AFP Sports picks five young talents that could shine in the English Premier League this season:
Marcus Rashford (Manchester United)
Everything so far has gone swimmingly well for the 18-year-old, one genuine success Louis van Gaal could point to in terms of bringing him into the side when pretty much all else didn’t go right for the Dutchman. However, now the England forward — who showed more spark and invention in a cameo appearance at the end of the Iceland Euro 2016 debacle than anyone else had done that evening — faces two challenges. One is to maintain his progress, having lost that element of surprise, and another is to convince new manager Jose Mourinho that youth, not experience, can be more effective. ‘The Special One’ was at pains at his unveiling press conference to dismiss suggesstions he didn’t favour youth. How Rashford fares under him may well reflect the truth of that statement.
Ramadan Sobhi (Stoke City)
At £5 million (6m euros, $6.5m), Sobhi could prove to be one of the signings of the close season. The 19-year-old winger has been compared to one of Egypt’s greatest players, Mohamed Aboutrika. He already has six full caps to his name and made his league debut for Egyptian giants Al Ahly aged 16. Played a huge role in Al Ahly winning the title last season under former Tottenham Hotspur boss Martin Jol. Another Egyptian great, Mido, has no concerns about him stepping up a few levels in the Premier League, although he preached patience. “The most important thing for me is he has the character, he has a big personality and is not scared of big occasions,” Mido told the Stoke City website.
Lewis Cook (Bournemouth)
For a 19-year-old, Cook arrives with a lot of playing experience having shone for fallen giants Leeds United over the past two seasons. The midfielder was named Football League Young Player of the Year last season — previous winners include Dele Alli and Gareth Bale — and knows what it is to win trophies having been a member of the England Under-17 side that won the European Championship in 2014. He is likely to get a fair bit of playing time and should come along nicely under the tutelage of Eddie Howe. Despite Bournemouth defying the odds and staying up last season, Cook may find a lot of responsibility falling on his young shoulders in what looks sure to a battle for survival this term. He did that admirably at Leeds but in a higher echelon it is asking a lot of such a young talent.
Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg (Southampton)
Southampton may have once again lost several established stars but in the 21-year-old Danish international midfielder they could have acquired a real gem — certainly Saints think so in paying a reported £12.8 million ($16.6m, 15m euros) to Bayern Munich. Despite getting off to a good start with Pep Guardiola at Bayern they eventually fell out and he was loaned to firstly Augsburg — where he flourished — and then Schalke. Ostensibly a defensive midfielder, has also been used out wide. Faces a big task in replacing midfield enforcer Tottenham-bound Victor Wanyama but he will be determined to prove to Guardiola, now at Manchester City, that he made an error in banishing him when he was at Bayern.
Ben Chilwell (Leicester City)
Claudio Ranieri has made superhuman efforts to persuade established stars such as Jamie Vardy to sign new contracts with mixed success. However, Chilwell’s decision to sign a five-year deal could be equally as significant for the 19-year-old is a very highly regarded left-back. He has played for England up to Under-21 level and Ranieri ensured he got some regular first-team play by shrewdly loaning him out to Huddersfield Town last season before recalling him. Yet to make his Premier League debut but is an option to replace the 30-year-old Austrian Christian Fuchs in the first team.