• John Gilding


Nikola Vlasic, CSKA Moscow (23)

At 19, Vlasic signed for Ronald Koeman’s Everton side as a promising attacking midfielder/winger, after impressing against Everton when playing for his first professional club, Hajduk Split. Under Koeman and Sam Allardyce he was worked into the first team, making 19 appearances in all competitions, and impressing on occasion. However, after just one season, Marco Silva was brought in as manager, and his signings of André Gomes and Richarlison showed Vlasic wasn’t in his plans.

He was sent out on loan to CSKA Moscow and was used more centrally, earning a permanent deal in the summer of 2019. Since then, he has established himself as a star of the Russian Premier League. He was top scorer for his team last season, and is on track for the same achievement this time around. He also won Russian Player of the Year for 2020, the first Croatian to do so.

Still only 23, Vlasic’s got plenty of options for how his career could pan out. He could make a return to English football, as there are a few teams that could use a player of his qualities. With a couple of departures, Leicester would be a good fit for him. He could stay in Moscow and build a legacy there, or potentially even reunite with Ronald Koeman at Barcelona.

The last one could be a little far-fetched, but despite his aborted Everton career, Vlasic is soaring right now.

Angeliño, RB Leipzig (24)

From third-choice at Manchester City to one of the most in-form and exciting players in Europe, Angeliño has had a whirlwind few years. His time at Man City was spent playing backup to Zinchenko and an injury-plagued Ben Mendy, inexplicably getting only a handful of games. He recently spoke out and criticised Guardiola for judging him too soon and limiting his games.

He does have a point. At Leipzig, he plays a similar role as he would have done in Pep’s system, charging forward and supporting the attack, grabbing a few goals while he’s there. And he is shining. The only difference is the faith shown by Nagelsmann in his ability. He’s been crucial to Leipzig’s season duelling with Bayern for the Bundesliga title.

Angeliño has proved all his doubters from Man City wrong (including one of the greatest managers of all time). As for a next step, if Leipzig isn’t his permanent home, Inter seems like an excellent fit. They are potentially on track for the Scudetto, Angeliño would fit right into Conte’s wing-back system, and his only competition on the left would be Kolarov and Ashley Young, two players who really aren’t getting any younger. Angeliño and Achraf Hakimi bombing down the flanks would make for a formidable foe.

Ismaël Bennacer, AC Milan (23)

There has been an unfortunate trend at Arsenal over the last few years, where youth talents released because of a lack of potential have come back to haunt them. Serge Gnabry is the most famous example, Donyell Malen and Jeff Reine-Adelaide aren’t far behind him either. Bennacer is just the latest in the list.

In 2017, he was sold to Italian second-division side Empoli, with no first-team appearances to his name at Arsenal. He built a reputation in Serie B as a battling central midfielder with a creative streak. After two years there, Milan signed him for around £15m.

He’s still in the process of establishing himself as a regular in the starting line-up, but come next season he is sure to be a more consistent name on the team sheet, if his performances are anything to go by.

In the next few years, Bennacer is sure to be a big name, but he might not be signing for the Gunners anytime soon, no matter how much they might need him.

Moise Kean, PSG (21)

Everton have popped up again in this discussion, which could be a surprise to some, but for every Richarlison and Dominic Calvert-Lewin, there’s a Moise Kean. He moved there in a £25m deal, and as the youngest player ever to score for Italy in a competitive international. The hype around Kean was justified, but with just two goals in 29 Premier League games, his debut season in England did not go as planned.

At PSG on loan for this season he has rediscovered his shooting boots. He has 11 goals in 19 games in the league, making the most of the service from the likes of Neymar and Di Maria.

At the end of the season, there’s a decision to make that could have a huge impact on Kean’s career. PSG could cash in and add yet another forward to their roster, or he returns to Everton to fight for his place in the team back. It could be too soon to return to England, as his Toffees performances are still quite fresh in the memory, so PSG seem to be the better option right now, although whether that comes in the form of another loan or a permanent deal could ride on the second half of the season. Pochettino has the future of Italy’s forward line available to him, it’s up to him what’s best.