This summer’s transfer window promises to be one of the busiest yet with new managers already poised to take over at Manchester City and Chelsea and increased television prize money giving Premier League clubs more spending power than ever before.
But with the race already on to find the next Kingsley Coman or Dele Alli, which players in Europe under the age of 23 look destined to follow in their footsteps over the coming months?
League appearances: 21 Age: 18
Estimated value: £25m
Tipped as the latest superstar to emerge from the stable of super-agent Jorge Mendes, it has been a whirlwind 12 months for the teenager who was born in Lisbon to parents from Cape Verde. Having made his league debut only at the end of October, Sanches was rewarded with a new contract containing a release clause of €45m a few weeks later to ward off any potential suitors. That didn’t stop Manchester United reportedly making a failed move for him in January, with the scouts from Old Trafford thought to have watched on numerous occasions since. Representatives from Arsenal were also in the stands to see him play in Benfica’s Champions League quarter-final second leg against Bayern last week when the 18-year-old went toe to toe with Xabi Alonso and Arturo Vidal, although United are thought to be the frontrunners to sign him. Porto’s teenage midfielder Rúben Neves – who became the youngest ever Champions League captain in October – may be a less expensive target for English clubs.
League appearances: 18 Age: 18 Estimated value: £30m+
3. Julian Weigl (Borussia Dortmund)
Anyone who watched Liverpool’s remarkable comeback against Borussia Dortmund in the Europa League last week cannot fail to have been impressed with the performance of the visiting No33. Signed from 1860 Munich last summer for just €2.5m, Weigl is worth at least 10 times that now. The 20-year-old is a tall and elegant midfielder who has become the fulcrum of the Dortmund revival under Thomas Tuchel, capable of dictating play thanks to his impressive range of passing. Barcelona, Paris Saint-Germain and most recently Manchester City are the sides who have registered an interest in him, although Weigl has insisted he is not interested in leaving Dortmund just yet. That will make it difficult to lure him away this summer, especially given they will be desperate to hang on to striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang as well.
League appearances: 27 Age: 20 Estimated value: £25m
4. José María Giménez (Atlético Madrid)
The astonishing rearguard action which ended Barcelona’s hopes of consecutive Champions League titles was all the more remarkable given the absence of the 21-year-old from Uruguay. A hamstring injury ruled Giménez out of both legs against Barça but he should be back in time to face Bayern Munich in the semi-finals despite the performance of another promising young defender in his place, 20-year-old Frenchman Lucas Hernández. Now in his second full season at the Vicente Calderón, Giménez has formed a watertight partnership with compatriot Diego Godín in central defence that has conceded less than a goal every two matches in La Liga. Real Madrid and Manchester City are believed to be among those clubs who has expressed an interest in signing him, although a new contract signed in January with a €60m release clause will make things complicated.
League appearances: 24 Age: 21 Estimated value: £50m
5. Michy Batshuayi (Marseille)
When Marseille persuaded their prized asset to sign a new contract in January, they must have breathed a sigh of relief. Back then, the Belgium international was the subject of constant transfer speculation having already scored 11 times in Ligue 1 despite his club’s struggles. Fast forward three months and the 22-year-old had to wait until the 71st minute to come off the bench as supporters at the Stade Vélodrome mocked their team by playing the Benny Hill theme tune during their 0-0 draw at home to Bordeaux. Despite scoring just three times in the intervening period before taking his season’s tally to 15 against Monaco at the weekend, Batshuayi’s likely appearance in the Belgium squad at Euro 2016 and Marseille being put up for sale last week by chairwoman Margarita Louis-Dreyfus should hasten his departure this summer, along with his highly-rated team-mate Georges-Kévin N’Koudou.
