We're back this time with two players from different parts of Europe. One is tipped as the hottest attacking talent in Italy and the other as one of Sweden's brightest young up-and-coming players. This week I will be taking a closer look at Mario Barwuah Balotelli and Mikael Lustig.
Only 18 years of age and already a rising star in his native country of Italy, the son of two Ghanaian immigrants is making a real name for himself at Internazionale (and I'm not just talking about his football). His footballing ability is namely matched by his 'raw' attitude and his somewhat uneasy relationship with manager Jose Mourinho as you'll see here.
Balotelli started his career at grass-roots level for Lumezzane (a small club near the city of Brescia, in the north of Italy). He made his debut for them in the Serie C1 against Padova at the tender age of just 15.
Internazionale snapped him up for a mere 340,000 Euros in the summer of 2006. At the age of 16, he had already forced his way into Inter's U-20 squad and he showed his class for the Nerazzurri when he scored the decisive penalty in the Italian youth-cup final against Sampdoria that very same season.
Since 2007 he has made 33 appearances for the blue and black side from Milan, scoring incredibly 11 goals (most of which as a super-sub).
At international level, Balotelli has represented Italy at u-21 age group after rejecting the chance of playing for Ghana).
So far he has scored 5 goals in 9 games for Pierluigi Casiraghi's outfit, including a very good goal against Sweden at the u-21 tournament not so long ago. A match however in which he got himself sent off for this.
In recent weeks, West Ham United have been credited with an interest in taking the striker on loan from Inter for a season. Several newspapers claimed it, and even manager Zola himself came out saying that he would do everything in his power to persuade the tall gangly striker to join the claret and blue of West Ham.
Let me state things clearly, Balotelli is a top talent and a striker with all the right attributes to scare the life out of defenders in both the Serie A and the premier league. He possesses pace in abundance and loves to take defenders on, one-on-one. His technique with the ball is silky smooth and furthermore, he knows how to take a free kick.
His style of play would suit West Ham as he could thrive alongside Cole or Ashton upfront. He played in the same way alongside Ibrahimovic at Inter with the former playing just off the latter. It is also not inconceivable that Zola would opt to use him in 4-3-3 as one of the wing strikers (putting him on the left or right, so that he can run at the full back and one of the center backs and create havoc).
My only concern is his attitude and behaviour. The fact that he felt too good to sit on the bench at Inter and his appalling behavior during recent U-21 games (including stamping two Dutch U-21 players because he lost the ball to Gianni Zuiverloon) show that the hotheaded striker still has much to learn before he can count himself as truly one of the worlds best talents. I'm sure however that a nice good old fashioned cold English winter and Steve Clarke as assistant-manager will help in sorting out his antics.
Rating: Football: 9/10
A young player I didn't know too much about to be honest, but by doing some research and looking at a few recent Sweden U-21 games I'll wager I've got enough data to give you all a complete report about this blond Viking.
Mikael Lustig, born in the town of Umeå in the north-east of Sweden, is a 22 year old right back and is currently playing for Norwegian top club Rosenborg SK.
Despite only transferring from Swedish side Sundsvall last summer, the long haired 6 footer has already been linked with a few foreign clubs including West Ham United.
Lustig doesn't look like your average full back. He's very tall and doesn't exactly have the explosive pace or technique like Dani Alves, Gianluca Zambrotta or Glenn Johnson for instance. What he does posses is good defensive qualities (which is the main thing you expect from your right back, right?) an urge to go forward, heading as you'll see at 4:36 here and crossing ability. Born like a brick outhouse and playing like one, West Ham fans would endear themselves to the no-nonsense full back that has also represented Sweden at senior level.
I have no doubt that his physical presence and his defensive capabilities would improve our first team and show the likes of Malouda, Walcott, Riera and who ever will play for the Spurs on the left that he's more than good enough to handle them.
The only draw back is the fact that he plays in the below average Norwegian league. Not exactly a platform to build your career up from. A move to the Premier League now would perhaps be too soon for Lustig; instead he could try and nurture his career in the Dutch or French league, using it as a stepping stone. But like the likes of Solskjaer, Carew, Hangeland and Pedersen have proven; even the Norwegian league has some hidden gems, waiting to be snatched by clubs from the more prestigious leagues.