7 more who could head out the door.
7. Alex Telles - Porto
Porto fans won’t thank us for this, with their club currently riding high at the top of the Portuguese Primeira Liga, but we think Telles is one of the best left-backs in Europe, and as such, should be playing for one of Europe’s best clubs. Telles is a quick, attack-minded full-back who can deliver a wicked cross with his famed left foot. Only Sporting wide man Gelson Martins has more assists in Liga NOS this season than Telles, whose previous clubs include Galatasaray and Inter Milan. The 25-year-old holds dual Brazilian and Italian citizenship, and having been as yet uncapped by Brazil, he has stated that he would welcome a call-up from Italy. Whilst Brazil have a whole raft of options at left-back, Telles would walk into the Italian national team.
6. Fyodor Smolov - Krasnodar
Fedor Smolov of Russia reacts during Russia and Spain International friendly match on November 14, 2017 at Saint Petersburg Stadium in Saint Petersburg, Russia.
Smolov’s fine form has received little attention outside of Russia, due to the league’s relatively poor international appeal. Smolov though, has been heavily linked with a transfer to West Ham, with a fee of around £15 million having been suggested. Previously a deep-lying forward and occasionally an attacking midfielder, Smolov has been something of a late bloomer. He managed just 4 goals in 77 games for Dynamo Moscow, none in 14 for Feyenoord, and 3 in 41 for Anzhi. Since joining Krasnodar in 2015 though, the 28-year-old has bagged 61 goals in 82 outings, and he is second in the Russian Premier League scoring charts this season. Smolov is both quick and clinical, and his tendency to drift out left before coming inside makes him a nightmare to defend against.
5. Alireza Jahanbakhsh - AZ Alkmaar
A skillful right winger who is hard working and capable of putting dangerous deliveries into the box, the 24-year-old has been in fine form since his last season at NEC. He is currently the top scorer in the Eredivisie, as well as having the league’s second most assists. He’s long been considered a gifted player, but it’s those kind of stats which have seen him linked with moves to both Napoli and the Bundesliga. Jahanbakhsh will be Iran’s standout player heading into the 2018 World Cup, and his price tag could skyrocket if he has an impressive tournament.
4. Fred - Shakhtar Donetsk
Shakhtar Donetsk's Brazilian midfielder Fred gives a press conference at the Parc des Princes stadium in Paris, on December 7, 2015, on the eve of the UEFA Champions League football match...
Ever since the Mircea Lucescu era at Shakhtar Donetsk, the club has had an incredible conveyor belt of Brazilian talent. Willian, Douglas Costa and Fernandinho are just a few examples of Shakhtar’s impressive track record with Brazilian players, and they have eight Brazilian players on their books right now. Taison and Marlos could easily have made this seven, but it is 25-year-old Fred who we’ve gone for. A similar type of player to Fernandinho, although slightly less defence-minded, Fred can play as either a central or defensive midfielder. Perhaps it’s no surprise then that Manchester City are big favourites to sign him, although Manchester United have also been linked.
3. Luan - Gremio
The third Brazilian in this seven, and Gremio forward Luan is the pick of the bunch. Those of you who watch Brazilian football will know that Luan is a rare talent. At the age of 18, he had basically given up on football, and was playing futsal instead. Perhaps that has helped him hone his skills as one of the most technically gifted, intelligent and intricate footballers in Brazil right now. Luan didn’t make his professional debut until he was 21, but since then, there’s been no looking back for the forward at Gremio. Luan is a bit of a throwback to old school deep-lying playmakers who like to operate between the lines of the opposition defence and midfield. His ability on the ball and link-up play are outstanding, and although he scored 18 goals last season, his game is about so much more than just goals. He is a mercurial talent and a character who would have to be managed in the right way, but anyone who takes a chance on him would be getting themselves a real gem of a footballer.
2. Hakim Ziyech - Ajax
Hakim Ziyech of Ajax in action during the Dutch Eredivisie match between Ajax Amsterdam and Feyenoord at Amsterdam ArenA on January 21, 2018 in Amsterdam, Netherlands.
A versatile footballer with wonderful technique, Ziyech has long been considered one of the brightest stars within Dutch football. Ever since his breakout season in 2013-14 with Heerenveen, Ziyech has been earmarked for big things. From Heerenveen he headed to Twente, where he was the Eredivisie’s top assist provider in his first season. He joined Ajax in 2016, and has continued to grow his reputation at the Amsterdam Arena. Ziyech is fleet-footed, intelligent and capable of scoring and creating goals at a whim. His attacking output has decreased slightly at Ajax, now often playing as a central rather than as an attacking midfielder, but he is still the side's chief creator. He was named as Ajax’s Player of the Season for this current campaign, and now aged 25, we think the Moroccan international is probably due a shot at one of Europe’s big boys.
1. Wilfried Zaha - Crystal Palace
Zaha has nine goals and three assists for Palace in the 17/18 season, but those statistics only tell half the story. Roy Hodgson’s men are, simply put, an entirely different team when Zaha is on the pitch. He provides pace, purpose, flair and a constant threat to the opposition. Equally capable of playing on either flank, only Riyad Mahrez has been better in terms of attacking players outside the Premier League’s top six this season, and Zaha has missed substantial chunks of this campaign.
As with a couple of other players who could have made this seven, Zaha has previously had a big move which didn’t quite go to plan, but that feels like a long time ago now, and the Ivorian international certainly deserves another shot for us.