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Ten potential breakout stars for the 2014-15 Premier League season

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Good luck defining the term “breakout star” in a way that makes everybody happy. Only slightly less difficult: Coming up with a list that satisfies all those definitions. When you’re talking about potential, it’s all hypothetical.

So notice the little trick (read: cop-out) in the headline? This isn’t the 10 players who could breakout. It’s just 10 players, a nod to the 15-20 names left on the scratch pad.

Ultimately, we’re trying to find players who will make a leap in 2014-15. These are players who will play decisive roles – talents who were either elsewhere or struggling last season.

Players like Diego Costa, who we all know are going to be good? There’s no breakout there. That under-the-radar signing from Mexico, or the guy who earned more playing time this summer? They’re what this list is about.

And we start with somebody who captured headlines today:

(Players listed in alphabetical order.)

Christian Atsu, Everton (above, on loan from Chelsea) – The Ghanaian international failed to meet expectations on loan at Vitesse last season, scoring only five times in 28 games in a league that hands out goals like second grade Valentine’s cards. Under Roberto Martínez’s tutelage, Atsu should be able to harness the talent that convinced Chelsea to buy him from Porto.

Ryan Bertrand, Southampton (on loan from Chelsea) – Under Roberto Di Matteo, Bertrand worked his way into the England set up, competing with Chelsea’s then-first choice Ashley Cole in the process. Now, the 25-year-old is set to get some much need reps, with Ronald Koeman giving him the opportunity to put up some impressive numbers.

Remy Cabella, Newcastle – No team is making better use of France than Newcastle, who dipped back into Ligue 1 in search of a replacement for Yohan Cabaye. The 24-year-old Cabella is a different type of player but capable of having a similar impact. Though he won’t replicate his 14-goal season, Cabella should make Newcastle less dependent on goals from its forwards.

source: Getty ImagesFraser Forster, Southampton (right) – For some people, the England international is too established for a breakout. For others, four years in the Scottish Premier League doesn’t mean much. Back in England for the first time in since, Forster has a chance to prove his Champions League highlights can translate into saves on the south coast.

Danny Ings, Burnley – Ings’ Championship breakout was one of the keys to Burnley’s surprise success. With talk of an England callup accompanying the 22-year-old’s first year in the top flight, the Clarets’ leading goal scorer could breakout on multiple new levels.

Erik Lamela, Tottenham Hotspur – One of the biggest disappointments of Spurs’ post-Bale splurge, Lamela became a forgotten man around White Hart Lane. After an impressive preseason, the former Roma standout looks set to make his first impact in the Premier League. He may be the most talented player in Spurs’ squad.

Eliaquim Mangala, Manchester City – One of the most sought after young defenders in Europe, Mangala is making the jump from Portugal’s Liga to the top of the Premier League. Though City has cover should that transition slow, Mangala’s talent and physicality could make him a significant boost to the Citizens’ title hopes.

Jefferson Montero, Swansea City – The Ecuadorian will take some time to adjust to the Premier League, but once gets a feeling for which spaces he can exploit, Montero will be one of England’s best one-on-one players. Garry Monk just needs to figure out how to harness that talent.

John Stones, Everton – Fresh off a new five-year deal, Stones is ready to claim a permanent spot in the middle of Everton’s defense. Only 20 years old, the England international is expected to establish himself in the Three Lions’ setup this cycle. This year gives the Barnsley product a chance to take that next step.

Connor Wickham, Sunderland – Two years of frustration after leaving Ipswich Town ended dramatically at the end of last season, with a goal-scoring run from the Black Cats’ 21-year-old proving crucial to the club’s Premier League survival. If Gus Poyet can continue nurturing the England U-level talent, double-digit goals is not out of the question – something that could up the price for a player whose in the last year of his deal.

Report: Agent in China, Rooney could leave Man Utd this month

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - MAY 13:  Wayne Rooney of Manchester United poses with the Premier League trophy at the start of the Premier League trophy winners parade on May 13, 2013 in Manchester, England  (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
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Could Wayne Rooney‘s days at Manchester United be over as soon as the end of the month?

The BBC reports that Rooney’s agent is in China in the hopes of negotiating a contract with a Chinese Super League team.

[ MORE: Leicester grabs away goal ]

The 31-year-old is said to be wanted by Jiangsu Suning and Tianjin Quanjian. The former club has ex-Chelsea standout Ramires, while the latter is coached by Fabio Cannavaro and boasts Axel Witsel and Alexandre Pato.

From the BBC:

There are no guarantees of success and it is thought a deal remains highly unlikely before the Chinese transfer window closes on 28 February.

