Covering the same stories of Harry Maguire, Nicolas Pepe, Paulo Dybala and all the other big names can be very frustrating. Seeing teams spend so much money on players where you can find improvements for less. I present an XI full of players who might not sell shirts but have arrived for a pittance compared to their market value.
GK: Alex Meret – £19.80m
The most expensive player in this XI starts us off. My knowledge on goalkeepers isn’t as vast as it is on midfielders and forwards, but this is a player who’s quality is undeniable. Meret is one of many goalkeepers to be produced from Italy and has finally reached the level we all knew he would. Originally, Meret was to be the replacement for Gianluigi Buffon at Juventus, which in itself was high praise. However, the Italian found himself fighting for that number one shirt at Napoli, alongside Karnezis and Ospina. It was a tough situation for a young goalkeeper to be placed in, battling for that starting spot against two experienced shot-stoppers, yet came out as the best. Out of the 13 starts he made, he conceded 0.63 goals per game, a vast improvement over Ospina’s 1.17. Meret is an excellent shot-stopper and commands his box with confidence. He is arguably at his best at doing what goalkeepers are there to do; ensuring his side keep those precious clean sheets. He might not be a fantastic distributor like the truly elite calibre of goalkeeper, but at only 22, he has plenty of time to improve on his weaker areas.
LB: Angelino – £10.80m
The full-back areas were becoming an increasingly problematic area for Manchester City, with Mendy’s long term injury problems making him unreliable. The champions have had a slightly unfair reputation of just signing players for obscene amounts of money. They have spent more than any other club during this decade, granted, but they have mostly spent it wisely during Pep’s tenure. Angelino has not cost nearly as much as other full-backs Manchester City have signed, but you cannot doubt his quality. Originally a Manchester City player, Angelino was very successful during a loan spell with NAC Breda, prompting PSV Eindhoven to sign the young Spaniard, where he excelled. There are two essential things to remember when looking at Ajax or PSV players. They are playing in an average league, and for sides who dominate a majority of the games they play, so their numbers should be taken into consideration. It’s hard to deny, however, that Angelino’s stats are frankly ridiculous. The Spaniard was creating two chances a game, completing 1.4 dribbles and putting in over 3.5 tackles and interceptions. While I don’t admit to being an avid PSV viewer, his numbers are reminiscent of full-backs to play under Guardiola with high dribbling and chance creation previously. Angelino is arguably the most sensible signing Manchester City have made in recent years. The defender is young and has arrived for a small fee. He is a deficient risk acquisition and could turn some heads this season.Embed from Getty Images
RCB: Ozan Kabak – £13.50m
The Bundesliga is always reliable for finding talent and Kabak is no exception. The Turkish centre half joined Stuttgart only in January, yet as already made another move, this time to Schalke. Die Knappen had arguably the worst ‘Bundesliga dropoff’ I’ve seen. While it was slightly expected, with the side finishing 2nd in the 17/18 season only down to their lack of opposition, with Dortmund, Leipzig and the other top sides all seemingly having down years. They were never expected to finish in the top 4 again, but the drop they had was a shock. It revealed how badly they had done business in the transfer market. They have signed very underwhelming talents and have consistently allowed their best players to leave for nothing. Last season seemed to be the wake-up call they needed, with Kabak fixing a huge problem area for Schalke. Kabak is the stand out talent from Turkey. He is only 19, yet shares qualities with more experienced defenders, possessing great anticipation and maturity you don’t expect to see from a player so young. He instantly became a starter for Stuttgart and has the skillset to help guide Schalke right back to the top half of the table.
LCB: Gianluca Mancini – LOAN (obligation to buy for €15m)
Another player to develop through Atalanta’s famous system, Mancini presented himself to be one of many promising young Italian defenders. He fits the profile in which Roma needed to recruit, a young defender who reads the game very well. The loss of Kostas Manolas was huge for Roma. While not as good as Fazio defensively, he had that pace which enabled him to stand out and allow him to catch a majority of forwards bypassing the defensive line. Mancini is a very sensible signing and has the potential to be a starter for the Giallorossi for years to come. While committing over a foul a game can look worrying, he does possess a similar role to Manolas for Atalanta, making those recovery tackles in an attempt to stop the opposition scoring. Mancini has the speed, size and strength that you see in all top-level centre-halves. His aerial dominance is one of his stand out traits. Mancini won more aerial duels for his side than any other Atalanta player and winning 63% of his aerial duels. But there is more to him than his physicality. He reads the game very well and has shown a lot of maturity for a player still so young. Mancini is not perfect defender just yet, but he could be that elite centre back Roma have needed for a long time.
RB: Kevin Mbabu – £8.20m
Mbabu was one of the highlights of that surprising Young Boys title-winning side. We all saw Dijril Sow, Kasim Adams and Denis Zakaria all leave to join Bundesliga clubs, and Mbabu didn’t take long to follow. Wolfsburg picked up the former Newcastle United full-back to help give Glasner another dynamic defender, to have another player who can contribute in attack. After years of making bad signings, Wolfsburg seem to have finally followed the crowd and began finding value in the market. Mbabu’s signing is insanely sensible. Glasner’s system will require all of his players to be tactically versatile and to cover all areas of the pitch. Mbabu excelled while playing under Adi Hutter, an excellent manager in his own right and shows that the Swiss defender can perform under a demanding coach. It should make his transition into Glasner’s pressing simple to not be difficult. Mbabu is a signing that has minimal risk and shows how well Wolfsburg have been doing after looking destined to fall.
