One of the most reoccurring patters in Top 100 is managers sitting on player who are deemed “untouchable” or the “future of the club”. This isn’t a dig, I am probably one of the most guilty parties for saying this with many of the players I have now being guys I’d like to take with me as we develop. Sometimes, that random external you picked up for cash will flourish into an impressive player, or their transfer links to the big leagues will come true, but it is an increasing pattern to see these guys often turn into another regular player whilst managers hang onto old rumours and past praise. How many of the “next Messi” or “next Ronaldo” have we seen over the past 5 years? And how many young South American players could we type into Google and find links to top European clubs from a few years ago which never materialised?
With that in mind, here are how the first 5 players that I deemed “key to the future” just over a month into my tenure at Leicester City turned out.
One of my first ever signings at Leicester came in the form of Yangel Herrera. At 22 and rated 85 he was always deemed to be a long term option for us, and that showed as I held onto him for over a year, with the overall hope that he would return to Man City and become a regular, unlocking access to the higher rating.
We signed him in June 2020 after 3 good seasons in the MLS and LaLiga with the long term hope that he would get a chance at Manchester City, his parent club. He spent the 2017 and 2018 seasons playing at City’s affiliate club, New York City FC featuring in a total of 38 MLS and MLS Playoff matches. In his first season he earned a 6.99 average rating, making him the 5th highest performer, whilst aged 19. The following year he improved further, picking up a 7.24 average, taking him up to the 3rd best performer. In the 2nd half of the season, he joined SC Huesca on loan in LaLiga, giving him some much needed experience in a top league. Huesca were relegated and Herrera was sent to newly promoted Granada for the 2019/20 season. He had a fantastic first full season in LaLiga, earning a 6.95 average rating (the best rating at the club) and helping guide Granada to 7th place in the league. At this point he was rated 85 and we picked him up.
He remained on loan at Granada for another season and continued to perform well, being the 2nd best performing player of the season and leading the team to the Europa League Quarter finals and a 9th place finish in the league. Throughout the season, he raised to 88 and I was still hanging onto the hope that in the summer he would be rewarded with a chance at Man City, where Fernandinho was rumoured to be retiring, and reports surfaced that Douglas Luiz would not be re-signed from Aston Villa. As the summer dragged on, however, more and more signs popped up that he wouldn’t be getting an opportunity, and talks of loans or permanent moves were floating around. A permanent move back to Granada, or to the restructuring Valencia seemed like the most likely moves, but West Ham, Southampton and Leeds United were also linked. With another move looking likely, I decided to let him go to Rubin Kazan in exchange for Eberechi Eze.
A month later he joined Espanyol on loan from Manchester City. Similarly to when he first joined Granada, Espanyol were also a newly promoted team (an immediate promotion after their first relegation since 1994). He’s had a slow season, with just 6 starts in all competitions. This isn’t just due to lack of selection though as he did arrive with an injury and had missed the opening few matches due to his late arrival.
Overall, he was a massively successful signing for me, going from a squad back up to a key starter. If he was still here now, he would be back to a sub though, so I think letting him go was the correct choice. I think he still has a lot to offer, and he is only 25 in February and still technically a Man City player, but I believe he needs to move permanently to a team where he can settle, as at Man City he is now at his 4th club in 5 seasons. Interestingly, in his career 175 matches, Herrera has never received a direct red card, and has only received one indirect red card, back in 2017.
Coming in as an 87 aged 21, Berge was the Leicester City future in my eyes. He was an immediate starter for me and was the club captain for 2 seasons. Similarly to Herrera, Berge was at the club for over a year, as I waited for him to get a big move.
Berge was a name everyone kept their eyes on after a rapid rise in his early career. At 17, he made his Eliteserien debut for Valerenga, where he made 43 league appearances over 2 seasons before joining KRC Genk in January 2017, aged 18. He made an immediate impact featuring in 27 of Genk’s 30 remaining games of the season, including league, cup and Europa league matches, as well as 6 World Cup qualifiers for Norway. He spent the 2017/18, 2018/19 and 2019/20 seasons at Genk making a total of 113 appearances for the team. In January 2020, he was heavily linked with a number of clubs, including Man United, but eventually joined Sheffield United, who were battling for a Europa League spot in the Premier League. He started off well, with the club going undefeated in his opening 5 games. Despite this the club did slip and finished 9th, not bad for their first season back in the Premier League. Berge earned a 6.81 average rating in his 14 appearances, indicating a great ability to adapt to the league quickly, and help the Sheffield project. That summer, we picked him up with a rating of 87 and aged still only 21.
