Scouting Spotlight: Rodrigo, Florian Thauvin, Niclas Fullkrug
Rodrigo -- Valencia
A former Bolton Wanderers loanee, Rodrigo came through the ranks at Real Madrid before making a name for himself at Benfica. A move to Valencia in 2014 coincided with a tumultuous period in the club's history, but he is currently enjoying his best season in Spain under manager Marcelino.
A versatile forward who can play through the middle or on either flank, Rodrigo has largely been deployed in a central role this season. Owing to his speed and technical ability, the 26-year-old is the ideal foil for Simone Zaza, with the duo claiming 19 goals between them in La Liga.
Despite lacking a great physical presence, Rodrigo uses his close control to hold on to the ball and bring teammates into play, exemplified by his assist for Geoffrey Kondogbia in Valencia's 2-2 draw away to Real Madrid. He is also surprisingly effective in the air, finding space and making well-timed runs into the box.
While Zaza is a more traditional centre-forward, Rodrigo likes to drop deep to drag defenders out of position and exchange quick passes with the midfield to spark the counterattack. He is a composed finisher but strongest on his left side.
With nine goals and four assists, Rodrigo has been integral to Valencia's impressive start to the campaign. Los Che currently sit in third place, two points behind Atletico Madrid and eight points above fourth-placed Real Madrid. Only Barcelona have managed more goals than Marcelino's exciting attacking outfit.
After enduring a difficult run of two strikes in eight matches over December, Rodrigo was back among the goals against Deportivo La Coruna at the weekend. The Brazilian-born Spanish international teed up Goncalo Guedes for a somewhat fortunate opener, before securing a 2-1 victory with a deflected effort from the edge of the box.
Rodrigo's form has been recognised by Spain coach Julen Lopetegui, who handed the forward a recall in October 2017 some three years after his international debut. He scored in a 3-0 World Cup qualifying win over Albania and will now hope to earn a place in the squad that travels to Russia.
Where would he fit in?There was speculation in Spain of Manchester City submitting a €35 million offer in the summer as they sought to find cover for the departures of Nolito and Kelechi Iheanacho.
Arsenal and Liverpool have also been linked in the past, with several clubs watching to see if Rodrigo can maintain his performance level over the course of a full campaign. He has already bettered the tally of five goals and three assists he recorded last season.
Florian Thauvin -- Marseille
Following a brief, unhappy spell at Newcastle in 2015, Thauvin was loaned back to Marseille and returned on a permanent deal in the summer. He claimed an impressive 15-goal haul in Ligue 1 last season and already looks capable of beating that total.
A supremely gifted winger, Thauvin's ability has never been in doubt even though his attitude has previously been questioned. The 24-year-old looks to be at home in Marseille, however, haunting Ligue 1 defenders as he cuts in from the right flank on his favoured left foot.
Thauvin's greatest asset is his exceptional control, with the ball appearing glued to his feet at times. He has the poise and acceleration to glide past defenders, and the vision to create chances for teammates with eye-of-the-needle passes.
Capable of scoring superb solo strikes -- he hit the bar with a brilliant effort from just inside the opposition half against Rennes on Saturday -- Thauvin is also a threat sneaking in at the far post to take advantage of sleeping full-backs.
Thauvin was at the centre of the action at the weekend, winning a first-half penalty before seeing his kick magnificently saved by Rennes goalkeeper Tomas Koubek.
He made amends soon after with a smart pass for Valere Germain to open the scoring, and sealed a 3-0 victory by heading in at the back post after Morgan Sanson had doubled Marseille's lead.
A tally of nine goals and eight assists has helped Marseille climb to second place in Ligue 1 and cemented Thauvin's status as a late contender for France's World Cup squad.
Where would he fit in?
Despite his remarkable form, Premier League suitors may be wary of pursuing their interest in Thauvin following his time at Newcastle. As a 21-year-old he struggled to settle in England and lasted just five months before heading back to Marseille on loan.
After completing a permanent move last year, which reportedly involved a sizeable pay cut, the winger has since been linked with the Barcelona and Bayern Munich. Thauvin's talent is evident -- the question is whether he can show it anywhere other than the south of France.
Niclas Fullkrug -- Hannover 96
After spending most of his career in Germany's second tier, Fullkrug is adapting to life in the Bundesliga with Hannover 96. His hat trick against Mainz at the weekend reinforced the view that he has the quality to succeed at a higher level.
A powerful, physical presence at 6-foot-2, Fullkrug is more than simply a target man in Hannover's attack. The 24-year-old has the strength to protect the ball in the final third but can also drift wide to run at defenders and deliver dangerous crosses for teammates.
A mobile striker who enjoyed a breakthrough season in 2015-16 -- claiming 14 goals as 1. FC Nurnberg narrowly missed out on promotion from the 2. Bundesliga -- Fullkrug can finish on either foot and beat defenders with his aerial presence in the box.
Although he wasn't a regular in the first XI as Hannover bounced back to the Bundesliga at the first attempt last season, Fullkrug has been given a chance to impress in the current campaign. After a steady start, scoring twice as a second-half substitute to secure a 2-1 win at Augsburg in October, he has burst into life recently with six goals and one assist in his last six matches.
Brimming with confidence against Mainz at the weekend, Fullkrug claimed a perfect hat trick to earn a 3-2 victory for Hannover. While the striker's second came from the penalty spot, his first and third strikes -- a powerful near-post header and composed left-footed poacher's finish -- highlighted his range of strengths.
Where would he fit in?Newcastle were linked with a move in December, and in his current form Fullkrug would certainly aid the Magpies' survival bid. This is his first season playing at the top level in Germany, however, and it may be best to see how he develops before trying to tempt Hannover into a transfer.
Matthew Stanger covers European football for ESPN and is the editor of The Set Pieces. Twitter: @MatthewStanger