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 2

Here’s my intro to Real Wonderkids which is the same as yesterday. If you’ve read this already, skip to the players!

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.

Dani Olmo - 22 - RB Leipzig

Olmo is settling well at Leipzig since his January move.

Many traders were disappointed he didn’t get a bigger move and his price took a kicking. But Leipzig are a good club and he looks set to be a first team regular.

What we have seen so far is encouraging. The goal and assists should be there. The supporting baselines are more questionable but it would only take a small improvement for him to be competitive. 

Given he’s a young and exciting player a few early goals should see him do pretty well on the market and that’s enough initially. We can evaluate whether he’s improving enough to keep longer term later.

He’s also breaking into the Spain team which is always helpful.

With the bid still at just £1.91 this looks solid to me. 

Rhian Brewster - 20 - Liverpool

Another good example of the youth player life cycle. 

It starts with hype, reaching a price they can’t possibly justify. 

Then comes the crash and the long period of stagnation. 

And then their prospects may improve and the price is down and sensible people can look at them again.

I highlighted Brewster’s potential value in the last edition of Real Wonderkids too back in April. He was £1.93 then having collapsed from £3.72 in early 2019. That price fall in this market is nothing short of incredible. Losing that much money on FI in recent years requires someone really special.

Along with Vinicius Jr Brewster at peak hype was one of the trades I slammed the most on the site. And back when more of my articles were public there was no shortage of social media upset about that. No regrets! Knowing who is overpriced is not overly negative it’s crucial to good trading.

Since April he has risen from £1.93 to £2.49 on a bid now after great performances for Swansea. And it looks as though he is being retained for rotation in the Liverpool team this season.

He may have missed a penalty in the Community Shield. But he also scored 3 in pre-season games in August in just 86 minutes over two games. 

If he were to come off the bench and score it could be market mayhem with his trend profile. And that’s quite likely to happen.

Those early hype buyers over a year ago weren’t wrong about his trend fit or potential impact. They were wrong about the timing. And timing is critical.

To trade this successfully holders will need to be well aware that Brewster is likely a bad performance player. But he may be a great goalscorer and certainly in the early stages, that’s enough. 

If we reach a point where he is rising in price then his underlying FI weakness may become an issue and we’d just want to be careful how far we really pushed it.

Sebastien Esposito - 18 - Inter

Esposito should either see more minutes at Inter this campaign or possibly get a loan to a club where he can gain regular first team experience. Both of those are decent options.

He’s highly regarded for both Inter and Italy U19 and really all he would need is a couple of goals to start rising most likely.

However, he is better than just a goalscorer. He’s certainly bagged enough goals to get excited about in his youth career but he also has an all round game that can put him a cut above your average goalscorer on FI. 

A very promising young FI suitable player. He flew up to £2.38 pretty much as soon as he joined the Index. That was too much. But with the heat off for now he could be picked up for £1.84 on a bid and anything under £2 looks good to me.

It’s one for a patient holder because he will start on the bench most likely and holders will have to be able to cope with that. 

But it’s also one that if interested it is better to have signed up rather than put them on a watchlist. It’s hard to jump on late with a player like this because by the time a goal goes in for a player with this kind of trend profile people could be overpaying very quickly.

Riqui Puig - 20 - Barcelona

A breakthrough season for Puig. He managed just over 500 La Liga minutes for Barcelona which is very good progress at his age. He impressed and whilst Koeman is a new manager it seems hard to believe he won’t give Puig a chance.

He also made his Spain U21 debut last night and was praised by the coach.

There is a lot to like about him in terms of trend fit and plenty you’d look for in a potentially strong FI performance player. He’s central midfield which builds solid baselines and the assist potential is great. 

If there is one thing behind where it needs to be it is goal threat. That’s middling but he does get forward enough and gets enough for maybe 4-5 goals a season. 

That’s good rather than great but I would say given his trend profile as a potential Barcelona and Spain future star and current reasonable £1.90 bid it wouldn’t take more than a few starts and a goal or two to get him rising nicely.

Aleksey Miranchuk - 24 - Atalanta

Atalanta are a freewheeling team that carry a lot of performance optimism after a 98 goal season and 3rd place Serie A finish. Impressive for a team outside of the established elite.

New signing Miranchuk joins from Locamotiv Moscow.  At 24 he’s probably outside the usual age range you’d attach to a wonderkid but it’s still young and still a very good age. Optimal, in fact, as he’s further along in development yet still new and shiny.

Russian League stats are soft and I generally take them with a pinch of salt. But they do look impressive. Goals. Assists. Overall involvement. We need to see minutes at Atalanta of course but there are plenty of concrete reasons to be optimistic based on his style of play.