In the 2020/21 seasons the decision to join Sheffield over other interested sides came undone. The club finished the season in 20th place and were relegated to the Championship. Berge’s influence was limited though, as he missed 20 games due to injury and in the 15 appearances he did make, he managed just a 6.43 average rating. The relegation was seen as an opportunity for a cheap move away from Sheffield to me, and I held on through the summer. Of course, this belief was fed through the rumour mill with Arsenal, Liverpool, Lazio, Napoli and many more noted as interested clubs. As the transfer window drew on, we eventually cashed in on him as part of the deal to bring in Yusuf Demir.
He didn’t end up getting a move in the summer and kicked off with Sheffield in the Championship. They went their first 5 games without a win landing the team in 21st. Since then (28th of August), Berge has started just 1 league match after testing positive for COVID and then picking up a hamstring injury which kept him out for 13 games between them. Sheffield currently sit in 14th with Berge featuring in just 9 games picking up a 6.58 rating.
With no rises, and a couple of years gained, Berge only lost value whilst at Leicester. I luckily cashed in just before the transfer window shut, whilst a move was still expected, and just before his in game stock dropped largely. Despite this, he made 85 games for the club and was the captain for a while so contributed largely to what we became. In terms of the player himself, he only turns 24 in February and has only been playing in England for 2 years as of this January. He has also been unlucky with injuries, missing 33 games since the start of the 20/21 season. A decent move will see his career reignited, but as of now, the only links are to Newcastle United (but then again who hasn’t been linked).
As noted in my original post back in 2020, Kahveci was a player I had tracked for some time during my stints at Atletico and Arsenal. He came to Leicester aged 24 and with an 87 rating having just helped Istanbul Basaksehir to the league title. I hoped a good move to Europe would materialise and that he would take a step up in his career whilst at the club, boosting his stock in the market.
Kahveci kicked off his professional career at Genclerbirligi earning his debut in the 2014/15 season aged 19, starring in 24 games with a 6.80 average rating. He followed up the next season and a half with a total of 47 league appearances and a 6.77 and 6.70 average in the 2015/16 and 2016/17 season respectively, before getting a move to Basaksehir in January 2017. He took some time to adapt starting just 5 league games in his arriving season, and just 10 in his first full season, with another 22 appearances from the bench in the two season combined. He scored 2 goals and assisted one more in this time. The 2018/19 season is where he stepped up though, featuring in 32 league games, whilst picking up 4 goals and 5 assists and a 7.09 average rating, making him the 5th best performing player in the team. That season, the club finished 2nd in the league after coming 4th, 4th, 2nd and 3rd in the preceding seasons, nailing the teams reputation as a top team in the league. He followed up with another 4 goals and 5 assists in the league in the 2019/20 season, but his performances improved, with a jump to a 7.21 average, taking him up to the 3rd best performer at the club, as they won the league for the first (and only) time in the clubs history. With these performances, he rose to a modest 87, and joined us.
Links to Sevilla were exciting and seemed like a good natural step for a well performing 24 year old in a decently respected league. But (yes there’s always a but), it never happened and Kahveci remained at Basaksehir for the start of the season. The champions suffered an inconsistent opening, losing their first 3 games, followed by a draw, then a 5 game win streak, and then another 7 games without a win.
We let him go at the end of October, with the midfielder not even lasting half a year with us. Heading into the new year Basaksehir sat in 16th, and Kahveci was able to finally get a move. However, it wasn’t to a top 5 league, it was to Fenerbahce who had finished 7th and 6th in the previous 2 seasons, and hadn’t won the league since 2014. He featured in 12 games in the 2nd half of the season taking Fenerbahce to 3rd, just 2 points off the title. Similarly to Berge, Kahveci has had a couple of injuries this season with 8 games missed due to hamstring issues, and a further 2 due to disciplinary issues.
