Wingers to Watch Out for in 2024

If you ask football fans which players are the most exciting and fun to watch, they would most likely point to wingers. Pacey, agile, and tricky touchline forwards can get any audience out of their seats in awe and admiration. The excitement and suspense they bring typify the essence of football.

Elite clubs are always on the lookout for such talents, not only to entertain their fans but also because they provide managers with various tactical advantages.

With many teams adopting intensive pressing systems, players often find themselves in tight one-versus-one situations. If they can get the better of the opposition in such scenarios, the team in possession can cause an attacking overload and disorient the opponent’s structure.

Even Pep Guardiola, often criticized for limiting his wingers last season, has turned to the electric Jérémy Doku to create chances for Manchester City from the flanks. Other teams across Europe have also procured a similar profile of wingers, epitomized by Real Madrid’s expensive purchase of the stellar seventeen-year-old Brazilian protege Endrick in December 2022.

The market is still abundant with such players, so here is a comprehensive list of guileful wingers poised for a move this year – likely attached with hefty price tags.

Kylian Mbappé (25) – Paris Saint-Germain

Kylian Mbappé has remained at the top of such lists for many years as rumors continue circulating about a potential dream move to Real Madrid. Fans have grown tired of this news story, with both clubs adamant that they are not looking to sell the player and the other indicating that their interest has faded. However, recent developments indicate that the inevitable move will soon come to fruition.

Mbappé’s achievements at Ligue 1 are indisputable: four-time Player of the Year, three-time Young Player of the Year, five-time Top Goalscorer, and Top Assist Provider of the Year last season, while also being PSG’s record goalscorer and third in total assists in club history.

The long list includes his ninth-placed ranking in the all-time Ligue 1 goalscoring chart. Completing these feats in less than nine seasons in Ligue 1 is even more remarkable.

It is hard to believe that a global superstar like Mbappé would remain in Paris and not seek more daring challenges abroad. His time in France has yielded unprecedented success. However, as he inches closer to his physical prime, fewer clubs that can afford him remain.

Before it was too late, Mbappé had to make a move, and it looks like Santiago Bernabéu will finally have their man.

Nico Williams (21) – Athletic Bilbao

When talking about the most exciting young prospects in the world, Nico Williams is one of the names that quickly comes to the lips of many. The Spanish talent recorded his first senior minutes in the 2020/21 season at the tender age of eighteen and has since emerged as a crucial component in the Athletic Bilbao machine.

Over the last two seasons, Williams has developed into a fine winger – providing the end product for his team while also being a ruthless dribbler. On the flanks, he is simply unstoppable. Last season, he stood out in La Liga for attempting the second-highest number of take-ons, only behind Vinicius Junior, and completed an impressive 46.4%.

Williams’s versatility to play on both wings, his youth, and his ability to convert chances make the Bilbao forward one of the most desired prospects in world football and, consequentially, will command an eye-watering fee in an inflated transfer market.

Koaru Mitoma (26) – Brighton & Hove Albion

When an unknown Japanese left winger hit the ground running in the Premier League last season, many asked the same question, “Who is that guy?”.

A year later, everyone knows Koaru Mitoma – the lightning-quick winger who turned down a professional football contract at age 18 and decided to pursue college, where he wrote a thesis on the art of dribbling – a trait he has developed to master. Mitoma then joined J-League side Kawasaki in 2020. After two impressive stints, Brighton swooped the youngster and sent him out on loan to Belgian side Royale Union Saint-Gilloise, where he competently performed.

Brighton’s recruitment team saw it fit to integrate Mitoma into the first team, and they have not looked back since. In his first campaign, Mitoma scored seven and assisted five goals – an impressive tally that could have easily been bettered this season if it weren’t for the numerous niggling injuries.

The Japan international was crucial to Brighton’s success last season with his audacious dribbling from the left wing – ranking joint-highest for shot-creating actions generated through dribbles.

Under Tony Bloom, Brighton has developed into a master negotiator – commanding sizeable fees before they offload their best talent. Their three most expensive sales include Moises Caicedo for €133 million, €65 million for Marc Cucurella – both to Chelsea – and the €59 million sale of Ben White to Arsenal in 2021.

To sell Mitoma, Brighton will undoubtedly demand a price that matches their perceived value, but some would argue that it is a fee worth paying despite an underwhelming 2023-24 campaign.

Pedro Neto (23) – Wolverhampton Wanderers

Many players gifted with flair and class look destined for bigger things in their careers. However, they fail to fulfill their potential because of injuries. Ousmane Dembélé, Jack Wilshere, and Eden Hazard quickly come to mind as players that fall into this category.

