David Brooks, James Maddison and Daniel James have all made the step up from the Championship to impress for Premier League clubs over recent seasons. QPR midfielder Eberechi Eze could soon join that exclusive list, with reports revealing a host of top-flight English clubs are keen on signing the 21-year-old when the transfer window reopens.
Crystal Palace, Sheffield United and Tottenham Hotspur are keeping tabs on the fleet-footed maestro, though it is the latter who are reportedly leading the race to sign him. However, the £20million price tag is proving to be problematic. The Express claim the interested clubs aren’t prepared to part with such an amount and instead value him at closer to £15million.
In a recent interview with Football.London, Les Ferdinand, the director of football at Loftus Road, revealed the Championship club will struggle to keep hold of their starlet: “It’s going to be very difficult. When you have a player of his quality doing well in your team nobody wants to see him go.
“I had to fend off a few offers in the January window and, I'm sure if he continues to play in the manner he is playing and adds a few more goals to his game, I'm expecting us to get offers during the summer.”
QPR have every right to hold off for the higher valuation.
Manchester United splashed £15million to secure James from Swansea City and the Welsh winger only scored four goals in 33 appearances in the Championship. Brooks moved to Bournemouth in a deal rumoured to be worth in the region of £12million having only scored three times in England’s second tier. Maddison impressed for Norwich City, netting 14 times for the Canaries, before moving to Leicester City for £20million. And that was in the summer of 2018.
So far this season, Eze has 12 goals in 37 appearances for the Hoops. He’s also assisted eight times to take his goal involvement total to 20 for the campaign. The QPR No.10 is averaging a goal or an assist every 163 minutes for a team sat in 13th in the Championship.
Before crowning him as the best thing since sliced bread, it is worth noting that only seven of his 12 goals have arrived in open-play. When analysing a player and how easy it might be for them to transfer their current form over to a new team, you need to look at how sustainable their output is. There's no guarantee a player will be on set-piece duty after a transfer so looking at open-play goals only is the best way to view their numbers.
Eze is averaging, roughly, a goal every five matches and he's on par with his expected goals average. Despite his young age, he isn't wasteful. For those showing an interest in him, that trait will no doubt be viewed as a positive one. With more experience, he's likely going to sharpen up and this will see his output increase.
Deployed primarily on the left for QPR, Eze loves to cut inside onto his stronger right foot. A number of his goals this season have been scarily similar to the sort made famous by Thierry Henry. He leans back and calmly passes the ball into the back of the net with the inside of his foot. The 21-year-old is a natural at it these days.
But clubs are queuing up to sign him because of his goalscoring ability alone. The 21-year-old is an elite dribbler and creates chaos in the final third because of his directness. The graphic above shows where he attempts the majority of his dribbles and where he has the most success. Remarkably, in the area just outside the penalty box, Eze has a 100 per cent completion rate.
His ability to create space in that area of the pitch is invaluable. He might not be the most prolific but he doesn't have to be. He's a creator, just not in the traditional way of playing incisive and precise passes in and around the penalty area. He's more of the Wilfried Zaha mould, using trickery to create space. Just like the Palace winger, he's very, very effective at it.
Eze could thrive in the English top-flight. He should be given that opportunity sooner rather than later. And one club might grab themselves a bargain this summer.