Young Players – Good But Pricey
This is going to be another 2 parter because there are just so many young players on FI!
In recent weeks I’ve produced 9 articles highlighting some strong value players in a variety of categories, including 3 on wonderkids and good young players.
We are into the 50/50’s now. Youngsters who have achieved high prices, possibly too high a price, but at least have underlying performance quality.
I don’t generally get involved at this 50/50 gambling end of the market. Why make it hard for ourselves when there are players out there far more likely to rise more from here at less risk?
But, if you are going to invest in hyped/overpriced youth, it is best to do it in the ones who have genuine prospects on FI.
And whether you buy them or not, it’s essential to know who has real quality and who doesn’t so you can either trade them effectively or avoid them.
At £5.22 Foden’s price is extremely high now.
But he’s also one of the very few young players who might justify this kind of price tag.
Obviously, he has the young and English thing. It’s hard to see how he doesn’t keep progressing and at some point get an England debut assuming his development continues normally and he doesn’t severely lose form or hit some other roadblock.
All he really needs is more 90 minute games in the league. The departure of David Silva will obviously help that cause. And it’s easy to forget that Foden isn’t even 20 yet so it’s not unusual he isn’t a regular already.
In FI performance terms, he’s really shown he has quality at all levels of play throughout his career so far. He’s got it all with high involvement backed up by goals and assists. It’s hard to pick fault except perhaps with a weak goals record in the league but with limited minutes and his age that’s forgivable.
Foden has had a potential rating for over a year now in my rankings and the more I see him play the more I think that very strong rating is right.
You can easily make a case that he is overpriced if you wanted to. Unproven, still not in the team. Twice the price of many other great FI players.
You can also point to the whopping £7+ price difference with Sancho and say that the evidence suggests that Foden is significantly more suitable to FI performance scoring than Sancho is.
And there is no reason to believe that in the long term Foden can’t be as media worthy either. The only real justification for that price difference is that Sancho has short term transfer hype. And that will eventually disappear as a factor.
It’s hard to say there is extreme value here at this price. He’s just too well known for that. But I am very confident in his genuine quality.
If you back him for plenty of league minutes next season, I think he is a very solid long term option who should probably be thought of as a near premium player as much as a youth pick.
Cherki rose extremely quickly in January. In fact it was one of the quickest rises I can remember.
Just a handful of cup appearances were responsible, and at a time when social media was begging for “the next Haaland” the timing of his 2 goal 2 assist appearance in the Cup vs Nantes couldn’t have been better.
He does have some real FI potential, though. We’ve got some solid all round numbers here for big baselines and some very nice goal and assist potential, all be it mostly at youth level or versus soft cup teams.
My issue would be that as an FI midfielder, who in reality is quite versatile and could be either a midfielder or a forward, he might struggle to compete with the really big baseline midfielders. As a forward his baselines would be up there with the best, but as a midfielder they are just enough.
He will need lots of goals to punch through.
I wouldn’t lump him in with the garbage no hopers that get pumped at all.
But I do find it very hard to justify the £4.02 price on this one, and I am very suspicious of players who shoot up very suddenly and are pumped this much on social media. Those same pumpers will often slink away to move onto the next thing leaving those who followed in with a heavy bag.
He’s also just 16. Can we really expect consistent minutes without dreaming?
I think the current rumours of a Real Madrid switch should keep him alive for now but longer term, unless you really believe he’s going to be a first team regular next season, I’d expect him to struggle as he gets benched and other “must have” youngsters steal the limelight.
I think a better strategy with Cherki is to wait for the near inevitable dip and maybe pick him up later.
Even before his IPO I highlighted his real FI potential. I said he was good but I’d be a bit wary of the price because it was certain to overheat very quickly.
It did, reaching almost £3.76 immediately then even £4.51 before a drop to £4.12 now.
At this point, it’s a tricky trade. We have to remember that holders got lucky here. He was given a chance through necessity rather than choice as Barcelona had so many injuries. He took the chance and that no doubt accellerates his development.
But he is technically still a Barcelona B player and it is rumoured he may finish the season with the B team.
For real success, we need Fati playing 90 minutes regularly in the league. Will that happen in a fully fit Barcelona next season? It’s a gamble.
And at £4.12 it’s an expensive bet to make in my opinion and there will be many better trades out there.
Still, I generally say that if you must hold hyped up youngsters, at least hold the genuinely good and FI suitable ones. And Fati is that.
Davies I’ve always liked, and featured in my October wonderkids series.
What’s been happening with his price recently though is classic social media pumping and either ignorance or deliberate deception possibly both.
Davies was a midfielder and once he broke out carried around the average price tag you’d expect for a good young midfielder – around about the £2.30 to £3 range.
Then he was converted to a defender in reality, who generally have an average price of £1.40 to £1.70 for really good ones.
