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Pereira, Hudson-Odoi & Premier League’s hidden gems

  /  autty

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The English top flight is packed with international superstars but which lesser-known players could make a big impact this season?

#1  Rafael Camacho   Rafael Camacho is just one of several youngsters to have impressed Jurgen Klopp this summer but the Liverpool boss has been particularly taken with the Portuguese starlet on account of his remarkable versatility. "Rafa Camacho is having a pre-season that is just fantastic," the German enthused, "and mostly as a full-back, where he'd never played before." Indeed, while the converted winger excelled as a wing-back for Steven Gerrard's Under-18s last season, he is now proving that he has the defensive discipline and requisite intelligence to play as an orthodox right-back. Camacho should spend the upcoming campaign with the Under-23s but Klopp would not have any doubts about utilising a character he says is full of "football joy".

#2  Phil Foden   This time last year, Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola was raving about Phil Foden after a performance of remarkable maturity in an International Champions Cup clash with Manchester United.  The Catalan's hopes for the classy and versatile midfielder have only risen after a 2017-18 campaign in which the teenager became the youngest Englishman to ever start a Champions League match before then becoming the youngest ever recipient of a Premier League winners' medal. When one considers that he was also named player of the tournament after helping his country win last October's Under-17 World Cup in India, it's clear that the prodigiously gifted Foden has both the talent and the temperament to make an even bigger impact on the English top flight this term.

#3  Matteo Guendouzi   Having been plying his trade in Ligue 2 with Lorient, Matteo Guendouzi was the least known of Arsenal's summer signings.  However, the 19-year-old defensive midfielder, who represents France at Under-20 level, has been the surprise star of the Gunners' pre-season campaign and is already beginning to look like a bargain buy at just £7 million. Indeed, with his impressive composure and pin-point passing, the Paris Saint-Germain product is showing just why Gunners boss Unai Emery believes that Guendouzi will be "an important part" of Arsenal's first-team squad this season.

#4  Callum Hudson-Odoi   New Chelsea boss Maurizio Sarri has been at pains to point out that Callum Hudson-Odoi is not guaranteed first-team football this season but even the Italian couldn't help but get excited by the forward's potential on the back of his pre-season performances, admitting that the 17-year-old is going to become "very famous".  Hudson-Odoi certainly has the pace and trickery to excel at the highest level, as underlined by the fact that the Englishman is being tracked by Real Madrid, Barcelona and Juventus. Luckily for Chelsea, the Under-17 World Cup winner has already admitted that he is savouring Sarri's brand of high-energy, high-pressing football and appears to be edging closer to signing a lucrative five-year contract with the Londoners.

#5  Alireza Jahanbakhsh   Alireza Jahanbakhsh underwhelmed after being touted as a potential surprise star of the 2018 World Cup but Brighton are nonetheless optimistic that their record signing will be a big hit in the Premier League this season. The Iran international was the best player in the Eredivisie last season (21 goals, 12 assists) and while the gulf in class between England and Netherlands is arguably bigger than it has been for more than 50 years, the former AZ ace has everything in his locker to shine on the south coast. Brighton tried to sign the winger three years ago only for Jahanbakhsh to decide to remain in Holland. Given how much he has improved in the interim, that has perhaps proven a blessing in disguise for The Seagulls, who were delighted at managing to stave off late interest from Leicester to finally get their man this summer.

#6  Diogo Jota   Wolves have signed Portugal internationals Rui Patrico and Joao Moutinho this summer but their uncapped compatriot Diogo Jota could upstage them both. The 21-year-old attacking midfielder adapted so quickly to English football that his season-long stay at Molineux was made permanent in January. Jota never looked back, scoring a career-high 17 goals as Wolves stormed to the Championship title to secure their return to the Premier League. The question now is whether the former Atletico Madrid man will adjust as quickly to top-flight football but, given his obvious natural talent, don't be surprised if he makes just as big a splash in 2018-19.

#7  Andreas Pereira   Could this finally be the year that Andreas Pereira breaks into the Manchester United starting line-up?  Although still only 22, the Belgium-born Brazil Under-23 international has been on the books of the Old Trafford outfit for seven years but spent the past two seasons in La Liga, on loan at, first, Granada, and then Valencia.  Pereira's decision to move to Mestalla last summer in search of regular game time upset manager Jose Mourinho but the Portuguese has welcomed him back into the fold and the midfielder has arguably been United's best performer in pre-season. As a result, he is closer than ever before to starting his first Premier League game for the Red Devils.

#8  Ben Wilmot   In March of this year, Ben Wilmot became the first Stevenage FC player to ever receive an England call-up, when he was included in the Under-19 squad for European Championship qualifiers against Hungary, Latvia and Macedonia. Even though he was only playing in League Two, the word was already out that the 18-year-old defender was a serious talent, as underlined by the fact that Watford had already tried to sign him in January, for £500,000, before finally wrapping up a deal for an undisclosed fee at the end of May. Tottenham were also interested in a player who started out as a midfielder but has now developed into a cultured centre-half who reads the game beautifully. 

#9  Harry Winks   Harry Winks' 2017-18 campaign was decimated injury but, such is his talent, it came as no surprise when he signed a new contract in May that ties him to Tottenham until 2023. Mauricio Pochettino couldn't hold the once-capped England international in higher esteem, describing him as "the perfect midfielder", arguing that not only is he versatile, he plays with an intelligence that is rare in one so young. If Winks can get over his fitness issues – he could miss Spurs' Premier League opener through injury – he has the ability to force his way into Pochettino's first 11, as best illustrated by his assured showing against Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu last year.

#10  James Maddison   Leicester didn't sign James Maddison as a replacement for Riyad Mahrez, who departed for Manchester City after the former had arrived from Norwich City. However, the Foxes believe that the 21-year-old attacking midfielder can play a major role in cushioning the blow of losing their most creative player to the Premier League champions. Maddison's signing was certainly a coup, as Southampton and Everton were also keen on the England Under-21 international, who was named in the 2017-18 Championship Team of the Year after netting 14 times for the Canaries. The Coventry native is by no means the finished article but he is, as Leicester boss Claude Puel enthused, "one of the most exciting young talents in English football" right now.