Max Aarons (Norwich)
What on earth is going on with England and right-backs? At senior level Gareth Southgate has called upon Kieran Trippier, Kyle Walker, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Joe Gomez; the Under-21s have Kyle Walker-Peters, Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Jonjoe Kenny; the Under-19s have Aarons. Further down this list is another young right-back. If we deduce that full-backs are the most important positions on the pitch in modern football, then England have started their own revolution.
Aarons has already guaranteed that he will be playing Premier League football in 2019/20, but it may yet be away from Carrow Road. Norwich have already offered him a long-term contract that includes significant pay rise, but Tottenham have been linked with making Aarons their new first-choice right-back next season after the struggles of Trippier and Serge Aurier. Stay and experience the Premier League away from the brightest spotlight, or jump at a chance of Champions League football?
Che Adams (Birmingham)
The formula is pretty simple: if you're young and have demonstrated that you can score goals regularly in the second tier, expect the Premier League to come calling. Reports suggest that Crystal Palace will wait until Michy Batshuayi’s loan from Chelsea to end and then look to replace him with a 22-year-old who has scored 22 league goals for a struggling Birmingham City side this season. If there’s one Championship club that might wish to cash in this summer, it’s them.
Adams has already gained plenty of experience and hard knocks for someone so young. Having been released by Coventry City at 14, he was picked up by non-league Ilkeston and immediately signed a one-year contract when they saw his potential. By November 2014, at the age of 18, he got a move to League One Sheffield United and stayed less than two years before Birmingham agreed to pay £2m to take him to the Championship. Palace may have to stump up more than seven times that fee.
Said Benrahma (Brentford)
Another huge tick in the plus column for Brentford’s recruitment, Benrahma failed to make the grade at Nice and was allowed to move to England last summer. Few expected him to hit the ground running quite so impressively in his debut season.
As Brentford wobbled before Thomas Frank addressed the club’s poor league form, Benrahma has improved over the course of the season to mirror his club’s performance. That's no coincidence: he is one of their leaders by example. Benrahma is one of only five Championship players to have registered at least 10 goals and 10 assists in 2018/19.
And so come the rumours. Arsenal and Chelsea were both linked with moves in February (which does seem a little far-fetched given their spending power), and in March, Brentford reportedly slapped a £30m price tag on his head. One season and out?
Jarrod Bowen (Hull)
Another player on this list who has attracted significant interest from Tottenham, and most Hull City supporters are surprised – but very thankful – that Bowen is still there. Without the performances that earned him a nomination for the Championship Player of the Month award in December, and the overall prize in January, Hull would surely have been dragged into a relegation battle. At the end of November, they were 22nd in the Championship.
Over the last two seasons, in a struggling side, Bowen (now 22) has scored 36 goals from the right wing. If no Premier League club takes a punt on him this summer, it would be a huge shock. Those of us watching the Under-21 European Championship this summer hope to see him there, but England’s depth is pretty remarkable.
Jayden Bogle (Derby County)
The youngest player on this list at just 18, Bogle joined Derby at 15 and has enjoyed a remarkable rise under Frank Lampard and Jody Morris. Before this season, Bogle had failed to make a single first-team appearance and hadn’t been capped by England at any age group. And yet only two Derby players have played more minutes in the Championship this season. One of those is a Chelsea player and the other is 14 years Bogle’s senior.
Bogle is still raw and plays in a position (right-back) at which England’s youth teams are blessed with plenty of competition, but he has already attracted Premier League interest; January brought links to both Bournemouth and Burnley. But having signed a new four-year deal in September 2018 and being coached by youth expert Morris, he would surely be better served staying put. That won’t stop the top-flight clubs coming knocking on Derby’s door.
Joao Carvalho (Nottingham Forest)
Perhaps the slightly unexpected member of this list, given that Carvalho has endured a largely disappointing season. But ask any Nottingham Forest supporter and they will tell you that he is easily their team's most naturally talented player. A promising start to life in England was curtailed by fatigue caused by him playing too much football, and a change of manager that suddenly left him out in the cold.
But the pedigree remains, as demonstrated in Forest’s last two matches when Martin O’Neill restored Carvalho to his first team just after a play-off place had been missed. Having cost £15m from Monaco, the Portugal Under-21 international wouldn’t be cheap and Forest will presumably be desperate to keep him. But you wouldn’t blame Carvalho for jumping at the chance to move on and up.
Jack Grealish (Aston Villa)
Much – perhaps all – depends on whether Villa are promoted. If Dean Smith plots away through the play-offs like he has done through the final two months of the season, Villa will be confident of retaining their place at the top table and Grealish may well be happy to stay at his boyhood club.
But he has already displayed admirable loyalty to Villa, and play-off heartache would bring Premier League vultures to Villa Park over June and July. Grealish is far too good for the Championship when fully fit, and at the age of 23 must soon increase his career total of 16 top-flight starts. Tottenham might well be happy to resurrect their interest, and could bid as much as £30m. That’s an awful lot of money for a Championship club to turn down.
Daniel James (Swansea)
It’s a mini-miracle that James is still at Swansea, given Leeds’s January pursuit that fell through in the final hours of the transfer window. There’s little benefit in dwelling upon ifs, buts and maybes, but you have to suspect that the Whites might now be celebrating automatic promotion had they signed one of the highest-rated young wingers in the country for £10m.
But Graham Potter is under no illusions, and will not expect to keep James for long. Swansea’s owners have stripped back the first-team squad already, and if they can command a fee similar to the one Leicester paid to Norwich for James Maddison last summer, they will surely cash in. There are few mid-table Premier League clubs that wouldn't be improved by James’s pace and directness.
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