B/R Football Ranks: The 10 Best Players Who Deserve More Transfer Buzz

Sam Tighe@@stighefootballWorld Football Tactics Lead WriterJuly 15, 2019

Nice's Algerian defender Youcef Atal celebrates afte scoring a goal during the French L1 football match between Nice (OGCN) and Strasbourg (RCSA) on March 3, 2019, at the Allianz Riviera stadium in Nice, southeastern France. (Photo by VALERY HACHE / AFP)        (Photo credit should read VALERY HACHE/AFP/Getty Images)
VALERY HACHE/Getty Images

Summers are for international tournaments, well-earned breaks and, of course, transfer sagas.

Ever since Cristiano Ronaldo's will-he-won't-he summer of 2009, we've become obsessed with protracted moves—perhaps to the point where some fans enjoy talking about and debating transfers even more than actually watching football.

This summer's sagas are in full swing. Neymar to Barcelona? Paul Pogba to Real Madrid? Nicolas Pepe to literally anywhere?

We know who the headliners are; we're fed their names every day, with minor advancements reported as exclusives and digested uncontrollably, like catnip to a voracious public.

What's interesting is the spotlight can be quite narrow, focusing everyone's attention on select players and in the process leaving others in the cold. The transfer machinations of big clubs change frequently, meaning some players who were the talk of the town in May garner barely a whisper in July.

In this column, we rank the 10 best footballers who, for some reason, are getting next to no hype or transfer buzz right now.

We've suggested a few ideal locations for each, so if you're reading, directors of football, we'll take our 5 percent by cheque.

Listen to Sam every week on the B/R Football Ranks podcast. New episodes drop every Wednesday. 


10. Philip Billing, 23, Central Midfielder

Huddersfield Town

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 16: Philip Billing of Huddersfield Town rues a missed chance during the Premier League match between West Ham United and Huddersfield Town at London Stadium on March 16, 2019 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Tony Marshall/Getty
Tony Marshall/Getty Images

"I have been in Huddersfield for a long time, so this summer it is time to try a new challenge," Billing told Danish newspaper Ekstra Bladet (h/t Examiner Live) during the Under-21 European Championships.

"I'll try something new. The Premier League is great, and I love the English football culture. I know there is interest from others in the UK and abroad."

Billing is a fantastic player. Rangy limbs, good defensive acumen and a comfort striding forward make him the idyllic modern midfielder, capable of doing a bit of everything. 

But despite this and his claims that there's interest from plenty of places, nothing has happened so far. The Bournemouth Echo reported some fledgling interest from Eddie Howe at the end of June, but no more came of it.

For £20 million or less, this is a good deal waiting to happen.

Perfect for: Every Premier League club outside the top seven


9. Jonathan Ikone, 21, Winger

Lille

LILLE, FRANCE - MAY 18: Lille's Jonathan Ikone celebrates after scoring goal at Stade Pierre Mauroy on May 18, 2019 in Lille, France. (Photo by Sylvain Lefevre/Getty Images)
Sylvain Lefevre/Getty Images

Ikone followed up a sensational season at Lillehelping guide the club to second in Ligue 1 and secure Champions League footballwith a strong showing at the Under-21 European Championships, standing out for France.

In their run to the semi-finals, where they lost to eventual winners Spain, Ikone played on both wings, showcased superb dribbling skills under pressure and chipped in with a vital goal: an 89th-minute equaliser against England in game one.

He was picked up for just €5 million from Paris Saint-Germain last summer—one of several excellent deals struck by transfer mastermind Luis Campos—and Lille are already in position to make a huge profit on him.

Perhaps it's peaceful on his front because all the attention is on colleague Nicolas Pepe, a man who amassed 33 combined goals and assists in Ligue 1 last season, but if clubs are baulking at the price of him, Ikone might just be a better bet. Will anyone figure that out, though?

Perfect for: Arsenal, Everton


8. Koen Casteels, 27, Goalkeeper

Wolfsburg

MUNICH, GERMANY - MARCH 09: goalkeeper Koen Casteels of VfL Wolfsburg gestures during the Bundesliga match between FC Bayern Muenchen and VfL Wolfsburg at Allianz Arena on March 09, 2019 in Munich, Germany. (Photo by TF-Images/Getty Images)
TF-Images/Getty Images

Casteels had a real stormer of a season for Wolfsburg in 2018-19, showcasing every attribute you'd ask from a goalkeeper. He may not be a world leader in any one category, but he's good at everything; he doesn't have a weakness.

