If you’ve read Skills from Brazil, then you know that Jamie’s friend Rafael Da Cruz is quite simply a master when it comes to spotting football talent. So, we thought we’d put him to the test and ask him to do a regular feature where he predicts which young players will ultimately go on to become the world’s greatest, so this is the place where we peer into football’s future.

My fourteenth Tip for the Top is…

Name: Dennis Praet

shutterstock_392381485Age: 24

Club and league: Sampdoria

Position: Attacking Midfielder

Strengths: Passing, creativity, vision

Height: 5’11”

Overall assessment: Belgian Praet broke through the famous Anderlecht academy at the same time as another huge prospect – current Monaco man Youri Tielemans – who’s touted to be the next Luka Modric. But his older compatriot Praet is just as good as the 21-year old but has gone under the radar a tad due to Tieleman’s previous Football Manager fame. A composed, silky-skilled advanced playmaker, Praet earned his chance in the Serie A after impressing at the heart of the Anderlecht midfield, dominating Pro League games with his ball-playing abilities and splitting defences apart with eye-catching passes and through balls.

At 5’11”, his main weaknesses lie in the aerial and physical departments, but one could liken him to Manchester City’s Kevin de Bruyne; not the most aerially nor physically imposing, but a hell of a magician with the ball at his feet. His two-footedness is definitely something to take note of, as that aspect of the game becomes ever more important due to the high pressing systems of many sides in Europe nowadays.

Prediction for future: He is a proven quantity in Serie A, playing as the floating number 10 in Sampdoria’s 4-3-1-2 system. Playing off two strikers not only gives the Belgian second balls to feed off, but also options to play to feet or in behind the defensive lines.

He would be ideal at a mid-table Premier League side, that would allow him to play freely and affect the game in more advanced areas. He would suit a side like Newcastle, that play a structured 4-2-3-1, but Praet would offer that extra creative dimension to a somewhat pragmatic-looking team.

Rafa’s view: Praet is someone I’ve enjoyed watching a lot. He has the creative aura of a Mesut Ozil in the way that he floats in the pockets of space between the defensive and midfield lines, and he has the qualities of his compatriot de Bruyne in the sense that he is also able to crack off a long shot or thread a piercing through ball through the eye of a needle. All I think he needs now is for a stable Premier League side to give him a go. They won’t regret it.


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