Ranking Most Coveted Young Players in the January 2018 Transfer Window
It can be hard to land a superstar in the January transfer window. While teams may view it as the ideal time to bolster their squads at the halfway stage, they'll also agree it's an awkward time to sell if you're fighting for something: trophies, survival, Europe or anything at all.
It will often take an absurd amount of money to convince a side to part with a star during the winter—see Liverpool's record £75 million capture of Virgil van Dijk as evidence of that—and even then, players' loyalties can scupper plans, such as Wilfried Zaha's staunch commitment to his beloved Crystal Palace, per BBC Sport.
Even focusing on younger players, perhaps with one eye on the future, can immerse you in a jungle. The globalisation of football means the next wave of talent is an open secret, and most top teams are keeping tabs on the very best. Where once upon a time securing a 20-year-old from Brazil could be done on the down low, in 2018 it's a bun fight.
We've flicked through the dense collection of transfer rumours already flying around to deduce the 10 most in-demand young stars across the world, setting an age limit of 23. Once the list was compiled, we ranked them in order of potential.
10. Moussa Dembele, 21, Celtic
Moussa Dembele's 2017-18 has failed to match the heights of his 2016-17 thus far, but be under no illusions: The Frenchman is one of the finest young striking talents around and few suitors will be feeling deterred.
Linked to a variety of clubs, from Chelsea, per the Evening Standard (h/t IB Times UK), to Premier League newcomers Brighton & Hove Albion, per Sky Sports (h/t The Independent), his next destination is difficult to forecast because of the sheer number of teams that are interested in taking him off Celtic's hands.
9. Lucas Torreira, 21, Sampdoria
Uruguay's next generation of midfielders could change the fabric of how the nation plays football, and spearheading that impending transition is Torreira.
He's been outstanding for Sampdoria so far this season and is a multi-talented midfielder whose calling cards are tenacity and tackling. His good use of the ball should not be ignored either. Such players don't come cheap, and his chairman is valuing him at €50 million, per Sport Italia (h/t TalkSport).
Perhaps that price will ward off Everton, but Tuttomercatoweb (h/t Football Italia) reported Inter Milan are one of the top teams eyeing the Uruguayan from across the room.
8. Ryan Sessegnon, 17, Fulham
That Sessegnon, 17, is already one of the best and most pivotal players in a Fulham side attempting to gain promotion to the Premier League speaks volumes. How many other teenagers could perform so consistently, and with such confidence, under these circumstances?
Tottenham Hotspur, Manchester United, Liverpool and Chelsea have all been credited with serious interest in him, with the former the most heavily linked due to speculation over Danny Rose, per Matt Law of the Telegraph.
Whether Sessegnon ends up a left-back remains to be seen—he's a better offensive player at this stage—but in the hands of a good developmental coach, he can rise to the top.
7. Malcom, 20, Bordeaux
Malcom's route to prominence is one many young players should heed wisely: Rather than opt for an obscure role in the ranks of a huge club straight out of Brazil, he went to Bordeaux—a club who could gift him the first-team minutes in which he could shine.
Shine he has, producing some dazzling displays of dribbling and showcasing a remarkable ability from set pieces, and it hasn't gone unnoticed. According to Goal (h/t Metro), Arsenal and Manchester United are interested, even with the price tag set at £44 million (€50 million)—about the going rate for a pre-eminent midfield star these days, it seems.
6. Goncalo Guedes, 21, Paris Saint-Germain (on Loan at Valencia)
According to Marca (h/t TalkSport), PSG are willing to allow the sale of Guedes this month—presumably to bring the club further in line with FFP regulations—and in the process capitalise on the momentum the Portuguese forward has built up on loan at Valencia.
He won't be cheap, but that won't deter the cluster of teams chasing his signature that reportedly includes Arsenal and Manchester United.
The 21-year-old is one of La Liga's fastest-rising stars, and he's now realising the potential shown back at Benfica before stalling out in the French capital. Quick, incisive and audacious when given room to express himself, his run of goals and assists coincided with Los Che's incredible winning run, while his injury-enforced absence coincided with the subsequent drop-off.
5. Arthur, 21, Gremio
All through December, Barcelona and Arthur's names were linked, with Spanish newspapers such as Sport suggesting the two would be united come January.
But with Barca stalling on any potential deal perhaps due to their renewed pursuit of Philippe Coutinho and Gremio demanding—yep, you guessed it—€50 million for his services, other clubs including Real Madrid have been linked, per Marca (h/t The Sun).
A strong tackler, a fine threader of passes and an impressive, roaming presence from central midfield, it's hard to think of a team he wouldn't suit.
4. Christian Pulisic, 19, Borussia Dortmund
Attacking midfielder, winger
Ah yes, the biannual struggle for the signature of Christian Pulisic. We know this song well.
Liverpool's longstanding interest as a result of his history with Reds manager Jurgen Klopp is coming to the fore once again due to Barcelona's pursuit of Philippe Coutinho, but Manchester United are also in the mix, according to the Daily Mail (h/t Manchester Evening News).
The American midfielder's development over the last 12 months has been impressive, taking the creative onus for his nation while becoming an important figure at Borussia Dortmund.
3. Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, 22, Lazio
He hasn't yet reached his potential, but Sergej Milinkovic-Savic's combination of size, strength, technique and shooting makes him one of the game's most well-rounded, complete midfielders. His mix of talents is rarely found.
Having such a variety of skills and uses will automatically attract multiple suitors, and both Juventus and Manchester United hold a strong interest in the Serbian, per The Sun.
He may not be ready to move on from Lazio just yet—he stated his happiness in the Italian capital in comments to Novosti (via The Sun)—but that won't stop the list of admirers lengthening.
2. Leon Goretzka, 22, Schalke 04
Leon Goretzka's the undoubted flavour of the month, with Bayern Munich and Liverpool emerging from a large pool of admirers to engage in a reported two-way tussle for his signature, according to Jacob Murtagh of the Mirror.
There are two reasons why he's so coveted: The first is that his contract expires in the summer, meaning he can move for free come July; the second is that he's an amazing football player. Whoever he joins will add a box-to-box midfield talent capable of doing it all—be it playmaking, defending or scoring goals—and do so for a relative snip.
1. Thomas Lemar, 22, Monaco
Attacking midfielder, winger
Lemar might soon find himself in the privileged position of picking between three of England's elite clubs as his next destination.
The Evening Standard (h/t the Mirror) reported Antonio Conte and Chelsea are reviving their interest in the Frenchman, Sky Sports has been quizzing Arsenal on whether their interest in him still stands and journalist Duncan Castles, speaking on the Transfer Window podcast (h/t the Daily Star), said negotiations with Liverpool have begun.
Whatever happens, this level of widespread interest is rare, and it is indicative of what a phenomenal player Lemar is. Capable from central or wide areas, creative and smart on the ball, it's arguable he'd improve every team in the Premier League bar Manchester City.
All statistics via WhoScored.com