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.
Fiorentina’s goalkeeper Bartlomiej Dragowski makes our latest edition.
STYLE OF PLAY
Exceptionally quick reflexes are a prerequisite for top goalkeepers and Dragowski has them in abundance. The Pole is in his element when the goal is peppered with shots and that’s precisely what put him on the map.
On loan at Empoli last season, he received plenty of plaudits for keeping a clean sheet against Atalanta who attempted a total of 47 shots. Of the 18 efforts that were on target, he saved 17 – setting a new Serie A record for the most saves in a single match.
Dragowski possesses a large frame and looks to attack shots, closing down the striker’s angle quickly before making the save. He also has great reach and is difficult to beat from range.
The 21-year-old is a proactive keeper who commands the penalty area. He’s quick off his line and confident when collecting crosses or emphatically punching them away from danger.
However, while his eagerness to rush out helps in cutting off balls over the top of the defence, he is no sweeper-keeper – not yet anyway. His short passing is fairly average but he’s struggled with his long balls.
At Empoli last season, he ranked fourth for most inaccurate long passes per game among Serie A goalkeepers (11).
While his shot-stopping is his most eye-catching trait, Dragowski needs some fine tuning in that regard as well. He is often guilty of pushing straight back in front of him rather than parrying away to the sides safely or turning shots behind for a corner.
Edwin van der Saar used to excel at holding onto shots or cushioning them with soft hands before collecting on the second attempt. That’s an area in which Dragowski should look to improve.
During his time at Empoli, Dragowski registered 5.1 saves per game which was the highest in Serie A last season among keepers who made more than 10 appearances.
SIMILAR TO – Wojciech Szczesny
After flattering to deceive at Arsenal, Wojciech Szczesny has turned into a solid goalkeeper at Juventus, benefitting no doubt from spending time as Gianluigi Buffon’s understudy before taking over the No1 shirt.
The Pole has always had great ability, excelling with his shot-stopping and reach just like his compatriot Dragowski. Szczesny now also has a much cooler head on his shoulders and that’s something the Fiorentina custodian can already boast. Both keepers are good in the air and in one-on-one scenarios.
Dragowski’s future is up in the air at the moment. He joined Fiorentina in the summer of 2016 and had barely had an opportunity with La Viola before his impressive six-month loan spell with Empoli last season.
Such was his form he’s gone ahead of promising keeper Alban Lafont in the pecking order at Fiorentina, prompting the Frenchman to join Nantes on loan this summer.
However, with two years left on his contract, renewal talks have been slow and tedious. Dragowski’s since had his head turned by interest from the Premier League with reports linking him to Southampton and Bournemouth.
WHERE HE COULD THRIVE
Paris Saint-Germain: With Gianluigi Buffon returning to Juve, Alphonse Areola is the undisputed No1 at PSG. However, while more than competent, the Frenchman isn’t held among the elite or even among those who are expected to eventually be in that category. Dragowski has immense potential and while he’d have to play second fiddle to Areola initially in Paris, there’s every chance of toppling him.
Struggling to pick out the facts from the figures? Reality from the rubbish? Sense from the silly season? We’ve got you sorted in our daily dose of the Transfer Predictor, where we round up the latest rumours with an analytical spin.
We sort through the most eye-catching transfer reports of the past 24 hours and give a balanced judgment on whether the move really will happen – and why.
Newcastle United -> £50m -> Manchester United
The Red Devils have been left stunned by Newcastle’s demands and have threatened to move onto other midfield targets, according to The Telegraph.
Why it will happen: Longstaff is a Magpie through and through, yet recent events at Newcastle are forcing his exit. Mentor Rafael Benitez has departed and the first team looks in a parlous condition. Man United offer a jump up the table, greater exposure and bigger wages. Manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s faith in young, British talent makes the promising midfielder, 21, an obvious target. The new £50 million price tag – more than double the suitors’ valuation – could also just be a bargaining position.
Why it won’t happen: But if it is not mere posturing, this deal looks dead in the water. Newcastle are, apparently, using the fee paid to Crystal Palace by United for right-back Aaron Wan-Bissaka as a benchmark. Longstaff, however, has only nine Premier League appearances to his name and no England youth caps. Put in this context, the £30m discrepancy looks insurmountable.
Transfer Predictor: 4/10
Atalanta -> €20m -> Roma
Roma look poised to imminently land Italy’s latest defensive prospect on a loan with an obligation to buy, according to gianlucadimarzio.com.
Why it will happen: A hole exists in the Roma backline after the sale of Greece’s Kostas Manolas to Napoli and Mancini is the logical player to fill it. The 23-year-old excelled at Atalanta last term, helping to guide them to the Champions League. But bigger wages and a grander platform with the Giallorossi are irresistible. With Juventus hot on the trail of Matthijs de Ligt and now in possession of Sassuolo loanee Merih Demiral, there isn’t any obvious competition.
Why it won’t happen: Only a last-minute issue can scupper this deal. Not even a lack of Champions League football is, seemingly, a hurdle for Mancini.
Transfer Predictor: 9/10
Everton -> €30m -> Paris Saint-Germain
The Ligue 1 giants have restarted negotiations for their winter transfer target and hope to get the deal done this time, according to L’Equipe.
Why it will happen: PSG have long been desperate for midfield reinforcements and they’ve set about getting them this summer. Ander Herrera and Pablo Sarabia are already on board, but there is still a desire for a new defensive midfielder. At 29-years old, Everton will be keenly aware that now could be the time to cash in. It is also far-less disruptive to sell in the summer than January. A return to France for former Lille star Gueye and the offer of Champions League football appear irresistible.
Why it won’t happen: Gueye was the Everton’s joint Player’s Player of the Year for 2018/19 and is a key part of Marco Silva’s project. The Toffees ended last term in fantastic form and will hope to push up the table. Combined with the financial power of all Premier League clubs, their demands may make the deal make less sense for PSG.
Transfer Predictor: 6/10
What the papers say
Manchester United are confident a compromise can be reached with Leicester in their pursuit of Harry Maguire, according to The Sun. But they have dropped their interest in Newcastle’s Sean Longstaff after being quoted £50million for him.
The Mirror also says United have been quoted a £50million fee for Longstaff. They are reportedly ready to walk away from a potential deal for the 21-year-old midfielder, who has made only nine Premier League appearances and is yet to represent England at any age-group level, as they feel he is only worth between £18m and £20m.
Manchester United target Steven Bergwijn is set to snub a move to Old Trafford and wait for Bayern Munich to make an offer, according to the Mail.
Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp has blocked Rangers manager Steven Gerrard from signing Ryan Kent, the Express reports.
Barcelona are closing in on the signing of Antoine Griezmann after finally activating his £170million release clause, says the Mirror.
Players to watch
Virgil Van Dijk: Barcelona enquired about the possibility of signing the former Celtic player from Liverpool, the Mirror reports. But they were quickly given short shrift by the Dutch defender’s representatives.
Bjorn Engels: Aston Villa manager Dean Smith is targeting the Belgian centre-back to boost his side’s defensive options, according to the Mail.