The positional switch followed on FI some time later, and his goal threat obviously lowered significantly as a result, robbing him of a key reason why he was good in the first place. Yet, he was now left significantly overpriced for a defender as he had carried the midfielder price tag.
The scam here is that instead of saying “Damn. He’s a defender now. I guess he should be £1.70 to £2.50 like the other good young defenders” somehow in the social media whirlwind people got turned around to “Hey, he’s a defender now, he should be worth even more because he has a bigger chance of winning!”. This is crackers.
The assumption is that as a defender he will win more often and that in itself is true. But if you look at his scores, his only really big score was a 253 vs Tottenham in December. He’s had a few 180-210’s and this is what I’d expect on a good day, but it’s far from what is needed to dominate performance scoring.
These scores are not flukes – it’s about what I’d expect when looking at his real match numbers. It’s probably a true reflection of what we can expect in future.
In order to get around the obvious logic flaw here, social media pumpers turned to the only card left to play – “he’s cheap compared to TAA”. This is desperate.
TAA is also poor value for a start so it’s not a sensible comparison when talking about real value. You can use it as a marker for “this is the value I can pump him to” but that is not the same as real value.
Davies isn’t competing with TAA anyway. He has to stand on his own because to maintain a high price every player must demonstrate the ability to return enough consistent dividends. Hype can get you up there. Dividends keep you there.
He’ll win some. There is a reason I liked him. But unless something very significant changes I’d be very confident he will not return enough over a season to come anywhere close to justifying £4+.
He can keep going but he’ll need to hit some wins early after football restarts, eventually I think he will struggle under the weight of this price tag.
£2 to £2.50 would be a fair price for Davies who is a good player. Whilst that seems an enormous drop from £4+ – it is still a very hefty price tag by defender standards.
Grealish has some FI suitability and he’s had plenty of positive Scouting reviews this season, particularly when he wasn’t quite this expensive.
He’s even managed some decent scores from Villa, which shows his potential as that is hard to do. There is a suspicion that could drop off at a bigger club, like Manchester United, where he will likely be one of many talented players rather than the main man.
But, he’s certainly done enough to show promise. Though, he is 24 so getting towards senior rather than young, to be fair.
This feels very much like one of those 50/50 gamble trades that I strongly avoid.
I often talk about my “tight aggressive approach”. That means making bets when you are 80-90% confident you are going to win and putting down the 50/50’s.
Grealish could do really well, sure. He might well get that Manchester United move. But United are linked with 50 players in any given transfer window and they can’t sign them all.
If he doesn’t make that move, you are left with a seriously overpriced player at his £5+ now.
Worse, even if he does get his Manchester United move, it will work for a time as the short term media rolls in but longer term you might wonder whether it is sustainable.
These aren’t the worst trades in the world but they are well below my threshold for what I’d be willing to bet on. When we can find players that are 80-90% likely to come good there is just no reason to take these gambles in my view.
Odegaard highlights how important timing is with players like this. You can hold a good player at the wrong time.
They’ll get their period of hype sure. Social media will be awash with talk of how they are must haves. And then after a while they fade away and other more exciting prospects come along. The pumpers move on, and the price drops.
It’s fair to say that as Odegaard was getting the hype treatment in September > December I was no fan of the trade in Scouting. I knew he had quality but the way people were talking about him was way too optimistic.
By February though, he’d started dropping as I expected and in my 23rd February review I liked him better at £3.40 having dropped from £3.78. He was also a bit closer to an actual move to Real, which is an event that could generate hype.
I said £3.40 was still a bit high and suggested it could be worth waiting to see if he dropped towards £3. Just a few weeks later he went under to £2.97.
Moments like this, where you have a good young player that has been all the rage but is fading yet still has real quality is the time to be confident. It’s not on the way up when they are all over social media. It’s when they aren’t.
This is hard to do because it is a natural human instinct for many to want to stick close to the pack and follow the group. Doing something others aren’t can be mentally tough. But in trading, it is often the best thing to do. Provided, of course, you know you are getting a player of real quality.
By now though, Odegaard is back to £3.58. And he has some good rumours that Madrid may bring him back as cover particularly if Modric moves on. If not, he could well stay at Sociedad for another season.
That could be problematic because as those who read too much into some 214-230 scores in August/September 2019 have found out by now – the odds of him winning anything at Sociedad are pretty low.
Back on the way up now I do not think this is the time to buy. That moment was the drop to under £3 and it is now gone.
But he is a good potential FI player and I would say if he doesn’t move back to Real and drops as a result of staying at Sociedad for another year, that would be the time to look at him again.
Nkunku is a success from my October 10th wonderkids series. Priced at just £1.04 back then I said he looked very solid value after some good performances for Leipzig reported in Scouting in early October.
He’s gone on to have a great season and is now £3.35. A colossal 222%+ profit if still holding today. Though I suspect a smart trader would have cashed out and would have been very happy with around 175%+ on this trade and not pushed their luck.
