Five exciting Europa League stars next to earn moves to elite clubs
The Europa League is often a superb chance for players from the continent’s lesser-lights to grab headlines and impress on a larger stage.
Last campaign, the likes of Lazar Markovic, Eliaquim Mangala and Ivan Rakitic were selected in UEFA’s 18-man Europa League squad of the season, and subsequently earned big-money moves to Liverpool, Manchester City and Barcelona respectively.
This got Coral writers thinking about which exciting, but perhaps underrated, stars may register on the radar of top Champions League clubs this time out.
Bas Dost (Striker, Wolfsburg)
Dutch dangerman Dost has taken his time to adapt to Bundesliga high-flyers Wolfsburg (10/1 favourites with Coral to win the Europa League), but the 25-year old’s nine goals in 10 league appearances this term suggests he has finally found his feet.
Eight of those strikes have arrived in the frontman’s past five outings for Die Wolfe, including four in a crunch clash against Bayer Leverkusen, meaning Dost is in threatening form ahead of his club’s last 32 duel with Sporting Lisbon.
Yet to play a full 90 minutes in the Europa League this term, this could be the former Heerenveen hitman’s chance to snatch the spotlight ahead of highly-rated Chelsea old boys Kevin De Bruyne and Andre Schurrle.
Kalidou Koulibaly (Centre back, Napoli)
France’s talent pool in defence appears endless, with athletic centre half Koulibaly perhaps the next to follow in compatriot Mangala’s footsteps and move to the Premier League.
How quick the powerful 23-year-old’s progression has been since last term, from being Belgian side Genk’s fledgling centre back star to a mainstay at the heart of Serie A side Napoli’s defence.
Entrusted by Rafa Benitez to help marshal the Neapolitan outfit’s backline, young Koulibaly continues to be one of the season’s biggest surprises, snuffing out attacks at every turn. Napoli are 12/1 chances to lift the Europa League.
Aymeric Laporte (Centre back, Athletic Bilbao)
Already linked to giants such as Manchester United and Real Madrid, cultured left footer Laporte looks to be a real gem in the crown of what has potential to be a brilliant future Les Bleus backline.
Still uncapped for France at senior level, it can only be a matter of time before the 20-year-old Basque boy becomes a fully-fledged international and is snapped up by one of the European elite.
Cool, composed and adept at anticipating attacks, Laporte would be an outstanding acquisition for any club at his rumoured release clause of £31.5m, and arguably has more potential than much-hyped peers Kurt Zouma and Raphael Varane.
Jetro Willems (Left back, PSV)
Three Europa League assists only tell a portion of Willem’s story so far this season, as the flying full back has notched up 13 across all competitions for title challengers PSV (outsiders at 50/1 to claim the Europa League trophy).
Rapid Willems may have made news for recording the fastest red card in Eredivisie history recently, indicating a rash side to the youngster’s play, but this rough diamond is worth taking a punt on.
Perhaps in need of polishing on the defensive side, Willems has all the attributes required to be a top attacking full back. Of course free scoring compatriot and clubmate Memphis Depay will be the one to instigate a summer scramble, but Willems could also find himself at the heart of a transfer tussle.
Andriy Yarmolenko (Attacking midfielder, Dynamo Kiev)
Alongside Yevhen Konoplyanka, Yarmolenko is Ukraine’s biggest attacking talent since namesake Andriy Shevchenko.
The 25-year-old has long been tipped to join a top club and now needs to prove himself at a higher level.
One of the Europa League’s top suppliers, pass-master Yarmolenko has recorded five plus three goals already this campaign. With his contract set to expire next summer, clubs should move now to capture the versatile wingman.