Many fans will have been playing Football Manager 2020 over the last few weeks to get their fix, but we’ve gone one step further and used the game’s database to predict which young players will shine when the 2020-21 season finally kicks off.
To do this we’ve loaded up the last five versions of the game and collated the attributes of every player who went on to play at least 10 full matches’ worth of minutes in one of the ‘big five’ European leagues for the first time the following season.
In each playing position we’ve averaged the data from these past breakout stars to create a template which has then been used to score the current generation of young footballers who have yet to break into the first team.
If Manchester United aren’t keen on letting Dean Henderson remain at Sheffield United next season, the Blades already have a potential replacement in Michael Verrips.
The towering Dutchman was recruited as back-up in the summer and is the top-scoring keeper in our analysis, with his physical attributes comparing particularly well to those of other recent breakout stars.
Blades boss Chris Wilder made another canny signing in the winter transfer window by bringing in Panagiotis Retsos from the Bundesliga.
The young Greek has impressive technical attributes compared to most breakout centre-backs and narrowly edges out Roger Ibanez as the most likely to cement a first-team place next season.
Retsos’ former club Leverkusen are unlikely to be kicking themselves if he makes the grade in the Premier League as they boast another exciting young central defender with excellent technical ability in Edmond Tapsoba.
Brandon Williams has yet to establish himself as a regular fixture in Manchester United’s first team, but he looks to have what it takes to compete with Luke Shaw.
While not rated particularly strong on the technical side of the game, he already looks mentally and physically more proficient than most young full-backs who make the grade.
There are even more exciting prospects elsewhere in Europe, such as Schalke’s Juan Miranda, Moussa Wague of Nice and Theirry Correira of Valencia.
All score comfortably higher than Williams and the first two appear significantly to have superior technical ability to the young Englishman.
Newcastle’s Matty Longstaff is the Premier League’s most promising raw talent in defensive midfield thanks to impressive mental attributes such as an incredibly high work-rate, strong determination and team work.
However, the standout prospect across the main European leagues is Nicolas Dominguez of Bologna: a recent recruit from the Argentinian Superliga who ranks strongly across all three of Football Manager’s attribute categories and has already been tipped as a future star.
Attacking midfield is arguably the most well-stocked area of the pitch in the Premier League, thanks to the signings of Gedson Fernandes and Alexis Mac Allister by Tottenham and Brighton respectively.
Fernandes looks to be a superb physical specimen, both quick and tenacious enough to hold his own in the English top flight, while Mac Allister’s technique is almost off the charts compared to most emerging prospects in his position.
Not to be forgotten is Manchester City’s Phil Foden, who must be starting to wonder if his name has slipped Pep Guardiola’s mind.
Like the other two, his attributes place him among the most exciting attacking young midfielders in Europe but it remains unclear whether he’ll get a chance to fulfil his potential if he stays put at the Etihad.
Based on our analysis, Arsenal’s Reiss Nelson is the standout candidate to be Europe’s next young wide attacking star.
His technical skills, in particular, appear to be ahead of the curve so he looks capable of slotting into the Gunners’ starting X1.
Liverpool pair Curtis Jones and Harvey Elliot also rank relatively well, which is reassuring given the Reds’ dependence on their superstars out wide for goals.
Two of the five top-rated striker prospects are also on Arsenal’s books, so this could be the summer to cash in on Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang before his value starts to drop.
Both Gabriel Martinelli and Eddie Nketiah have impressed in bursts this season, with the former’s mental attributes – such as work-rate and flair – making him stand out.
Across north London, the data suggests Troy Parrott should be given the chance to prove he can cover for the injury-hit Harry Kane.
The young Irishman already ranks impressively at both finishing and heading, so if the mental and physical sides of his game develop then he should be considered as Kane’s long-term successor.