Under the radar wingers around Europe – and the Premier League clubs who should target them
The transfer window is well and truly underway and while many fans will be hoping for star-studded names and marquee signings, there are cheaper alternatives who undoubtedly pack an equal punch.
Sometimes, the cream of a club’s summer activity is not in the international superstar they broke the bank to secure, but rather the hidden gem, the one who joined the club’s ranks as an unknown entity, before blossoming into a household name.
Sadio Mane and Richarlison are just two of the players who embody this shrewd but dicey approach in the market, after being plucked from relative obscurity before transforming into wingers of world-class finesse.
But they are not the first wide men to reposition themselves on English soil unbeknown to local aficionados – nor will they be the last.
In fact, there are some lesser known wingers thriving across Europe right now and we’ve identified five of them, suggesting which Premier League club could suit them best.
Matheus Pereira (FC Nurnberg – on loan from Sporting)
Who should sign him? West Ham
With Samir Nasri set to leave, Andriy Yarmolenko still recovering from an Achilles rupture, and Grady Diangana not yet the finished article, the Hammers will be in need of reinforcements on the flanks and instead of gambling on a has-been – al la Nasri – or obliterating the transfer kitty on one showpiece piece signature, why not take a punt on a rising starlet?
Well, not really a starlet, the Brazilian just turned 23, but he was just nominated for the Bundesliga’s Rookie of the Year award after exploding onto the scene after the Winterpause. It took some time for Pereira to find his feet after relocating from Lisbon to the Max-Morlock-Stadion on a season-long loan, but he soon acclimatised and dazzled with his Mohamed Salah-esque cut-ins, shimmies and jinks from the byline.
Despite playing just 19 matches, Pereira placed eighth for most dribbles executed by a winger (33), with the third-best dribbles per 90 minutes ratio (3.2) – for players with more than 10 appearances – and a quite ridiculous success rate of 71.43 per cent. To put that into context, Jadon Sancho mustered 57.95 per cent, while Serge Gnabry registered just 40 per cent.
West Ham have a strong contingent of South Americans in east London, and with director of football Mario Husillos a master of the continent – just ask fans about Fabian Balbuena – a move for this nimble winger could prove fruitful for Manuel Pellegrini, though the club will first have to repair relations with Sporting.
Riccardo Orsolini (Bologna on loan from Juventus)
Who should sign him? Arsenal
It has been a season of gradual progress for Unai Emery in the Emirates dugout but he will no doubt want to reinforce his squad this summer. Other than the notable vulnerabilities in defence, one key area the Gunners could do with some serious depth is out wide.
As far as traditional wingers go, Alex Iwobi is it, and so a player of Orsolini’s wide aptitude will go a long way to remedying Arsenal’s feeble flanks. The 22-year-old has reportedly just signed a permanent deal with Bologna after the Greyhounds activated his buyout clause from Juventus, but that means diddly-squat in the modern game – just look at Luka Jovic’s current situation with Eintracht Frankfurt.
Orsolini scored a commendable eight goals this season, proving a shining light in an underwhelming campaign for Bologna, and AC Milan are also believed to be in the mix for his services, but a chance to ply his trade in the Premier League could be too tempting an offer for the Italy U-21 international.
Marcus Thuram (Guingamp)
Who should sign him? Tottenham Hotspur
It is never easy trying to emulate the fabled footsteps of a footballing great and when your father was one of the best, the weight of expectation can often prove too much. Some thrived (Paolo Maldini), others didn’t quite live up to the hype (Jordi Cruyff), while the jury is still out for some and Marcus Thuram certainly falls into that latter category, though he is doing a fine job of one day making it in the former category.
Lilian’s son wowed the Stade de Roudourou with his drive and technical prowess this term, proving a beacon of hope in a season that brought down the curtains on Guingamp’s six-season stint in Ligue 1.
Having completed the fourth-most dribbles of any winger in Ligue 1 across 2018/19 (101), the young Italian-born Frenchman could offer some competition on the flanks for Mauricio Pochettino; the Argentine has already expressed a desire to bolster his armoury in an effort to keep pace with the club’s ‘big six’ rivals, and with Guingamp suffering relegation, Thuram would come at a modest price – Daniel Levy’s eyes will be twinkling at the prospect.
Spurs haven’t had the best of luck in the forward department when it comes to recruiting from Ligue 1 – Lucas Moura permitting – with Clinton N’Jie and Georges-Kevin N’Koudou proving unmitigated flops in north London, but Thuram certainly looks the full package, especially in a team that considerably struggled.
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Jarrod Bowen (Hull City)
Who should sign him? Newcastle United
Bowen enjoyed a blistering campaign for Hull City in the second-tier this season, netting a whopping 22 goals from the wing, while chipping in with four assists, though his 22-year-old Championship counterparts Neal Maupay and Che Adams have arguably garnered more attention – certainly the latter.
However, that should not diminish from what has been an exceptional year for Bowen. With a scintillating goalscoring return for, not only a young player, but also a winger, Bowen could be heading for the Premier League this summer, and Newcastle would be a perfect location for the diminutive forward to develop his game and showcase his worth.
Kenedy and Christian Atsu were exceptionally poor out wide this season, and with the former now returning to Chelsea, Rafa Benitez will need wide options. Bowen – who completed the third-most successful dribbles of wingers in the Championship (64) – would certainly add some significant panache, not to mention goals, something the Magpies seriously struggled with this term. The January signing of Miguel Almiron completed their ‘three amigos‘ alongside, Ayoze Perez and Salomon Rondon. Could Bowen make it a fab four?
Ritsu Doan (Groningen)
Who should sign him? Leicester City
Doan has been a revelation since pitching up at Euroborg, initially on loan from Japanese outfit Gamba Osaka, before signing permanently in April of last year.
At just 20 years of age, the Japan international has already demonstrated an innate understanding of the game, coupled with twinkle-toed feet and brilliant, balletic movement. There is a serious technical edge to the winger from Amagasaki.
With a wand of a left-foot and an ability to find the net, obvious comparisons with Pride of the North graduate Arjen Robben have arisen, and so, where better to hone his craft than under the paternalistic tutelage of Brendan Rodgers – a coach who it not averse to giving young players a prosperous platform.
At the King Power Stadium, Doan would have license to express his skills, while seeing plenty of the ball in Rodgers’ system. He would offer serious competition for Demarai Gray and Harvey Barnes, and with players like Jamie Vardy and James Maddison on the field, the East Midlands would be the ideal ground for growth.