This week has seen the publishing of The Guardian’s Next Generation class. The paper picks the best first-year scholars from all 20 Premier League clubs, tipping them for a bright future in the game.
Of course, it is hard to get right. But previous names on the list have included Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Dominic Solanke – all of whom have since received England call-ups.
So it is a fairly impressive gauge of talented footballers in the Premier League.
Everton’s previous nominations have included Kieran Dowell and Alex Denny, both players tipped to potentially have a first-team future with the club.
This year’s entry is no different. Welsh under-17 captain Ryan Astley was given the nod. Recently capped by his country at under-19 level, the central defender is looking like a future star at Finch Farm.
But Everton have a problem.
“I can’t remember an under-16 coming in and starting a game at this level since I’ve been here but I thought he was the best player on the pitch. It was a stunning performance.”
It seems they are having to stave off interest in his services from elsewhere. The Mirror recently reported that Arsenal were readying a professional contract offer for the player, with Everton believed to have been caught napping on a deal of their own. The defender turned 16 earlier this month, meaning he is now eligible for professional terms.
Everton must ensure they keep the player. At just 16-years-old he is already catching the eye of opposing teams and playing at a much higher age group on the international scene. What Everton have here, is a pedigree talent. They must not let him slip through their fingers.