The Premier League is European football’s strongest domestic league at present, last season’s all-English Champions League final between Chelsea and Manchester City demonstrating the strength of the division.
Boasting unrivalled finances in comparison to their continental counterparts, sides across the division have been able to attract top talent to the Premier League in recent seasons.
Whilst the Premier League’s ‘big six’ are home to some of world football’s biggest names, there’s plenty of talent further down the division that could comfortably make the step up.
We’ve decided to pick out some of the best and attempt to rank the top ten players outside of the Premier League’s top six.
10. James Ward-Prowse
James Ward-Prowse continues to shine at Southampton with the midfielder among the most influential footballers outside the Premier League’s top six.
The 27-year-old ranks fifth in the Premier League for chances created in 2021/22, with his 42 chances created the joint-most – alongside Leeds’ Raphinha – amongst players outside the big six.
Ward-Prowse has scored six league goals and provided four assists for a Saints side improving as the season progresses, his midfield partnership with Oriol Romeu an underrated combination when discussing balanced Premier League engine rooms.
The angle of this James Ward-Prowse free-kick is a work of art 👨🎨
— ESPN UK (@ESPNUK) January 24, 2022
Combining a commendable work-rate with brilliant technique, he is pushing hard for inclusion in the England squad ahead of Qatar 2022. Arguably the best set-piece taker in world football right now, he could prove a potent weapon for Gareth Southgate.
9. Yves Bissouma
Yves Bissouma has been courted by some of the Premier League’s leading clubs in recent windows, with a potential bargain to be had given the Mali international has entered the final 18 months of his deal at Brighton.
Bissouma is an all-action midfielder capable of anchoring the side or performing a box-to-box role, bringing tireless tenacity to the Seagull’s engine room.
The 25-year-old ranks second in the Premier League for tackles per 90 minutes this season and is also among the division’s leaders for inceptions – a prolific ball-winner who can regain and recycle possession for the side.
8. Allan Saint-Maximin
Newcastle’s new era started to take shape with a raft of signings during the January transfer window, but in Allan Saint-Maximin the Magpies have a talent already ready for the next level.
The Frenchman has been a bright spark in a rather dull period at St James’ Park, bringing fun, flair and outrageous flamboyance since arriving from Nice.
— Emirates FA Cup (@EmiratesFACup) February 4, 2022
Questions have been asked about the consistency of the 24-year-old’s end product, but a return of eight goal involvements from 22 league starts is a decent return for a talent whose maverick dribbling brilliance opens up games, creates space, and commits opposition defenders.
7. Kalvin Phillips
Leeds’ have endured a difficult second season in the Premier League amid a host of injury problems at Elland Road, the continued absence of Kalvin Phillips having been a major factor in their struggle for results.
Phillips has long been hailed as the jewell in the club’s crown and starred during England’s run to the final of Euro 2020 last summer, being named as the Three Lions’ Men’s Player of the Year.
The 26-year-old – affectionately dubbed the Yorkshire Pirlo – is crucial to Leeds at both ends of the pitch, providing combative defensive work with an elegance in possession and fine passing range.
6. Jarrod Bowen
Jarrod Bowen is enjoying some season in the colours of West Ham, with the winger pushing hard for a call-up to the England squad following his exploits this season.
Bowen has scored eight goals and provided eight assists for the Hammers in 2021/22, his form having helped propel West Ham’s push towards the Champions League places.
Mohamed Salah is the only player in the Premier League to have been involved in more goals than the 25-year-old, whose direct dribbling, creativity and composed finishing has reportedly attracted transfer interest from Liverpool.
5. Wilfred Ndidi
Wilfred Ndidi has been one of the Premier League’s best defensive midfielders for some time, the Nigerian having been a prolific ball-winner across his five-and-a-half seasons with Leicester.
Ndidi has finished inside the top four Premier League players for tackles won in each of the past four campaigns, whilst he has showcased his versatility by filling in as an auxiliary centre-back for the Foxes on occasion.
Leicester’s difficult season has led to uncertainty surrounding the spine of their talented side and Ndidi’s exit would be a major blow to the Foxes, should a club with greater resources take a smart gamble on the services of the 25-year-old.
4. Philippe Coutinho
Philippe Coutinho’s star has fallen in recent seasons, but the Brazilian remains the third-most expensive footballer of all time and a talent capable of spectacular moments.
Coutinho’s loan move to Aston Villa has provided the 29-year-old with a chance to regain his confidence and love for the game, with his early appearances having already demonstrated glimpses of the old magic.
Two starts. Two goals. Two assists. 🔮
Philippe Coutinho. 🇧🇷 pic.twitter.com/5DWvEkBckV
— Aston Villa (@AVFCOfficial) February 10, 2022
The dropped shoulders and stunning goals from distance make Coutinho box-office viewing when at his best and if Villa can coax somewhere close to his Liverpool performances across the second half of the season, he will be one of the signings of the season.
3. Youri Tielemans
Youri Tielemans is another Leicester star who has been linked with a move, with an increasingly inevitablity that the two will part ways in the near future.
Tielemans was tipped as a future star after being named as Belgian Player of the Year as a teenager, before evolving into a complete midfielder at Leicester, via Monaco, after leaving Anderlecht.
The 24-year-old has been a vital figure in the Foxes’ progress of recent seasons and scored a stunning winner in the club’s FA Cup triumph last season, acting as a brilliant box-to-box influence for Brendan Rodgers with his ability to win tackles, thread passes and score goals.
He will have just a year remaining on his contract this summer and there will be no surprise should he depart for a new challenge, the Belgium international a footballer capable of making the step up to a Champions League club.
Raphinha has proved an inspired signing for Leeds since his arrival from Rennes, with the winger having built on an impressive debut campaign with another season of creative excellence.
Having averaged a goal or assist every 157 minutes for Leeds last season, he has picked up where he left off with nine goals for the season so far despite the struggles of Marcelo Bielsa’s side.
Raphinha has been directly involved in 26 goals in 52 Premier League games for Leeds:
◉ 15 goals
◉ 11 assists
What a signing. pic.twitter.com/FtsC0klbBY
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) February 20, 2022
The 25-year-old’s performances earned him a call-up for Brazil in the winter and he has since scored three goals in seven appearances for the national side, whilst his repertoire of tricks and flicks make him one of the most watchable players in the Premier League.
He ranks fifth in the Premier League for key passes in 2021/22 and sixth for shot-creating actions, the kind of creative output that has alerted the attention of Europe’s elite.
1. Declan Rice
David Moyes has made no secret of his desire to keep Declan Rice at West Ham, insisting even an offer of £100m would not be suffice in bringing the Hammers to the negotiating table
Rice has evolved into one of the most complete midfielders in the division at the London Stadium, combining the defensive tenacity of his early emergence with an increasing ability to pour forward and influence games.
Already a natural leader and owner of 27 caps for England at the age of 23, it is little wonder the Premier League’s richest sides are interested in prising him from the capital club.
Rice leads the division for interceptions this season and ranks fifth for tackles, whilst he also leads the Premier League for progressive carrying distance in possession.
— Premier League (@premierleague) February 19, 2022
It will take a record-breaking bid to secure his signature this summer, with Rice appearing to get better and better with each performance.