Marco Asensio, Jeremie Boga and Alen Halilovic among five loanees to watch
First-team football can be hard to come by for young players on the books of big clubs, and loan moves therefore provide them with a welcome opportunity to hone their talent in a competitive environment. Here are five promising youngsters who are likely to get their first prolonged exposure to top-flight football following recent loan moves to teams in the big five leagues.
Marco Asensio | 19 | Real Madrid to Espanyol
Real Madrid moved swiftly to beat Barcelona to the signing of Asensio last December. He remained on loan at Mallorca until the end of the campaign and posted a solid return of six goals and eight assists for a side who narrowly avoided relegation to the third tier. Impressive performances during Spain's success in the European Under-19 Championship this summer saw numerous clubs register an interest in taking him on loan.
It was Espanyol who won the race for the 19-year-old. Manager Sergio Gonzalez now has the task of guiding this highly talented attacking midfielder through his first season of top-flight football and his first year away from the family and friends he grew up with in Mallorca.
With incisive dribbling skills, excellent vision and the ability to strike accurate efforts on goal, Asensio is certainly capable of making a strong impact during his debut campaign in La Liga.
Jeremie Boga | 18 | Chelsea to Rennes
Boga was a key member of the Chelsea youth sides which triumphed in both the FA Youth Cup and the UEFA Youth League last season. He was involved in all three goals in the final of the latter competition, with his lovely scooped cross for the second, displaying the ingenuity inherent in his play.
The 18-year-old's performances throughout the campaign indicated he was ready to make the step up to senior football.
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His first opportunity to do so comes in the form of a return to his homeland in France to join Rennes on a one-year deal. Coach Philippe Montanier was looking for players with the ability to operate in tight spaces, and Boga, with his wonderfully slick dribbling skills, certainly fits the bill. Indeed, there is the tantalising prospect of he and fellow loanee Juan Fernando Quintero (22, of Porto) forming an attractive, productive and creative partnership.
Nathaniel Chalobah | 20 | Chelsea to Napoli
Chalobah has represented England at every youth level from Under-16 upwards and has spent the past three seasons out on loan at a variety of largely Championship clubs yet still looks no closer to earning himself a place in the Chelsea first team. Indeed, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, a year his junior, now looks the more likely to make that breakthrough. He was therefore more than happy to join Napoli on loan on the last day of the transfer window.
Napoli coach Maurizio Sarri admitted he had not seen Chalobah in action prior to his arrival, but he will soon become aware of the versatility of the club's new recruit. The 20-year-old is equally at home in the centre of defence or midfield, although the latter is likely to be his long-term home, and provides an assured and athletic presence in either role. With some fine-tuning, he is capable of making a good impression in Serie A.
Alen Halilovic | 19 | Barcelona to Sporting Gijon
Halilovic didn't enjoy the easiest of introductions to Spanish football following his move from Dinamo Zagreb to Barcelona last summer. The 5-foot-7 left-footed attacking midfielder provided sporadic evidence of his sublime dribbling ability and keen eye for a pass with Barcelona's B team but was dragged down by the directionless nature of a season ending with the team's relegation to the third tier. The Croatian's confidence dimmed as the campaign wore on.
His season-long loan to Sporting Gijón, coached by former Barcelona centre-back Abelardo, should therefore be beneficial to both parties. The hope is the 19-year-old will learn how to put his obvious talent to best use in a collective context as part of a side whose promotion campaign was built upon good organisation and a strong work ethic, while the club will benefit from moments of quality being the difference between staying up or not.
Hachim Mastour | 17 | AC Milan to Malaga
Malaga have taken on an interesting project in the form of AC Milan attacking midfielder Mastour, who signed on a two-year loan deal with an option to buy (set at €5 million) on the final day of the European transfer window.
The 17-year-old has not yet made an official first-team appearance at club level but became Morocco's youngest ever international when he came off the bench for the final two minutes of their 1-0 win over Libya in June.
There are still some bureaucratic hurdles to overcome before Mastour can make his debut, as apparently Malaga's coaching staff didn't want him but the team's owners still went ahead with the transfer, according to reports. Still, he has already begun training with the squad and will hope to earn himself a place in the plans of coach Javi Gracia, despite rumours of internal tensions regarding the circumstances of his arrival.
He is unlikely to be a regular starter but with excellent technical attributes and an accurate shot at his disposal, Mastour could prove to be a good wild card off the bench.
Nick Dorrington is a freelance football writer. Twitter: @chewingthecoca.