He didn’t last as long, and didn’t really have as much expectations as the others, but it was still disappointing to see him move to another Turkish side after more exciting links. At 26, he is also not old, but may well have settled for a career in Turkey. The unfortunate aspect is that Fenerbahce don’t really reach the higher ratings anymore, despite the fact that he has averaged 6.89 and 6.95 in the past 2 seasons. Since June 2019, his value on Transfermarkt has decreased and increased 7 times (4 drops and 3 peaks)!
This signing was unlike the other 4, in that he got his big move. He arrived at us aged 24, rated 87 with a move from AZ Alkmaar a guarantee. He went on to join Sevilla, and I was sure he would propel us forward as a club, which you could argue he did.
The Feyenoord youth joined FC Groningen in July 2015 aged 19, scoring 9 goals and assisting 3 more in 13 games for the U19s. Due to this form, he made his debut off the bench for the seniors in December and went on to feature in 18 games netting 3 and assisting 4 goals. The 2016/17 season saw him continue picking up another 5 goals and 3 assists in 17 starts and 12 sub appearances, before chipping in with another 4 goals and an assist in the first half of the following season. AZ liked what they saw and picked up the 22 year old in January for £1.8 million. He hit the ground running with 3 goals and 6 assists in 12 league appearances, along with 3 more goals and an assist in the cup, helping him to a 7.40 average rating. He followed it up in his first full season at AZ saw him score 14 goals and assist 8 in the domestic competitions. In these seasons he was the 4th and 2nd best performing player at the club respectively. He wasn’t done there though, and the 2019/20 season saw him rise to the clubs best performer with a 7.70 average (the 4th highest in the league) after scoring 13 goals and another 5 assists in the league, plus 3 goals and 5 assists in the Europa league. AZ finished the season 2nd on goal difference.
We picked him up here with his big move to Sevilla just around the corner. However, he didn’t arrive until October and so missed the opening 5 games. He also arrived with a slight injury, and so missed the next 4 games before making his debut in a 9 minute cameo against Celta Vigo. He would go on to feature in 2 more league games for Sevilla, both in minor stints off the bench. He played 24 minutes of LaLiga action that season. He did start 2 Champions League and 2 Copa Del Rey games for the Spanish side picking up 1 assist (against Ciudad Lucana – from the Spanish 5th Division). I still held on to the idea the Sevilla were easing him in and he was still adapting to a new league. This was contradicted in February, when he joined Ajax on loan. This, again, I took well. He was heading back to a league he knew, and to a team that was dominant. However, he started just 1 game, with a further 12 appearances off the bench in the Eredivisie and Champions League. At the end of the season I let him go, after 2 disappointing spells at strong sides.
This season Idrissi has struggled at Sevilla again. He has started 2 league games, with another 3 showings off the bench for a total of 125 minutes of LaLiga game time. There have been no injuries keeping him out, having made the bench for all but 1 game this season, so his lack of game time cannot be attributed to that. He is now linked with Cadiz and Istanbul Basaksehir, where he would hope to re-find his form.
From a developmental perspective, Idrissi was a major let down. He had a great move to a club at a good level, without it being too much of a jump, and he struggled. And it was the same story on his return to The Netherlands. However, it is impossible to mention Idrissi without noting what he did for us in the game. His first season with us he scored 9 and assisted 15, following up with 5 and 10 the next campaign. In total he scored 18 and set up 32 goals in 91 games, making him one of the best performers in my tenure. It’s just unfortunate it didn’t turn out the same in real life! I 100% held on too long to him as I had a lot of interest once he moved to Sevilla and some strong offers on the table.
Left back is a position in this game which is a tricky one to fill. So when we picked up a 22-year-old rated 87 and playing regularly in Ligue 1, I was very pleased. I saw him as a long term option at the back and as a great fix for a tricky position.