These footballers have certainly enjoyed accomplishing careers to their credit but did not realize their full potential due to recurring injuries.

Pedro Neto’s short senior football journey, so far, unfortunately, has marks of the making of a similar player with injuries to his knee, hamstring, and ankle keeping him out for 556 days since the 2017/18 season.

However, there are countless examples of players returning after terrible injuries. Virgil van Dijk suffered a cruciate ligament tear in 2020 that kept him out for almost a year, but he came back to play at a very high level – leading Liverpool’s title push this season. Roy Keane endured a similar injury in the 1997-98 campaign but returned to play a crucial part in the treble-winning Manchester United side in 1999. 

Despite the fitness concerns, Neto offers bundles of creativity and attacking upside that very few can provide. His flexibility to be equally deadly down both flanks is an added benefit that managers will appreciate.

The team that decides to take a punt on Neto will have to carry the immense risk illustrated by his injury record. However, this could drive down his asking price – making Neto a cheaper alternative than the players mentioned above, who will likely cost more.

Therefore, if a team can solve his fitness concerns by minimizing work overload, Neto could pose a high-risk, high-reward purchase.

Michael Olise (22) – Crystal Palace

One of the most talked about players during the past few transfer windows is Michael Olise – attracting speculation to move away from Crystal Palace in the last year.

After enticing inevitable interest from Chelsea during their spending rampage, Olise signed a four-year contract extension with the South-London-based club last summer. Nevertheless, the Frenchman has continued to draw interest from clubs across Europe.

The France under-21 international was the youngest player in the senior English division last season to record double digits in goal contributions. More impressively, Olise has surpassed his goals tally and is closing in on his assists figure from last season despite playing far fewer than 50% of the minutes he racked up in 2022-23 because of a recurring hamstring injury.

The well-rounded Palace forward is rumoured to be available for a fee in the region of £40 million to £50 million – posing as a great value-for-money option considering his young age and limitless potential with the caveat of injury concerns – making him riskier than it may seem to some.

Rising Stars

All the names stated above are well-known young players who are cajoling interest from the big hitters in Europe. However, there are more under-the-radar talents that football fans must keep an eye out for this year.

PSV Eindhoven is famous for cultivating young players who have achieved stellar careers. The impressive list includes sporting legends like Ruud Gullit, Arjen Robben, Ronaldo, and Ruud Van Nistelrooy. They have continued producing high-ceiling youngsters like Cody Gakpo, Denzel Dumfries, Donyell Malen, and Noni Madueke, who moved on for hefty price tags. The next player to follow suit is most likely the twenty-year-old right-winger Johan Bakayoko.

The left-footed winger is a ferocious dribbler with an uncanny ability to beat defenders through rapid acceleration and is simply a pure joy to watch. After Brentford failed to secure a club-record transfer for the Belgian in 2023, clubs with deeper pockets have begun circling PSV to land their starlet, including Manchester United, LiverpoolArsenal, and Paris Saint-Germain.

A similar player lies in La Liga, playing for the dark horses, competing for the league title at Girona. Manchester City Group’s Brazilian talent Savio is enjoying a splendid season in Spain – recording double digits in goals and assists.

Fabrizio Romano confirmed on 6 February of City’s desire to officially bring Savio to Etihad next campaign despite Doku establishing himself as a starter under Guardiola. Although the club has illustrated that they are unafraid to sell to their rivals, Savio is a talent they were hesitant to let go of because of the Brazilian’s scary potential.

Another talent in the Spanish league is Real Sociedad forward Takefusa Kubo. The former J-League winger moved to La Liga before the 2019-20 season at age 18 and started impressively at Mallorca. After two dry spells at Villarreal and Getafe, Kubo moved back to Mallorca, where he regained some of the lost form.

It earned the Japanese winger a transfer to his current club, where, for two seasons running, he has accumulated a respectable goals and assists tally that is certainly catching the attention of plenty.

These are still just a few of the many wingers in Europe making a name for themselves. Antonio Nusa of Club Brugge has stirred some noise over the past year, with Brentford advancing close to securing a deal for the talented winger before negotiations fell apart. Moreover, Khvicha Kvaratskhelia’s future at Napoli remains uncertain after an somewhat underwhelming campaign. And this still only touches the tip of the iceberg.

The exciting and entertaining wide forwards are in high demand, with every team ensuring they can at least collect one. If the team you support requires a first-class winger, they will likely have been one of the players on this list.

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