As with all January transfer windows, many names have cropped up throughout the month that you may well have been unfamiliar with, or just downright never heard of.
Some of football’s biggest current stars emerged from outside of the public eye, the likes of Vinicius Junior and Jadon Sancho are making their names at Europe’s biggest sides, having been plucked from the unknown prior to their sudden respective rises.
As clubs scour the footballing world in search of the next big talent, we take a look at some of Europe’s best talents that you, more likely than not, have never heard of.
8. Orkun Kokçu – Feyenoord
18-year-old Dutchman Orkan Kokcu has been receiving rave reports over in the Netherlands after making his breakthrough at Feyenoord this season.
His progression into the senior side comes off the back of his astonishing statistics for his side’s Under-19s last season. If scoring 17 goals wasn’t impressive enough, the attacking midfielder racked up a ridiculous 34 assists for De Stadionclub.
He made his first team debut coming on a substitute in a 4-0 win over VV Gemert, showcasing his talent once more by bagging a goal and claiming an assist. No wonder major European clubs have been put on alert.
7. Alex Meret – Napoli
Napoli forked out around £20m to sign Udinese’s 21-year-old goalkeeper Alex Meret in July last year, only for the youngster to cruelly break his arm in training just days after his arrival. He missed five months out through injury in which time David Ospina has taken the number one spot in Naples.
However, the Italian boasts unquestionable talent. He spent the past two seasons on loan at SPAL, helping them earn promotion from Serie B in 2016/17, conceding just 26 goals in 30 games. In his second season he helped keep the club in the top flight with 13 appearances, while also making his Serie A debut. Now back in the fold, he will offer Ospina stiff competition in Carlo Ancelotti’s side.
6. Sandro Tonali – Brescia
Operating in the ‘regista’ role, a position often attributed to footballing great Andrea Pirlo, Tonali likes to play the deep-lying playmaker role from which he can spread the ball with his impressive rang of passing. Four goals and five assists across two seasons with Brescia has prompted Jurgen Klopp to act, with the young Italian now hot property across Europe.
5. Bjorn Engels – Reims (On Loan From Olympiakos)
Belgian central defender Bjorn Engels has been in imperious form for Reims this term, as the club have recorded nine clean sheets in 22 games, shipping just 20 goals in that time.
On loan from Olympiakos, the 24-year-old has been part of Reims side that set themselves up as a defensive unit, following their promotion from Ligue 2 last year. They currently occupy a very commendable ninth position in the table, much due to the work of their loanee, who has also chipped in with a goal this season.
His six foot, four inch frame is tough enough for any striker to come up against, yet his ability on the ball has been a key improvement in his game since joining Reims.
4. Duvan Zapata – Atalanta
The Colombian forward has been in the game for a few years now, but this season has really began to assert himself on the European stage.
Having joined Napoli in 2013, the striker has been on loan across Italy for the last four years, since failing to break into the first team in Naples. After a successful season at Sampdoria, he moved to Atalanta in the summer, and has since gone from strength to strength.
With 17 goals in his last ten games, it’s fair to say that the player has found a new lease of life in the north of Italy.
3. Pablo Sarabia – Sevilla
Sevilla’s impressive form this season has often been attributed to the likes of Ever Banega, Andre Silva, Wissam Ben Yedder and Aleix Vidal, with Pablo Sarabia being unfairly overlooked.
The 26-year-old attacking midfielder has been outstanding for Los Hispalense this season, scoring 17 goals in all competitions and notching seven assists as Sevilla sit fourth in La Liga and have qualified for the Europa League last 32.
The pacy playmaker is unnoticed at present, but should be continue this form throughout the season, will have plenty of suitors come the summer.
2. Joao Felix Sequeira – Benfica
Unless you’re well-versed in Portuguese football, you’re probably unaware of Benfica’s 19-year-old Joao Felix Sequeira. That said, if the attacking midfielder continues with the kind of form he is in now, it won’t be long before he’s known all across Europe.
Having been with the club since 2015, the youngster has worked his way up through their youth sides before breaking into the first team this term. He has sparkled for the Primeira Liga side since, with fans likening him to ex-player Rui Costa.
He’s already scored four goals and assisted one further, as Benfica sit five points off leaders Porto in second place.
1. Sebastien Haller – Eintracht Frankfurt
The player on everyone’s lips in the Bundesliga at the moment is undoubtedly Jadon Sancho, however, another forward has gone under the radar this season in the shape of French striker Sebastien Haller.
The 24-year-old joined the German side from FC Utrecht in the summer of 2017, scoring 13 goals and registering six assists in an impressive debut campaign. This season the striker has improved even further though, the frontman has already bagged 14 goals in all competitions this term, while his eight assists rank in second in the Bundesliga assists charts.
Strong in the challenge and astute in his finishing, Haller is one to look out for.