Scouting Spotlight: Houssem Aouar, Cenk Tosun, Donny van de Beek
Scouting Spotlight takes a look at the new star at Lyon, the man who has Besiktas firing on all cylinders, and a gem from Ajax.
Houssem Aouar - Lyon
Another shining example of the abundance of talent in Lyon's academy, Aouar joined the club as an 11-year-old after starting out at Nabil Fekir's former youth team, AC Villeurbanne. He made his first-team debut last season and has continued to impress in the current campaign.
A versatile midfielder with excellent technique, Aouar has already played in a number of positions for Lyon this season. He is equally at home in a deep-lying central role as he is on the left flank where, despite not being the quickest, he uses his dribbling skills to evade defenders and drift infield.
The 19-year-old possesses the vision to unlock defences, a quality best exemplified by his contribution to the third goal in Lyon's 5-0 thrashing of Saint-Etienne in November. Picking up the ball in the opposition half, he played a brilliant 30-yard pass inside the full-back allowing Kenny Tete to race in and tee up Mariano.
Aouar also has an eye for goal, claiming a brace against Amiens at the weekend when he displayed composure beyond his years to complete a 2-1 fightback victory for Lyon.
After scoring on his first start of the campaign in a 3-3 draw against Dijon back in September, Aouar has been a regular for Bruno Genesio's side as they look to rein in Paris Saint-Germain at the top of Ligue 1.
He has claimed four goals and three assists so far, helping Lyon defeat reigning champions Monaco and claim 5-0 away victories against Troyes, Saint-Etienne and Nice. The midfielder's late strikes against Amiens on Sunday, twice bursting into the box to find the net, underlined his determination and importance to a team packed with young talent.
Where would he fit in?
Liverpool and Arsenal have both been linked with Aouar in recent weeks, but the Premier League duo will need to fight off Barcelona, who have been scouting his progress in Ligue 1. It's possible the Catalan giants could look to the France Under-21 international as a long-term midfield solution if they fail to land Philippe Coutinho.
Cenk Tosun - Besiktas
A German-born Turkey international, Tosun started out at Eintracht Frankfurt before enjoying a productive Super Lig spell with Gaziantepspor. That earned the striker a move to Besiktas in 2014, where his goals have helped claim back-to-back league titles.
A powerful, direct forward, Tosun's range of attributes enable him to fit into a number of different tactical systems. He is confident with the ball at his feet, either running at opponents or holding it with his back to goal, and makes well-timed runs into the box.
The 26-year-old can score various types of goal, using his strength in the air or demonstrating his poacher's instinct around the six-yard box. He will often come deep to help instigate attacking moves and then drive towards goal to get on the end of the final pass.
As a striker who is constantly on the move, Tosun pulls defenders out of position to create space in the final third. He is also an expert from the penalty spot -- which might explain why Crystal Palace have been credited with an interest.
Following respectable returns in his first two years at Besiktas, Tosun exploded last season with 20 goals and five assists in 33 Super Lig matches. He has maintained his form in the current campaign with 11 goals in all competitions so far, including a brace in a 2-1 victory away to Monaco in the Champions League that helped book Besiktas' place in the round of 16.
His opening goal in the recent clash against Galatasaray set Besiktas on the way to a resounding 3-0 win as they look to close the gap to the league leaders before juggling domestic and European commitments again in February.
Where would he fit in?
It appears Palace's interest in the £20 million-rated hitman could be trumped by the likes of Chelsea and Juventus joining the race for his signature. A move to Everton, Newcastle or Valencia seems more likely, although Besiktas will fight to keep the forward ahead of their Champions League knockout tie against Bayern Munich.
Donny van de Beek - Ajax
Van de Beek made his debut for Ajax in 2015 and featured off the bench in last season's Europa League final. He has caught the eye this year with his goal scoring displays in central midfield and has been linked with a host of clubs across Europe.
Van de Beek's blend of defensive diligence and attacking instinct have seen him establish himself as a key player for Ajax. His contribution going forward, with five goals in his last four appearances, has been the highlight, but his work in winning the ball back is pivotal to starting attacks from deep.
The 20-year-old's excellent close control allows him to receive the ball on the move and turn defenders to create space around the box. He also has an eye for a killer pass, threading in Ajax's wide forwards to cut crosses back into the centre.
His late runs into the penalty area are reminiscent of Paul Scholes at Manchester United, demonstrating a knack of being in the right place at the right time.
After failing to find the net in 29 appearances last season, Van de Beek has hit a purple patch in the current campaign. With eight goals in all competitions, including a hat trick in the 8-0 thrashing of NAC Breda, the midfielder has stepped up following the departure of manager Peter Bosz and a host of first-team players -- Davy Klaassen in particular -- during the summer.
Van de Beek wrapped up Ajax's 3-0 win over PSV Eindhoven at the weekend, closing the gap to the Eredivisie leaders to seven points.
Where would he fit in?
Tottenham and Manchester United have been linked with January moves for Van de Beek, with both clubs also tracking his Ajax teammate Justin Kluivert. With Bayern Munich and Barcelona also reportedly sniffing around the midfielder, who earned his first Netherlands cap in November, it could lead to a bidding war next summer.
Matthew Stanger covers European football for ESPN and is the editor of The Set Pieces. Twitter: @MatthewStanger