Both Manchester sides secured top-class young centre-backs in the summer.
With the reported fee for John Stones to Manchester City being £47.5 million and Eric Bailly to Manchester United for £30 million, the defenders have imminently become regular starters at their respective clubs.
Similarly, there are plenty of options available this summer as well.
Here, we look at seven wonderkids (22 or younger) in Europe who could be snapped up by the bigger clubs.
JORDAN PICKFORD – SUNDERLAND, GOALKEEPER
Before his injury towards the end of December, Jordan Pickford was the first choice keeper for Sunderland this season and had produced top notch performances.
Pickford has completed 16 Premier League appearances so far this campaign and has conceded only 28 goals.
As Liverpool seem to be facing a bit of a goalkeeping problem of their own, they could be tempted to go all out for Pickford during the summer but could face competition from Arsenal.
ALESSIO ROMAGNOLI – AC MILAN, DEFENDER
After a solid loan spell in the 2015/16 season at Sampdoria, AC Milan snapped up AS Roma’s Alessio Romagnoli for €25 million on a five-year deal. Since moving to San Siro, the Italian has slotted into the first XI with ease and has established himself as one of the best centre-backs in the league.
Although he still has quite a bit to learn, the 22-year-old is regarded as the main man to replace Giorgio Chiellini in the national team.
Following his standout debut season with AC Milan last year, the Anzio-born youngster was linked with a move to Chelsea, who at the time were desperately in need of a defender to fit into Antonio Conte’s back-three system.
Although they went on to sign David Luiz, the Premier League side were once again reported to make a bid for Romagnoli last month.
JONNY – CELTA VIGO, DEFENDER
Celta Vigo’s Jonny is considered one of the best full-backs in La Liga.
It didn’t take long for the defender to become a fans favourite at the club. After graduating from the youth academy, he’s completed over 150 appearances for the first team.
Once Luis Enrique was announced as Celta Vigo’s manager before the 2013/14 season had started, Jonny was one of the many individuals that was promoted to the main squad.
Compared to the other defenders in the squad, Jonny has completed the third most tackles and interceptions so far this campaign as well as producing three assists on the other side of the pitch.
A few weeks ago, the Spaniard had a night to remember as he scored the winner for his side against Real Madrid at the Bernabeu in the first leg of the Copa del Rey quarter-finals.
24 hours later, Jonny signed a new contract with the club keeping him at the Balaidos until 2019, which will cancel out any transfer rumours for now but will surely return before the summer transfer window.
FRANCK KESSIE – ATALANTA, MIDFIELDER
Franck Kessie has surprised a lot of Serie A fans with his superb breakthrough season. Coming from a small town in Ivory Coast, it didn’t take long for the youngster to be compared to his fellow countryman, Yaya Toure.
Similar to the Manchester City midfielder, Kessie possesses great intelligence and athleticism. He’s guaranteed a selection in the Atalanta XI week in and out, only missing five league games so far this campaign.
From understanding when to change gears in attack as well as having the right positional awareness without the ball, he has effortlessly adapted to each formation used by manager Gian Piero Gasperini.
For Manchester United, Kessie could be seen as a replacement for the ageing Michael Carrick, whose contract will be expiring this summer. Meanwhile for Arsenal, the six foot one inch midfielder could be the perfect fit in a double pivot alongside Granit Xhaka.
JULIAN WEIGL – BORUSSIA DORTMUND, MIDFIELDER
Since making his £1.5 million move from 1860 Munich in the summer of 2015, Julian Weigl has impressively cemented himself as a key player in Thomas Tuchel’s team.
At the age of 18, he was already the Munich’s captain. The fact that Weigl’s understanding of the game is beyond his years makes him the heartbeat of this Dortmund team. From intercepting the opposition’s attacks to setting his side away on the counter, the midfielder looks like the real deal.
Despite Paul Pogba dominating the media last summer, Weigl was also one of the most wanted midfielders in Europe, attracting interest from all the big clubs but fortunately for die Schwarzgelben, nothing came from it and he still plays at the Westfalenstadion this campaign.
KYLIAN MBAPPE – AS MONACO, STRIKER
Receiving an offer from Real Madrid at the age of 14 would shows how talented you are, however, Kylian Mbappe decided to turn down the once in a lifetime opportunity as he didn’t want to leave France so early in his career.
Two years later, he broke Thierry Henry’s record as he became the youngest player to play for AS Monaco at the age of 16 years and 347 days.
Mbappe is a manager’s dream. He thrives on either flank as well as up front on his own and is a good finisher. Although he isn’t a regular starter for the Ligue 1 side this season, the 18-year- old has bagged three goals and produced five assists in 14 league appearances.
Real Madrid may come back for Mbappe and provide him with an offer that he cannot refuse.
KASPER DOLBERG – AJAX, STRIKER
Kasper Dolberg has quickly established himself as an Ajax first-team player as well as one of the most exciting prospects in Europe, notching 12 goals and 4 assists in all competitions.
Dolberg made his way through the ranks at his hometown club, Silkeborg IF, and it didn’t take long for Ajax scout John Steen Olsen to spot the rising talent. Olsen has had a good history of picking out stars having done so for the club in the past with Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Christian Eriksen.
He has the ability to draw defenders out of position with his clever runs in the final third which also helps to create more room for his team-mates to roam into. Although it wasn’t an easy step up from the youth team to the main squad, Dolberg has handled the pressure very well.
Few months into his senior debut season, Dolberg broke Rafael van der Vaart’s record when he became the youngest player to score a hat-trick in the league. Keeping in mind that he’s only 19 years old, the Danish hitman has already been compared to the likes of Marco van Basten and Dennis Bergkamp.
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