Six U21 Premier League stars that Europe’s best clubs should sign
Premier League clubs are filled with young talents poised to be the figureheads of the next generation of European football.
Both homegrown and international stars have been handed first-team opportunities in England’s top flight, and many of them have taken their chances.
With the transfer window set to open once again this summer, some of the best under-21 Premier League players could be on the radar of top clubs across the continent.
Here are six starlets that the best teams should be looking at this summer.
Abandoned by Chelsea in 2020, Tariq Lamptey has quickly developed into one of the most exciting young full-backs in the European game.
The Blues allowed Lamptey to leave for Brighton and Hove Albion just over a month after giving him a senior debut in December 2019, with Reece James now having arrived on the senior scene in Lamptey’s position at right-back.
Playing as a right wing-back in Graeme Potter’s exciting Seagulls outfit, Lamptey has featured 19 times in the Premier League for the side, with a goal and two assists in that time.
Unfortunately for him, and for Brighton, Lamptey managed only 11 games this season and none at all in 2021 after he needed surgery for a recurring hamstring injury.
That didn’t stop Brighton tying him down to an extended deal though as Lamptey put pen to paper on a contract at the AMEX until 2025.
Very quick, adventurous going forward with the quality to match and resolute in defence, Lamptey should have his agent fielding plenty of phone calls throughout the off-season.
After arriving at Molineux last summer, Pedro Neto was essentially forced to carry Wolves’ attack in 2020/21.
The 21-year-old became a mainstay in the side, turning his nine starts in his maiden campaign to 30 this past season, registering five goals and six assists.
With Raul Jimenez missing a large portion of the campaign and Adama Traore anonymous for the most part, Neto stood up and became a key player for Nuno Espirito Santo’s side.
With versatility to play in any position across a front three, as a No.10 or even a No.8 in midfield, Neto is highly skillful, has a strong eye for goal and is strong on both sides of his body, despite being predominantly left-footed.
Speaking of left-footers, Dwight McNeil is continuing to grow into a star player for Burnley, with one of the best deliveries of a football in the Premier League.
McNeil has missed only two Premier League games across the last two seasons and has picked up seven goals and 16 assists in 96 top flight games for the Clarets since his debut in 2018.
The England U21 international is already believed to be catching the eye of Manchester United, with whom he began his youth career, and Sean Dyche has repeatedly admitted that he expects McNeil to move on sooner rather than later.
At 21 years of age, a big move for McNeil could place him in the spotlight for an England call-up with the World Cup coming at the end of next year.
Luke Thomas finished the season in incredible form for Leicester City, forcing his name to the front of the pecking order at left wing-back for the Foxes.
The 19-year-old netted a memorable first Premier League goal at Old Trafford in a win over Manchester United last month, and just four days later assisted the winner in Leicester’s brilliant FA Cup final triumph – even though the goal was all about Youri Tielemans’ finish.
With Timothy Castagne, James Justin and Ricardo Pereira all missing parts of the season due to injury, Thomas emerged as the first choice on the left-hand side of the defence, ensuring that Brendan Rodgers has not been made to rue Ben Chilwell’s summer move to Chelsea.
Some of Europe’s top clubs would do well to ask Leicester about Thomas now before he gains more minutes and further increases his already rapidly rising stocks.
Thomas’ Leicester teammate, Wesley Fofana arrived at the King Power as a relatively unknown quantity having only made 20 Ligue 1 appearances for Saint-Etienne across three seasons.
But anyone that didn’t know about the 20-year-old at the beginning of the campaign certainly did at the end of it after a stellar season at the back for Leicester.
The Frenchman played 28 times, 27 from the start, impressing with his pace, reading of the game and ball-playing ability from centre half.
Fofana was also sensational in the FA Cup final and will prepare for a big European campaign with the Foxes, unless a major bid comes in from elsewhere.
Callum Hudson-Odoi seemed to be Thomas Tuchel’s gem when the German first arrived at Stamford Bridge, affecting games from right wing-back with his pace and direct running.
But after his first game in charge, Tuchel only played Hudson-Odoi for the full 90 minutes on one other occasion, and the 20-year-old didn’t feature at all in either of the last two league games or the Champions League final for Chelsea.
Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund have both been strongly linked with Hudson-Odoi in the past, and could be in a position to reignite their interest.
The type of player that can change a game with his pace and natural technical ability, Hudson-Odoi deserves to be in a starting line-up somewhere and clubs around the continent should be knocking on the door.