Derby County are best to leave Will Hughes be for the sake of his career

Arsenal, Tottenham and Manchester City all want to sign Derby's Will Hughes; but County are best keeping him out of the spotlight.

With former England star Michael Owen announcing his intention to retire from football at the age of 33 this month, it gives cause for reflection on the overuse of young players.

Owen credits his early years at Liverpool where he became a regular as a teenager as hampering him in the long-term, picking up injuries and not allowing his body to rest as it should have.

One such player who should take note is Derby County's 'wonderkid', Will Hughes - who has been likened to a young Liam Brady and is being courted by Premier League trio Arsenal, Tottenham and Manchester City.

Hughes really is an impressive talent, making his debut for the Rams in the Championship at the young age of 16.

He remains only 17, but has played in 35 games for Derby this season, an integral part of their midfield, scoring two Championship goals in the process.

Hughes turns 18 next month, but has missed Derby's last six games with injury. The club have not won a single one of them, and are now eight games without a win.

The temptation for manager Nigel Clough is clearly one to rush him back, but the fortunately for the midfielder the son of the former County legend is not likely to take any risks with him.

Last week he said: "He is improving but it is about weighing up the risk of playing him and the further harm it could do."

Hughes broke into the England under-21 side in the Autumn and would likely have been involved last night against Austria had it not been for his groin injury.

He is expected to be out for the rest of the month, but Derby would do well to simply rest him for the remainder of the campaign.

Sitting in 13th on 48 points, they are 11 points off a play-off spot and seven points clear of relegation. Despite their poor form, a survival battle looks largely unlikely, although they need to pick up a win soon to ensure that does not occur.

Derby may need to get used to being without Hughes, as there is a chance one of the Premier League's big teams will buy him this summer - and by rushing him back they could enhance his chance of a sale.

Hughes has gone back under the radar of the big guns for now, staying out of the headlines, so if Derby want him to hang around next season they may be better off letting him rest up.

Long-term, for a 17-year-old who has played 35 matches in one season and been nursing an injury, it makes sense for the club to protect him; all they need to do is find a way to win without him.

image: © eamoncurry

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