At 17, Maouassa made his Ligue 2 debut for AS Nancy off the bench in the opening game of the 2015/16 season. He made 2 more bench appearances, plus his full debut through the rest of the season as the team topped the league. Moving into Ligue 1, the youngster made just 1 league appearance in the first half of the season. However, of the final 17 games, he featured in 13 of them adding 3 goals and 3 assists to his record and earning an impressive 6.81 average rating. Rennes swooped in to pick him up, as Nancy were relegated, and immediately implemented him into the starting team as he featured in the opening 12 games. After this promising start though he started just 1 more game, with 6 more appearances off the bench. In the Summer of 2018, Rennes sent the winger to Nimes, who opted to use Maouassa as a left back. He was solid, and helped Nimes played to a 9th place finish, 1 point ahead of Rennes. His parent club opted to keep him for the next season, deploying him in his new defensive position. He started 23 of 28 league games earning a 6.98 average rating, making him the 2nd best LB in the league by performance. Rennes finished 3rd in the league earning a Champions League spot for the upcoming campaign.
He joined us, and I was content that that would be the position sorted for a long time. In the weeks leading up to his arrival there were links to Man United too, an extra benefit. He started the season as he ended the last, but in the 4th game he picked up an ankle injury which needed surgery. This gave Truffert an opportunity to jump in. On his return from injury, it looked as though nothing had changed as Maouassa started 4 out of 5 games. But as the new year came around, things changed and Truffert took the spot. There were still chances for the 22-year-old to come in, but not many, as he made just 5 league starts in 2021. Heading into July, a departure from Rennes looked likely, and Borussia Monchengladbach were linked as the likely destination. This generated interest within the game and I was comfortable letting him go with Dimarco developing in my squad.
As the theme goes, he didn’t get his move to Gladbach. Instead, a month after leaving us, he made a permanent move to Club Brugge in hopes of getting regular starting action. Following the pattern, again, he arrived late, and missed the opening 6 league games, setting him on the back foot. He then appeared in 7 of the next 9 games with 4 starts and 3 sub appearances, and things were looking decent as he began to settle. However, that changed quickly and he hasn’t featured in the matchday squad since mid November, being completely left out of the last 7 games in the league. Rumours now suggest a loan move to Olympiacos could be on the cards, as he has failed to impress at Brugge.
Maouassa was a major disappointment for me. He came in in a great position at Rennes, with a good rating and aged just 22. Unfortunately he has regressed quite substantially, as shown in his -1 to 86 in December, and not turned out to be the player we hoped he would be. Links to Man United excited me, and to Borussia Monchengladbach allowed me to get a strong deal for him, as he was still an 87 LB at the time. He made 91 league appearances for me at Leicester, but would now be 3rd choice behind Dimarco and Sosa. Despite his developmental stump, he was a good investment, largely because he cost me very little. Ze Luis (87, 29) and Umar Sadiq (83, 23) was what we gave for him, which was an absolute bargain as he came off the 2019/20 season. When we did sell him we got Rodrigues Dudu (89, 29) and Keita Balde (88, 26), representing a massive return on the initial cost. With all the points made about his struggles, it’s key to note that Maouassa is still only 23 and has over 100 Ligue 1 appearances. He has a lot of time to get back on the correct path and has shown a good ability to bounce back from tough periods.
So of the 5 I only 1 has actually improved, although he still hasn’t had the opportunities I had hoped for. So does this mean we should all trade up immediately? No, not at all. In this same period at Leicester I had Douglas Luiz who increased from 86 to 89, Darwin Machis rise from 85 to 88, David Garcia who we signed at 85 and has risen to 88, Nicolas Gonzalez who jumped from 85 to a current 88 and Romaine Faivre from external at 77 who is now an 87!
However, looking back at this has been a large factor in my recent change to a bit more of a mixed squad with several more developed players in their career such as Andreas Christensen, Gabriel Barbosa, Rafa Silva mixed in with those who are continuing to develop such as Ibrahima Konate, Emile Smith Rowe and Federico Dimarco. The new contracts also play a role in this, and have already had a large impact on the transfer market. It looks as though people are considering the risks more and are taking the Facebook rumours with a pinch of salt.
I don’t expect any major changes to the way people view their youngsters, but DP made a great point when asking if people believed that they had players who could be 92/93+ before aged 25 (it was something like that) and many of us commented with the guys we thought could be, and since then almost all who were mentioned have suffered some form of stagnation.
Just also a note, this is not a advertisement of my bad judgement and management (believe it or not)! I have another piece coming soon highlighting the squad progress over the past several seasons, and I think we now have a new batch of “future of the squad” players, who hopefully keep on their current trajectories a bit better!