Jonjoe Kenny won’t be the first Premier League talent to head to the Bundesliga this summer
With the UEFA European Under-21 Championship underway, the trend of young Premier League talent heading to the Bundesliga in search of game-time looks set to continue.
Various eyebrows were raised last Monday when Everton right-back Jonjoe Kenny signed for Schalke 04 on a season-long loan deal.The Kirkdale-born Evertonian has struggled to cement a starting berth in the Toffees starting XI in recent years, only making 10 league appearances last season and featuring on-loan at Wigan Athletic and Oxford United.
Once rated as one of the best young defenders in the league, he has seen his progress stall, with the likes of Trent Alexander-Arnold and Aaron Wan-Bissaka flourishing and progressing ahead of him in recent seasons. Despite Kenny’s move, it still remains to be seen whether he can secure the right-back spot at ‘Die Königsblauen’ next season, given Daniel Caligiuri’s excellent form last season.
Kenny could become the 16th Englishman to play in the Bundesliga, following in the footsteps of former teammate Ademola Lookman and mercurial Jadon Sancho. And with the U21 Euro’s having begun, Bundesliga scouts will be casting their eyes on some of the Premier League’s top young talent, with six of them being profiled below:
Everton’s Kieran Dowell is a versatile midfielder who’s preferred position is as an attacking midfielder, despite having played as a left wing-back and defensive midfielder in the past. The 21-year-old is ranked highly within Everton and England setups, having featured regularly and effectively in all respective youth squads. He made his Everton debut in 2016; however, similarly to Jonjoe Kenny, he has failed to cement his place in the Merseysiders starting eleven. He has enjoyed fruitful spells in the Championship: having had a great individual season with Nottingham Forest in 2017/18 and achieving promotion to the Premier League with Sheffield United last season.
In spite of this, his chances at Goodison next season seem increasingly slim, given Gylfi Sigurdsson’s presence and Everton’s abundance of attacking options. A move back to Sheffield United would be suited to both parties, but only if Dowell can be guaranteed regular first team Football. With the aforementioned looking unlikely, a Bundesliga switch could prove successful and productive for Dowell – he just needs to look at how his teammate Ademola Lookman fared at RB Leipzig in the latter half of the 2017/18 season to see how rewarding it can be! Additionally, Everton are no strangers to sending their prodigious talents across to Germany, given Lookman’s and Kenny’s recent transfers.
Hamburg born Lukas Nmecha plays mainly as a centre forward and made his debut for Manchester City in 2017/18, and spent last season on-loan at Championship outfit Preston North-End. Nmecha was extremely well-regarded during his time in the Manchester City academy, and enjoyed an extremely productive period of 27 goals in 35 matches for the U23 team. His scintillating and explosive form paved the way for a loan-move to Preston North-End last season, where the striker was less efficient in front of goal: mustering a mere 3 goals and 8 assists in 44 appearances. Despite his poor statistics, in March of this year, Nmecha switched his national allegiances from England to Germany, and was subsequently called up to their U21 Euros squad. If Nmecha and Germany enjoy a successful tournament, don’t be surprised if a Bundesliga team takes a punt on the 20 year old next season.
The case of Arsenal’s Reiss Nelson is slightly different to others on this list, as he spent last season on-loan at Hoffenheim. The 19-year-old attacker enjoyed a fantastic start to the season, scoring with ease, elegance and gusto. The Englishman’s form tailed off towards the second half of the season, but he still managed an extremely respectable 7 goals and one assist in 23 appearances – averaging a goal every 90 minutes! Despite his fruitful German escapade, it remains to be seen whether the youngster is in Unai Emery’s plans for next seasons first team.
In a recent interview Nelson admitted he hasn’t spoken to Emery regarding this, although he did announce he was ready to return to England. With his immediate future uncertain, various Bundesliga teams will no doubt be sniffing around Nelson, ready to lure him with the promise of Champions League football and a starting position. Whether Nelson returns to Germany remains to be seen, but it certainly shouldn’t be ruled out.
Stockport born Phil Foden is one of the most exciting English talents of his generation, having already earned high praise from his current Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola and various others. Frustratingly for Foden he has found first team opportunities hard to come by in Manchester, and only managed 13 league appearances last season. The 19-year-old has played in the same youth systems and teams as Borussia Dortmund winger Jadon Sancho, will know only too well what regular first team exposure can do for your ability, stature and progress. With multiple Bundesliga teams admirers of the Manchester City midfielder, it remains to be seen whether Foden leaves on-loan next season, with Pep Guardiola insisting he’s going nowhere. Ultimately the decision will depend on how much Football the youngster can be guaranteed next season, and as we know – things in Football can change very quickly. Watch this space.
Polish born central defender/defensive midfielder Krystian Bielik joined Arsenal in 2015 and is yet to make a Premier League appearance for the Gunners. The versatile 21-year-old briefly joined Birmingham City and Walsall on-loan but injuries limited his first-team action. However last season he joined Charlton Athletic on-loan for the season, where he was one of ‘The Addicks’ star performers, ultimately helping them to get promoted to the Championship. Predominantly playing in defensive midfield (although frequently slotting in comfortably into centre back), the Pole accumulated 31 league appearances and is one of Poland’s main players in this tournament.
Bielik looks almost certainly to be departing (for the short-term at least) this summer, as he recently sternly stated “My future is unknown but there is one thing I can say for sure: I will definitely not go back to Arsenal U23 team…I feel like a senior player now so I want to play senior football.” Similarly to Nelson, Bielik is yet to receive any contact from Gunners boss Unai Emery – with the Spaniard’s lack of communication proving to be frustrating. Regardless of Bielik’s position at Arsenal, providing he has a successful Euros, he could prove to be a valuable asset to numerous Bundesliga teams – with his ball-playing ability a notable forte that can enhance a teams transitional play, with his versatility being an added bonus.
Watford’s Dodi Lukebakio is also in an extremely similar situation to Reiss Nelson, as the Belgian winger-cum-striker spent last season on-loan at Fortuna Dusseldorf. The 21 year old enjoyed a prolific season in Germany, netting an impressive 10 goals and notching an additional 4 assists for the mid-table Bundesliga outfit in 31 appearances. He won’t be short of Bundesliga offers, however his short-term future ultimately depends on Watford manager Javi Gracia. The hornets aren’t currently short of attacking options, with current players Troy Deeney, Andre Gray, Gerard Deulofeu and Roberto Pereyra potentially standing in the Belgian’s way. If Lukebakio enjoys a successful Euros and still isn’t given a genuine chance at Watford next season, a loan-move away seems more than likely – with the Bundesliga the most probable destination.
By Alex Pierce.