The pre-season preview continues! If you haven’t already I’d start with Part 1 which sets out my thinking on strategy for pre-season.

For everyone else, let’s get straight into some players!

The Real Wonderkids Part 1

Always considered the most exciting and appealing. And they are.

But something to bear in mind is that youth being “safe” because they have years ahead of them is the biggest collective delusion that exists on FI. 

This mass delusion loses people a lot of money. And under the Matching Engine those mistakes are going to be even more costly.

The majority of young players that are hyped will never make it as regulars at big clubs. More often they will end up flopping and being farmed out to a lower league. And many of those who do make it in reality will not end up being FI suitable.

If you want “safe” then the 21-26 year old established players are as safe as it gets.

When investing in youth we should be under no illusion that these are high risk trades just like the veterans are, often worse, because we know less about them.

That said – of course we trade in this category. There are just some things to be aware of.

Firstly, buy early or not at all. Generally speaking if you are first finding out about the player due to a social media craze or because they are topping the risers chart this is something to be very wary of. The best of the value is likely gone and you’ll be taking on a lot of the risk for less of the reward.

If you are a newer or less confident trader then following that rule is a good one for keeping you out of trouble. If you are more experienced you can bend that rule sometimes if the player has genuine FI potential and is still worth it even after any rise, or if you have credible reasons to believe that the hype will keep on going.

It’s good to exploit hype in youth and I do it all the time. But we must be deliberately doing that and taking advantage of the over optimism of other traders rather than really believing we hold the next big thing. The trader who is aware of the real potential of the player and can correctly read the trends is the one who is likely to win most often.

It is who I call the “true believer” that is often left picking up the bill when the hype has faded away.

Never become the true believer. That awkward guy who really believes he is sitting on “the next Messi” and will never change his mind despite all evidence. 

You will increase your chances of success by assuming that most wonderkids will flop purely because most of them do.

However when we have a real gem we should back them heavily and we may only get 3-4 of these per season tops. Last season for the site it was Curtis Jones and Calvin Stengs as probably the best examples of young players with genuine potential who not only got a big hype related rise but can actually carry that kind of price tag because of their real potential.

In the season before it was Havertz and Felix plus a few others. And even with Felix you had to know when to quit and not get too attached.

Are “the next” ones going to be on the list of potential wonderkids in these articles? Probably. But plenty will flop too it’s a high risk category. 

We should generally be starting with Small Buys when the path to the first team is uncertain. Where I get really convinced of their long term value and they have a realistic path to the first team sometime soon that is when I might go bigger.

Let’s pick out some good youngsters that have genuine FI potential and come with value prices.

Martin Odegaard - 21 - Real Madrid

Odegaard this season is a classic case study in what I’ve just been talking about above. 

He started last season relatively cheap at £1.25 to £1.50 as people were negative on him and he’s considered a “flop” at that point. Those who noticed his potential then should be very happy with themselves. Looking back, he didn’t really come on my radar in Scouting until he was £1.75 or £1.80 but that’s good enough.

He starts the season well with some 210-230 scores and people go a bit crazy and he’s over £3+ by the end of September. The clue is in those scores though – that’s soft for midfield. And he was playing really well – never likely to really do much better regularly. This was all very readable at the time. So that would be when someone paying attention would cash out and move on.

Persisting in holding Odegaard after he’s pushing over £3.50+ and towards £4? This is mug trading for awkward true believers. The result of that is 8-10 months of drops and stress over whether he will actually go to Madrid with one further push in June before another collapse. In short, an exciting way to make almost no progress.


Once some of those uncertainties and barriers are cleared out of the way and the price has dropped we can potentially come back to such players. And that may be the case here.

Odegaard’s going to get his chance at Real Madrid next season. Likely with rotation, but that’s ok at this stage. He is genuinely FI suitable, and he now has a platform where he can feasibly start pushing 250+ competitive scores.

And the price has dropped and we can pick him up for £3.31 on the bid just before he may start some games, possibly perform well, and get attention.

Plus, we just had a fat dividend increase which makes these kinds of price tags much easier on the wallet for a good prospect.

An important lesson in handling youth. Get them early. Don’t get carried away with the hype – know their real quality so you can decide whether you need to sell or can push it further. 

And, we never need to worry about “missing out”. Many seem to think that if you sell a player you’ve lost them forever. Not so. When the moment is right, you can come back to them when the hype has faded if it makes sense to do so.

I’d be optimistic on Odegaard at anything around £3.50 so a bid of £3.31 looks good to me right now.

Brahim Diaz - 21 - Real Madrid (likely Milan)

I’ve tracked Diaz for a long time both at Manchester City and Real Madrid. He’s consistently shown wonderful FI potential at both clubs and at youth level. His one problem? Getting on the pitch often enough.

We saw some cameos in 2020 for Real Madrid which again were promising per minute. But that’s never going to be enough to make an impact on FI.

A loan move to Milan looks set to be confirmed very soon and that could be exactly what he needs. 

