Europe's brightest talent knows the score
A quick scan down the statistics from the major European leagues reveals one thing: Experienced campaigners are no longer ruling the goalscoring charts.
With a host of the games younger stars now topping the lists in the various competitions across the continent, gone are the days when relying on experience means the key to a successful season.
With that in mind, here's a list, in no particular order, of some of Europe's finest (and youngest) players, based on their early season form:
Spanish La Liga:
Sergio Aguero (Atletico Madrid)
So far this season, La Liga boasts two of the most impressive performers in Europe, Barcelona's Lionel Messi and Atletico's Aguero. While many will know Messi inside out, fellow countryman Aguero is more of a mystery. Yet the 19-year-old has been a standout performer for Argentina's Under-20 side and now has five senior caps to his name as well.
As a 15-year-old, Aguero was the youngest player since Diego Maradona to play in the Argentinean top flight and his big move to Europe came in May 2006 for around 20million euros. With the loss of Fernando Torres in the summer, Aguero - after an inconsistent first season at the club - has been allowed to flourish in the Atletico attack with new boy Diego Forlan. While Messi may be making the headlines in Spain, Aguero is beginning to attract some attention. His form so far this year suggests that he'll be in the public eye for many years to come.
English Premier League: Cesc Fabregas (Arsenal)
He may not be top of the goalscoring charts, but few can argue that Fabregas is one of the best players in the Premier League already, at only 20-years-old. The Spanish midfielder showed against Liverpool that he is the heartbeat of Arsenal's young side and has added scoring to his impressive repertoire this season, having bagged six goals in eleven starts. With a real hunger to improve, Wenger's jewel can only get better, which is a worrying prospect for the rest of the league.
German Bundesliga: Rafael Van der Vaart (Hamburg)
Eight goals in nine games for Hamburg have made the Dutch midfielder one of the hottest properties in Europe and, at only 24, he still has time on his side to win his dream move to Spain.
Starting his career at Ajax, Van der Vaart was tipped for the big-time from a very early age. A glamourous off the field lifestyle and marriage to Dutch actress Sylvie Meis didn't help his progression, but he is still seen as one of the best talents to come out of Holland in recent years. Now plying his trade in Hamburg, the midfielder has had a storming start to the season after singlehandedly saving them from the drop in 2006/07. Much more is expected, although it is likely that he will move on in January after publicly declaring his desire to leave.
French Ligue 1: Karim Benzema (Lyon)
A product of Lyon's youth academy, the 19-year-old French striker has been making waves this season with a number of impressive performances for the six time champions.
Earning a call-up to the French senior squad, Benzema has benefited from injuries to Fred and Milan Baros in Ligue 1, and has taken his chances with a great run of form, scoring 11 times in 12 starts. Able to play on either wing, as well as up front on his own, the youngster has been receiving plaudits across France for his finishing ability. A Frenchman of Algerian descent who wears number 10 - like Zidane before him - he has some big shoes to fill but is more than capable of doing so.
Scottish Premier League: Scott McDonald (Celtic)
Having played for the Socceroos since Under-17 level, the Australian striker has proven international class and is beginning to show it at new club Celtic. The 24-year-old has settled in well at Parkhead after a successful three year spell in the SPL with Motherwell and has already bagged ten goals in this campaign.
Small, but with a great eye for goal, McDonald netted a hat-trick against his former club in October to jump to the top of the SPL goalscoring chart. With the boots of the legendary Henrik Larsson to fill, Celtic may have found their next best foreign import, albeit one born from Scottish parents.
Italian Serie A: Kaka (AC Milan)
With all the furore surround the World Player of the Year, it is easy to forget that the Brazilian is only 25. In a league not known for blooding young talent, Kaka has made himself arguably the world's best player in an ageing Milan side since moving to Italy from Sao Paulo in 2003.
Scoring seven goals already this season, the playmaker is so vital to Milan that they can't seem to win without him and he has been constantly linked with moves away from the San Siro to Chelsea and Real Madrid. In the same age group, only 23-year-old Alessandro Matri from Cagliari has impressed in the Italian goalscoring stakes; but Kaka really is in a class of his own.
Dutch Eredivisie: Klass-Jan Huntelaar (Ajax)
In and around the top of the goalscoring chart in Holland for the past three seasons, 24-year-old Huntelaar is surely one of the best prospects in Europe. Bagging 35 goals in his first season with Ajax, the Dutch striker has started the current campaign well with eleven so far.
With excellent technical ability and equally able to score goals with either foot, Huntelaar has been the subject of interest from England and form like he showed in the game against De Graafschap, where he scored four goals, will keep him on the radar of Europe's top clubs. Likened to Ajax legend Marco Van Basten, the club will have to break the bank to keep their prize possession, although don't be surprised if he chooses to move on.
Portuguese Super Liga:
Lisandro Lopez (FC Porto)
Lopez cost around 2.5million euros when he made the switch from Argentinean side Racing Club and he has more than paid back the investment in goals. With eight goals from nine starts already this season, the 24-year-old Argentine striker has proved himself to be a vital part of the Porto side.
Portugal's home-grown talent like Ricardo Quaresma may get the headlines, but by consistently scoring goals, Lopez is making himself known to those in Europe. He claims his goal is to be the top scorer in Portugal by May 2008, and he's certainly going the right way about achieving it.