London: From Ryan Giggs to Raheem Sterling, via Michael Owen, Wayne Rooney and Cesc Fabregas, the English Premier League has long been fertile breeding ground for up-and-coming talent.
Here, AFP Sports profiles five young players for whom the 2014-15 campaign could provide a launchpad to stardom.
Luke Shaw (Manchester United)
- After a fine season with Southampton that saw him dislodge Ashley Cole from the England squad, Shaw became the fourth most expensive defender in history when United paid an initial fee of £27 million ($45.6 million, 34 million euros) to take him to Old Trafford. New United manager Louis van Gaal`s decision to introduce a 3-4-1-2 formation should suit the buccaneering 19-year-old, who will have sole responsibility for providing width on the left flank. "Luke is a very talented young left-back with great potential," said United assistant manager Giggs, the club`s last great left-sided player. "He has developed immensely during his time at Southampton and has all the attributes to become a top player."
Kurt Zouma (Chelsea)
- Zouma, 19, signed for Chelsea from Saint-Etienne in January for a fee of around £12 million before being loaned back to his formative club until the end of the 2013-14 season. The tall, powerful centre-back has been given Chelsea`s number five shirt by manager Jose Mourinho and scored his first goal for the club in a friendly against Slovenian side Olimpija Ljubljana last month. Although John Terry and Gary Cahill will start the campaign as first-choice centre-backs, Chelsea`s commitments on four fronts mean that the France Under-21 international should get opportunities to impress. "Mourinho said to me, `Are you ready?`" Zouma told Chelsea TV shortly after arriving in July. "I told him, `Yeah, I`m ready.`"
Calum Chambers (Arsenal)
- Chambers started last season as Southampton`s second-choice right-back behind Nathaniel Clyne, but after breaking into the first team, he was signed by Arsenal for a reported initial fee of around £11 million. The 19-year-old produced very sure-footed displays in his three pre-season appearances despite playing in an unfamiliar role at centre-back. "I am impressed by Calum`s character, by how quickly he is adapting and how secure he is when he plays," said new Arsenal captain Mikel Arteta. "He is mature, a normal guy and I think he is going to be a very important player for us in the next few years."
John Stones (Everton)
- Having started his career with home-town club Barnsley, Stones joined Everton in January 2013 and broke into the first team last season, making 26 appearances in central defence and at right-back. The 20-year-old`s performances caught the eye of England manager Roy Hodgson and he was put on standby for the World Cup, appearing in pre-tournament friendlies against Peru and Ecuador. "He`s just a player that`s never really flustered," said Everton team-mate Leighton Baines. "He`s got fantastic composure. He`s a really good footballer, made for the international scene to play centre-half, because he`ll take the ball out from the back and rarely gives it away."
Ben Davies (Tottenham Hotspur)
- An injury to Neil Taylor enabled the dashing Davies to establish himself as Swansea City`s first-choice left-back in the 2012-13 season and he held onto the role last season despite Taylor`s return to fitness, playing in 34 league games and scoring twice. The 21-year-old Wales international joined Tottenham in July in a part-exchange deal involving Gylfi Sigurdsson and will now compete with Danny Rose and Jan Vertonghen for the left-back berth at White Hart Lane. "I had never thought or wanted to leave Swansea, but an opportunity like this doesn`t come up often in your career," he said.