The best young players in the world often fade. But sometimes the first signs of brilliance are worth noting because the player becomes a force to be reckoned with, a decade down the line. Signing a young player could save some serious cash – and give a club an excellent player in the years to come.
Ahead of the 2017 summer transfer window, we take a look at 5 of the footballing world’s most wanted U-23 stars.
Mbappe is a versatile forward who can play wide or up top and has intrigued people this season thanks to his languid and oddly effective dribbling style.
Kylian Mbappe made his ability known by banging in seven goals in 11 matches for the U-19 French team. The mainstream European media took note however, when he scored a hat-trick for Monaco in a 7-0 thumping of Rennes in mid-December.
Only one teenager has been directly involved in more goals than Kylian Mbappe (9) this season, and that’s Ousmane Dembele (12). What makes that more impressive is that Mbappe has played approximately half the minutes (609) that Dembele (1123) has. It’s fair to say he’s making the most of his chances on the pitch.
Latest reports suggest Paris Saint-Germain are preparing a monster bid for the teenager and Mbappe admitted “anything is possible” when he was quizzed about a potential move to Real Madrid this summer.
“Today, I am at Monaco. Real Madrid? We will see after,” the 18-year-old told reporters, per Goal. “You should go to Real Madrid when you are at the top of your game. I’m not at the top of my game. But anything is possible.”
2. Julian Brandt (Bayer Leverkusen, 20, Winger)
Brandt has been around for a while now and people could be forgiven for forgetting just how young he is. With four caps already for the German senior team and more to follow, the young winger has a bright future ahead of him.
He is a right-footed, mainly left-sided winger, with good height and a really stocky upper body coupled with a running style that can trick you into thinking he isn’t moving at pace while he glides past players.
He has played 22 games this season, with an impressive three goals and six assists in a team that has become one of the strongest German sides in recent years.
Real Madrid reportedly cast their eye over Bayer Leverkusen’s Julian Brandt when the German outfit played against Atletico Madrid in their last-16 clash in the UEFA Champions League.
According to Jose Felix Diaz in Marca, Atletico and Bayern Munich have also long been interested in the 20-year-old winger, while Los Blancos view him as a potential replacement for Isco or James Rodriguez.
Dolberg looks to be the latest to follow in the footsteps of luminaries such as Jesper Olsen, Jan Molby and Christian Eriksen as the Danish talent managed an impressive nine goals and four assists from 17 Eredivisie starts for Ajax this season. He’s also been something of a wondergoal machine, often netting after maze-like dribbles or with acrobatic efforts.
Manchester City have been monitoring the 19-year-old’s progress for some time. Dolberg has also been linked with several other English clubs, including Liverpool, Manchester United and Everton but City look like the favorites, especially if Sergio Agüero departs.
To achieve what he has done so far, at his age and at a team like Ajax, means the future is bright for the young Dane.
Moussa Dembele is already a star. The 20-year-old hit 24 goals in 35 appearances for the Scottish champions, and Spurs are confident they will beat Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester United to his signature this summer.
He caused a storm on transfer deadline day by getting a plane to London… only to see someone about a knock to his knee that had been bothering him.
Tottenham look set to win the race to sign Celtic striker Dembele, a source has told The Sun.
“This is a deal that has been in the offing for a very long time and looks to be set for this summer,” a source told The Sun.
“The boss is a huge fan and wants to make sure he has enough options up front going into next season.”
The Frenchman, valued at £40m, was reportedly the subject of a bid from Chelsea in the January transfer window.
Keita’s average grade (2.54 out of six, where one is the highest mark and six the lowest) in Kicker is the best in the Bundesliga among outfield players. His contribution goes way beyond the four goals and five assists he has produced so far. He is everywhere on the pitch, both in attack and defense. He is supposed to be the uncanny mix of N’Golo Kante and Franck Ribery
Premier League powerhouses Arsenal and Liverpool have scouted the Guinea international this season, whose performances have been fundamental in ensuring his side have emerged as Bayern Munich’s closest challengers in the Bundesliga.
The 22-year-old midfielder revealed last August he held talks with Arsene Wenger but conceded he was not ready for a move to a club of Arsenal’s stature.
“I had contact with Arsene Wenger, who spoke French to me,” said Keita.
Bayern Munich are also said to be admirers of Keita and would reportedly provide competition for his signature.
Keita would be a smart acquisition for the Gunners, too, especially with concerns over the fitness of Santi Cazorla at the hub of the team.