Scouting spotlight looks at a Roma academy graduate attracting Premier League interest, a World Cup hopeful for Argentina and a youngster on Arsenal’s radar.
Lorenzo Pellegrini, Roma
After starting out in Roma’s youth setup, Pellegrini made his Serie A breakthrough during a two-year spell with Sassuolo. His performances in the 2016-17 campaign prompted Roma to exercise their buyback clause, with Pellegrini arriving alongside manager Eusebio Di Francesco.
A technically gifted, two-footed central midfielder, Pellegrini has a range of strengths to his game. With an impressive first touch, he is comfortable receiving the ball under pressure, possessing quick feet to shift away from the opposition.
The 21-year-old occasionally pops up wide on the right, demonstrating his dribbling skills and ability to deliver dangerous crosses to Edin Dzeko. He usually features as a driving force in the centre of the pitch, however, carrying the ball forward and finding teammates’ runs with raking passes.
Although he has an eye for goal, scoring a breakaway strike in a recent 3-0 win over Torino, Pellegrini remains diligent in his defensive duties. He uses his tall frame to jostle for possession in midfield, looking to play quick passes to set Roma on the counter-attack.
Pellegrini has started 19 matches for Roma in Serie A, but has largely been left on the bench in the Champions League, watching his team’s 5-2 defeat to Liverpool on Tuesday.
He has made an impact in the league, setting up winning goals against Verona and Bologna, and assisting Dzeko’s opening strike in a 2-0 victory over AC Milan at the San Siro.
With three goals and four assists in Serie A this season, following six strikes and six assists for Sassuolo last term, Pellegrini has provided a telling contribution as he continues to develop his game under Di Francesco.
Where would he fit in?
According to various reports, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and Juventus have all sent scouts to watch Pellegrini with a view to activating his €25m release clause in the summer.
Despite being considered as a potential replacement for the out-of-contract Emre Can at Anfield, the Italy international has outlined his intention to follow in the footsteps of Francesco Totti and Daniele de Rossi by bringing success to Roma.
Mauricio Lemos (Sassuolo, on loan from Las Palmas)
Tipped for a bright future last season, things turned sour for Lemos and Las Palmas this term with the Canary Islands side tumbling out of La Liga. Lemos was loaned to Sassuolo in January and, after a slow start, he is now beginning to show his potential.
Displaying both power and poise at the heart of defence, Lemos is the latest in a long line of tenacious Uruguayan centre-backs.
The 22-year-old is an imposing figure, sticking tight to his opponents and forcing them to play with their back to goal. He can go to ground too easily at times, but is alert to danger and exhibits a sound positioning sense to cut out crosses.
Similar to his countryman Diego Godin, Lemos is comfortable with the ball at his feet. He will often look to drive into midfield and play searching passes to the flanks to put his team on the attack.
He is also capable of contributing at the other end of the pitch, claiming five goals for Las Palmas last season, including a superb free-kick against Valencia.
After failing to impress Paco Jemez following the coach’s appointment at Las Palmas in December, Lemos was loaned to Sassuolo at the end of the winter transfer window.
His first start saw the Serie A minnows suffer a 7-0 thrashing by Juventus but, after two months on the bench, Lemos has been given another chance to impress.
The Uruguayan’s return to the first XI has coincided with an upturn in form for Sassuolo as they held AC Milan to a 1-1 draw at the San Siro and ground out 1-0 wins over Fiorentina and Verona, with Lemos volleying home the winner in the latter.
He will be aiming to maintain his performance level in the final four games to try and secure a late call-up to Oscar Tabarez’s World Cup squad.
Where would he fit in?
Everton were linked with a move for Lemos last year, while it has been reported that he rejected Barcelona in 2016 in order to gain more first-team experience at Las Palmas.
Sassuolo have an option to turn the defender’s loan into a permanent deal, but they are expected to face rival interest now his stock is on the rise once again.
Allan Saint-Maximin, Nice
Monaco snapped up Saint-Maximin from Saint-Etienne in 2015, but he made only one appearance for the club between loan spells to Hannover and Bastia. The France under-21 international joined Nice for a reported €10m last summer, where he is gradually beginning to prove his quality.
An unpredictable winger with lightning pace, Saint-Maximin is an explosive but raw talent. He has featured across the front line for Nice this season, but is best suited to a role on the left, from where he can cut inside to devastating effect.
The 21-year-old likes to showcase his repertoire of tricks and flicks — with only Neymar attempting more dribbles per game in Ligue 1 this year — but he can be guilty of overcomplicating things and playing himself into trouble.
Such is his speed that Saint-Maximin’s teammates can struggle to keep up with his flying runs down the flanks, with the youngster often taking a direct route to goal and unleashing powerful strikes from the edge of the box.
His defensive contribution is questionable, but he possesses impressive upper body strength to shield the ball in wide areas and relieve pressure on his team.
With two goals and seven assists in 22 Ligue 1 starts, Nice have seen a reasonable return on their record investment last summer.
Lucien Favre will still hope to see more end product from Saint-Maximin, however, with the youngster yet to realise his full potential.
That potential was evident in Nice’s recent 2-1 defeat to Paris Saint-Germain, when Saint-Maximin burst down to right before calmly slotting home to give Favre’s side an early lead.
The strike highlighted the winger’s counter-attacking quality, using his speed and strength to get beyond the back line and close in on goal.
Where would he fit in?
Tottenham were thought to be keen on Saint-Maximin before he joined Nice last summer, but that interest has likely been ended by Lucas Moura’s arrival from PSG.
Saint-Maximin has previously spoken about how he rejected Arsenal when he was a youngster at Saint-Etienne and, with Favre a candidate to replace Arsene Wenger, perhaps a move to the Emirates Stadium could still materialise.
Matthew Stanger covers European football for ESPN and is the editor of The Set Pieces. Twitter: @MatthewStanger