Do Premier League clubs even really have under-the-radar signings anymore?
It might seem like a slightly weird question to ask at the start of an article about under-the-radar signings but it feels like a question that’s worth asking.
With the sheer amount of attention the league gets every signing more or less is heavily debated and discussed (and of course, graded) but it still feels as if some can fall by the way side, particularly with the teams outside of the European places.
Rodgers not keen on Newcastle job - reports
- Villa confirm Bailey signing as Grealish nears City move
- 'A very good opportunity' - Southampton sign Broja on season-long loan
- Wolves sign Barcelona winger Trincao on loan
This summer more than most that feels particularly true because of Euro 2020 and the Tokyo Olympics occupying the eyeballs as clubs continue to do their business.
Ahead of the new season, here are seven players who are poised to light up the Premier League, but who you may have missed even moving!
As the window continues more names than the original seven might be added.
Leon Bailey – Aston Villa
It’s not too long ago that Leon Bailey was talked about as a possible England star, even though he was never actually eligible and always wanted to play for Jamaica, despite his issues with their national FA. Now English football fans finally get to see Bailey in action, and it’s going to be worth the wait.
Bailey is electric fast and extremely tricky, he’s everything you’d want from a winger. He still has work to do in the final third in terms of his decision-making but he’s still only 24, even though he’s been playing top-flight professional football for nearly six years. This is a player who was chased by the likes of Chelsea and Manchester United in the past, and his signing is a real coup for Villa, whose entire window has been excellent.
Yet with the move to gazump Arsenal for Emiliano Buendia, as well as the shock signing of former Southampton forward Danny Ings, the spotlight hasn’t been on Bailey as much. Expect that to change as soon as he gets onto the field. He may end up moving on soon if he makes an impression, but Villa fans are going to love him while he’s there.
Kristoffer Ajer – Brentford
It feels as if Brentford are either going to implode or make a hell of a lot of noise this season. The club’s famed moneyball approach served them well during their promotion push to the promised land, but playing in the Premier League is a totally different ball game.
Signings like Ajer, and the next player on our list, will go a long way in helping make their stay in the top-flight a long one. Ajer was a shrewd signing by Celtic and he has blossomed into one of the more promising young defenders in Europe.
The 23-year-old has the physical tools to survive in the Premier League and his talent on the ball keeps on getting better. Crucially he has experience at the highest level thanks to Celtic’s journeys in the Champions League. As with the next player, he fits Brentford’s box as having huge potential in terms of future sell-on value.
Frank Onyeka – Brentford
Our second Bee on the list. You can be sure that Frank Onyeka won’t be the last player to move from FC Midtjylland to Brentford given they have the same owner. With England’s tough work permit rules the Danish club provides a great chance to invest in players from different parts of the world, particularly Africa, and allow them to develop before moving once more.
Onyeka is one such player. He moved from Nigeria to Denmark at the age of 18, where he was allowed to develop in relative obscurity over the past five years.
That will change now.
Onyeka is an ideal ball-winning midfielder for the Premier League. He is remarkably adept at reading the game and expect him to compete with the likes of Wilfried Ndidi, Yves Bissouma and N’Golo Kante as the midfielder with the most interceptions. Onyeka’s work-rate means that he can cover plenty of ground, either as the team’s deepest midfield or higher up depending on the playing style. In a league that loves pressing you know he will be on the shopping lists of top teams in the not-too-distant future.
Patson Daka – Leicester City
The rise of Patson Daka is absolutely remarkable and a great example of the good that a scouting network like Red Bull’s can do. There are plenty of issues with the energy drinks conglomerate and their role in football but they do give chances to players like Daka, who was plying his trade in the Zambian second division before being signed by RB Salzburg in 2017. In the past that player may never have gotten the chance to leave the country or continent and show the world what he is capable of.
And Daka is capable of a lot. The first thing that will stand out is his incredible pace. Daka is not just quick, he possesses the sort of pace that jumps off the television screen, a rare gift indeed. He will fit perfectly into the way Brendan Rodgers wants his team to play and he seems the perfect replacement for Jamie Vardy.
Like Vardy, Daka’s game is about more than just pace. He has great movement and he has a real knack for being in the right place at the right time, not something that is easy to teach. His runs are excellent and learning under someone like Vardy can only do him good as he continues to grow. His goal record should only improve in England as well with some of the creative players playing alongside him.
Boubakary Soumare – Leicester City
There are some excellent players on this list, but Boubakary Soumare is the one who feels like he is destined to become the signing of the season at the laughable bargain price of £17 million. Soumare was part of the Lille team that won Ligue 1 last season but was never destined to stay given the club’s financial struggles.
That meant that Leicester were able to get themselves an absolute steal, as they so often do. Rodgers stuck with a 4-2-3-1 in the Community Shield over the weekend and used Soumare off the bench, but don’t be surprised to see more of a 4-3-3, particularly with bigger games, as the Frenchman gets up to speed with his new club and league.
Like Onyeka but further along in his development, Soumare is a very intelligent midfielder who is at his best when he is given the freedom to push up and break up the opponent’s play with his exceptional reading of the game. He's no slouch on the ball either. It’ll certainly be interesting to see how he dovetails with Ndidi and together the pair are going to make life miserable for opposition midfielders. This is a great example of how teams shouldn’t be afraid to double down on a position of strength.
Milot Rashica and Josh Sargent – Norwich City
Two for one here. Both are exciting players but neither necessarily deserves their own segment as they are the biggest risks. Plus it helps that they come from the same place.
Signing players from relegated teams has always been a smart way to do business and it will always be. It’s a great way to get extra value on a player whom otherwise it might have been very difficult to sign. Just because a player has been relegated does not mean he is not worth signing, just look at Andrew Robertson and Harry Maguire. In fact in many circumstances it can often give the player a new lease of life to be around better team-mates.
Norwich will be hoping that is the case for Milot Rashica, the Kosovan forward who has always promised a lot but not consistently delivered, and his young American colleague Josh Sargent. The 24-year-old Rashica scored nine, eight and three goals across his three full Bundesliga seasons with Werder Bremen, although it is notable that he never once played more than 30 league matches. Sargent has never hit more than five goals in a single top-flight season.
Rashica is a very versatile player, who can play on either flank, as a 10 or up front. But he is a different player to Buendia, more of a pacy dribbler than a creator, while Sargent is an out-and-out forward. Nevertheless you imagine that despite their offensive preference under Daniel Farke they will need a weapon on the counter-attack, and that can be Rashica. As for Sargent his is more a case of getting a consistent run that allows him to show exactly what he can do.
Parker: Rodgers to Newcastle feasible as Gerrard is already at a bigger club
Conte in? Newcastle's next manager contenders after Saudi-backed takeover