Scouting Spotlight: Tanguy Ndombele, Federico Chiesa, Philipp Max
Scouting Spotlight looks at the new Patrick Vieira, Enrico Chiesa's son and Augsburg's assist machine.
Tanguy Ndombele -- Lyon (on loan from Amiens)
After starring for Lyon during his loan spell from Amiens, Ndombele is expected to complete a permanent £8 million transfer in the summer. He could be on the move again almost immediately, however, with several of Europe's leading clubs watching him closely.
Drawing comparisons to Patrick Vieira for his commanding performances in the middle of the pitch, Ndombele has emerged as one of the finest talents in Ligue 1.
A combative midfielder who is also capable of unlocking opponents in the final third, the 21-year-old takes control of matches by winning the ball in deep positions and driving forward to put Lyon on the attack.
With excellent balance and close control, he stands out for his dribbling skills and clever first touch to evade his marker. Among Ndombele's many strengths is his ability to spot teammates' runs, finding them with measured passes around the box.
Ndombele played a key role in Amiens' promotion to Ligue 1 last season and has quickly established himself as a regular at Lyon. He was thrown in at the deep end, making his first start in a 2-0 defeat to Paris Saint-Germain in September, but demonstrated his enormous potential to hold on to his place at the base of midfield.
The France under-21 international has contributed five assists for Bruno Genesio's side and played every minute of their three-game winning streak as they battle for a Champions League place.
Where would he fit in?
Considering the way he has handled the step up at Lyon, Ndombele could be challenging for a first-team place in the Premier League next season should speculation linking him with a move to Arsenal come to fruition.
Chelsea, Tottenham and Manchester City are among the long list of clubs reported to have watched the midfielder in Ligue 1, with AC Milan also keen admirers of his talent.
Federico Chiesa -- Fiorentina
Having followed in his father Enrico's footsteps by representing Fiorentina, Chiesa junior is carving out a promising career of his own. He won his first cap for Italy during the recent international break, and is reported to have attracted interest from Premier League duo Chelsea and Tottenham.
A mobile forward who can play off either flank, Chiesa's versatility has been a valuable asset to a Fiorentina side that has lacked depth in attack this season.
Starting on the right or left of a front three, the 20-year-old likes to make direct runs towards goal, eager to take on shooting opportunities or deliver dangerous balls into the box.
With quick feet, clever movement and a burst of pace, Chiesa is well suited to a counter-attacking system. He is a feisty competitor, despite his small frame, and is skilled at drawing fouls to relieve pressure on his team or win set-pieces.
After making the breakthrough at Fiorentina last year, Chiesa has been a regular in the first XI this term. His six goals have included some emphatic finishes, while he has also claimed three assists in Serie A.
The youngster enjoyed a lively cameo against England at Wembley, winning the penalty for Italy's equaliser, and earned another spot-kick in Fiorentina's 2-0 win at Udinese on Tuesday, before creating a second for Giovanni Simeone.
Where would he fit in?
Despite Fiorentina sticking a £53m price tag on Chiesa, that hasn't deterred a host of suitors. Serie A rivals Napoli have reportedly lodged a £35m bid, while Spurs, Chelsea and Paris Saint-Germain have all been tracking his progress.
Philipp Max -- Augsburg
With the third-highest number of assists in Europe's top five leagues -- behind Kevin De Bruyne and Neymar, and joint with Lionel Messi -- Max has been tipped for a big move from Augsburg in the summer as he continues to develop his game.
Max started out as a winger in the famed Schalke youth system that produced the likes of Mesut Ozil and Leroy Sane, but switched to left-back before making his first-team debut.
He has retained his attacking instincts, however, marauding down the wing for Augsburg and firing pin-point crosses to target men Michael Gregoritsch and Alfred Finnbogason.
Only two of Max's 12 assists have come from set-pieces. Instead, he seeks every opportunity to support the attack in open play, delivering 100 accurate crosses in the Bundesliga -- almost twice as many as Leon Bailey, who is second with 55.
The 24-year-old has also impressed with his defensive contribution, displaying sound judgement of when to break forward and when to maintain his position.
Rather than setting up a spurt of goals over a brief period, Max has maintained a steady supply throughout the season. His 12 assists have come in 12 separate matches, with the full-back laying on winning goals against Wolfsburg and Eintracht Frankfurt.
He has scored only once himself, and may be keen to improve that aspect of his game along with his dead-ball deliveries.
Where would he fit in?
Manchester City were linked with a move for Max following Benjamin Mendy's knee injury and the Germany World Cup hopeful could still be considered as potential back-up next season.
Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool are also monitoring his progress, with Max best suited to a system that affords him the freedom to play as an auxiliary winger.
Matthew Stanger covers European football for ESPN and is the editor of The Set Pieces. Twitter: @MatthewStanger