England Under-21 boss on 'outstanding' Liverpool target

Will Hughes of Derby County

Gareth Southgate has praised the ‘first class’ talent of Derby County’s Will Hughes.

Hughes capped a man-of-the-match display for the Young Lions on Tuesday night by netting the winning goal in a 2-1 victory over Croatia that secure England’s place in the 2015 European Championship Finals.

Despite leaving the field of play early in the first leg due to an injury, Hughes, the youngest member of the England squad at 19, started the second leg in Eastern Europe, and scored what proved to be the decisive goal in the tie, gifting England victory on the day, and moving the aggregate result to 4-2 in the Three Lions favour. His performance was not only noticed by the media, but head coach Gareth Southgate singled out the ‘outstanding’ impact the young Hughes had upon the game.

"He was fantastic,” Southgate told the official FA website.

"I think he was the youngest player in our team and has played with great maturity in both matches, under scrutiny and the spotlight.

"His touch and his awareness was first class.

"It’s difficult to single people out because there were so many good performances, but I thought he was outstanding.”

Hughes’s performances for hometown club Derby have caught the eye of the England set-up, making his debut for the Under-21’s at the age of 17 in 2012 - the second youngest player to ever appear at that age group. Reportedly scouted by Real Madrid and Barcelona, Premier League side Liverpool were said to have agreed a pre-contract deal with the youngster last year, although Hughes agreed a new four-year deal with the Rams in July of this year - outlining his desire to stay with the club and help them achieve promotion to the top flight.

Despite his young age, the technically gifted midfielder has already made over 100 appearances for the Rams, and, if he continues to progress at the rate that he has been, the future is looking increasingly bright for the youngster.

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