smarterthinking

Transfer window update: France's wanted man

Boubakary Soumare is a name on the lips of many fans as Premier League clubs go shopping for hot young midfielders. The 20-year-old DM at Lille, who has just four games for France U21, has attracted tons of attention in this window. But what is he good at? He's having a breakout season, but his numbers at DM are unimpressive. He's a good tackler with fine ball retention, and his defending is fine, but he doesn't get involved enough.

Still, DM is a position that takes time to learn. So we thought we'd use our "Search by similar player" to look for DMs from the top five leagues who looked like him when they were young. There were only two, and one was Harry Winks.

Winks's numbers in our models were much better in 2017-18, when he was a close match for style, than Soumare's this season. But Winks was a little older than Soumare then, too. In the comparison below, you can see how Winks in 2016-17 (when he was the same age as Soumare is today) had similar numbers in our models. But Winks in 2017-18 was a closer match to Soumare's style. So there may be something there, but we're not ready to see clubs shell out £50m yet.

Ake Loba left home at 19 to join San Martin de Porres in Peru, 8,000 km away. Now, after a pretty good loan season at Querétaro, the smarterscout young prospect is going to Monterrey for $8m. Folks, $8m is a lot of money in Liga MX. He's a great dribbler who does it a lot, a bit like Lukas Nmecha among players of similar ages. If he stars in Mexico, he should be in Europe pretty soon.

Raul de Tomas has been a bit of a disappointment – that is, if, like us, you thought that he'd be leading the line for Real Madrid at age 25. He was a hot prospect back at Real Madrid Castilla, and his numbers in 2016-17 and 2017-18 were good at a La Liga standard. He hasn't gotten many minutes at Benfica, though, and he hasn't scored, either. Judging by his ball retention, was he being a bit too cautious at his new club? Either way, we still think he's a very good finisher and great on the ball. Maybe he'll perk up again at Espanyol, who've paid €20m for him.

[Photo: Pedro Semitiel]

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