In recent years, clubs have put more emphasis on finding talented players at younger ages. In addition to controlling a player’s development and finding the right loan moves, it can save millions of dollars in transfer fees. Look at Bayern Munich and Barcelona: Jamal Musiala and Pedri were both signed at 16 and are now among the best players in the world.
However, many players have their careers spiral downward as a result of moving to a big club oo early. Injuries can result in players losing first-team chances, clubs don’t always look out for the player’s best interests, and sometimes players just can’t break through to the first team. Back to Bayern and Barcelona: while they’ve had their successes, some high-profile talents didn’t pan out, such as Jann-Fiete Arp and Matheus Fernandes.
There are many prospects around the world right now who, while not disappointing, are in danger of stalling their careers. As a result, several players should pursue transfers this summer to further progress, even if it means taking a step back — this season, Xavi Simons left PSG for PSV Eindhoven, and he’s become a star in the Netherlands. Here are five talents who should look for a move in the summer.
Dario Sarmiento, 20, Manchester City
Sarmiento arrived at Manchester City amid much fanfare in 2021, with the 18-year-old seen as one of Argentina’s next big stars. Sarmiento debuted for Estudiantes de La Plata at the age of 16 and made 20 more appearances in the next two years before the Citizens paid €5 million for him.
A loan move to Girona followed, and Sarmiento got off to a bright start before injuries ended his season. He played just 233 minutes in Spain, and Manchester City sent him out on loan again this season with Uruguayan side Montevideo City Torque. However, injuries again limited Sarmiento, who didn’t play a single game — meaning he hasn’t played since October of 2021.
Sarmiento undoubtedly has potential, but injuries and a lack of minutes have caused his stock to fall substantially. He desperately needs a move to somewhere he is guaranteed minutes. A return to Argentina or the emerging MLS could help Sarmiento rediscover his form.
Williot Swedberg, 19, Celta Vigo
Swedberg was a player I had high hopes for ahead of this season: last year, I wrote about him when he was still with Swedish side Hammarby. Celta Vigo seemed like a decent move, as Swedberg was familiar with Spanish soccer and had a realistic chance to break through.
The move has been a complete disappointment, though. Swedberg has played 50 minutes this season in La Liga, with just 78 more in the Copa del Rey. He has been an unused substitute for the majority of Celta’s games this season, and hasn’t dealt with any major injuries: they just haven’t played him.
Swedberg is already a La Liga-caliber player, despite not getting any minutes. A move (loan or permanent) to a lower-table La Liga side would be a perfect move for Swedberg to gain experience in a top league and show his potential.
Caden Clark, 19, RB Leipzig
Leipzig looked like they pulled off a massive coup when they signed 18-year-old Caden Clark for less than €2 million in 2021. That season, Clark made 24 appearances in the MLS for the New York Red Bulls, bagging four goals with three assists. He was also one of the youngest goalscorers in the history of the MLS, having scored twice the prior season.
Clark was loaned back to New York in 2022, but injuries meant he struggled to settle into the team. By the end of the year, he had played just 474 minutes — one-third of the minutes he had played the prior season — and returned to Leipzig in January. He hasn’t played a single minute with the club.
Clark has not played regularly in two years, and he will soon turn 20. He isn’t even part of the USA u20 World Cup squad, despite being on the bench for the US senior team in a friendly in 2021. A move to a smaller league where he can adapt would be good — possibly to affiliate club RB Salzburg.
Sebastiano Esposito, 20, Inter Milan
Inter Milan sensation Sebastiano Esposito burst onto the scene in 2019 when he became one of the youngest players in Europa League history at the age of 16. By 17 he had played in the Coppa Italia and the Serie A, even scoring in a 4-0 victory over Genoa. After two seasons, he had made 15 appearances for Inter.
In 2020, Esposito left Inter to join Serie B club SPAL on loan. By midseason, he had played fewer than 500 minutes and scored only once, and his loan was terminated. He joined Venezia for the second half of the season, with mixed success. The club was promoted, but Esposito scored just twice in 18 matches. Last season he joined Basel and scored six times in 23 matches, before joining Anderlecht this year. However, in Belgium, he scored just twice, and he returned to Italy (again on loan) with Bari — where, after scoring in his first two games, he has struggled and found the net just one more time.
What Esposito needs at this stage in his career is consistency — and it’s clear that’s not going to happen with Inter. A move to the Serie B or a lower Serie A side could provide that, as Esposito needs to be in an environment where he can play and score regularly.
Gabriel Veron, 20, Porto
Gabriel Veron was one of the biggest talents in the world in 2019 when he led Brazil to the u17 World Cup trophy. He scored three and assisted three, while shortly after, he made his Palmeiras debut and scored a brace in his second Brazilian Serie A start. In three years with Palmeiras, Veron scored 14 goals and assisted 14, while winning over a half a dozen trophies.
Veron signed for notorious talent developers Porto in the summer, expecting to become the club’s next big star. This season has not gone to plan: while he has struggled with injuries, he simply hasn’t played much. Veron has two starts in the Primeira Liga, while he has only played more than a half an hour in four matches this season. Not great.
Porto has a lot of depth and Veron needs to be playing regularly, so a loan move would be great. Mid-table La Liga or Serie A teams should be interested, and they could give Veron an opportunity to prove himself at a high level. A temporary move back to Brazil could also make sense. Porto has done this before, loaning Vitinha and Otávio to help them develop before they became starters.
Image Courtesy of SOCCER DIGITAL, PDM-owner, via Wikimedia Commons.
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