Each season new stars emerge and the current campaign has seen a whole host of brilliant breakthroughs across Europe’s top five leagues.
From unheralded summer signings to young prospects taking their chance at senior level, there have been a number of exciting emergences in 2022/23.
As the campaign approaches its conclusion, we’ve picked out the best breakthrough player from each of Europe’s top five league this season.
Premier League – Kaoru Mitoma (Brighton)
Kaoru Mitoma has captured the attention as part of a Brighton side who continue to be the benchmark for Premier League sides bidding to break through the division’s glass ceiling.
The Seagulls have had a fantastic campaign to set new records for Premier League wins and top-flight points in a season and are on course to secure European qualification for the first time in the club’s history.
Brighton have challenged the established elite with a side built on remarkable recruitment, unearthing gems for a fraction of the fees spent elsewhere across the division. Mitoma has emerged as one of the Seagulls’ shrewdest signings of recent windows having been given his chance in English football this term.
What a season Kaoru Mitoma is having! 💫@OfficialBHAFC | @kaoru_mitoma pic.twitter.com/YzaW0fPv5X
— Premier League (@premierleague) April 1, 2023
The Japan international was signed in a £2.7m deal from Kawasaki Frontale and spent last season on loan at Belgian side Union SG as he awaited a work permit. He spent the first half of the season on the fringes under Graham Potter, but the arrival of Roberto De Zerbi as manager and exit of Leandro Trossard to Arsenal have since seen the winger excel.
A relative late bloomer at 25, Mitoma has emerged as one of the Premier League’s most watchable talents. He wrote a well-documented university thesis on dribbling and has extensively examined opponents in a bid to gain an advantage.
Several sides are understood to be considering an approach for Mitoma – whose seven league goals are a record for a Japanese player in a Premier League season – and Brighton will receive a huge profit if he is to move on.
La Liga – Gabri Veiga (Celta Vigo)
Gabri Veiga’s performances this season have alerted top clubs across Europe with the midfielder having broken into the Celta Vigo team.
Veiga hade made just one league start before the current campaign but has seized his chance at Celta under former Swansea and Sheffield Wednesday manager Carlos Carvalhal. The 20-year-old has made 23 league starts, in which he has scored nine goals and laid on a further four assists.
Several of the Premier League’s ‘Big Six’ have been credited with an interest in the midfielder, who earned his first cap for Spain’s u21 side in November, while Real Madrid are monitoring the progress of a prospect whose current deal contains a €40m (£35m) release clause.
That figure appears reasonable for a midfielder with huge potential, with Veiga having shown promise as a regular goalscorer when marauding forward from midfield. He has a mix of physical presence and technical ability to thrive in English football.
Bundesliga – Randal Kolo Muani (Eintracht Frankfurt)
Randal Kolo Muani might just represent the biggest bargain of the 2022/23 campaign. Eintracht Frankfurt agreed to sign the forward on a free transfer from Nantes last summer as the club looked to strengthen their squad ahead of the club’s Champions League campaign.
The 24-year-old had scored a respectable 21 league goals across the previous two Ligue 1 seasons, but few envisaged his spectacular success in the Bundesliga. Kolo Muani has been the breakout start of the Bundesliga this season and leads the division for goal involvements.
He has scored 13 goals and laid on 10 assists, ranking second on each metric in Germany’s top division. That form has seen Kolo Muani break into the France squad and he scored his first international goal for Les Bleus during their World Cup semi-final win against Morocco.
Full of pace, purposeful running and dynamic drive in one-versus-one situations, he is capable of operating across the forward line and has thrived on the counter-attack as Frankfurt’s focal point. It’s 21 goals in all competitions for the Frenchman, who has been linked with Manchester United and Bayern Munich.
Serie A – Khvicha Kvaratskhelia (Napoli)
If there are few in Europe who had heard of Khvicha Kvaratskhelia before this season, there are not many who do not know his name now.
Kvaratskhelia spent last season with Dinamo Batumi in his native Georgia, having suspended his contract at Rubin Kazan in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Napoli signed the winger in a deal worth around €10m last summer and it is an investment that has proven inspired.
The 22-year-old has made an instant impact during an unforgettable season for Napoli, who have been head and shoulders above Italy’s best teams this season to win the Scudetto for the first time since 1990.
Kvaratskhelia has been the driving force of their success as arguably Serie A’s standout star, forming an electric understanding with Victor Osimhen that has powered Luciano Spalletii’s side to the title.
Enjoy Khvicha Kvaratskhelia’s impressive solo goal yesterday, 𝙞𝙣 𝙛𝙪𝙡𝙡 📹 pic.twitter.com/nFjHKNQ2Ng
— Lega Serie A (@SerieA_EN) February 18, 2023
The Georgian is captivating with the ball at his feet and leads the league for assists (10), while he has contributed 12 goals of his own in a season of magnificent performances.
Nicknamed “Kvaradona” after the Napoli legend Diego Maradona, he has won Serie A’s Player of the Month on three occasions this season and is favourite to be named as Italy’s Footballer of the Year.
Ligue 1 – Lois Openda (Lens)
Lois Openda’s goals have fired Lens to the cusp of Champions League qualification, with the forward having proven an instant success sorry in French football.
Openda signed for Lens from Club Brugge in a deal worth €10m (£8.8m) last summer, as the club looked to build on a solid return to France’s top division. Lens spent five consecutive campaigns in the second tier before successive seventh-placed finishes in Ligue 1 and have pushed on under the management of Franck Haise to edge towards Europe’s elite.
😮💨 @LoisOpenda brought it for @RCLens 🇧🇪 pic.twitter.com/g1KcVHlcYo
— Ligue 1 English (@Ligue1_ENG) April 24, 2023
Lens opened the campaign with 10 consecutive home wins were the first side to beat Paris Saint-Germain this season after a 3-1 win over the champions in January. Openda scored the second in that win, part of 18 league goals the forward has scored during the current campaign.
The 23-year-old has earned eight caps for Belgium since his debut last year and has scored twice for the national side. Blessed with lightning pace and cool temperament around goal, Openda scored 28 goals in all competitions on loan at Dutch side Vitesse Arnhem last season before finding his feet immediately in France.
Lens are anticipating summer interest in the striker, but are under no pressure to sell with the club on the verge of Champions League qualification.
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