He has risen to £1.36 on the Blue Button after this move which is sharp. But he had a long way to go and that’s still bargain bucket for a potentially good Atalanta player. 

I’d be happy to take him into the new season to monitor but as we havent’ seen any minutes on him in a competitive league he could be hit or miss. That’s a manageable risk with good player scouting though.

Incidentally his bargain bucket twin brother Anton also looks good should he ever make the move too. But that might be one for the next transfer window.

Paulinho - 20 - Bayer Leverkusen

Something of a sleeper because of injury and because his introduction took a bit longer than expected.

I’ve tracked him for a long time on the site. In March when he scored twice he flew rapidly from £1.40 to £2.30. But then an unfortunate ACL injury sees him right back down to £1.66 on the bid.

This is just way too negative and should be exploited. It’s unclear when his return date is but he had surgery in July so sometime in 2020 feels possible, or early 2021 latest.

This may seem far away but there are a certain breed of traders who like to buy injured players for the “guaranteed” profit as they recover. 

This can be true and it is often fairly easy to predict traders behaviour like them coming back to Paulinho once he is back in contention. Certainly, traders are easier to predict than a performance win!

But you do need to do it early and whilst it’s not a popular activity because injury trading basically burns itself out – it’s something you can do early but not late.

Beyond the injury trading though we have a really FI suitable performance player here and if we see him back fit he could really make an impact. 

Unlikely to be many better times to pick him up than when down at £1.66 having recently dropped from £2.30.

Unai Nunez - 23 - Athletic Bilbao

Probably more of a transfer pick than one we are going to see hitting performance highs from Bilbao.

The main reasons I am highlighting him are the likelihood of a big club transfer either now or next window combined with the rock bottom price at 50p on the bid.

This is very low for a good young centre back who has already made his Spain debut at 23. And whilst all CB’s struggle on FI he does have the kind of passing ability that can see him compete on some of the softer days particularly at a bigger club.

Not exactly a world beater but we don’t always need that, we just need a value price and we do get that here.

Tanguy Kouassi - 18 - Bayern Munich

Another very promising player who has left PSG for pastures new. They just never believe PSG are going to give them minutes! And they are probably right.

Bayern picked him up for a snip and he looks a really good prospect for them.

He’s capable of playing at centre back or deep midfield and his involvement numbers are potentially elite level. He’s also scored more than he has a right to, and does like to get forward for corners.

I don’t actually expect huge FI scores anytime soon. However, a start for Bayern at just £1.01 right now on the bid could get him plenty of optimism. In a congested year we can expect teams to be relying on squads more so some appearances aren’t unreasoanable.

And he may come through for France too.

A good prospect for a patient trader.

Ricardo Orsolini - 23 - Bologna

Orsolini has featured plenty of times in Scouting throughout the season, and he’s one of those players that’s been possible to keep trading in and out of if you pick your moment right. 

In terms of trend profile there is a lot to like at just 23. He’s expected to make the move to a big club before long and he’s in the Italy squad too. 

The goals and assists should flow and he’s capable of some competitive scores. In truth, he’s a little lightweight for midfield to be a regular contender.

But picking him up in that £1.50 to £1.75 range as he is priced now it feels like the right moment to pick him up. 

With a little patience, you can wait for him to hit form where people are generally happy to buy him up to £2+. Which would be a bad time to pick him up historically.

However with the dividend increase something like £2.50 wouldn’t be unreasonable so the £1.58 bid price now looks good to me.

Again, it shows how important it is to know the real performance quality of the player through scouting otherwise you can’t possibly make consistently good decisions about which players to cash in and which to stick with.

Gian-luca Waldschmidt - 24 - Benfica

As a young German international the expectation was that Waldschmidt would move to a bigger club probably within Germany. There was certainly no shortage of links! I highlighted him over in the transfers section before the window.

In the end though he made a somewhat strange move to Benfica to get regular minutes. This has plummeted the bid price all the way down to 63p which is just giving him away. 

He’s still a good young player who was on the bench for Germany last night. And these moves are almost always with buy to sell in mind. If he starts performing well for Benfica and scoring then ineligible league players get interest all the time.

We currently do not have a wave of buying for ineligible league players – people need to focus on buying up the value in the Big 5 leagues first. But these flash-trends for ineligible league players happen regularly throughout the season and we are probably due another one before 2020 is out.

In the mean time, Benfica are in the Champions League (assuming they qualify!) so he should get his chances to shine.

Clearly not the move holders will have wanted but 63p? That reeks of panic selling in the face of bad but far from terminal news.

A bargain with a long term view in mind. 

