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.
Stars to watch out for in 2013
Stars to watch out for in 2013
Mohamed Salah threatens Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo Ballon d’Or stranglehold
- Messi and Ronaldo have won the award for the past ten years
- Salah has emerged as a genuine rival after scoring 43 goals this season
LIVERPOOL: Mohamed Salah could be the man to finally break the Ronaldo-Messi duopoly at the top of world football after the Liverpool forward burnished his soaring reputation with a mesmerising Champions League performance against Roma.
Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo and Barcelona’s Lionel Messi have locked down the Ballon d’Or award for a decade, winning five gongs apiece — for the past seven years they have occupied the top two slots.
But Salah is now second favorite behind Ronaldo for this year’s award after scoring his 42nd and 43rd goals of the season in a thrilling 5-2 victory for Liverpool in the Champions League semifinal first leg.
After his first strike against his former club on Tuesday, the man dubbed by fans as the “Egyptian King” stood motionless, hands raised in apology, as bedlam broke out on a night for the ages at Anfield.
Salah’s curling effort arrowed into the top corner with such accuracy his manager Jurgen Klopp labelled it “a genius strike.”
Soon after came the forward’s signature finish, a cute dink over advancing Roma goalkeeper Alisson for his 43rd goal in 47 games for Liverpool.
When Salah, 25, made the move from the Italian capital back to the Premier League just 10 months ago for €42 million ($51 million), there were plenty who felt Roma had got the better deal. Salah after all was a talented player, but who often lacked an end product.
It also came just a few weeks before Neymar’s move from Barcelona to Paris Saint-Germain for a world record €222 million revolutionized the transfer market.
The Brazilian’s desire to leave the Catalan giants was tied to his ambition to beat Messi and Ronaldo to the Ballon d’Or by stepping out of Messi’s shadow.
Now, though, it is Salah who has emerged as the pretender to end the Messi-Ronaldo domination by not only scoring the quantity of goals that have become the pair’s trademark but doing it when it really matters, in the latter stages of the Champions League.
“If you think he is the best in the world, write it or say it,” urged Klopp, who has been credited with bringing out Salah’s previously untapped potential.
“To be the best in the world you need to do that over a longer period I think, and there are a few others that are not so bad.”
Heavily left-footed, small, speedy and with a low center of gravity, Salah’s characteristics are far more like those of Messi than the muscular goal-machine Ronaldo.
“In a certain light, at certain points, it is possible to glimpse in Salah a little of Messi’s afterglow,” wrote Rory Smith in the New York Times.
And he demonstrated another Messi-like quality in showing no mercy to Roma.
Chasing his first hat-trick in the Champions League, Salah would have been forgiven for going for goal as he bore down on Alisson once more after half-time.
But he showed why he is considered one of the game’s more unselfish superstars by instead creating another two goals for strike partners Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino.
When Salah left the field to a standing ovation 15 minutes from time, Liverpool led 5-0.
“Unstoppable (when Salah’s on the pitch),” said the back page of The Times.
Two late Roma away goals have at least given the Italians hope of recreating the incredible comeback they staged from a 4-1 first-leg deficit against Barca in the quarter-finals.
For once it is Salah’s turn to lead the way where Messi faltered on his return to the Eternal City next week.
Messi is almost certain to win a La Liga and Copa del Rey double and Ronaldo could lead Real Madrid to a third consecutive Champions League after another bucketload of goals this season.
But Salah is the coming man and after bagging the African and English players’ player of the year crowns, it is hard to back against him also conquering the world.