Football Features

10 under-the-radar wide-forwards to watch in the transfer window

By Ben Green

Published: 10:55, 14 June 2022

If Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp have taught us anything, it’s that you don’t need a traditional centre-forward to be successful, quite the contrary.

Purists and old-hatters will tell you that no great team can function without a genuine, goalscoring No. 9, but Guardiola and Klopp have thumbed their noses at tradition — well, until Pep went out and bought Erling Haaland that is.

Manchester City won the Premier League largely by relying on their inside forwards to grab the goals, while Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane weren’t too bad from the flanks either. Look across the Premier League landscape and wide-forwards are dominating the scoring charts.

Bukayo Saka top scored for Arsenal, Son Heung-min for Tottenham (and the Premier League) and Jarrod Bowen for West Ham. So, wave goodbye to your Alan Shearers, Andy Coles and Jimmy Floyd Hasselbainks, there is a new trend dominating the tactical chalk board, and it’s not by finding room for that once-coveted ’20-goal-a-season’ striker.

There are some obvious names floating about when we think of modern wide-forwards, Vinicius Junior, Ousmane Dembele and Leroy Sane to mention a few, but we wanted to cast a wider net and find some under-the-radar names that you may not have heard of.

Luis Sinisterra

There was a genuine worry that Colombia would have been unable to replicate their success from the 2014 World Cup, with the likes of James Rodriguez, Juan Cuadrado and Radamel Falcao now all into their thirties, but the South American nation appear to be in capable hands with the next generation.

Luis Diaz is the current poster boy of Los Cafeteros next attacking wave of superstars, but Feyenoord’s Luis Sinisterra is certainly not a player to overlook in the creativity department. The 22-year-old was the only player in the Dutch top flight last season to complete over 100 take-ons (107).

Style and substance are rarely happy bedfellows, but Sinisterra combined wing-wizardry and his twinkle-toed exploits with genuine end product, scoring 12 goals and registering seven assists, as well as winning the second-most duels of any player in the division (245) and registering the fourth-most touches in the opposition box (197) — a stat that was led by Ajax duo Dusan Tadic (309) and Sebastien Haller (264).

Of course, Feyenoord also reached the Europa Conference League final, where they just came up short to a Jose Mourinho-inspired Roma, but Sinisterra was key in their route to the inaugural showpiece as he topped scored for the club (including qualifiers) with 11 goals in the competition — and was handed the competition’s Young Player of the Season award.

Martin Terrier

Versatility is the buzzword where Martin Terrier is concerned, but the 25-year-old found a stable home on the left flank for Rennes across 2021/22, and he flourished. The former France U21 international has taken a little while to really get going in Ligue 1 after he initially burst onto the scene with Lille and prompted Lyon to acquire his services in 2018, but it’s at the Roazhon Park where he has established himself as a truly elite forward.

In Bruno Genesio’s attacking trident alongside Benjamin Bourigeaud and Gaetan Laborde, Terrier was electric, netting a quite ridiculous 21 Ligue 1 goals, a stat that was bettered only by Wissam Ben Yedder (25) and Kylian Mbappe (28). Terrier was clinical. For a bit of context to understand just how cut-throat he was in the box, his 23.86% conversion rate was the fifth-best among players who appeared over 30 times in Ligue 1.

For even further context, Lionel Messi had one more shot than him across 2021/22 (89 to 88) and scored six goals. Terrier scored 21.

Talles Magno

Heading across the Atlantic — we told you we were casting a wide net — and 19-year-old Talles Magno is tearing it up stateside. Before moving to MLS outfit New York City FC last year, the Rio de Janeiro native was generating plenty of buzz for Vasco da Gama, where a certain teenage Ronaldinho once strutted his stuff.

From 2019 (Magno’s debut for Vasco) to 2022 (bearing in mind he left last year), the talented tyro has created more chances (41), completed more take-ons (130), had more shots (64) and registered more passes (1,025) than any other teenager in the Brazilian Serie A. His ephemeral legacy looms at Sao Januario.

Questions of hype and whether he could translate that form to an unknown division naturally dominated the narrative during his early career in the Big Apple, but Magno has adapted to Major League Soccer seamlessly. ‘Talles Magico’ (or Magic Talles) has been a sensation in the States and is creating even more noise around his name.

The ambipedal wide-forward starred as NYCFC lifted the 2021 MLS Cup, while he also helped guide the club to the penultimate round of the 2022 CONCACAF Champions League, where he was named in the ‘Best XI’ and scooped the competition’s ‘Best Young Player’ award. Talles Magno. Remember the name.