RCM: Pablo Sarabia – £16.20m
For the first time in years, I have loved PSG’s business this summer. Leonardo’s arrival has caused a considerable change in approach in the capital. A player leading this change is Pablo Sarabia. The French champions fought off a lot of competition to sign the Spaniard for his low release clause and have added a fantastic attacking option. Sarabia always looked at a player who could become great but could never reach that level. After years of quietly contributing for his side, Sarabia finally had that breakout season, ending last season with the same total assists as Lionel Messi. He is an aggressive midfielder who has shown an excellent pressing ability under Sampaoli and Machin. Sarabia seemed to be the only player who performed consistently throughout 18/19 in a side that started strong but struggled after Christmas. Sarabia is far from the superstars that PSG are known for chasing in recent years. He is energetic and has the ability and experience to fit into what Tuchel is demanding from his side.Embed from Getty Images
CM: Xaver Schlager- £13.50m
Wolfsburg are here again, and it might be one of the most exciting signings of the window. While Mbabu has Champions League experience, Schlager is younger and can offer something more unique to Glasner’s side. The 21-year-old brings some needed quality into a very defensively-minded midfield set-up. While Arnold and Guilavogui do keep their team stable in the middle. Schlager is a great dribbler and is excellent in those tight situations. The former Salzburg midfielder is fantastic can avoid pressure with ease. He will help give Wolfsburg some ball progression in deep, to help them compete against all sides in the league. Athletic full-backs and a midfield with some needed drive are what is required to help Glasner have the talent and ability to help push towards those Champions League spots.
LCM: Juan Jordan – £12.60m
Let’s move onto Sarabia replacement. Juan Jordan is one of many new arrivals for Sevilla. While Dabbur, Reguilon, Torres, Kounde and Ocampos are all exciting signings for Lopategui’s side, Jordan is their stand out signing in terms of value for money. The Spaniard stood out in an extremely defensive Eibar team, topping the side for key passes. Being able to play in such an organised and well-drilled side will help give Sevilla a player who is equally capable of contributing on both ends of the pitch. Jordan didn’t reach the same high number of goal contributions as Sarabia, but you expect his total to rise in a more attacking team. Sevilla’s midfield was an area that was in desperate need of reinforcements thanks to Sarabia’s departure and Banega not getting any younger. Jordan is arguably the most sensible of the arrivals. He is still only 24 and has enough league experience to make that £13 million already look like money well spent.
RW: Moussa Diaby – £13.50m
While PSG aimed to bring in players to counterbalance the more significant signings, their departures show the talent that they produce in the French capital. Unfortunately, the Champions decided to sell some of these talents, in an attempt to resolve their financial problems. With Weah and Nkunku being the other significant departures, Diaby is by far the most exciting. Only Sane, Gnabry and Iwobi managed a higher expected assist per 90 out of players under 23 to play over 1000 minutes last season than the Frenchman. It showed he stood in limited minutes, competing with some of the best wingers in Europe. His performances were a massive boost for Tuchel, who had two of his star forwards struggling with injuries throughout the season. Mbappe was always going to take the spotlight as the best player from Paris, but Diaby has deservedly moved to a club where his game time will improve. Bayer Leverkusen is one of the many clubs in the Bundesliga that are taking huge steps in the right direction. With an attacking style that has blown many teams away already, Diaby could finally play the minutes he deserves.Embed from Getty Images
ST: Alexander Isak – £5.85m
Borussia Dortmund are one of the biggest selling clubs in Europe, knowing how to profit off the young players they bring in. One player that didn’t benefit during their time at the Westfalenstadion was Swedish forward Alexander Isak. The young striker attracted interest back in 2017, when he was only 16, scoring 10 in 24 for AIK. Isak was supposed to be one of Dortmund’s stars and, at the time, the long term heir to Aubamayeng, but it didn’t work out for him. A loan spell at Willem II reminded us all of the talents that Isak possesses. The Swede blew the Eredivise in his short loan spell, scoring 13 in 15 starts, fantastic return for any young player. His insane scoring record attracted attention across Europe, with many clubs wanting to take a punt on the player, but it was Real Sociedad who won his signature. It was an excellent signing for the La Liga side, who struggled in the final third last season, finishing in the bottom half of the table for goals scored. Januzaj is a great dribbler, and Oyarzabal scored an impressive 13 goals, even if 3 of those goals were penalties, but they needed some real talented additions. Odegaard is a great addition, adding ball progression through the middle, but Isak is a fantastic finisher and has that maturity that made him stand out at such a young age. Next season could be where Isak puts his name on the map as one of Europe’s young stars.
LW: Marcus Thuram – £8.10m
Thuram was a must signing for any club interested in adding a physically dominant player to their ranks. He remained to be Guingamp’s only goal threat in a horrendous season which saw them finish bottom of the table. The 21-year-old displayed versatility and some traits that made him stand out in the world where there are so many talented wide players. No other young winger can match his strength and size, very reminiscent of his father, who was arguably the best player in his position. I thought Arsenal should have picked him up since they were so desperate for wide talent. But as usual, a Bundesliga club was first to land him. This time it’s Borussia Monchengladbach, a side managed by one of the most promising managers in the world. Marco Rose demands a lot from his players, with tactical flexibility and a willingness to defend from all positions essential to how his sides play. Thuram showed how he was willing to do a lot of defensive work last season, which could have been a reason why Gladbach signed the forward. This upcoming season is a significant time for Thuram. Being allowed to learn from one of the most intelligent managers around, to develop his game and give him a chance to make it at an even bigger club.