There’s nothing quite like spotting a young talent set to flourish and Sky Sports Fantasy Football managers will be especially desperate to discover the next young star set to shine.
However, while it’s hard enough deciphering the difference between the ‘wonderkids’ and blunder kids, there’s an added difficulty for Fantasy bosses in working out who will be handed their chance.
There’s plenty of talented youngsters who could have made this list, with the likes of Emre Can, Romelu Lukaku, John Stones, Harry Kane, Calum Chambers and Lasar Markovic promising to excite, but here’s some under- 21s who look set to clock up plenty of minutes and, most importantly, plenty of points this season.
Luke Shaw - £6.9m
Manchester United’s £27m summer signing is probably the most obvious name on the list, having earned a place in 25 per cent of Sky Sports Fantasy Football teams last season. The 19-year-old was the game’s eighth highest scoring defender with 132 points and could rack up substantially more if utilised in a wing-back role in Louis van Gaal’s 5-3-2 system, having contributed just two assists and no goals last season. The former Southampton man possesses immense pace and a lethal left-foot, prompting plenty of comparisons to Gareth Bale. However, after a summer which has seen experienced trio Patrice Evra, Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic depart, the big question is whether Shaw can help United rack up the all-important clean sheet bonus points.
Connor Wickham - £7m
It’s fair to say Wickham struggled to find his feet for some while in the Premier League, netting just once in his first 27 appearances for Sunderland. However, an explosive spell of scoring in the Black Cats’ great escape suddenly put him on the radar of Fantasy bosses, with five goals in three games towards the end of last season. That form has resulted in Wickham being priced up as the joint most expensive Sunderland striker, with a £7m price tag meaning he’s now well overpriced.
Raheem Sterling - £7.8m
The Liverpool winger was the bargain pick of last season at a meagre £4.8m but his impressive campaign has resulted in a £3m hike on his fee. Nine goals and six assists saw him rack up 144 points from 24 starts and nine substitute appearances. That form and Luis Suarez’s departure should ensure that his is one of the first names on Brendan Rodgers’ team sheet, making him reasonable value.
Ross Barkley - £7m
With Frank Lampard now Stateside and Steven Gerrard relying on set-pieces due to his deeper role, there’s somewhat of a drought of free-scoring attacking midfielders. However, Barkley looks capable of stepping up for club, country and Sky Sports Fantasy Football bosses with his fearless runs and ability to shoot from range. The 20-year-old managed six goals from 25 starts and nine substitute appearances last season and looks destined to play an increasingly important role for Everton. His impressive development has resulted in an increase in his price tag from £4.3m to £7m with, like Sterling, a more crucial role to play.
Ben Davies - £5.5m
Tottenham fans might find themselves getting overexcited by the arrival of another young Welsh left-back but more pragmatic Sky Sports Fantasy Football bosses should be aware that Davies is an entirely different entity. The 21-year-old may have netted twice in his breakthrough campaign for Swansea last season but his defensive qualities outshine his attacking attributes, reflected in a solitary assist. However, Spurs’ backline was desperately vulnerable last season due to their lack of a natural left-back, so Davies could well be key to helping them rack up more clean sheets. Having made his move after the launch of this season’s game, Davies is modestly priced at £5.5m, £1.1m less than Spurs’ first-choice right-back Kyle Walker.
Adnan Januzaj - £6.9m
Januzaj emerged as a rare ray of light in the midst of a miserable campaign for Manchester United. However, it remains doubtful whether he will deliver consistently at the tender age of 19, having racked up an unremarkable 87 points last season. With just 15 starts, only a meagre price tag of £4.2m made the attacking midfielder appealing last season, so his new valuation of £6.9m means a more important role under Louis van Gaal is imperative if he’s to be considered.
Lloyd Isgrove - £3.8m
Southampton may have harvested some of their best players this summer but their relentless conveyor belt of talent has a fresh batch ready. The likes of Harrison Reed, Sam Gallagher and Matt Targett are expected to play important roles for the first team this season, whille James Ward-Prowse is already established and Calum Chambers needed just handful of games to earn a big-money move to Arsenal. In terms of Sky Sports Fantasy Football pedigree, it is Igrove who attracts my interest with a modest price tag and attacking qualities. Manager Ronald Koeman heaped praise on the winger after he scored the winner in a pre-season friendly against Bournemouth, explaining “I like him as a player because he’s fast, he can play one against one and he can create, which he has done very well.” If Jay Rodriguez and Dani Osvaldo join Adam Lallana and Rickie Lambert in departing, the 21-year-old could well be propelled into a key role.