The new Premier League season starts on Saturday with a clutch of young players eager to play a starring role.
The Premier League squads are packed with players who are capable of eclipsing established stars and carving an identity for themselves.
Manchester United’s Mason Greenwood was the breakout star last term but here’s a look at five candidates aiming to emulate the striker’s success in the coming months:
Phil Foden (Manchester City)
Widely regarded as the most gifted of England’s Under-17 World Cup-winning team three years ago, Foden has a golden opportunity to fulfill his vast potential this season.
The departure of City playmaker David Silva has left a vacancy in Pep Guardiola’s team that Foden is determined to fill.
Guardiola showed his trust in the 20-year-old by starting him in last season’s League Cup final win against Aston Villa, when he was the man of the match, as well as the Champions League last-16 second-leg victory over Real Madrid.
“I’ve played many big games for Man City now and I have learned to cope with the fans and the pressure. It definitely helps you,” Foden said.
England manager Gareth Southgate also believes Foden is ready for prime time, but his first callup to the national squad ended in disgrace when he and Mason Greenwood were sent home on Monday after the pair breached coronavirus protocols in Iceland, reportedly after leaving the team’s bio-secure ‘bubble’ and meeting local girls.
Phil Foden 2019-'20 stats
|Matches played||Minutes played||Goals scored||Assists|
Kalvin Phillips (Leeds)
Just two years after his career was in danger of stagnating, Phillips has inspired Leeds’ long-awaited return to the Premier League and celebrated his first England call-up in a memorable period for the midfielder.
It is a remarkable rise for a player regarded as an underachiever when Leeds boss Marcelo Bielsa took charge in 2018.
Bielsa recognised that Phillips was better suited to a midfield holding position than the box-to-box role he had previously been asked to fill.
Since that inspired switch, the 24-year-old has made more tackles, interceptions and successful passes than any other Leeds player.
Kalvin Phillips 2019-'20 Championships stats
|Accurate corners into box||60||1st|
|Possession won in middle third||169||7th|
Those qualities have seen Leeds fans dub him the “Yorkshire Pirlo” in a nod to the perceived similarities between their hometown hero and former Italy great Andrea Pirlo.
He made his England debut in the 0-0 draw against Denmark on Tuesday and made an impression
Bukayo Saka (Arsenal)
The versatile 19-year-old earned a PFA Young Player of the Year nomination after an impressive 2019-’20 campaign.
Now Saka must build on that breakthrough first full season by cementing his place in Mikel Arteta’s side.
Capable of playing on the left or right-wing, at left-back and even in central midfield, Saka showed no signs of resting on his laurels as he delivered an influential display when Arsenal beat Liverpool in the recent Community Shield.
Saka’s range of passing was on full display when he found Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang with a cracking cross-field ball that led to his captain’s goal against Liverpool.
Only Manchester City’s Kevin De Bruyne and Liverpool’s Trent Alexander-Arnold have provided more assists for Premier League sides in all competitions since the start of last season than Saka, who has 12.
Arteta has shown faith in the youngster since he joined the club and it’s fair to say that he has fully repaid it.
Matheus Pereira (West Bromwich Albion)
The 24-year-old Brazilian was Albion’s star performer in their promotion-winning campaign last term.
In his first season in English football, Championship defenders found it impossible to contain Pereira as the winger scored eight goals and provided 16 assists – more than any other second-tier player.
He had initially joined on loan from Sporting Lisbon, but Albion secured a permanent deal for around £9 million ($12 million) that should prove value for money.
“Everybody is aware of the impact he made in his first season and from speaking to him I know he is now very excited by the challenge of playing for Albion in the Premier League,” said West Brom sporting director Luke Dowling.
Curtis Jones (Liverpool)
Jones gave a tantalising glimpse of his ability with a brilliant long-range winner against Everton in last season’s FA Cup third round.
The 19-year-old midfielder’s energy and quality in possession make him an ideal fit for Jurgen Klopp’s high tempo game-plan.
He made eight more appearances after that Merseyside derby wonder-goal and came off the bench in last month’s Community Shield. He was particularly impressive in the Reds’ friendly against Blackpool.
With Klopp taking a cautious approach in the transfer market and expressing his faith in the club’s cadre of talented youngsters, Liverpool-born Jones could earn more opportunities when the Reds start the season as English champions for the first time since 1990.
Curtis Jones 2019-'20 stats
|Matches played||Minutes played||Goals scored||Assists|
Billy Gilmour (Chelsea)
The 18-year-old Scottish footballer made a big impression for Frank Lampard’s Chelsea just before the coronavirus lockdown. He won back-to-back man of the match awards in Chelsea’s impressive wins over Liverpool in the FA Cup quarter-finals and Everton in the Premier League.
Gilmour lost his place to N’Golo Kante after the Premier League returned and then suffered a meniscus tear in his knee that ruled him out for the rest of the season. The injury is to keep him out of the first two months of the new season, but the youngster has done enough to be in Lampard’s plans once he returns.
He managed to get ahead of Jorginho in Lampard’s pecking order and could be an important player for Chelsea in the second half of the season. The young Gilmour’s style of play suits the way Lampard likes to play and his performances last season are anything to go by, he is going to be a top player in the future.
Premier League matches of the new season will be shown live in India on Star Sports Select and Disney+Hotstar VIP from 12 September.
(With inputs from AFP)