The thing is, there is a world of difference between “good potential youngster at £1.04” and “great young player that justifies £3.35”.
At the lower price, I can be less picky. I can overlook some of his weaknesses such as his just good enough involvement as a midfielder and again, his just good enough goal threat.
As the price creeps up though, we have to judge more and more harshly. Because he’s going to have to start justifying that price tag and delivering dividends before too long.
Luck also plays a big part here. He hit a huge score at the exact right time in February when young players were enjoying a Haaland/Cherki led resurgence. But that 297 from 4 assists in a single game in February? That’s a freak. It’s not an indicator of consistent ability.
Nkunku is a good young player and does have potential but I’d be surprised if 10-15 games goes by and he is still carrying this price tag.
Again, when you get lucky with a player like this it’s time to cash in and count your blessings. Come back to them when and if they become sensible value again.
A huge rise in recent months for Ferran Torres who is highly rated in the real world of football.
£2.92 now amid rumours of Manchester United move (amongst 50+ others!) or possibly a Dortmund switch.
He’s not a player I’ve featured on the site, the main reason being his middling performance suitability. He’s got plenty to like, there is plenty of involvement in play generally for decent baselines, though not really enough to contend regularly in midfield.
And there is goal threat there, but 4 goals in 25 league appearances this term isn’t stellar. To be a success scoring 4-8 per season our midfielders will need HUGE baselines to make sure those goals count when they go in.
Torres will have just about enough involvement to make a goal count sometimes but you can’t say it’s spectacular.
That said, Valencia are not a brilliant performance side and a switch to a better one like Dortmund may help him. I wouldn’t bet on a move to Manchester United delivering boatloads of performance dividends, though.
He’s the sort of player I’d buy heavily under £1.50 and avoid just as strongly when being pumped and getting north of £2.50 or so. Obviously, it would be nice if I’d gone for him sooner in hindsight but I didn’t and you can’t fix that now by plowing in late.
He could do very well if a big move comes off. And it’s probably one of the more credible transfer rumours.
But it’s a risk, and as discussed in Key Strategy this would be the sort of thing I would not be gambling on particularly now when it is very difficult to get out of a player if they hit some bad luck like the transfer falling over.
James has had his ups and downs (mostly ups) this season. As he initially gathered hype over Sept – December I wasn’t keen. He was good, but it was all just too much too soon. And the “He’s just like TAA!” social media mania was both lazy and wrong.
By 2nd January though I liked him a bit better as a shorter term punt, because a price fall from £3.17 to £2.86 coincided with some of his best performances and he looked really close to a win (showing how little most people know about real quality!).
That win did come just a week later sending him flying back to £3.68. Again though, that was too overpriced and too optimistic and in my 13 January scouting I said there was no rational case for holding James at that price.
Just a few weeks later he was back at £3.09. But he is up to £3.31 again. Bouncy.
The main point of this story is that holding these players after the big break out moment and the big rise for long periods is usually a very exciting waste of time.
Even hitting some good luck with a win he’s not much further on. We really need to be cashing out overpriced/overhyped players at the moment of their big spikes, not hanging in too long for the hype to fade.
The truth is that Reece James is good but not that good. He’ll likely win a few times per season assuming he plays every game.
For a defender, that’s actually really good. And it deserves a £1.70 to £2.50 price tag, towards the upper end if you factor in a bit of hype for being young and English. But the media goes to goalscorers almost all of the time, it’s not really that relevant for defenders.
Eventually though, players like this need regular dividend wins to sustain these premiums and I suspect Reece James won’t win often enough to do so. It will probably take most people another 3-6 months of football to realise that, mind.
I think the price is currently too high for this to be a smart trade, but he does have quality and if we see another price fall back towards £2.50 and ideally under he could be worth looking at again.
Still just 20, the Gent striker has been smashing it up this season with an incredible 24 goals and 10 assists.
Yes, it’s a soft league but it’s still impressive and generates optimism. For a forward, he has decent underlying numbers too. He’s far from just a goalscorer and he could be very FI suitable.
He’s very versatile, which can actually count against him. This brings plenty of unpredictability into the equation as we don’t quite know where he would fit into a new side if he moves.
That’s a problem we can solve later though, in reality, for a player moving from an ineligible league, all people need is lots of goals as their reason to buy – they don’t tend to look under the hood too much.
The transfer looks likely but exactly where to is more uncertain. It’s one of those where you can find a rumour for whatever point of view you want, from the EPL with Arsenal or Everton to Barcelona as the Suarez replacement.
It feels like a relatively safe bet that he will get a decent move overall, though.
He has risen in the last few months from under £2 to £2.67 now, so he is fairly expensive. But, £2.67 is not outrageous and the price has been relatively stable for the last month or so.
As pricey youngsters go I quite like this one, and I was borderline on including him either here or in the “Good Young Players” article.
He is a bit pricier than I’d like, but at least he’s shown genuine FI suitability and the transfer looks credible.