Callum Hudson-Odoi - 19 - Chelsea

Another FI youth car crash that I was negative on over a year ago. Even the phrase “CHO” would make me slightly nauseous.

He was well over £5+ in April 2019 and he was the same as Sancho at the time – untouchable and nothing could possibly go wrong. 

But of course it often does. Especially when they are just put under too much pressure by ludicrous price tags and social media over optimism.

After the crash though there can often be plenty to salvage from the wreckage.

The best pumps contain a bit of truth after all. 

He’s still just 19 with a great trend profile and has shown some superb FI numbers at times. Often they are in the Cups against poor sides but they are still cause for optimism.

The main issue is that Chelsea have a ton of competition now. But players can get injured and space will be freed up. And Hudson-Odoi is versatile. 

With a packed schedule too it’s hard to believe Hudson-Odoi is not going to get his chances this coming season.

Clearly he’s got some challenges to overcome but at £2.51 on the bid now I think people have gone too far the other way and are now overly pessimistic on this former social media darling.

Curtis Jones - 19 - Liverpool

Speaking of darling’s if the FIT site has a youth pick of the season Jones has to be it. 

It’s rare to find a player with a near perfect trend profile in the EPL that has real performance suitability. In terms of a young prospect for FI with serious potential, Curtis Jones is pretty much as good as it will ever get.

Which isn’t to say it’s a sure thing. He is £2.81 – £3.30 right now and we have to start being more demanding of all players the higher the price gets.

But I think Jones can carry this. If he starts he can win and we should see more minutes for him this term. Particularly after this dividend increase that kind of price tag is going to become normal. 

And we have one of FI’s best young prospects here, easily in the same bracket as Foden and Sancho but 2-3 years behind in development so significantly cheaper. 

I still think the current price is worth it for him on both rational value and on the often irrational but often used comparative value. There are far more questionable young players enjoying £5+ price tags.

It’s one of the positives about targetting the real quality players rather than the garbage. When they breakout and reach a high price they can have even further to go.

And you don’t need to stress so much about what other traders are doing on a weekly basis – if the player has real quality you can hold confidently even when they aren’t in fashion for a while.

Obviously we’ll have to pay close attention to any road blocks that might appear but assuming he gets a decent amount of minutes and keeps developing as he is I’d expect holders to enjoy some nice moments this season.

Dejan Kulusevski - 20 - Juventus

I’ve highlighted Kulusevski for a while sometimes positively and sometimes not.

I felt he was getting way overhyped in December 2019 due to a Manchester United link that fell over. After that crash though things got more attractive and I liked him at £2.05 in the last Real Wonderkid series in April.

Very good form for Parma and a move to Juventus have conspired to push that to £2.80 which is positive for holders. But getting quite high now.

In his favour he does have genuine FI potential and given a full game it’s very possible he can put up a big score. 

But he is still likely to get heavy rotation and if there is a reason he’ll struggle under his price tag that’s probably it. If we saw him becoming more obviously first team it gets a lot rosier as I’d be more than happy to pay that if I knew he was going to play regularly.

As to whether I’d now join this at £2.69 or £2.80 it’s a borderline call. What tips me over the edge towards a yes is the recent dividend increase which makes this kind of price tag much more acceptable.

There may be better value elsewhere but I still think Kulusevski is a solid choice. Holders will just need to monitor any gossip/news on his place in the squad and watch friendlies/early games closely.

Manuel Locatelli - 22 - Sassuolo

Locatelli is likely to attract big club interest, including from Juventus, either this window or next. And he’s an Italy U21 regular.

Sassuolo are a good performance side for a smaller club. And Locatelli’s baseline numbers are elite level.

He doesn’t get many goals but when he does it could really count for a huge score. 

Not the ideal performance fit, he doesn’t have enough goals for that. But a theme of the speculative youth category is that we don’t always need to tick every box – we just need to tick a few and get a value price.

He is fairly similar to Tonali in terms of FI potential who is up at £2.42 to £2.71 for no real reason other than hype. At that kind of price I’d call that sort of trade unacceptable. 

But at Locatelli’s £1.09 to £1.26? That makes all the difference. A solid value pick.

Also consider:

Nadiem Amiri

Florian Neuhaus

Martin Terrier

Jonathan David (see recent Scouting as early games look weak)

Amine Gouri

Federico Chiesa (could also be Core)

Kephren Thuram

Benoit Badiashile

Max Caqueret

Rafael Leao

Youcef Atal

Merih Demiral

Eric Garcia

Joshua Zirkzee

There were more Real Wonderkids in ineligible leagues but I'm planning a separate article on those. Next week we'll keep this series going with more on some struggling but potentially good players, overhyped players who may come to a bad end, and those ineligible league players too.

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