The rumour mill is filled with transfer speculation linking household names and high-profile young talents with big-money moves to some of Europe’s top sides.
With the inflated prices being bandied about, clubs would do well to look past the names and identify potential superstars based on encouraging performances that may have been overlooked.
Promising talents often don’t get the attention they deserve because they’re featuring in lesser clubs away from the limelight of a title challenge or the recognition that comes with topping the charts for goals or assists.
A more extensive search though could unearth some hidden gems scattered across the European circuit and in this series, we put some of those players in the spotlight.
Hoffenheim’s criminally underrated midfielder Florian Grillitsch makes our first edition.
STYLE OF PLAY
A deep-lying playmaker more by nature than trade, Florian Grillitsch is tailor-made for the role. He’s comfortable receiving the ball from the defence, carrying it through the lines and can spray passes across the pitch with both feet.
His vision and passing ability are among his chief attributes as a midfield orchestrator while a modest 83.5 per cent pass success rate in the Bundesliga last season has as much to do with him still honing his skills as a 23-year-old as it does with Hoffenheim’s style of play.
Under the tactical astute and flexible Julian Nagelsmann, the Bundesliga club would press high and strike on the break with Grillitsch having to be fairly direct and penetrative with his passes. Indeed, only Fortuna Duesseldorf scored more goals (11) from counter-attacks last season than Hoffenheim (nine).
Grillitsch impressively brought an element of composure and control to the German side but he’s just as effective in winning possession. The Austrian has good height and wins his share of aerial duels but doesn’t boast a particularly imposing physique. However, he reads the game expertly, breaking up play with clever interceptions while also being a clean tackler.
Grillitsch isn’t a pacey player but owing to his long strides he’s quicker than he looks while his anticipation and positioning holds him in good stead.
The midfielder ranked sixth last season for tackles with 77 and third for interceptions with 72.
SIMILAR TO – Michael Carrick
With his physique, gait and passing range, several comparisons can be made between Grillitsch and Michael Carrick. The fact that his vital contributions largely go unnoticed only furthers the resemblance.
Like the former United star, Grillitsch won’t be racking up loads of assists and his goals will come at a premium but he pulls the strings deeper in midfield and is the kind of player his team-mates are grateful to line-up alongside.
After joining Hoffenheim from Werder Bremen, Grillitsch had a release clause in the region of €20 million. However, after two impressive seasons at the club, he signed a new deal this summer until 2022 which removed the clause.
He may be one of the most underrated players in the Bundesliga but if a big club comes knocking, expect the asking price to be closer to €35m now.
📃✍🏼 #GRILLO2️⃣0️⃣2️⃣2️⃣ ❗️ #TSG have secured the ongoing services of another key player: Florian #Grillitsch has prematurely extended his contract until June 30th 2022!— TSG Hoffenheim EN (@achtzehn99_en) June 5, 2019
"I am looking forward to now being an integral part of the new era under Alfred #Schreuder!” pic.twitter.com/J2hBVkTUnv
WHERE HE COULD THRIVE
Manchester United: The Red Devils are in the midst of a massive rebuilding project and Grillitsch could offer the perfect foundation. He would have the opportunity to establish himself at one of the biggest clubs in the world and develop along with what should be a new-look United side come the start of the season.
Arsenal: Grillitsch would also give Arsenal’s central midfield a big boost in quality and control. The Gunners have options in the final third but are often second best in the middle of the park.
Ajax: The Austrian even has the attributes to slot nicely into Ajax’s midfield. As an inexpensive replacement for Frenkie de Jong, he would have the opportunity to prove himself and perhaps even earn a dream move to major European outfit in the future.
Tottenham: Spurs were strongly linked with a move for the Hoffenheim player in January but their interest has waned following the removal of his release clause this summer. If their barren run in summer transfer windows persists though, they may be tempted to bite the bullet and snap up a player who would offer them the squad depth they lack while also providing healthy competition for Harry Winks.
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