Angelo Gabriel

We love a Brazilian wonderkid, so let’s throw another one into the mix. Angelo Gabriel is a record-breaking 17-year-old who has emerged as the latest star off the Santos conveyor belt. Last year he became the youngest goalscorer in Copa Libertadores history, breaking a record that, at that point, was nearly 60 years old.

He made his Serie A bow at just 15 at the iconic Maracana, becoming the second-youngest Santos player ever, and even surpassing Pele’s debut by 11 days, while he has already been linked to a host of prominent names, not least Barcelona and Real Madrid, two clubs renowned for their policy of snapping up South American tyros.

Since making his debut, Angelo has attempted the third-most take-ons of any teenager in the Brazilian top-flight (81), while he also boasts the third-highest xA for expected assists (1.42), ahead of Arsenal new boy Marquinhos (0.69), a 19-year-old sensation from Sao Paulo who wouldn’t look out of place on this list.

Jesper Karlsson

Moving back to the Eredivisie and we have 23-year-old Jesper Karlsson, who is coming off the back of a truly remarkable campaign for AZ. Dejan Kulusevski and Anthony Elanga are seen as the future stars of Sweden’s flanks, but Karlsson has certainly put his name into the conversation after a stellar 2021/22.

Only Sebastien Haller (21), Lois Openda (19) and team-mate Vangelis Pavlidis (18) netted more than his 17, but he added a further 13 assists, meaning only Dusan Tadic (32 — 13 goals, 19 assists) had a direct hand in more goals than him, a remarkable feat of penalty-box devastation and playmaker brilliance.

Cody Gakpo

Let’s throw one more from the Eredivisie into the mix. It’s likely you’ll have heard of Cody Gakpo, the 23-year-old Dutch winger from PSV. An explosive, towering wide-forward, Gakpo enters the summer after enjoying his most prolific season, netting 21 goals in all competitions. But he, like Karlsson, also showcased a predilection for playmaker brilliance, joining his Swedish counterpart as the division’s second-highest assist provider (13).

He also ranked in the top 10 for take-ons (130), shots (80), chances created (71) and fast breaks (six) — and all this having only started 22 Eredivisie games, owing largely to an ankle injury that kept him sidelined in autumn. At 6ft 2in, Gakpo isn’t your conventional wide-forward, but his numbers certainly fit the brief. Consistent links to Europe’s top clubs have shrouded his name since he burst onto the scene in 2018. Will he finally get that big move this summer? 

Gianluca Caprari

Perhaps considered more of an attacking midfielder, Gianluca Caprari’s current role in Verona’s 3-4-2-1, in which operates ‘in the hole’ and the half space concurrently with Antonin Barak behind Giovanni Simeone, sees him consistently shift out wide and link up with attacking wing-back Darko Lazovic.

His form on loan from Sampdoria culminated in the Roman being called up to the Italy squad for this month’s Finalissima against Argentina — which they lost — and the Nations League. Not yet selected by Roberto Mancini, the uncapped forward has nonetheless come leads and bounds to earn his call-up.

In Serie A last season, only Rafael Leao attempted (163) and completed (98) more take-ons than his 119 and 65 respectively, while he also won 190 duels, created 63 chances, boasted an Expected Assist rate of 5.82 and completed eight through balls, which placed him in the top 10 for each metric among midfielders and forwards.

Kerem Akturkoglu

Heading across to Turkey and Kerem Akturkoglu of Galatasaray is generating quite the bit of noise. The 23-year-old attempted the second-most take-ons of any player in the Super Lig last term (152), behind only Mounir Chouiar (177), while he was one of only four players to register at least five assists and 10 goals across 2021/22.

Hamed Traore

The 22-year-old Ivorian is a wing-wizard for Sassuolo. He completed the fourth-most take-ons in Serie A last term (61) and also had the fifth-best ball recovery rate among forwards (123), showing he was more than just a flair player, instead combining style and substance to showcase his worth at the Citta del Tricolore.

Quinten Timber

It’s likely you’ve heard of Jurrien Timber, the 20-year-old Ajax defender who is a regular for the Netherlands first team and has been generating links to Manchester United, but did you know he has a twin brother? Quinten hailed from the Ajax academy like his sibling, but he flew the nest last year and has been making an equally tangible impression for FC Utrecht. The versatile midfielder, who can play centrally, on the flanks or even in defence, attempted the fifth-most take-ons of any player in the Dutch top flight last term (136), underpinning his innate close control, traits he no doubt refined in Amsterdam.