and Neymar. Could be one of the players to make a mark for Brazil at the Confederations Cup on home soil in June.
Jerzy Janowicz: The 22-year-old Pole finished 2012 at 26 in the world having started the year at 221. Was surprise finalist at the Paris Masters, losing to David Ferrer, having come through qualifying and then defeating Olympic and US Open champion Andy Murray in the third round. Played mostly Challengers and Futures events until a run to the last 32 at Wimbledon.
Rhys Patchell: Wales looked to be rich in fly halves after claiming the Six Nations Grand Slam impressively last season. However, a woeful losing run — including a home defeat to Samoa — and a serious injury to Rhys Priestland could pave the way for the 19-year-old Cardiff Blues playmaker. While Patchell discounts his chances of a call-up sometime soon his commanding performances for his club in Celtic League and European Cup matches may result in his prediction being the wrong one.
Thorbjorn Olesen: The Dane, who turned 23 in December, followed up on an impressive rookie season by grabbing his first European Tour win at the Sicilian Open in April. He then played a leading role at the British Open at Royal Lytham, where he was fourth at the halfway stage and partnered Tiger Woods in the third round. Took 21st place in the World Tour Championship in Dubai, which moved him into the world top 50 and assured him a Masters debut in April. Small of stature, he resembles Rory McIlroy with his free-flowing swing and confident look.
Akila Dananjaya: Sri Lanka skipper Mahela Jayawardene was so impressed by the raw 19-year-old’s unorthodox bowling in the national team’s nets that he got him picked for the World Twenty20 even before he had played a club-level game. Dananjaya picked up five wickets in three matches where Sri Lanka finished runners-up to the West Indies. It’s not just his full name — Mahamarakkala Kurukulasooriya Patabendige Akila Dananjaya Perera — that stands out. So does his bowling where he can deliver a carrom ball, doosra, leg-break, googly and an off-break with amazing accuracy.
James Harden: The 23-year-old Houston Rockets shooting guard is averaging 25.6 points, 5.4 assists and 4.4 rebounds a game for the NBA club after being sent there from OKlahoma City before the start of the 2012-2013 season. Last season he helped the Thunder reach the NBA Finals for the first time before they lost to Miami, but his skills were buried beneath a lineup that already featured stars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook as well as African-born big man Serge Ibaka.