Bubbling under: Football League players who should be on Premier League radars

Ryan Sessegnon, Fulham

Fulham’s manager, Slavisa Jokanovic, might want to have a word with Ragnar Sigurdsson. Jokanovic has spoken on a number of occasions about his desire to keep his star players after their hugely impressive run to the play-offs, so when Sigurdsson was asked if the implausibly talented youngster Ryan Sessegnon was good enough to play in the Premier League, a polite “no comment” might have been a politically wise response. “One hundred per cent,” the Fulham defender said. “He’s a great talent … he has a very bright future. I’m just surprised he didn’t get any offers during the season. I think he was that good.” Ah. Sigurdsson’s opinion isn’t massively surprising because it’s shared by half of the Premier League, whose scouts have been seemingly tripping over their tongues as they relay tales of his talent to those who make the financial decisions. Sessegnon is only just 17, so the strengths of his game – pace, enormous threat going forwards from left-back, a fizzing shot – are exciting while the weaknesses can be worked upon. Whether that will be at Fulham or in the Premier League, may depend on just how much they want to keep him.

Joe Worrall, Nottingham Forest

 

During five years in charge of Nottingham Forest, Fawaz al-Hasawi managed to erode goodwill among the fans, left the club with a skeleton staff and saw the team finish in a lower position in each season. One area he didn’t manage to make a mess of was the youth system, which at times last season provided half of the first team. Oliver Burke was sold to RB Leipzig, Ben Osborn has become one of their key players and the forward Ben Brereton is the latest to attract the twitching gaze of Premier League scouts. Another could be the defender Joe Worrall, who established himself in the Forest first team towards the back end of last season and was captain of the England side that won the Toulon tournament. A strong central defender, Worrall occasionally suffered from a lack of composure on the ball, but there’s plenty of promise there from the latest product of the academy heads Gary Brazil and Jack Lester.

Marc Roberts, Barnsley

Most of the key players in Barnsley’s remarkable 2015-16 campaign, when they went from relegation probables to promotion from League One in the space of six months, have been picked off and distributed among those with a little more money. Conor Hourihane and James Bree went to Aston Villa, Alfie Mawson left for Swansea, Sheffield Wednesday bought Sam Winnall and Marley Watkins has just signed for Norwich. Marc Roberts remains, though, and was one of their best players as they pulled off one of the Championship’s underrated feats last season, managing to lurk around the edge of the play-offs under Paul Heckingbottom, despite the player exodus and operating without a chief executive for months. Roberts is a little older and more rounded than Mawson, who despite the odd wobble had a decent season in the top flight, so could be a possible option for a team on a more modest budget.

Charlie Taylor, Leeds United

The young left-back’s contract at Leeds will run out at the end of June, and although anyone who signs him will have to pay a fee of some description (he joined Leeds aged eight so they will be owed compensation), it will be significantly less than on the open market. Taylor almost left Elland Road in January, and caused significant irritation when he refused to play in their last game of the season, against Wigan. Talk of a move to Liverpool has the significant whiff of an overoptimistic and game-playing agent whispering in the collective ear of the media: West Brom, keen for some time, seem a more reasonable destination.

Jota, Brentford

Impish and diminutive playmakers can sink or swim in the Premier League. As players continue to resemble muscular triangles, all broad shoulders and tiny waists, and are expected to be part 400m runners, part footballers, you have to be pretty good to survive if you aren’t particularly physical. The Brentford midfielder Jota – José Ignacio Peleteiro Ramallo to his mum – may be good enough to do just that. He joined Brentford in 2014, but after a brilliant first season personal problems saw him return to Eibar on loan in January 2016. But a year later he had fallen out of first-team consideration in Spain, so returned to Brentford and promptly tore the Championship up, scoring 12 goals in 21 games to help the Bees secure a respectable league position. His contract is up at the end of next season, so he will be available for a relatively modest price: £8m is the fee mentioned in the transfer rumour bush telegraph, which is roughly what many top-flight sides spend on fax machine ink.

Ezri Konsa, Charlton

Ezri Konsa, left, was part of the England Under-20 squad that won the World Cup. Here he celebrates victory in the final with Ademola Lookman.
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Ezri Konsa, left, was part of the England Under-20 squad that won the World Cup. Here he celebrates victory in the final with Ademola Lookman. Photograph: Alex Morton – FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images

One of the few positives from Charlton in the past few years has been their academy, source of hugely promising talent such as Joe Gomez and Ademola Lookman, and the latest youngster to emerge is Ezri Konsa. A tall, ball-playing central defender, Konsa was part of the England Under-20 squad that won the World Cup (although he made only one brief appearance in South Korea), and has reportedly already been watched by the Premier League’s biggest and richest. “Ezri was hard work with me when I first came in,” said Simon Clark, a former Charlton youth coach who worked with Konsa and Lookman. “Not in a bad way. He’d ask questions and he’d challenge you, which was great because I knew the answers and I’d fire them back at him.”

Liam Moore, Reading

When Liam Moore first came through the ranks at Leicester, he looked like a star who wouldn’t stick around at the then Championship club for too long. A rapid defender who could play on the right or in the centre of defence, he was the sort of player who had every possible tool to succeed. But after a dip in form he lost his place in Nigel Pearson’s first team and didn’t do a great deal to justify his initial promise during subsequent loan spells at Brentford then Bristol City. Moore described the latter as “dodgy”, so Reading took a reasonable gamble when they signed him last summer. But he was a key man in their unlikely trip to the play-offs under Jaap Stam, and the work done by the Dutchman could have prepared Moore for life back in the top flight.

Sam Hutchinson, Sheffield Wednesday

You don’t see too many midfield terriers in the Premier League these days, bite-yer-legs types who can break up play and shake up opposition playmakers. Sam Hutchinson is one of those, a defender turned midfielder who was one of Sheffield Wednesday’s key players as they reached the play-offs, and one with quite a back story too. Hutchinson retired because of a knee injury aged 21 after coming through at Chelsea, but he came back and found a home at Wednesday following a couple of variable loan spells and working through mental health issues. Perhaps the occasional disciplinary issue (he was booked 10 times and sent off twice last season) would put some clubs off, as might his continuing fitness problems, unrelated to his knee. Indeed, Hutchinson told the Guardian this year he didn’t want to leave Wednesday, whether or not a Premier League club came in for him: but it would be a wonderful bookend to his story if one did.

Helder Costa, Wolves

The influence of Jorge Mendes at Wolves has thus far produced, shall we say, mixed results. Significant spending from owners and Mendes devotees Fosun International resulted in one manager lasting only until October, his successor leaving at the end of the season and a league finish in the bottom half. One positive that has come from his involvement is the recruitment of Helder Costa, albeit for the hefty fee of £13m, from Benfica. A rapid and tricky winger, Costa started relatively slowly but in the second half of the season he did as much as any Wolves player to stave off the lurking threat of relegation. The bad news for any potential suitors is that Wolves will presumably be after a profit on the player, so any offer would have to be chunky. That said, what offer isn’t this summer?