The Europa League returns this week and with the fixtures on offer it once again has the opportunity to surpass the Champions League as Europe’s most exciting competition.
Lyon, Hoffenheim, Lazio, Nice, Villarreal and Zenit are just a few of the big names in the Europa League this season. All of these teams have talented players at their disposal and it gives Premier League clubs, armed with riches from the league’s latest TV rights deal, the opportunity to cast an eye over these individuals in European competition.
We’ve picked out the ten players we expect to make an impact this season and who may be plying their trade in the Premier League in the near future.
Ndombele has only just moved to Lyon, joining the club from Amiens in August. It’s a loan deal with OL holding an option to make it permanent in 12 months’ time. All in all it’s likely to cost the former French champions €10million to secure his services next summer, with a 20 per cent sell-on clause included as part of the deal.
It may seem a steep fee for a player with just 33 Ligue 2 appearances to his name, but Ndombele has the potential, and the ability, to make it look like a steal in a year or two.
Tricky on the ball, press resistant in tight areas and intelligent when in possession, he’s got the makings of being a centre-midfielder the likes of Pep Guardiola and Jürgen Klopp would love to have.
Another player at the Groupama Stadium clubs across Europe will not doubt be keeping tabs on is Tousart. He’s the reason Jean-Michel Aulas finally agreed to sell Maxime Gonalons this summer.
He plays the defensive midfield role for Lyon but he’s not your ordinary destroyer. He quite handy on the ball, too. The 20-year-old would look right at home in the Premier League but the hard part will be getting Aulas to part with the midfielder.
Vogt started life as a centre-midfielder but upon moving to Hoffenheim in the summer of 2016 was converted into a ball-playing centre-back by manager Julian Nagelsmann.
He’s a key cog in the 3-5-2 system and the 25-year-old impressed against Liverpool in the home leg of the Champions League playoff match. He failed to repeat the performance in the second leg but the Reds were rampant.
The 6ft 4ins German can hold his own in the air and puts himself about when required. There aren’t an abundance of centre-backs out there who combine being defensively solid with being able to use the ball like a midfielder, meaning Vogt is a rare commodity in the European game.
He could do a job for one of the top seven clubs in the Premier League.
Weiser came through the youth ranks at Köln before catching the eye of Bayern Munich. He joined the Bavarian giants in the summer of 2012 and spent six months of the 2012/13 season on loan at Kaiserslautern.
He got a chance with Bayern Munich and made 21 appearances for the club in all competitions over two seasons. Initially a right winger, the move to Hertha Berlin at the start of the 2015/16 season saw him move to right-back and he’s excelled there.
Weiser would be perfect for a possession-based side in the Premier League who look to use their full-backs as attacking outlets.
Villarreal winger Castillejo is one to watch. While former Manchester City player Enes Ünal may get the majority of the attention, it’s the 22-year-old winger who could cause damage to the opposition.
Able to play on either flank and use both feet, he has great ability at delivering superb crosses into the box. He’s displayed superb vision and can cut inside and play through the middle.
Castillejo moved from Málaga in 2015 and has contributed three goals and four assists for the Yellow Submarine since joining the club. As he matures you can expect those numbers to rise.
He’s already been linked to Arsenal and has the sort of profile to run riot in the Premier League.
Reports in the summer suggested Liverpool were targeting Milinković-Savić as an alternative to Naby Keïta. The Spain-born Serbian international has impressed in the Italian capital with his all-action performances.
He was a key part of Simone Inzaghi’s side as they surprised many by finishing fifth in Serie A last term, ahead of both Milan clubs as well as Fiorentina. It was a fair achievement and one that didn’t go under the radar.
To stave off interest in their star midfielder, a €66million price tag was slapped on Milinković-Savić’s head. If he continues to impress domestically, and manages to put in eye-catching performances in the Europa League, that may be a bargain in the long run.
If clubs have learnt anything over recent seasons it’s to keep an eye on who the Red Bull clubs are recruiting. Those in Austria spot talent, nurture it and then look to pass them on to RB Leipzig.
It happened with Keïta, Marcel Sabitzer, and Kevin Kampl, all of whom are now plying their trade in the Bundesliga and have been chased by a number of top European clubs over the past 12 months.
Next off the production line could well be Samassekou. The 21-year-old midfielder has already been capped by Mali and his performances, despite his inexperience and rawness, show a level of maturity.
If a team could spend time in a lab putting together the new breed of No.9s, it’s more than likely they’d end up with a player similar to Driussi: he can do everything.
The variety of goals he scores highlights just how versatile he is as a forward. From delicate lobs to thunderous drives, he knows how to put the ball in the back of the net. But what makes him special is how he’s so unpredictable.
The Argentinian is aggressive in his style and is always looking to isolate a player and drag them into areas of the pitch they’re not comfortable in.
Driussi has quick feet which he uses to free himself of any opposition players but when that’s not possible, he also has this brute strength one would not normally associate with somebody with his frame – he has that stereotypical South American robustness about him.
The 21-year-old was a Tottenham Hotspur transfer target but joined Roberto Mancini’s revolution in Russia this summer.
Monaco shocked many this summer when they allowed Saint-Maximin to join rivals Nice. With Kylian Mbappé set to leave the club and the future of Thomas Lemar uncertain, the 20-year-old seemed destined to play as part of the Monaco forward line this season.
However, after spending the 2016/17 season on loan with Bastia, the Ligue 1 champions decided to cash in on the versatile attacking midfielder.
His preferred role is on the left of the attack, driving at defenders and looking to push the ball onto his stronger right-foot. He’ll deliver crosses, pick passes, or, like he showed against New Zealand for France at the Under-20 World Cup in South Korea, find the back of the net.
Lopez is just 19 years old but he’s already been linked with moves to Liverpool, Arsenal, and, most recently, Barcelona. The Catalan club, who have still yet to replace Xavi, see Lopez as the long-term future of their midfield.
The Marseille man keeps the game simple: he collects the ball, gets his head up and looks to start the attack. Everything he does is simplistic and excellent. He is capable of picking out long balls and more spectacular passes. But, as he is young, it’s clear he’s growing into his position, rather than trying to run before he can walk.
On paper he seems perfect for the La Liga side, but, with more Premier League clubs trying to replicate their approach, Barça are going to have competition for his signature.