Scouting Spotlight: Gaston Pereiro, Jorge, Nicolo Barella
Which players are attracting attention in Europe's biggest leagues? Introducing Scouting Spotlight, looking at three players each week whose performances are making headlines ...
Gaston Pereiro -- PSV Eindhoven
After helping Nacional claim their first title in three years, Pereiro left his native Uruguay in 2015 to join PSV Eindhoven. Handed the No. 7 jersey following Memphis Depay's move to Manchester United, the attacking midfielder quickly settled into his new environment and played an important role in Phillip Cocu's side winning the Eredivisie in his first season.
Described as a "multi-functional" player by his manager, Pereiro is a calculated forward with quick feet and excellent awareness in the final third. He has a tattoo of former Nacional teammate and Uruguay legend Alvaro Recoba on his arm but Gaston Ramirez is the compatriot whose style he embodies most.
Displaying the same languid movement as the former Southampton playmaker, Pereiro can play on either flank to deliver teasing crosses with his left foot or cut inside and fire at goal. The 22-year-old likes to shoot from distance but usually opts for precision over power. Playing alongside Recoba in Montevideo, he would stay behind after training to work on his technique and imitate his idol's renowned set-piece skills.
On his first start for PSV in October 2015, Pereiro announced his arrival with both goals in a 2-1 victory away to Ajax. He ended his first season with 11 goals and three assists, which remains his greatest return in red and white stripes.
The Uruguayan followed up with another 10 strikes last year and has started the current campaign in encouraging form. He demonstrated his big-game mentality once more on Sunday, scoring against Feyenoord with a cushioned volley to inflict a first league defeat of the season on the reigning champions.
Where would he fit in?
Pereiro was one of four youngsters to travel from Nacional to Liverpool in 2012 as part of a relationship established by former Anfield sporting director Damien Comolli when he signed Sebastian Coates.
Nothing came of that trial, but Pereiro's performances at PSV have since attracted Premier League interest. Manchester City have been linked with a move, but Arsenal stand to benefit most from pursuing a player who has been likened to Robin van Persie.
Jorge - Monaco
Signed from Flamengo in January, Jorge's first-team promotion at Monaco has been fast-tracked following the sale of Benjamin Mendy to Manchester City. The 21-year-old has looked an able replacement so far, helping the French champions to five wins from their first six Ligue 1 matches.
As Mendy's understudy at Monaco last season, Jorge has the same proclivity for venturing forward down the left wing to provide an overlap for Thomas Lemar. He can play with both feet, allowing him to dribble down the outside of his opposing full-back or come inside to hook in crosses with his right foot.
A former teammate of Brazil international Juan, who made more than 300 appearances for Bayer Leverkusen and Roma, the youngster gained a good grounding in his positional sense at Flamengo, possessing the pace to track back and recover counter-attacks.
Jorge's slight frame belies a combative style that has already seen him pick up three bookings in Ligue 1 this year. His tackling can be reckless at times, but his anticipation often sees him capitalise on turnovers to give Monaco the initiative.
After setting up Radamel Falcao's equaliser en route to victory against Toulouse on the opening day, the only blip for Jorge came in a 4-0 defeat to Nice. He was caught out of position in the build-up to the penalty incident from which Mario Balotelli opened the scoring, and failed to cut out the cross for the Italian's second after half-time.
Despite some careless passing, the Brazilian helped Monaco regain their composure after that heavy loss with a 1-1 draw away to RB Leipzig in the Champions League. He claimed another assist for Falcao in Saturday's 3-0 stroll against Strasbourg with a typical burst down the left side and a driven low cross.
Where would he fit in?
It was reported that Monaco beat off competition from Manchester City, Liverpool and Inter Milan to sign Jorge for what looks to be a bargain €8.5 million fee last January.
It's unlikely he will be moving on soon and, as has been the case throughout the summer, his current owners are certain to make a significant profit when Premier League suitors eventually come calling.
Nicolo Barella - Cagliari
Still only 20, Barella is a regular in a Cagliari side that finished comfortably in mid-table last term after winning promotion from Serie B. He has played every minute of the Sardinian side's first four matches this season, attracting praise for his mature performances.
A skilful midfielder who shuttles up and down the left side of Cagliari's three-man midfield, Barella is at the heart of the team's transitions from defence to attack. At 5-foot-8, his low centre of gravity makes it difficult for opponents to tackle him, with Barella looking to carry the ball forward and create opportunities.
Although often positioned in wider areas, the youngster's dribbling skills and nimble feet are reminiscent of compatriot Marco Verratti. There have been comparisons to Esteban Cambiasso, too, and Barella displays the same scrappy style, relishing defensive duties despite his more attacking inclination.
He will want to improve on his disciplinary record, though, which saw him pick up 10 yellow cards in Serie A last season.
The midfielder's rise over the past 18 months has been well-documented, and he scored his first Serie A goal against SPAL at the weekend -- albeit not the prettiest strike -- to set Cagliari on their way to a 2-0 win.
His form has been recognised in Italy's national setup, with Barella helping the under-19s claim second place at the European Championship in 2016. In September, he made his debut for the U21s in a 3-0 defeat to Spain on the night before Verratti and the seniors were humbled by the same scoreline in Madrid.
Where would he fit in?
Juventus are known to be tracking Barella's development and, given his technique and style of play, it seems likely that he will remain in Italy.
Liverpool and Chelsea were linked with the youngster earlier this year, however, with Jurgen Klopp sending scouts to watch him in a 1-0 defeat to Fiorentina in March. With a contract until 2021, Cagliari are certain to command a sizeable fee.
Matthew Stanger covers European football for ESPN and is the editor of The Set Pieces. Twitter: @MatthewStanger