League appearances: 28 Age: 22 Estimated value: £20m
6. Mahmoud Dahoud (Borussia Mönchengladbach)
Dahoud was only 10 months old when his family fled the largely Kurdish town of Amuda on Syria’s northern border with Turkey. Less than 20 years later and having escaped President Bashar al-Assad’s regime for a new life in Germany, the Gladbach midfielder is a contender for a place in Joachim Löw’s squad for Euro 2016 despite only making his Bundesliga debut in October. Liverpool and Borussia Dortmund have already indicated their determination to sign Dahoud this summer on the back of some impressive performances alongside Arsenal target Granit Xhaka in the engine room and it seems unlikely Gladbach will be able to hold on to him should offers of around €30m be forthcoming. “It’s getting turbulent,” said the club’s director of sport, Max Eberl, last week when asked if any bids had been received. Expect more clubs to enter the fray once the race for his signature gets serious.
League appearances: 29 Age: 20 Estimated value: £24m
7. Leroy Sané (Schalke)
A few months ago, Sané could do no wrong. Having scored on his Champions League debut last season against Real Madrid at the Bernabéu, four Bundesliga goals for Schalke before the end of October brought the son of former German rhythmic gymnast champion Regina Weber and former Senegalese international Souleyman Sané to the attention of the powers that be at Barcelona and Manchester City. A pricetag of £40m was immediately placed on his head before the forward made his senior Germany debut against France in November. Since then, though, it’s not been such plain sailing as Schalke have struggled, with the equaliser against Borussia Dortmund last week his first goal since the end of January. “I make no secret of this. Some time in the future I want to play abroad and at an even bigger club than Schalke,” Sané said last week. The club insist that will not happen this summer yet it will be hard for them to hold on to their prized asset if they fail to qualify for the Champions League.
League appearances: 28 Age: 20 Estimated value: £20m
When Gabriel left to join Arsenal last January, Villarreal supporters may have feared the worst. But the purchase of Ivory Coast defender Bailly from Espanyol for just €5.7m has proved a more than adequate replacement as the Yellow Submarine have mounted an unlikely push for Champions League qualification this season. A regular alongside another Espanyol old boy, Víctor Ruiz, at the heart of their defence, Bailly – who moved to Spain at the age of 17 after being spotted at a youth tournament in Burkina Faso – has impressed with his speed and power. The 22-year-old is thought to be on the wishlist of the incoming Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola but he could face competition in a market where top-class defenders are hard to find.
League appearances: 22 Age: 22 Estimated value: £15m
9. Sofiane Boufal (Lille)
Anyone planning to head to Paris on Eurostar this weekend for a little springtime break may end up disappointed. France’s Coupe de la Ligue final between Paris Saint-Germain and Lille takes place at the Stade de France on Saturday night and, if you believe his representatives, half of the Premier League’s clubs will be there to watch Morocco international Boufal. Linked with Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester United and Tottenham in January, the 22-year-old’s breakout season has gone from strength to strength since then, with a hat-tick against Ajaccio last week taking his tally of goals to 11, plus five assists. Lille’s coach, Frédéric Antonetti, has already indicated he will be sold in the summer, with a pricetag of around £15m mooted. Boufal’s decision to pledge his international future to Morocco was perhaps wise given the abundance of emerging talent available to France coach Didier Deschamps at the moment, although, like Paris-born Riyad Mahrez, the skilful playmaker could make them regret missing out on him in the future.
League appearances: 27 Age: 22 Estimated value: £15m
In a season that has gone from bad to worse for the seven-times European Cup winners, the emergence of the teenage goalkeeper from Castellammare di Stabia on the Amalfi Coast has been one of the few bright spots. Already 6ft 5in, Donnarumma is rated so highly at San Siro that he became the club’s first choice at the end of October aged just 16, displacing former Real Madrid goalkeeper Diego López. That prompted his agent, Mino Raiola, to declare that he would not be sold for less than €150m, while Silvio Berlusconi has promised supporters he will follow club legend Paolo Maldini and be at Milan for the next 20 years. That may not stop Manchester United and Chelsea from trying to sign him, however, with the former reportedly having already offered £30m as a potential long-term replacement for David de Gea.
League appearances: 25 Age: 17 Estimated value: £30m
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