Skip to main content

12 bright sparks who probably won't get the football they deserve this season

Patience at the highest level is difficult to come by. Everyone wants to build a winning team, but trying to grow organically doesn't often go hand in hand with instant success.

Finding the next bright young thing is every team's dream goal, but the reality is that it's now more likely than ever that a player’s progress will be stunted by the constant influx of big-money transfers, rather than being given time to impress at the top level.

With that, here are 12 young players who might just find themselves frustrated by the season's end...

1) Bertrand Traore (Chelsea)

Two loan spells at Vitesse Arnhem saw Blues youngster Traore score 17 goals for the Dutch club. This season he's been cleared to play for Chelsea – handed the No.14 shirt at Stamford Bridge – but it's hard to see where the Burkina Faso international will actually fit in. Jose Mourinho can call on PFA Player of the Year Eden Hazard, Willian, Jose Cuadrado and even Victor Moses in the forward roles, while highly rated new Brazilian signing Kenedy has now secured a work permit to play. Even without his fellow youngster to compete with, there seems an awful lot of competition for the exciting 19-year-old. 

2) Rony Lopes (Man City)

His season on loan at Lille may have been hampered by two thigh injuries, but in northern France Marcos 'Rony' Lopes constantly sparked excitement around the Stade Pierre Mauroy. He may have managed only three assists and as many goals, but the midfield playmaker dragged Lille bums off seats every time he picked up the ball in the final third. Returning to Manchester City after representing Portugal in the Under-20 World Cup, the arrival of Raheem Sterling and Fabian Delph has somewhat glossed over the additional option available to Manuel Pellegrini. His contract is up next summer, making another loan deal unlikely. 

3) Jean-Kevin Augustin (PSG)

Zlatan Ibrahimovic and others took the spotlight as Paris Saint-Germain travelled across America for the International Champions Cup, but it was Jean-Kevin Augustin who did his talking on the pitch. He may not have played a single minute last term, but five goals in pre-season has helped make a genuine case for the 18-year-old centre-forward. Jean-Christophe Bahebeck has found out the hard way just how limited opportunities in Paris can be, and subsequently joined Saint-Etienne on loan. Add Angel Di Maria to the mix, and Augustin’s chances don’t look much brighter.

4) Assane Gnoukouri (Inter)

After impressing off the bench in a 3-0 victory over Verona last season, 18-year-old central midfielder Gnoukouri was handed his full debut by Roberto Mancini at San Siro against rivals Milan. Rather than melt in the heat of the occasion, the youngster rose to the task and was constantly looking for the ball, showing maturity beyond his years. Inter could already call on Gary Medel, Mateo Kovacic and Marcelo Brozovic – but the big-money deal for Geoffrey Kondogbia will further limit the Ivorian’s playing time.

5) Pierre Hojbjerg (Bayern Munich)

With Bayern Munich romping unchallenged to another Bundesliga title, you'd think there might be some chance of youngsters progressing under Pep Guardiola. If anyone's going to do it this year it's Danish pass-master Hojbjerg, but the 20-year-old needed a loan at Augsburg last term to find first-team football in Germany. This summer Bayern have replaced Bastian Schweinsteiger with Arturo Vidal from Juventus, and will also have Thiago Alcantara and Sebastian Rode back from injury to play bigger roles this season (not to mention Xabi Alonso). Hojbjerg is clearly a gifted youngster – and Guardiola agrees – but it'll be hard to show that from the bench.

6) Dani Carvajal (Real Madrid)

In his second full season with Real Madrid after returning from Bayer Leverkusen, Spanish right-back Carvajal cemented his place in the first team, featuring in 30 league games for Los Blancos last term and five in the Champions League. The 23-year-old has impressed with his ability to play at both ends of the pitch, proving himself a capable tackler and willing runner in attack. But despite signing a new deal to 2020, Carvajal will now compete with Brazilian right-back Danilo – a €31.5 million summer arrival from Porto – for a place in Rafa Benitez’s team. It's hard to believe that the 24-year-old has left Portugal for a backup role.

7) M'Baye Niang (Milan)

Milan are in the process of trying to build a team able to fire them back into the Champions League. Strikers Carlos Bacca and Luiz Adriano, both 28, have joined this summer to give the Rossoneri a ready-made strike force. Add in Jeremy Menez, Alessio Cerci and Alessandro Matri to the pool of options and it becomes increasingly difficult to find a place for French striker Niang. The 20-year-old moved to Italy in 2012 as a teenager with great expectations, but has spent time in each of the last two seasons on loan at Montpellier and Genoa respectively. Unless he can impress new boss Sinisa Mihajlovic fast, this could be his last year in the red and black. 

8) Marc Bartra (Barcelona)

ALSO ON FFT.COM

None

Born and bred in Barcelona, Bartra has been part of the Blaugrana setup since he was 11 years old. From Carles Puyol and Gabriel Milito, to Gerard Pique and Javier Mascherano – the centre-back has seen them all, and now aged 24 is still waiting for a proper run in the club's starting XI. His appearance numbers actually dropped by six games last season, and even with Barça’s transfer embargo his minutes don’t look like improving this time either. When midfielders are being picked in front of you, at some point you need to think about your future.

9) Patrick Roberts (Man City)

Despite having players like Rony Lopes on the books, City sanctioned a sizeable move for Fulham’s Roberts this summer. An initial fee of £5 million was paid – with an extra £6m in bonuses – for another player with potential and talent. The England Under-19 international is at a stage of his career where he should be playing first-team football, which he got last season at Craven Cottage with 17 outings in the Championship (though only two were starts). He's undoubtedly gifted, but the 18-year-old is too far down the pecking order to believe he'll play any real part in Pellegrini’s squad.

10) Tom Carroll (Tottenham)

Over the past few seasons, Tottenham have gone through their fair share of central midfielders – yet still the 23-year-old Carroll has scarcely featured. The creative Carroll has been with Spurs since he was a schoolboy, but has played only 23 times for the Lilywhites and turned out for four different clubs on loan since the 2010/11 campaign (including Leyton Orient, Derby and QPR). After his spell at Swansea last time out (where still first-team football wasn't a given), Carroll will be hoping to push his way into Mauricio Pochettino's thoughts. Benjamin Stambouli’s departure will give him hope, but he still has Ryan Mason, Mousa Dembele, Nabil Bentaleb and now Dele Alli to displace – not to mention the two weeks remaining in the transfer window. All signs point towards another season of angst. 

11) Sam Johnstone (Man United)

Johnstone’s Manchester United career resembles a frustrating game of snakes and ladders. Just when it looks like he's close to winning an opportunity, Louis van Gaal puts more obstacles in his way and he falls down the pecking order. This season, with David de Gea’s future in doubt and Victor Valdes out of favour, Johnstone climbed to the top end of the board – then Sergio Romero came onto the scene and the England Under-20 international slipped down once again. Blocked from going back on loan to Preston for now, Van Gaal really needs to make up his mind – what with the five first-team goalkeepers he's got at his disposal.

12) Jonas Hofmann (Borussia Dortmund)

Under Jurgen Klopp, 23-year-old German winger Hofmann only featured in two Bundesliga games last season, leading to a loan deal with Mainz which was ruined by a knee injury. It's expected that he will play more with Thomas Tuchel in charge, which he has done so far with three appearances in cup competitions. But with Kevin Kampl, Marco Reus, Jakub Blaszczykowski and Kevin Grosskreutz also vying for contention out wide, it seems like now or never for the 23-year-old to make his mark at the Westfalenstadion.

More features like this every day on FFT.com