For a forward especially he has everything he needs for FI success from goals to assists to strong general involvement. New clubs are always tricky especially without the benefit so far of a pre-season to see how they are fitting in.

But for the modest £1.35 to £1.48 given his potential? There are solid reasons to be optimistic here.

Ousmané Dembelé - 23 - Barcelona

He’s had his spells as the biggest hype kid on FI over the years but has never really gotten going. 

He’s been up to £3.50 in his time (and that was a much bigger price relatively speaking back in February 2019). Yet just £2 on the bid now and it’s another example of how holding too long beyond the period of hype so often hurts holders on youth players.

But getting hurt often also makes traders too negative on the player – meaning if their situation improves and the price drops it can be worth picking them up.

He has plenty of uncertainty as there is a new coach at Barcelona and he has transfer rumours too. Though I don’t worry too much about that – a stay at Barcelona is fine and he likely at least gets a chance under Koeman. He probably stays put.

And if he were to move it would likely be a decent club and possibly even an EPL jackpot.

Injury has been his main problem but he is back and fully fit now. 

The performance suitability is there and if he starts well and gets some decent scores it should not surprise anyone who has been paying attention. 

For that £2 to £2.27 price that’s solid but you have to move before any starts and good scores happen and whilst people still doubt him.

Timothy Weah - 20 - Lille

Weah is another interesting one who has been out with a long injury and so is well under the radar as things stand. Still just 20 years old though and not exactly a write off!

As I reported in Scouting this week – his numbers are really promising historically speaking and in his comeback substitute appearance last weekend he almost scored with just 16 minutes on the pitch.

He’s got plenty to do from here as he has to prove fitness and break into a good Lille side. 

But we don’t always need a sure thing we just need a good price that makes any risk acceptable and worth it. And 94p to £1.18 is a bargain for a player who could easily get to £1.50 to £2 if he establishes at Lille.

And if it goes badly? Probably not that many people will notice and you might be able to back out of it relatively cheaply provided you are paying attention to the matches. As I certainly will be in Scouting.

That’s really important with all of the “wonderkid” style trades, as a general point rather than just about Weah.

We know a lot of them won’t make it. Picking the genuine prospects is half the battle as it increases our chances of success. But to really kill it when it comes to profits we also have to manage those trades well and make sure we are cutting off the ones who are looking wobbly to concentrate it in the ones looking the strongest.

That’s why I review each performance every week in Scouting.

Eljif Elmas - 20 - Napoli

I’ve tracked Elmas for a while as a high potential young player at Napoli. He saw some decent minutes in 2020. Not many full games but at 20 years old consistent minutes on the board are always good.

Napoli clearly like what they see as they recently extended his contract to 2025.

We could see him get more full games next season. He has some nice involvement numbers and although he only managed 1 goal he has the threat to suggest he can add perhaps 6-8 over a full season. 

With his baselines that would likely be enough to see him challenge often enough to more than warrant the budget 85p to £1.07 price tag.

Game time is the risk and it may require patience but particularly in this dividend system we are paying peanuts here for a good youngster with FI potential.

Micheal Cuisance - 21 - Bayern Munich

Cuisance at Bayern was a regular in Scouting this season and he’s had a particularly good 2020. He’ll still be rotated for sure but the way he has coped with the step up to the first team has been very impressive.

And it’s good timing for Bayern who are losing Coutinho and probably Thiago without making any more big signings. So players like Tolisso and Cuisance may be called on more often.

For a youngster Cuisance’s FI suitability is about as good as you’ll ever see. Plenty of involvement in the middle but he can cap it off with goals. He managed 1 for Bayern in the last 4 but it could have been 2 or even 3 with his threat.

Very impressive and still just £1.36 to £1.56.

Ander Barrenetxea - 18 - Real Sociedad

The season just gone was his first with the seniors and he made quite an impression. 

He managed a decent number of minutes although did pick up injuries at times.

We should see him figure more next season – he’s already starting the pre-season friendlies.

He isn’t exceptional for performance scoring but as a highly regarded young goalscorer and Spain U19 player he will be easy to sell if he starts knocking some goals in. And that’s pretty likely – he managed a spree of 4 in 5 games in December/January. And the threat is consistent.

Sociedad are a decent platform too and have the Europa league which is a big plus.

It’s a good example here as we don’t always need the full package – just a good price. He is way behind say Cuisance or Diaz for potential but at £1.62 to £1.86 he looks attractive to me.

It really won’t take much for people to buy him if he starts the season well. If that happens and he does push in price we can worry about whether he would be really worth £2.50+ later on. But that’s a nice worry to have.

The important thing when you aren’t 100% sold on the FI suitability is that you are getting a value price at a time when the player has gone relatively quiet. 

Francisco Trincao - 20 - Barcelona

Another I’ve tracked on the site this season who has gone on to do well after a move to Barcelona. But he’s on a bit of a down swing now so it can be a good time to get interested again.

He currently has links to Leicester which would seem an odd move. It feels unlikely and if it happened? Not awful.

