In recent times, we have seen players like James Maddison make big money moves to the Premier League from the Championship and they have flourished.
Tammy Abraham, Mason Mount and Fikayo Tomori have made a big impression at Chelsea this season after being loaned to the Championship last season, and players such as Todd Cantwell have put up fantastic numbers in the Premier League after coming up with Norwich in England’s second tier.
This suggests that the difference in quality between the first and second flight is narrowing, and there are plenty of Championship players that Premier League clubs should be looking to sign this summer.
Before James Maddison joined Leicester City in 2018, many Premier League clubs were seemingly anxious to spend big money on Championship players. Instead, they looked at younger players from Championship sides who would then join their academy or go out on loan, whilst spending big on players from abroad or from other Premier League clubs.
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Between 2014-2017, there weren’t really any big signings from the Championship, with the likes of Michail Antonio, Lewis Cook, Demarai Gray, Jeff Hendrick and Leonardo Ulloa being the stand out purchases.
Since 2018 however, there has been a rise in the quality of players signed from the Championship and also a rise in the price that was paid for these players. Maddison moved to Leicester from Norwich for £25 million, David Brooks left Sheffield United for Bournemouth for £10 million, and Jarrod Bowen left Hull City for West Ham for £23 million in January.
Premier League teams are starting to hold the Championship in higher regard, and the success of some of the players that have come out of the second flight hints that if a player performs well in the Championship, they are more likely to perform well in the Premier League than ever before.
In terms of players that Premier League clubs should be looking at this summer, the most noticeable of them all is Brentford’s Saïd Benrahma, arguably the best player in the Championship.
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The winger (who can play on either) flank was born in Aïn Témouchent, Algeria and is 24 years old. He started his career at NRB Bethioua, whilst starring for Balma, Colomiers and Nice later on. He moved to Brentford in July 2018 for just £1.5 million and has taken the Championship by storm, scoring 20 Championship goals in under two seasons for the Bees.
The Algerian has been linked with Aston Villa on occasions but his stock has risen recently and Arsenal are reportedly interested. The Gunners would have to pay over £20 million for Benrahma’s signature, but he may be better suited to go to a lower placed club to secure more game time.
With Theo Walcott underperforming on Everton’s right flank, the Toffees will be looking for a better option this summer and Saïd Benrahma could be their man.
One player who has seemingly gone under the radar is Bristol City’s Niclas Eliasson. The Swedish left winger is also 24 and has experienced an upturn in form this season under Lee Johnson. He joined Bristol City in August 2017 for £1.8 million and has improved every year since.
His main asset is his crossing ability and he is comfortably two-footed. As we have recently seen Jarrod Bowen do in the Championship and Premier League, Eliasson loves to cut in on his right or left foot (depending on which flank he is playing on) and cross or shoot from this position.
Whilst not quite being worthy of a big money move to a top six club, Niclas Eliasson is certainly a player that some Premier League teams should be looking at, and the likes of Newcastle, Crystal Palace and Brighton could benefit from Eliasson’s trickery and delivery from out wide. The Swede also wouldn’t break the bank, as it wouldn’t take more than £10 million to acquire him.
For teams who need a new right back this summer, Nottingham Forest’s Matty Cash is the answer. At just 22, Cash has performed fantastically down Forest’s right flank this season having been converted to a right-back from a right-winger by manager, Sabri Lamouchi.
In 2017, Cash was linked with Chelsea for £5 million and RB Leipzig offered £7 million for the then winger, but they were rejected and Cash extended his contract at Forest to 2021. This past January, both AC Milan and West Ham bid over £10 million for Cash, but he remained in Nottingham.
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The Englishman is incredibly fast and his defensive work has improved dramatically since his utilisation as a right-back. Cash is bound to leave Forest and the Championship this summer (unless Forest go up and offer him a new deal) and many Premier League clubs will be after him but it will probably cost over £15 million.
It is most likely that West Ham will sign him as they need an improvement at right back, although Everton could be interested if they decide to not sign Djibril Sidibé on a permanent deal.
There are clearly other players that Premier League teams should look at such as Eberechi Eze, Ollie Watkins, Brice Samba and many more although Benrahma, Cash and Eliasson stand out as the best/ most underrated deals.
By: George Grieve
Photo: Gabriel Fraga