Managers to watch, players I want to succeed and teams to watch have all been done and so here are my players to watch for this coming season. Whether it be a man on the move, a youngster who is on the verge of breaking through or someone who is coming back from injury this season, here we go…
Emi Buendia, Aston Villa
Kicking things off with a new signing as, even though Norwich booked their return to the Premier League, star man Emi Buendia has departed. Rumours around his future have been swirling for a season or two now and Aston Villa have captured his signature for a fairly hefty fee. The Argentinian is so easy on the eye and although he didn’t score many goals when the Canaries were last in the English top-flight, his playmaking abilities were there for all to see. If he can add to his goals then Buendia is on route to the top, it’ll be great to see him playing alongside Jack Grealish, Ollie Watkins and co.
Mikkel Damsgaard, Sampdoria
Onto another wide-man and that seems to be a theme on this list. Mikkel Damsgaard was one of the integral members to a superb Denmark side at Euro 2020 even though he didn’t do all that much in the latest club season. Damsgaard replaced the stricken Christian Eriksen and he excelled, his tournament peaking when he fired home that free-kick against England in the semi-final. Under Premier League winning manager Claudio Ranieri the Dane was more of a role player but Sampdoria have turned over a new leaf, will he continue the form and impress the new gaffer?
Rayan Cherki, Lyon
Talking of new managers and after a turbulent couple of years for Lyon, they have a manager that brings a lot of promise to the club. Peter Bosz has done some good work with an exciting Leverkusen squad but it got to the end of the road and now he is on to a new venture. Given that the likes of Kai Havertz and Florian Wirtz developed under Bosz, we could truly see Rayan Cherki breakout and fulfil his potential this season. He is still just seventeen but given that he made his debut in 2019, those tricky feet are already on the radar of most.
Gio Reyna, Dortmund
Youth is the main theme of the bulk of this article and there aren’t many that I love more than USMNT and Borussia Dortmund man Gio Reyna. He is one of many young American players coming up at the moment and their squad really is worth keeping an eye on, plus Jadon Sancho’s move to Man United could see him become more important to his club this season. Like with Lyon, the managerial situation at Signal Iduna Park has been rocky but they’ve brought in the talented Marco Rose from Gladbach, a clearer vision coming to the fore going forward. Not to mention that PSV’s Donyell Malen, the latest signing, fits the Dortmund mould well and the likelihood is that they’ll be as attacking minded as ever.
Dusan Vlahovic, Fiorentina
Seven goals in one half scream the headlines this week surrounding Serbian striker Dusan Vlahovic, the likes of Liverpool and Spurs expressing interest ahead of the season. As it stands though he is a Fiorentina player and outside of the obvious big teams, he was one of the best players that Serie A had to offer last season. He netted 21 in 37 league games in 2019/20 which was bettered by only Ronaldo, Lukaku, Luis Muriel and Lazio’s Immobile so he holds quite the company. I do hope he remains in place for at least another season so he can have another superb year as the star but it wouldn’t surprise me if a big money move was in store in the next month or so.
Mallik Wilks, Hull
Quite the change of scenery now from Florence to Hull where the Tigers topped League One last season under Grant McCann, therefore booking a thoroughly deserved return to the Championship. It was and still is a great squad but the player at the heart of it all was Mallik Wilks, formerly of Leeds. At previous clubs he has been highly rated but end product has been one slight worry, but no longer! He scored nineteen times last season as well as assisting eight goals, his productivity is at a strong rate now and he may well take to this higher level like a duck to water.
Ilaix Moriba, Barcelona
Back to a more luscious part of the world, although there is trouble in paradise. Barcelona are plagued with issues at the moment, mainly financially hence all the departures, and it hasn’t stopped yet. A lot of players are having to be moved on to allow for the new signings to sign on, this maybe being a blessing in disguise for some La Masia graduates. Pedri whilst not Barcelona through and through won’t be going anywhere, the same goes for Ansu Fati and hopefully Ilaix Moriba too. The eighteen-year-old midfielder made fourteen appearances in his debut season for the Blaugrana and looked good when he did feature, he’ll be looking for more minutes and more chances this time around under Koeman.
Harvey Barnes, Leicester
I’m just as excited to see what Fati can do for Barcelona on his return from injury and another player who spent a long time sidelined last season is Harvey Barnes. The Leicester man along with Jamie Vardy and James Maddison were on fire, with the Foxes well in the hunt for Champions League football, but the two midfielders getting injured threw a spanner in the works. Whilst Maddison returned to action, Barnes didn’t get back in time to contribute to that historic FA Cup win. He was great at West Brom and took little to no adjustment time when it came to the Premier League so if he remains healthy, a huge season may lay in store.
Arnaut Danjuma, Bournemouth
On the topic of the Championship and Dutchman Arnaut Danjuma finished the season on fire, he was great in the playoffs but it wasn’t to be for his Bournemouth side. Scott Parker has taken over the reins down on the south coast and he knows the league well so I think they’ll go to the next level under the ex-Fulham boss. The attacking ranks with Danjuma, Dom Solanke, David Brooks and Junior Stanislas as the key players poses a major threat and from what I saw last season, Danjuma was THE one to watch. Long may that continue.
Ander Barrenetxea, Real Sociedad
As previously mentioned, young wingers are clearly at the front of my mind and none more so than Spaniard Ander Barrenetxea. At Real Sociedad last season he started to get more and more chances under Imanol Alguacil and the presence of the legendary David Silva can only hope with his development. Alongside the multi- Premier League winner, Mikel Oyarzabal and Alexander Isak there is quite the frontline and so Barrenetxea is in good company. He scored a couple of special goals and with European football at their disposal, the need for rotation will be present again, enter Barrenetxea and plus, what a surname!
Florian Neuhaus, Gladbach
Penultimately, to the club where Dortmund snapped up manager Marco Rose from, Borussia Monchengladbach. They have acquired the services of Adi Hutter from Eintracht Frankfurt to replace the departing German and Hutter takes on a decent squad in truth. From front to back there are plenty of players to watch but one name who I’m yet to properly take in is Florian Neuhaus. I am a big Marcus Thuram fan and to a wider audience, Denis Zakaria may be the most known Gladbach midfielder, but Neuhaus is highly rated himself. The likes of Bayern and Liverpool are said to be very keen on the 24-year-old who can play a range of positions in the middle of the park, he will go for a pretty penny that’s for sure.
Josh Maja, Bordeaux
Finally then to a former Premier League man whose now back abroad, Josh Maja, who after firing on all cylinders in the early days of his Fulham loan tailed off towards relegation with the rest of his team. Maja was one of the stars of the Sunderland ‘til I die documentary and he left the League One club for Bordeaux, where he remains. Maja is yet to have a great season as such but the Nigerian international is still young and so could have a great year still to come. His movement is great to watch, he showed exactly this at Fulham and although he may have lacked a clinical edge, better service can help that for sure.