With the new season nearly upon us, today we take a closer look at two 16 year olds who Espanyol will be hoping can develop into big stars in the years to come.
Ashley Phillips – Having long been a target for the manager, his arrival at Espanyol was this week turned into reality as new Atalanta boss Daniel Wythe santioned the move which has seen veteran midfielder Rincon and exciting forward prospect Sima move to Italy. On the face of it, its a big price for a boy who has not even made the first team bench in real life at Blackburn.
Philips despite only being 16, has a commanding pressence. At 6ft 4 he is good in the air but also has a tremendous turn of pace and is comfortable with both feet. Manchester United, Chelsea, Spurs and Man City are all keen on the youngster with £3 million valuations already being banded about. Many kids get hyped up, but there does appear to be far more substance in Ashleys ability. Already an established member of Blackburns under 23 squad, the world does appear to be his oyster if that development continues and if so, that high price may just prove to be one of the best bits of business the club does.
“I’ve followed Ashley’s development with intrigue, not since the days of Damian Duff has a player caught the eye at Rovers academy more than Phillips. An academy which has produced the likes of Phil Jones, there is so much excitement at the possibilities this kid could bring. Obviously only being 16, and already being talked up brings pressures to young shoulders. However he is in the right surroundings at present and it would serve him better to stay at Blackburn and try and break into the first team picture. For us at Espanyol, i’m under no doubt the vultures will be circling over the next 18 months to try and pick him up on the cheap. We’ve paid big for an untested 16 year old, and ultimately when that day comes where we have to consider his departure, then it will be a hefty asking price, providing that promise starts looking like a sure thing”
Gianluca Prestinanni – Arrived at Espanyol through one of the new database addition lotteries. I always feel if you are going to win one of these lotteries then make it a good one. Gianluca has already made his first team debut at Velez Sarsfield, and is the second youngest Argentinian player to ever feature in the Libertadores after one other former Espanyol player Sergio Aguero. Predominantly a winger but comfortable across all attacking areas he is thought of very highly in his homeland, and has already played for the national side at under 17s, with 2 goals in 5 appearances.
“Its scary to think he does not turn 17 until the end of January next year, and yet has already tasted top flight football in Argentina. He is very much one for the future, and with time on his side we will watch with great interest how his future develops. We’ve a number of Argentinian youngsters on our books now with Galoppo, Hernandez, Galarza, Schor, Orellano and Garces. Some are further along than others, with Galoppo probably looking like our next break through player, with moves to Napoli and Sampdoria muted, whilst he has started the season on fire in his native Argentina. The south American market is always a gamble, as players tend to need that move to Europe to start pinging up the ratings chart. However the big European clubs are always watching as we’ve seen with Alvarez joining Man City in real life. In Prestianni we have another with the right profile to become a real player over the next 3 or 4 years. Its long term planning, without early reward, which as a club is the model we are looking to adopt. Sitting on these players will bring long term benefit to the club on a whole, we can pack them into the youth set up, and forget about them. Some will mature quicker than others, and some will just fall off the radar, with young players there are no guarantees. Having a decent pool of players from a particular country helps too at update time, as they get reassessed at the same time and can potentially give you a decent boost in one foul swoop.