No, not Lionel Messi – unless Cardiff fancy a real statement signing – but the exciting young players we could genuinely perhaps see in the EPL next season. Make it happen please…
10. Fred (Shakhtar Donetsk)
The two Manchester clubs could be set to go head-to-head for Fred, a player who is certain to leave Ukraine this summer. The Brazil international has been at Shakhtar for five years but this is the season in which he’s attracted the most attention from overseas, largely thanks to Paulo Fonseca’s side’s run to the last 16 of the Champions League.
A deep-lying midfielder who contributes in both attacking and defensive phases of play, the left-footed 25-year-old is a terrific passer who also excels at carrying the ball upfield. Manchester City could do far worse in their hunt for a long-term successor to Fernandinho.
9. Kieran Tierney (Celtic)
Scottish full-back Andrew Robertson has been one of the revelations of the Premier League season, with the ex-Hull man establishing himself as a key part of Jurgen Klopp’s starting XI at Anfield. Tierney could follow in his compatriot’s footsteps next term, and a host of English outfits are thought to be monitoring the Celtic left-back.
Aggressive with and without the ball, the 20-year-old isn’t afraid to get stuck in and relishes a physical battle with opposition wide men. He’s even better going forward, and routinely bombs on down the flank to link up with his team’s attackers in advanced areas.
8. Emil Forsberg (RB Leipzig)
With Naby Keita on his way to Liverpool and manager Ralph Hasenhuttl also departing the club, RB Leipzig will be a very different team next year. That, together with the club’s failure to qualify for the Champions League, could push Forsberg through the exit door too.
The Swede endured a frustrating 2017/18 as injuries limited him to just 15 starts in the Bundesliga, but his 19 assists the previous season serve as evidence of his creativity. Comfortable on either wing or through the middle, Forsberg finds space intelligently and presses proficiently when his side lose the ball.
7. Matthijs de Ligt (Ajax)
De Ligt has reportedly been identified as Tottenham’s favoured replacement for Toby Alderweireld, who will almost certainly depart north London this summer. Racking up over 60 appearances for Ajax would be impressive for any 18-year-old, but the level of De Ligt’s involvement is even more remarkable considering his position.
The centre-back’s composure and maturity bely his tender years, and the teenager has seemingly been unfazed by the challenges he’s faced so far in his career – save for a nightmare Holland debut in March 2017, when he was thrown in at the deep end having started only two games for Ajax. He recovered admirably, however, and that mentality will appeal to prospective managers.
De Ligt is a ball-playing defender who regularly steps into midfield, reads the game well and positions himself astutely when his team are defending. Spurs sound ideal.
6. Andrea Belotti (Torino)
Belotti was linked with both Chelsea and Manchester United in summer 2017, but a move away from Torino never materialised. This has been a slightly tougher campaign for the striker, whose Serie A goal tally is down from 26 to 10, but the 24-year-old remains hot property and could be playing his football elsewhere from August onwards.
Likened to Christian Vieri by various people within the Italian game, Belotti is mobile, strong in the air and adept at linking the play. He wouldn’t come cheap, but the fact that the former Palermo frontman still has his peak years ahead would no doubt appeal to Premier League managers and chairmen alike.
5. Jorginho (Napoli)
Napoli’s midfield metronome is one of the players who will probably wave goodbye to the Stadio San Paolo before the start of 2018/19. Jorginho is the man who makes the Partenopei tick, collecting the ball from the centre-halves and setting his side on the attack.
A pass completion rate of 89.4% in 2017/18 shows how much care he takes in possession, but the Brazil-born Italy international isn’t afraid to take risks with the ball at his feet either. If he was, Jorginho would have been dropped from Maurizio Sarri’s ‘vertical tiki-taka’ system long ago.
4. Jean Seri (Nice)
Seri saw his dream move fall apart last summer, when Barcelona pulled out of a deal to sign the midfielder after his French employers raised the price at the last minute. “I’m very hurt,” the Ivorian said. “Nice didn’t deliver on their promises.”
Seri refused to play in the Eaglets’ subsequent Ligue 1 clash with Amiens, but bounced back to make over 40 appearances in 2017/18. A fine passer of the ball who can play behind the striker or in a box-to-box role, the 26-year-old will surely be on the move in the coming months, with Manchester City and Arsenal among the Premier League clubs linked.
3. Sergej Milinkovic-Savic (Lazio)
Reports suggest Manchester United were tracking Milinkovic-Savic throughout 2017/18, when the Serbia international established himself as one of Serie A’s best midfielders. At 6ft 4in the Lazio man is the same height as Marouane Fellaini, but he’s more similar in style to Paul Pogba (an inch shorter) than the Belgian.
The 23-year-old has scored 12 times and provided three assists in Serie A this term, helping his club to the brink of Champions League qualification. Milinkovic-Savic is technically gifted with an eye for goal, and his imposing frame would no doubt aid his adaptation to English football.
2. Hirving Lozano (PSV)
Lozano will be under pressure to deliver for Mexico at this summer’s World Cup, but before that he could secure a move away from PSV. The winger doesn’t appear to be in any rush to leave the Eredivisie outfit after just a single season, but the impact he made in Eindhoven in 2017/18 means suitors are inevitable.
Seventeen goals and eight assists in 29 appearances says it all: the 22-year-old was a constant threat to opposition full-backs. Lozano has played – and shone – on the right flank at times, but he does his best work when cutting infield onto his stronger foot from the left wing. A strong World Cup could dictate his future.
1. Leon Bailey (Bayer Leverkusen)
The breakout star of the Bundesliga campaign, Bailey is an exhilarating winger who could be prised away from Bayer Leverkusen after their failure to qualify for the Champions League. Nine goals and six assists in 2017/18 was a fine return for a player who only moved to Germany last summer, but equally impressive was his ability to breeze past opponents in one-on-one situations.
Bailey doesn’t rely solely on raw speed, however – his trickery and footwork are both excellent. He’s capable of playing on either flank, and the 20-year-old Jamaican would be a welcome addition to the Premier League.