As March winds down and domestic leagues enter the home stretch, many of Europe’s top clubs are already thinking about how they’ll improve their rosters this offseason. Real Madrid is poised to spend lavishly, and they won’t be alone.
While speculation is already rampant regarding the futures of top players like Chelsea’s Eden Hazard, Ajax’s Matthijs de Ligt and even PSG’s Kylian Mbappé, a slew of young players at smaller clubs – and some who are awaiting opportunities at elite clubs – will be the subject of headline-grabbing bidding wars all summer. Below is a look at five players aged 22 or younger worth getting to know ahead of the summer transfer window.
Eintracht Frankfurt striker Luka Jovic (21)
The headliner of this list is among the Bundesliga’s biggest young stars, and it’s hard to imagine him staying with his current club next year. He’s reportedly a top target for both Barcelona and Real Madrid, and his list of suitors seems to grow every day (Inter Milan and Bayern appear to be the latest to the party). If the young Serbian continues at his rate – he’s already scored 15 goals this year – it will be a stretch to consider him “under the radar,” if it isn’t already.
Chelsea winger Callum Hudson-Odoi (18)
Like Jovic, Callum Hudson-Odoi is not exactly obscure at this point. His performance against Montenegro on Monday was bittersweet. His play turned heads, but the night as a whole was overshadowed by the racist abuse he and teammate suffered Danny Rose suffered during the match. Whether he remains with Chelsea will be fascinating to watch, as the club appears insistent on keeping him, but may not be able to. Bayern Munich is among a number of clubs willing to spend big on the young English talent.
River Plate midfielder Exequiel Palacios (20)
The Argentine midfielder appears to be the latest in a long line of stars from his country. His days in his home nation are likely numbered, as Real Madrid nearly acquired him in January. While Los Blancos are a less likely a destination for him after their signing of Eder Militao, a move to Europe still seems like a fait accompli, with Inter Milan among his most interested suitors.
Standard Liege midfielder Razvan Marin (22)
A deep cut, if you will, Marin is a Romanian midfielder who, according to Spanish newspaper As, will join Ajax as – no pressure – the successor to Frenkie de Jong. He currently plays for Belgian club Standard Liege, where he has scored five goals and tallied five assists in domestic play this season. Marin is believed to have impressed Ajax’s coaching staff during his team’s losses to the Dutch club in Champions League play earlier this season.
Lyon midfielder Tanguy Ndombélé (22)
Ndombélé has been called a younger version of Paul Pogba, which is, obviously, high praise. He is a tantalizing prospect who has reportedly drawn interest from Real Madrid, PSG and Juventus, but like Hudson-Odoi (and probably every player on this list), his current team has made it clear he won’t be an easy player to sign. The fact his current contract runs through 2023 probably means Lyon has a fighter’s chance to hold onto him a while.