Performance wise he’s shown nothing particularly special at Braga in terms of overall involvement. But you can’t argue with the goals and assists record.

For a potential breakout player like this we don’t want to be too fussy. A bit like with Barrenetxea above – all we need for a fashionable player going to a big club is for them to get on the pitch and nick a goal or two and that can be more than enough to trigger a very nice price rise.

Whether he actually turns out to be FI suitable we can worry about later. He might well do though depending on playing position but he’s not a particularly stand out player like some of the others.

That’s ok though as long as the price is right and £2.33 or £2.47 remains reasonable given it wouldn’t take much more than a start and a couple of goals to see him closer to £3 in this fickle market.

Reinier - 18 - Borussia Dortmund

This loan move to Dortmund feels really good for Reinier. Real Madrid are just too chock full of talent and it would be very hard to get a look in.

So are Dortmund to be fair but they are also much more likely to give young players a chance and try to bring them through.

We should still expect plenty of rotation mind, but he should get a chance.

Now, whisper it, but a bit like the above two players he might not actually be that great for FI

Whilst the goals and assists are impressive it takes more than that and I do wonder whether in midfield he’s a little lightweight for the category. 

But on FI we have to strike an odd balance between being as clever as we can be whilst at the same time not overthinking it. He’s clearly a very popular player and certainly at first all he’d need to do is start and get a goal to push up significantly in price. 

He’ll be one of those easy to sell players that people just can’t wait to pay too much for.

That stupidity can and should be exploited but we need to do that relatively early and be aware that he might not be totally FI suitable so that we can decide when we have pushed it too far. This is one it would be easy to become a true believer on.

He does have a chance though and the good thing about this sort of player is that you’ll likely get at least a game or two to evaluate some real minutes because people do tend to cling to their wonderkids that little bit too long.

Vinicius Junior - 20 - Real Madrid

We’ve been discussing him on FI for so long he feels like a veteran. Nope. Just 20.

Until 2020 I’ve certainly been no fan over the past years. The hype and the price were always going to be far more than he could ever realistically justify at that age.

He was nearly £4 in January 2019 and over 18 months has crept all the way down to £2.83 or just £2.37 on the bid today. In this market that is an absolute disaster zone.

I think psychologically people shout about the Sancho success stories constantly and all of these catastrophies are quietly swept under the rug. Youth trading is high risk particularly if you do it badly.

But things do change.

The hype has faded as other youngsters who are newer and shinier come through. The price is far less relatively speaking than it was. And he’s a better player, having developed and established much closer to the first team.

He’s closer to success than ever. And also cheaper than he’s ever been in a long, long time. FI logic strikes again.

I had Rodrygo who I’ll cover next as the favourite of the two but that has changed over the course of 2020 Scouting – Vinicius has closed that gap.

I’d be optimistic on Vinicius for the season and I think if you can get him on that £2.37 bid or close to that it’s very good. 

Lots of people who got burned in his long slow decline over 19/20 are probably reluctant to go back but they could end up making a second unforced error here. 

They will have held him too long based on hype in the first place. And then as a result may be blind to his improvement and price drop bringing him back into value. We’ve got to keep open minds.

Rodrygo - 19 - Real Madrid

As discussed Rodrygo and Vinicius are both capable and keep trading places in my affections. 

Vinicius’s recent performances have been superior but it wasn’t long ago that was true for Rodrygo. Vinicius is however currently significantly cheaper and that may give him an edge if you have to choose.

However I’d be optimistic on both if you want a borderline premium player with a genuine chance of becoming a regular FI contender.

This £2.50 to £3 bracket is still relatively expensive comparatively but in this dividend structure these prices are going to become completely routine. And many of the top 100 should be pushing £4-6 with ease over the course of this season. The dividends support those valuations.

So if you fancy 1 or 2 high potential youngsters I’d have no qualms about paying that sort of money at this stage for either player. And they do warrant that premium over someone like Diaz for example as they are already established players.

Edmond Tapsoba - 21 - Bayer Leverkusen

There aren’t that many consistent challengers amongst defenders out there in truth. The scoring system we have makes it very difficult to reliably predict that one or the other will get their nose in front, outside of a few elites.

So for that reason I tend to pick my defenders very carefully.

Tapsoba is a potentially good one although I note on first review at his IPO I couldn’t stand his £1.75 starting price. That was clearly absurd. What’s the point on speculating on a youngster if they start beyond the price of the established stars?

However now he is just £1.42 on a bid it’s much more interesting. 

He is a centre back and it is true they have a very hard time in this scoring system. However his exceptional passing ability could easily see him challenge. 

On a soft day with little competition that could get him over the line. And that’s not as boring as it was last season. Bronze and Silver days are no joke now and offer lucrative rewards so it’s entirely possible a good player like this offers up a decent return.

Plus, in the same way it did for Upamecano, if Tapsoba can prove he can defend as well as pass it is likely to attract top club interest as this trait is very fashionable in top centre backs these days.

Even more Real Wonderkids coming tomorrow check back then!

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