A towering presence leaving his line at 6'5", a cool distributor even when under pressure and capable of incredible reflex saves—particularly from close range—he's the full package.

It's taken Casteels a while to genuinely fulfil his potential, and perhaps that, plus the fact that he's only Belgium's No. 3 and Wolfsburg aren't widely watched, has resulted in him flying under the radar.

Perfect for: Bayern Munich, Paris Saint-Germain


7. Rodrigo De Paul, 25, Midfielder

Udinese

UDINE, ITALY - MAY 04:  Rodrigo De Paul of Udinese Calcio competes for the ball with Kwadwo Asamoah of FC Internazionale during the Serie A match between Udinese and FC Internazionale at Stadio Friuli on May 4, 2019 in Udine, Italy.  (Photo by Alessandro
Alessandro Sabattini/Getty Images

The two most exciting things to happen to Rodrigo De Paul this summer have been being tackled by a pigeon at the Copa America and getting his hair dyed.

After shining consistently throughout the 2018-19 season, showcasing his talent to the extent he was called up to Argentina's international squad, he might well have expected a bit more.

He is Udinese's creative gem, so he won't go easy, but they're in no real position to reject an approach from one of Europe's powerhouses. What surprises is that none of them seem to have yet asked the question.

Admittedly, it has taken him far longer than expected to realise his potential, but this term—even in a poor, relegation-threatened Udinese side—his ability was there for all to take in. Take-ons, long-range dimes, flat set-piece deliveries and penetrative runs were all regular features of his performances.

The world is open to him when it comes to his next move.

Perfect for: Manchester United, Bayern Munich


6. Youcef Atal, 23, Right-Back

Nice

Nice's Algerian defender Youcef Atal celebrates after scoring his second goal during the French L1 football match between OGC Nice and En Avant Guingamp at the Allianz Riviera stadium in Nice, southern France on April 28, 2019. (Photo by YANN COATSALIOU /
YANN COATSALIOU/Getty Images

The broken collarbone Atal suffered during the Africa Cup of Nations will slow things down on the transfer front even further—but then, there really wasn't much happening to begin with.

He's only been on the radar for 12 months, with Nice plucking him from relative obscurity in Algeria and only handing him a debut in August last year, so perhaps clubs are waiting to see if he's a one-season wonder. The odds of that being the case, though? Pretty limited.

He does everything at great pace, making him difficult and unpredictable to deal with. His engine never runs out, he has the acceleration and speed to break free, and he played four different positions in 2018-19.

Perfect for: Tottenham Hotspur, Paris Saint-Germain


  

5. Ferro, 22, Central Defender

Benfica 

Benfica's defender Francisco Ferro (R) celebrates his goal with teammates during the UEFA Europa League round of 16, second leg football match between SL Benfica and GNK Dinamo Zagreb at the Luz stadium in Lisbon on March 14, 2019. (Photo by PATRICIA DE M
PATRICIA DE MELO MOREIRA/Getty Images

If there's one Benfica centre-back you're hearing about right now, it's Ruben Dias. The 22-year-old is a constant at the heart of the Eagles defence and has graduated to Portugal's first team, shining at the Nations League this summer.

Unsurprisingly, that's left his defensive partner, Ferro, in the shadows.

We haven't seen as much of him—just half a season, in fact—but the early signs are he could quite conceivably eclipse Dias, particularly in certain areas.

B/R's Marcus Alves included him in his seven under-the-radar Liga NOS talents with big futures, gaining the perspective of coach Andre David for context.

"He's an extremely focused player, with very good positioning and great recovery speed," David said. "He also possesses a very good eye for a pass. He's not so strong on one-versus-one situations, though, and sometimes he can be easily beaten."

Dias' release clause is reportedly set at around £54 million, per the Sun, with Arsenal and Manchester United among those interested. It's arguable Ferro might be better value for money in that price range.

