The New Year is upon us and, in footballing terms, Jan. 1 means only one thing: the opening of the midseason transfer window. The next month is set to bring about a frenzy of transfer activity, or at least speculation, as clubs seek to find the additional quality that will see them meet their aims for the remainder of the 2013-14 season.
The Scout's Notebook spends the year reporting on the best of youth talent from across the globe, but on this occasion we are switching attention to look at those players whose talents are not being maximised at present. From across the world, we bring you 10 players who should be on the radar of European sides of varying standards this January as they look to seal the best available options in the market.
Jefferson -- Botafogo
One of Brazil's best goalkeepers of recent years, 30-year-old Jefferson has spent time in European football previously with Turkish sides Trabzonspor and Konyaspor. However, there is a genuine sense that he has improved with age and the Botafogo captain could now be ready to try his hand at a club toward the upper end of European competition. Given Bota's ongoing financial concerns, any player who pulls on the famous black-and-white shirt has to be considered available, and the dependable club captain will be among the most sought after. Besides being an excellent organiser, Jefferson is also famed for his shot-stopping ability, with penalty saves a particular strong point of his game.
Bruno Ecuele Manga -- Lorient
Gabonese defender Ecuele Manga has been one of the leading centre-backs in French football for a few years now, and it is somewhat surprising that he has not yet moved on to a club challenging for European football on a regular basis. Now 25, only one player has made more interceptions than the rangy defender this season, while similarly only one player has made more clearances, according to Whoscored statistics. While he is physically and technically strong, it is in reading the development of play that Ecuele Manga excels, leading to his excellent statistics. Ecuele Manga was linked with Everton in the summer in the Daily Mail, and is a name likely to crop up once more this January.
Kenneth Omeruo -- Chelsea
Given that he is already contracted to West London giants Chelsea, Nigeria international Omeruo is highly unlikely to make a permanent transfer in the near future. However, with little prospect of a regular starting berth at Chelsea, he should be available for a loan move in January and would be an important capture for any side across Europe suffering from defensive frailties at the current time. Already an important figure for his country, the tall and powerful defender has shown his ability while on loan with ADO Den Haag and at international level and was recently described by BBC Sport's John Bennett as Chelsea's best-kept secret.
Yuya Osako -- Kashima Antlers
Japan has proved adept at producing technically gifted second strikers and wide forwards in recent years, with Kashima's Osako just another name off what is proving a rich talent line. Osako had a brilliant year in 2013, scoring 19 goals in the J.League, opening his account for his national side and scoring a hat trick against Brazilian side Sao Paulo in the final of the Suruga Bank trophy in August. Links with the Bundesliga are obvious, given the number of Japanese talents now plying their trade in Germany, and there is no doubt that he will be Europe-bound within the next 12 months.
Alex Sandro -- Porto
Sandro would only fall within the budget of one of Europe's elite clubs but is regarded as one of the next generation of leading full-backs in world football. A bundle of energy, he is a typical modern full-back whose primary emphasis is on attacking and overlapping down the left flank. With a number of leading sides currently looking for a high-end option in the left-back position, the Porto star is undoubtedly a name that will regularly crop up in conversations. However, the Portuguese side are notorious for driving a hard bargain, and the Brazilian will not arrive cheap.
Alex Teixeira -- Shakhtar Donetsk
One of the few of Shakhtar's older generation of Brazilians still left at the club, the 23-year-old Teixeira has over the past 12 months made good on the early promise he showed when first breaking through at Vasco. Teixeira would be costly but has performed strongly in the Champions League over the past two years and is one of the most versatile midfielders around, playing in the No. 10 role, wide positions and central midfield on a regular basis. With searing pace off the mark and strong technique, Teixeira adds impetus to attacks with his surging runs from midfield and has improved greatly on the timing of his bursts into the box over the past two seasons.
Jefferson Montero -- Morelia
Now 24 years old, Ecuadorian winger Montero came close to returning to European football with Cardiff during the summer and, with his good form having continued in Liga MX, speculation is set to resume in earnest in January. Lightning fast off the mark, two-footed and an excellent dribbler, the qualities that took Montero to Villarreal as a teenager have been clear for several years, but his inability to consistently produce saw his first crack at Europe come to an early end. In Mexico, though, he has improved his output with regular first-team football and has become a regular contributor of both goals and assists for his side.
Kim Young-Gwon -- Guangzhou Evergrande
There are few better judges of a player than Italian World Cup-winning manager Marcello Lippi. So when the now China-based veteran proclaims that a defender is "good enough to play for Manchester United," they are worth taking seriously. Kim was sensational in 2013, helping his side to a first AFC Champions League title and fourth place in the Club World Cup, where he was an outstanding performer. The South Korean, 23, is an excellent reader of the game, spotting danger before it develops, and is strong in the air for a player who is unexceptional physically. He would be a fantastic signing for many European sides, but persuading cash-rich Evergrande to sell could be problematic.
Eder Alvarez Balanta -- River Plate
Colombian centre-back Balanta was one of the outstanding performers of 2013 in Argentine domestic football, despite only making his senior debut at the start of the year. A strong and quick central defender, the 20-year-old was linked with a move to Barcelona in the summer after quickly making a significant impact in the River Plate first team. An elegant left-footed defender, Balanta is adept at carrying the ball out of defence and distributes the ball well when required -- an appealing quality to a team such as Barca. He would likely cost in excess of 10 million euros, but teams would be advised to move quickly with a place in Colombia's World Cup squad now a distinct possibility.
Ravel Morrison -- West Ham
According to latest reports, West Ham would be forced to raise England U-21 international midfielder Morrison's wage to 60,000 pounds a week should a bid of 10 million pounds arrive this January. Given that the club are looking to raise funds to bolster their squad ahead of a relegation battle, such a pay rise seems unlikely, and there is growing speculation that Morrison is set to move on despite his impressive form of the past six months. For the other 19 Premier League sides, that represents an opportunity, with leading English talents rarely available for less than the figure quoted. A return to Manchester United is not beyond reason, while there will be numerous other clubs looking to add dynamism and flair to their midfield -- qualities Morrison offers in abundance.
For further discussion on any of the players featured in The Scout’s Notebook, Christopher can be found on Twitter @chris_elastico. More of his work profiling rising talents can be found at TheElastico.com.