And if he does not leave this month it seems certain he will go in the summer.

Rooney is the all-time leading scorer for both Manchester United and England. While his legacy is secure at the former and the latter, will a move to the CSL end his time under Gareth Southgate at England before another World Cup?

So many questions to unpack as one of the Premier League’s all-timers looks set to leave the country in the next six months.

Real Madrid adds intrigue to La Liga race with rare loss (video)

Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo, right, and Real Madrid's Lucas Vazquez, left, react after failing to score against Valencia during the Spanish La Liga soccer match between Valencia and Real Madrid at the Mestalla stadium in Valencia, Spain, Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2017. (AP Photo/Alberto Saiz)
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The lone Wednesday match on La Liga’s docket injected some drama back into the chase for Spain’s crown.

Real Madrid fell 2-1 at Valencia, unable to overcome conceding twice in the first 10 minutes.

The match was one of two matches-in-hand Real held on its rivals for La Liga’s title. Now Real’s one-point lead over Barcelona and three-point advantage over Sevilla seem a bit more manageable.

[ MORE: Man Utd onto Europa Rd of 16 ]

Simone Zaza and Fabian Orellana netted for Los Che, but Cristiano Ronaldo’s 44th minute goal was the only answer the leaders could muster before full time.

Zaza’s goal was a stunner:

Real could rebuild its lead over the weekend, with Barcelona off to Atletico Madrid on Sunday and Sevilla traveling to Betis on the heels of its UCL win over Leicester City.

But for now, life’s a bit more exciting in Spain. Real hosts Barcelona on April 23, and hosts Sevilla on the penultimate weekend of the season.

Standings

 

Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
 Real Madrid 22 16 4 2 57 20 37 10-2-0 6-2-2 52
 Barcelona 23 15 6 2 63 19 44 7-3-1 8-3-1 51
 Sevilla 23 15 4 4 46 28 18 9-1-1 6-3-3 49
 Atlético Madrid 23 13 6 4 43 19 24 8-2-1 5-4-3 45
 Real Sociedad 23 13 2 8 36 32 4 7-2-3 6-0-5 41
 Villarreal 23 10 9 4 30 15 15 7-3-2 3-6-2 39

WATCH: Giovinco nets rain-soaked preseason beauty

TORONTO, ON - MAY 07:  Sebastian Giovinco #10 of Toronto FC is presented with the MLS Audi Golden Boot Award as leading scorer for the 2015 season prior to an MLS soccer game against FC Dallas at BMO Field on May 7, 2016 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.  (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
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We still can’t get over Sebastian Giovinco’s omission from the list of finalists for the 2016 MLS MVP Award, and the Toronto FC magician gave us another reminder of his greatness on Wednesday.

Playing a preseason match against Minnesota United on a rain-soaked pitch, Giovinco scored a brace. One of those goals came off an ankle-breaking dribble and finished with rain splashing off the net.

[ MORE: Man Utd onto Europa Rd of 16 ]

Yeah, he’s still good.

Giovinco turned 30 last month but still looks good money to dance up the statistical leaderboard this season. The Reds open at Real Salt Lake on March 4.

Leicester after one leg vs. Sevilla: “We knew they are better than us”

Leicester manager Claudio Ranieri catches the ball during the Champions League round of 16 soccer match between Sevilla and Leicester City at the Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan stadium in Seville, Spain, Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2017. (AP Photo/Miguel Morenatti)
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Sevilla probably should’ve put Leicester City to bed.

Thanks to Kasper Schmeichel, the Spanish powers couldn’t do that. Now stubborn Leicester is a 1-0 win away from progressing to the UEFA Champions League quarterfinals.

[ MORE: UCL wrap-up ]

Credit to Jamie Vardy, too, who put away a rare Leicester chance to give the Foxes a road goal from its trip West, but Schmeichel was magnificent.

And Leicester certainly knows how to defend and hit teams on the break.

“We knew they are better than us, they have high quality in possession. We suffered. They showed their quality but we showed our heart. We showed belief and never game up. That makes me satisfied.

“At the end, if we are a little more calm on the counter-attack, we could have done more. It was very important to match them and every result is still open.”

It certainly wasn’t easy to get to the final whistle. Here’s Vardy.

“Everyone has given 110 percent and everyone has come off absolutely blowing. We knew we had to be patient and take our chances but we knew we could hurt them on the press and that’s what Danny (Drinkwater) did. He got it over to me and I slipped it in.”

Again, we wouldn’t sleep on Leicester despite Sevilla’s dominance at home. King Power Stadium will be riled up come March 14, and one moment of magic could be enough for another miraculous moment for Leicester lore.