The five EFL players destined for big moves this summer
After the coronavirus pandemic brought the EFL to a crashing halt in March, it’s back. The Championship and League Two play-offs are both underway and the League One play-offs also kick off in July.
It also won’t be long before the transfer window rumour mill gets churning again. Although the pandemic may leave the window looking slightly different to how it has in recent years, one thing is for certain; the madness of it all won’t be going away any time soon and transfers will soon become a huge topic within football once more.
Some of the biggest bargains picked up by Premier League clubs in recent seasons have come from the EFL. James Maddison, Dele Alli and Dominic Calvert-Lewin have all been picked up from lower down the footballing pyramid by Premier League clubs and gone on to enjoy successful careers in English football’s top-flight.
Which current EFL players are going to be high up on the shopping list of clubs around the country, though? And can any replicate the progress seen by previous EFL wonderkids Maddison and Alli?
Saïd Benrahma - Brentford
Rumours have already started flying around about where the Algerian winger could be headed this summer, with Chelsea and Arsenal reportedly already enquiring about how much it would take to lure him away from Brentford.
Benrahma has been affectionately dubbed the ‘Algerian Messi’ by Brentford supporters - and for very good reason. His ability on the ball has left many Championship defenders absolutely bamboozled this season and, with an average of 3 dribbles per game, it is not difficult to see why he is held in such high-regard.
A question mark remains over whether he can translate this skill into goals and assists at the top-level, but he has certainly made huge developments in this department in the two years he has been in west London, now averaging 2.2 key passes per game and laying on nine assists this season in the Championship. Even if Brentford win promotion this season, it is difficult to see Benrahma not making a big-money move this summer.
Possible suitors: Chelsea, Arsenal, Leicester City
Eberechi Eze - Queen’s Park Rangers
Since bursting onto the scene whilst on loan with Wycombe Wanderers in 2017, Eze has gone from strength to strength this season at QPR and is another player who looks set for a big move into England’s top-flight.
Eze is usually deployed as a left-winger in a 4-2-3-1 formation although, unlike more traditional wide players, he will often drift inside into pockets of space and cause havoc with his ability in tight situations. His tremendous talent with the ball at his feet allows Eze to weave his way into goal scoring opportunities from the left and bend shots in with his stronger right foot.
Eze’s end-product has sharpened up this season as his decision-making continues to develop. He is QPR’s top creator this season with 8 assists in the Championship. His unpredictability and eye for goal makes him a nightmare to defend against and, inevitably, Premier League clubs will be after his services.
Newcastle United and West Ham United have already been linked with him, but it wouldn’t be a surprise to see at a club in the upper echelon of England’s top-flight.
Potential suitors: Newcastle United, West Ham United, Tottenham Hotspur
Ivan Toney - Peterborough United
Although Peterborough United’s season ended in disappointing fashion with points-per-game denying them a spot in the play-offs, that in no way detracts from the incredible 2019/20 season that Toney enjoyed.
The 24-year-old wowed League One fans with his exceptional movement off the ball and sharp-shooting in front of goal, which has allowed him to bag 24 goals this season. Not only is Toney incredibly potent in front of goal, he can contribute elsewhere by dropping into pockets of space and linking the play during Peterborough’s transitions from defence to attack.
As per WhoScored data, Toney completes an average of 1.7 key passes per game, demonstrating that he can be a creator as well as a finisher. He is also one of the most fouled players in the league, with many League One defenders discovering that hacking him down can be one of the only ways to stop him when he’s on form.
Although Darragh MacAnthony, rather unsurprisingly, has been outspoken on Toney’s situation by claiming that it will take a substantial fee to lure the striker away from London Road, a bidding war for his services is likely to commence in the coming weeks.
Potential suitors: Celtic, Rangers, New York Red Bulls
Jude Bellingham - Birmingham City
Borussia Dortmund are reportedly confident of wrapping up a deal for Bellingham and, if you know anything about the 16-year-old, it is not difficult to see why. He is, undoubtedly, one of the hottest prospects coming out of English football and looks to have a very bright future in the game.
Bellingham is yet to really nail down a position that he can call his own, instead moving into a variety of positions and displaying an impressive level of maturity and versatility for a very young player. He’s been deployed in the number 10 role, occasionally being used out wide to both the left and right flanks and even occasionally being used in a holding-midfield role.
However, the teenager can probably be best described as a box-to-box midfielder who offers a similar output in both attack and defence. As per WhoScored, he has shown his attacking prowess by averaging 1.1 completed dribbles per game in the Championship this season, whilst showing his defensive capabilities by averaging 2.3 tackles.
Potential suitors: Borussia Dortmund, Manchester United, Bayern Munich
Nathan Ferguson - West Brom
Roy Hodgson’s Crystal Palace were desperately close to securing full-back Ferguson’s signature in the last January transfer window, but missed out after the Eagles discovered that the 19-year-old had sustained a serious knee injury which would require surgery.
He’s still reportedly on Palace’s radar, though, with the West Brom youngster still considered one of the brightest young prospects in the EFL. Mainly deployed at right-back, although also able to play at left and centre-back, Ferguson has not looked out of place in the Championship this season since making his professional debut on the opening day of the campaign.
Despite standing at nearly six foot, Ferguson is deceptively quick; allowing him to be a threat going forward and able to rapidly drop back into defence. He is also commanding in the air, averaging 1.7 aerials won per outing according to WhoScored data.
Considering the youngster will be available for next to nothing in the summer, it is hard to think of too many reasons why a Premier League club shouldn’t pick him up in the upcoming transfer window.
Potential suitors: Crystal Palace, Tottenham Hotspur