Two-time Premier League Player of the Year, Kevin De Bruyne has illuminated English football pitches for close to a decade.
Unquestionably, one of the best midfielders in Premier League history, the brilliant Belgian has at times been in a class of his own, on occasion so resplendent it’s felt like we will never again see his like.
But football is cyclical and sure enough, soon time soon, the next magnificent, influential attacking midfielder will come to our shores, guiding whichever team is lucky enough to have him, to silverware.
These five have every chance of eventually usurping the great man and who knows, in a few years’ time we might well be asking, ‘Who is the next Dominik Szoboszlai?’
“Nothing should ever be ruled out.”
Those simple words, spoken just a few weeks ago, placed several Premier League boardrooms on high alert as the ridiculously talented Barcelona prodigy suggested a move to England was not beyond his scope.
Given the financial problems that have crippled the Catalan giant, it is not inconceivable they may be forced to cash in sometime soon on their prized assets, the best of which was a stand-out performer at the World Cup. Undoubtedly, Pedri has the world at his feet.
It is all-too-easy to imagine the 20-year-old in a Chelsea shirt, presumably tied down to an absurdly long contract.
The Hungarian playmaker almost joined Arsenal in 2020, before opting instead to leave Red Bull Salzburg for their bigger cousin Leipzig, whereupon he has impressed in the Bundesliga, carving out 13 assists this season alone.
According to a study conducted by the CIES Football Observatory in 2021, Szoboszlai is the player closest to De Bruyne in profile and sure enough his attributes mirror those seen on a regular basis at the Etihad. His passing is crisp and clever. His movement with the ball always purposeful.
Greater consistency is needed before he can rightly be compared to the City midfielder but a bigger stage will afford him that opportunity. Will the Gunners return for a second bite of the cherry now that Champions League can be offered?
Charles De Ketelaere
Hailed in Belgium as the natural heir to De Bruyne, the AC Milan star has struggled make a significant impact in Serie A but that shouldn’t be held against him. After all, De Bruyne hardly set Stamford Bridge on fire during his first big move abroad.
Having just turned 22 there is still plenty of time for the boy from Brugge to showcase his sublime passing range and dribbling skills and that may yet be in the Premier League.
Last summer, Leeds took a serious swing at signing him.
Chelsea came awfully close to signing the Russian superstar-in-the-making last summer, and tried again in January, but both times their attempts were scuppered due to the ongoing war in Ukraine.
Political sanctions even resulted in the Blues suggesting they take the gifted midfielder now and pay later, but Dynamo Moscow refused, leading to an impasse yet to be resolved.
In due course it is hoped circumstances change for the better and should they do so, Zakharyan’s meagre £14m release clause will likely appeal to many others, not just Chelsea who – to be fair – have put in all of the legwork.
The German teen spent the first half of this campaign in the treatment room, recovering from a cruciate ligament rupture that threatened to stall a stunning rise to prominence.
Since he has returned to action, however, Wirtz has more than played his part as Bayer Leverkusen defy the football odds that price them as outsiders to secure a top four spot.
Six assists in his last seven starts for Die Schwarzroten is a timely reminder of the youngster’s qualities, his dynamism and guile making him a much sought after prospect.
*Credit for all of the photos in this article belongs to AP Photo*