The 2021/22 season is fast approaching and whilst I’m enjoying MLS, NWSL, the Olympics and the Gold Cup, I personally can’t wait for the rest to return. This article is something a bit different, here I detail some of the many players I’m rooting for this season. Whether they be youngsters who have a lot of potential, someone who has battled with injuries or they are coming off a rough season or two. From my managers to watch to players I want to do well…
Justin Kluivert, Nice
Starting with Justin Kluivert who after breaking on the scene at Ajax, has struggled to find a suitable home. Some people would say that the winger gets by on name alone but he was great during his time in the Eredivisie and there is clear potential there. Since departing his home country he has played for Roma and Leipzig, a loan spell to the latter last season not bringing too much success. Due to this, Kluivert has joined the very exciting Nice for this season and there’s hope that with more space and time on the ball, he could thrive. Nice have brought in last year’s Ligue 1 winning manager Christophe Galtier which is a massive coup and with attacking options including Kluivert, Kasper Dolberg, Amine Gouiri and Calvin Stengs, they could be a great watch this season!
From one Dutchman to another and Memphis Depay is still labelled by many Premier League fans as a flop despite his success since leaving Old Trafford. Memphis has been a part of a very interesting Lyon side along with the likes of Houssem Aouar, Ferland Mendy and Tanguy Ndombele but their key men often get picked off. Whilst Memphis hasn’t been the target of a big money move, he’ll be running out at the Nou Camp this season after his contract ran down and he joined Barcelona on a free. The club is drowning in issues on and off the field but what a treat it’ll be to see Memphis join Messi and Aguero as well as other attacking assets in this season coming.
Alexis Sanchez, Inter
Talking of the Catalan giants and the next man, Alexis Sanchez, enjoyed a few trophy-laden years there. He then went on to become one of Arsenal’s best players in the 21st century but it quickly went downhill. Alexis struggled at Man United and now he is deemed as a far cry from that Chilean live-wire that graced the Emirates. He is currently at Inter and came into the team more prominently in the latter stages last season as they lifted the Serie A. At 32 he is getting towards the end of his career and with the Inter board wanting a reduction in the wage budget and a general cut down in finances, if he remains at the San Siro he could have a great chance to get some good minutes this season.
Fikayo Tomori, Milan
From one half of Milan to the other and English centre-back Fikayo Tomori is of course at the other end of his career. Tomori has moved away from Chelsea whilst many of their academy products have hung around for too long, and it has clearly paid dividends. His loan spell with the Rossoneri began really well and he displaced captain Alessandro Romagnoli in a short period of time which is remarkable really. Tomori has now been acquired permanently by the club and with Champions League football as well as a genuine title challenge to come this season too, the sky is the limit for the man born in Canada.
Jamal Musiala, Bayern Munich
Tomori is a dual-national that chose England but Jamal Musiala went the other way, selecting Germany due to not only being born there but playing his club football there too. We’ve seen Jadon Sancho breakthrough with Dortmund and set somewhat of a trend, Musiala following in similar footsteps and playing quite a large role in the Bayern squad at truth, even at 18. Julian Nagelsmann is taking over the successful Hansi Flick at the helm of the Bavarian giants so whilst Musiala’s role under the new manager is unknown currently, Nagelsmann does like to bring through young stars. Musiala has a Bundesliga title to his name already and made Joachim Low’s Euro 2020 squad so he could go to another level again in this season coming.
Rhian Brewster, Sheffield United
It doesn’t always go to plan for English youngsters though, just ask Rhian Brewster. His loan move from Liverpool to Swansea for half a season saw him score ten in twenty but then Sheffield United paid £25 million for the man from the Chelsea academy, and it didn’t go to plan. He is still with the Blades but not only did they get relegated from the Premier League last season, but also Brewster failed to score a single goal in his 27 appearances. He has shown that he can be a great player in the Championship and so hopefully he can thrive in a decent squad, putting a miserable season far, far behind him.
Joao Pedro, Watford
Sheffield United may have been relegated to the second tier but meanwhile, Watford are going the other way under Xisco Munoz. The Hornets along with Norwich gained automatic promotion last season and they have a few young attackers that look very promising indeed. Ismaila Sarr has garnered a lot of interest from the big boys but Brazilian Joao Pedro was one of my favourite players to watch last season. He’s still young and quite raw but I have no doubt that he can be an exciting player, a good goalscorer too as Watford attempt to re-establish themselves in the Premier League.
Lauren James, Chelsea
Heading over to the women’s game now and as good as Manchester United were last season in the WSL, they have been completely dismantled and surely the big three will go back to old ways. Not only has manager Casey Stoney gone stateside, Tobin Heath and Christen Press have of course returned to the NWSL too and young attacker Lauren James has been snapped up by Chelsea. She wasn’t a regular in Stoney’s XI but she held a number of records for the club, first goalscorer in various competitions and in general she was a threat in the opposition’s box. James maybe lacked that clinical edge but that can certainly be developed. She’s a great pickup by Emma Hayes but you just wonder where she fits in with Sam Kerr, Pernille Harder, Fran Kirby, Beth England AND Erin Cuthbert to name just a few elite forwards.
Jeremy Doku, Rennes
Euro 2020 and most major tournaments allow players to announce themselves to a wider audience and whilst he may not have been blessed with too many opportunities, Jeremy Doku did just that. He had a couple of great games for Belgium although his nation did have a disappointing summer, but he seemingly lacks production for club and country. The nineteen-year-old contributed to just five goals at a rate of just under 1 every 500 minutes and so that is something that will hopefully improve this season. His pace and dribbling make him explosive and dangerous and along with Eduardo Camavinga in that Rennes side, it’ll be worth keeping an eye on them.
Goncalo Guedes, Valencia
Finally then to another wide talent and Goncalo Guedes of Valencia is an interesting case really. The Spanish side used to be a major power but due to issues on and off the field, they have faded into mere mediocrity in the last season or two. The likes of Rodrigo Moreno and Ferran Torres have left due to this but the Portuguese international Guedes has remained at Mestalla. It has been hit or miss for him but there are glimpses of a very good player and it would be great to see that more regularly when the 21/22 season rolls around.
There are so many players that I’m rooting for this season, as is always the case and so here are just some of the many, many honourable mentions. James Maddison (Leicester), Danielle van de Donk (Lyon), Hakim Ziyech (Chelsea), Yakou Meite (Reading), Ansu Fati (Barcelona), Mikkel Damsgaard (Sampdoria), Toni Duggan (Everton), Gio Reyna (Dortmund), Emi Buendia (Aston Villa), Weston McKennie (Juventus )and Jonathan David (Lille).