Perfect for: Arsenal, Manchester United, Tottenham, Roma


4. Ibrahima Konate, 20, Centre-Back

RB Leipzig

LEIPZIG, GERMANY - MAY 11: Ibrahima Konate of RB Leipzig looks on during the Bundesliga match between RB Leipzig and Bayern Muenchen at Red Bull Arena on May 11, 2019 in Leipzig, Germany. (Photo by TF-Images/TF-Images via Getty Images)
TF-Images/Getty Images

For two years, the toast of RB Leipzig's young defensive corps has been Dayot Upamecano, a player who broke into senior football extremely early thanks to his physical gifts but has stalled out a little since.

In his place has risen Konate, who is the same age (20) but is further along in his development with regard to defensive mechanics and awareness—as well as offering the same strength and speed Upamecano does.

There were games last season where RB Leipzig's entire defensive philosophy seemed akin to "Konate, please save us," as the Frenchman produced a slew of last-ditch actions in the box. He foiled everyone, even the best; RBL's penultimate game of the season was a 0-0 draw with Bayern Munich, and he was pretty much the sole reason the champions didn't break through.

There's no doubt he'll cost a lot—like, a hell of a lot—but in an age where £70 million-plus deals have been struck for Virgil van Dijk and Lucas Hernandez, it's not as if top clubs aren't willing to part with a lot for a defensive cornerstone.

Perfect for: Manchester United, Arsenal, Tottenham, Roma


3. Stanislav Lobotka, 24, Central Midfield

Celta Vigo

VIGO, SPAIN - MAY 18: Stanislav Lobotka of Celta de Vigo reacts during the La Liga match between RC Celta de Vigo and Rayo Vallecano de Madrid at Abanca Balaidos Stadium on May 18, 2019 in Vigo, Spain. (Photo by Quality Sport Images/Getty Images)
Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

Back in June, the Guardian reported that West Ham's interest in Lobotka had cooled. Since then, we've seen little anywhere, in any language, suggesting he's drawing interest from others.

That's odd, because not only is Lobotka a superb midfielder, but he's also the type of progressive dribbler who is en vogue in football right now. Give him the ball anywhere and he'll just run with it, weaving between challenges and squeezing between bodies.

He's a master at letting the ball run across his body to deceive opponents and create space for himself to run into, and the slotted passes he produces at the end of these runs often create dangerous chances.

Perfect for: Arsenal, Porto


2. Abdoulaye Doucoure, 26, Central Midfielder

Watford

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - MARCH 30:  Abdoulaye Doucoure of Watford scores his team's first goal during the Premier League match between Manchester United and Watford FC at Old Trafford on March 30, 2019 in Manchester, United Kingdom. (Photo by Clive Brunskill
Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

"I am very open," Doucoure admitted back in May to L'Equipe (h/t Goal.com) when talking about leaving Watford. He stated a preference to stay in the Premier League but did not close the door on PSG.

Since then, though, and in spite of a truly stellar season at Vicarage Road where his rumbustious, box-to-box style was on show every week, there's been little (public) interest stated in him.

It might be that a few more dominoes need to fall before Doucoure can move, but it's odd that it's all gone so incredibly quiet on his front. He's good enough to play for a top-six Premier League side or a top-four Serie A side without a doubt, and he's entered the prime of his career.

Perfect for: Manchester United, Arsenal, Roma


  

1. Houssem Aouar, 21, Midfielder

Lyon

Lyon's French midfielder Houssem Aouar celebrates after scoring a goal during the French L1 football match between Lyon (OL) and Monaco (ASM) on December 16, 2018, at the Groupama Stadium in Decines-Charpieu near Lyon, central-eastern France. (Photo by RO
ROMAIN LAFABREGUE/Getty Images

Tanguy Ndombele has moved to Tottenham Hotspur for £54 million, while Nabil Fekir is reportedly on the market this summer, per RMC Sport (h/t the Mirror).

Perhaps that's the reason Lyon midfielder Aouar isn't really being spoken about in transfer terms. You can imagine chairman Jean-Michel Aulas spitting fire at anyone who thinks they can steal his third midfield jewel.

Anyone who was entranced by Ndombele's dribbling and Fekir's set-piece quality last season won't have failed to notice Aouar gliding around in the same midfield, slinking away from challenges and slotting clever passes forward.

Able to play wide, as the No. 10 or a little deeper in the midfield pivot, he's one of the best and most versatile young players on the planet. Back in November, Pep Guardiola described him as "incredible," per BBC Sport, having been stumped by the 21-year-old twice in the Champions League.

Perfect for: Any top club

       

Instagram.com/brsamtighe

All statistics via WhoScored.com

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