An XI of thriving Premier League loanees who should start for their parent clubs next season

Matt Stead
Feyenoord forward Yankuba Minteh, Brighton manager Roberto De Zerbi and Chelsea defender Ian Maatsen, who is on loan at Dortmund
Some Premier League loanees are surely just being primed for next season

One player Pep Guardiola earmarked for a starting role next season ‘betrays’ him, while Chelsea and Brighton should trust their loanees more next season.


GOALKEEPER: Carl Rushworth (Brighton, on loan at Swansea)
No Premier League club has ever rotated their starting goalkeeper more often than Brighton in Roberto De Zerbi’s first – and perhaps only – full season as manager. Neither Bart Verbruggen nor Jason Steele have started more than four consecutive games in all competitions and the former’s recent diplomatic admission that such a policy “has its challenges” was telling.

Both keepers have inevitably suffered for the unpredictability over their positions and the solution moving forward, particularly with the European plate unlikely to be in need of spinning next season, could be to establish a true first choice. And perhaps a line could be drawn under the whole thing by giving England U21 shot-stopper Rushworth a chance when he returns from his fourth loan, this time with Championship mid-table dwellers Swansea.

The Welsh club would prefer to keep Rushworth for at least another season. But after consecutive campaigns impressing in League Two (Walsall), League One (Lincoln City) and now the second tier, it could be time for the 22-year-old to make the final step before eventually joining Chelsea.

READ MOREWho is the best goalkeeper in the Premier League in 2023/24?


RIGHT-BACK: Yan Couto (Manchester City, on loan at Girona)
There are a few Girona toys Manchester City might want to loot from their multi-club ownership younger sibling. Artem Dovbyk has been exceptional in Spain and an unlikely, fading La Liga title challenge has been fuelled in large part by the central-midfield excellence of Aleix Garcia. Savio is already expected to make the Etihad move this summer.

The hope will be that Couto does the same. In his third separate spell with Girona, the right-back trails only three players for La Liga assists and has earned international recognition with Brazil, making his debut in October. His rise would ordinarily have been timed perfectly to take over from Kyle Walker soon, but the 21-year-old ‘betrays’ Guardiola with his own plans.


CENTRE-BACK: Tom Holmes (Luton, on loan at Reading)
The transfer restraint Luton have shown in their first season as a Premier League club was underlined in January, when Reading vice-captain Holmes was signed from and sent straight back to the Royals to continue his development on loan.

A popular player at the Madejski, a long-term injury has unfortunately sidelined Holmes for much of this League One season but his aggressive style would mesh well at Luton. If points deductions and hilariously late goals are not enough to save the Hatters from relegation, the 24-year-old could slot straight into a remodelled Championship defence.


CENTRE-BACK: Yerson Mosquera (Wolves, on loan at Villarreal)
Their precarious financial standing means Wolves will likely have to consider more major sales this summer, while investing wisely on players who offer more value for money. The other side of that coin might be in salvaging some of those high-profile loanees from a list which includes Fabio Silva, Daniel Podence, Goncalo Guedes, Sasa Kalajdzic, Ki-Jana Hoever and Chiquinho.

One of those who could benefit from O’Neil’s brand of coaching is Mosquera, signed on a five-year deal in June 2021 but yet to make his Premier League debut. The centre-half has had more loan clubs than Wolves appearances; the one game he did play for the club came under Bruno Lage in the League Cup and ended after nine minutes due to injury.

Villarreal gave the 22-year-old a platform in January and have lost just once since. He should absolutely be a Yerson of interest to Wolves at the very least.


LEFT-BACK: Ian Maatsen (Chelsea, on loan at Dortmund)
The danger, as with any homegrown Chelsea player, is that the potential pure profit is too good to turn down. There will be no summer wiggle room unless the Blues offload some of those players, with Conor Gallagher in the perennial crosshairs.

Chelsea have rejected £30m offers for Maatsen before and might not be moved to do so again. No buy option exists in the fine print of the Dutchman’s loan to Dortmund but the new contract he signed at Stamford Bridge before leaving contains a £35m release clause.

The Blues do, however, need a competent and reliable left-back. Ben Chilwell and Marc Cucurella seem entirely unwilling to fill that role but Maatsen – Champions League mistake against Atletico notwithstanding – has surely earned the opportunity.

Chelsea could sell Chilwell
Chelsea pair Ian Maatsen and Ben Chilwell.


RIGHT-WINGER: Yankuba Minteh (Newcastle, on loan at Feyenoord)
“Would I like to play for Feyenoord next season? I don’t know. Feyenoord are a great club and if I get the opportunity, I would like to stay, but it depends on Newcastle United’s decision.”

