Timo Werner, Jurgen Damm, Aaron Mooy: Confed Cup players to watch
The 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup kicks off on Saturday as hosts Russia face New Zealand in Saint Petersburg. Nick Ames picks out some players you'll want to watch:
Timo Werner, FW, RB Leipzig (Germany) and Germany
This seems the perfect opportunity for Werner, who had a stunning season domestically, to shine in front of an audience beyond regular Bundesliga watchers. The forward, who does not turn 22 until next March, scored 21 league goals in 2017-18 and should be a key player in Joachim Low's young team. Werner may also appreciate the chance to excel outside his home country, having been booed by his own fans during Germany's 7-0 win over San Marino last weekend. The reasons for that are complex, but Werner has the ability to put it all behind him in Russia.
Christian Bassogog, FW, Henan Jianye (China) and Cameroon
The lightning-quick winger's manager, Hugo Broos, had not even heard of him a year ago but caught on in time to select Bassogog for the Africa Cup of Nations earlier this year. Broos was rewarded as Bassogog, 21, put in a series of superb performances to help Cameroon win the trophy against all odds. Bassogog earned a move to the Chinese Super League as a result; the task now is to show that he can do it all once more against a wider range of quality opponents. This could be a fortnight in which we learn plenty about his full potential.
Alexis Sanchez, FW, Arsenal (England) and Chile
Nobody needs introducing to the talents of Sanchez, who will be critical to a Chile side that is among the tournament favourites, but intrigue is likely to be intense away from the pitch. Sanchez has been linked heavily with a move away from Arsenal this summer and perhaps a few weeks in the company of Arturo Vidal, the Bayern Munich midfielder, may yet tip the scales in favour of a transfer to the Germany club. Either way, his actions and words are bound to be scrutinized heavily for the merest hint of a suggestion regarding his plans for the forthcoming season.
Chris Wood, FW, Leeds United (England) and New Zealand
Wood has been a threatening centre-forward, mainly in England's Championship, for several years but enjoyed the season of his life with Leeds last time around. The 25-year-old scored 27 league goals and while it is difficult to be similarly prolific with his country, he has a record of better than one goal in three games at the international level. If New Zealand are to make a proper go of things in Russia, they will need Wood, a dominant aerial presence who is no slouch on the ground either, to be firing on all cylinders again. Interested observers may include newly promoted Huddersfield, who have been linked with a £15 million move.
Aaron Mooy, MF, Huddersfield Town (England) and Australia
There were few better performers in last season's English second-tier than Mooy, who pulled the strings in midfield as Huddersfield secured a sensational promotion to the Premier League. The 26-year-old, whose distribution and razor-sharp football brain helped him to run games virtually on his own, was on loan from Manchester City and remained on the books at the Etihad at the time of writing -- although Huddersfield agreed a £10m fee for his services on Thursday and it seems likely he will be back in their colours next term. If he can help guide Australia out of their group, it would be another big feather in his cap.
Aleksandr Golovin, MF, CSKA Moscow (Russia) and Russia
Russia have been a stodgy proposition for too long and need something to give home fans hope ahead of the World Cup. Golovin may be the man relied upon to provide it, especially with playmaker Alan Dzagoev among several big-name absentees this summer. The CSKA Moscow midfielder, who turned 21 last month, has been linked with Arsenal recently and looks to have the potential for a career in the Premier League. He is an exceptional creative talent whose vision can open up a game, and he has close-control honed through a childhood playing futsal. Plenty of Europe's big names beside the Gunners will be looking to see how he handles the pressure of a home tournament.
Jurgen Damm, FW, Tigres (Mexico) and Mexico
Damm, who was once close to joining Roma, has caught West Ham's eye over the past year and a strong showing for Mexico at the Confederations Cup might secure him a move from his current club, Tigres. He is exceptionally quick -- one test placed him as the second-fastest player in world football behind Gareth Bale -- but has become a more rounded, composed player over the past year and hopes to prove that in Russia. He was a late call-up to the final El Tri squad but might be particularly suited to an impact substitute role against tiring defences that will find his speed difficult to handle.
Bernardo Silva, MF, Man City (England) and Portugal
Silva will officially join Manchester City the day before the Confederations Cup final and the £43m price tag says plenty about the attacking midfielder's gifts. After the stunning 2016-17 season he had with Monaco, it seems a trick of the mind that he was left out of Portugal's Euro 2016 squad last summer. As it happened they hardly needed him, but he has been more involved since then and will be an important part of their approach to his first senior international tournament. Should Silva produce the goods this summer, it will add to the impression that Portugal have a genuine star to assume Cristiano Ronaldo's mantle over the coming years.
Carlos Vela, FW, Real Sociedad (Spain) and Mexico
It seems a long time now since Vela was the Arsenal wonder-kid with the world at his feet, but a complicated relationship with the Mexico national team appears to have resolved itself and the result is a player showing genuine international quality. Vela scored a fine equaliser in the World Cup qualifying draw with the U.S. this weekend and time is now of the essence for the 28-year-old to start proving decisive in major tournaments. A contribution to remember in Russia would not be a bad start and could even earn him a move to a bigger club than La Liga side Real Sociedad.
Amin Younes, FW, Ajax (Netherlands) and Germany
One of the standout player in Ajax's run to the Europa League final, Younes only made his full international debut 10 days ago and scored his first goal on Saturday in the World Cup qualifying win over San Marino. Younes, a 23-year-old wide forward who likes to operate on the left-hand side, can be devastating in one-on-one situations and his dribbling skills are something of a throwback. At 5-foot-6 he is not the biggest or strongest, but Low is likely to give him a chance to shine at the Confederations Cup and, as with several of his teammates, other clubs will be watching keenly.
Nick Ames is a football journalist who writes for ESPN FC on a range of topics. Twitter: @NickAmes82.