Minteh timed those teasing comments on his future wonderfully. The 19-year-old had just scored two goals and assisted another in a ruthless deconstruction of Ajax, taking his personal tally for the season to 10 and four respectively. That includes his first Champions League goal and an equaliser away at dominant Eredivisie leaders Ajax.

Another year at Feyenoord does seem probable; while he is thriving in the Netherlands, trusting a teenager to make that leap to the Premier League after one season at a vaguely scalable level would rank somewhere between brave and stupid. But Minteh even giving Newcastle a question to ponder over the summer is testament to his growth.


CENTRAL MIDFIELDER: Flynn Downes (West Ham, on loan at Southampton)
Even with the sale of Declan Rice this summer, Downes “knew that it would be tough” getting into a West Ham midfield augmented by the signings of Edson Alvarez and James Ward-Prowse. The 25-year-old looked like a Kalvin Phillips-level pointless signing the previous season having summarily failed to earn the trust and faith of David Moyes, and subsequently clutched at his Russell Martin safety blanket.

He has been excellent for Southampton since and was only ever likely to be; Downes is a supreme Championship midfielder under the tutelage of his ideal manager. The point is whether Moyes – who is “really pleased he’s doing well” on the coast – has been sufficiently convinced. Or indeed whether he is the coach who will need convincing come the summer.


CENTRAL MIDFIELDER: Scott Twine (Burnley, on loan at Bristol City)
Vincent Kompany explained that a summer loan move for Twine “would be ideal” after Burnley’s promotion as he would “get loads of game time” with an ambitious Hull side in the Championship. The young midfielder was used in a Championship-winning season but only sparsely, with injury playing a part.

The plan has worked in a roundabout way. Twine scored four goals and assisted three for the Tigers by January, but Burnley recalled a player they felt was being used in the wrong position. He remains camped in the Championship, however, linking up with Liam Manning, who unlocked his best version at MK Dons, by joining Bristol City.

Twine has suffered with injuries again this campaign but Burnley’s probable relegation could make his increased Championship experience crucial for a summer rebuild.


LEFT-WINGER: Abdallah Sima (Brighton, on loan at Rangers)
It underlines how much has changed at Brighton in such a short space of time than Sima was a Dan Ashworth signing eyed for a long-term role under Graham Potter. The figures overseeing his development have changed, but not the idea itself.

Gordon Green, Pathway Development Manager for the Seagulls, recently noted that the forward “has done really well and we are really happy with him”. Even with a hamstring injury sidelining him for a couple of months, Sima has scored 16 goals and assisted two in Scotland.

Brighton have found success letting others borrow and polish their gems recently. The hope is that Sima can follow Moises Caicedo, Alexis Mac Allister, Kaoru Mitoma, Simon Adingra and Jan Paul van Hecke in maximising the subsequent first-team opportunity when he returns.


CENTRE-FORWARD: Deniz Undav (Brighton, on loan at Stuttgart)
The same stands for Undav, whose route has already been somewhat unconventional. The 27-year-old had a phenomenal time with sister club Union SG and did show glimpses of that excellence for Brighton last season, scoring five goals in relatively few minutes. But it was mutually agreed that another loan would serve him best in the summer to allow Evan Ferguson, Joao Pedro and Danny Welbeck enough breathing space.

It is impossible to argue that the wrong decision was made. Undav has fired Stuttgart’s Champions League qualification push with a scoring rate trailing only Serhou Guirassy, Harry Kane, Cristhian Stuani, Lautaro Martinez and Lois Openda of the regular starters across Europe’s top five leagues.

“I would like him to stay with us and I think next season he can play in the first XI a lot of times,” De Zerbi said recently, adding: “He is improving. He is a different player to what I found when I came to Brighton.” The only variable seems to be whether the manager himself will be the one who benefits.

READ MORE: Undav high in ranking of Dan Ashworth signings by chance of following him to Man Utd


CENTRE-FORWARD: David Datro Fofana (Chelsea, on loan at Burnley)
Nicolas Jackson has not been close to as bad as his harshest critics would claim. His nine goals and three assists were nudged along by Ange Postecoglou’s glorious high defensive line in November but for a player leading the line of a consistent side in his second full professional top-flight season, that return is admirable.

The question is whether any player would have made a similar impact when dropped into a Chelsea team whose problem has never been creating chances. Watching Fofana score four goals and generally impress for a relegation-bound side, it is not difficult to imagine the 21-year-old faring better.

Chelsea would inevitably prefer to sign a more experienced and consistent striker option than both, but Fofana has ensured he cannot be ignored as an option.