The September international break gives England their last chance to judge their own players before the World Cup – but it could also give Premier League clubs a chance to scout some potential targets.
England are due to face Italy on Friday and Germany on Monday to conclude their UEFA Nations League group. They are the last international fixtures pencilled in before the World Cup starts in Qatar in November.
While the World Cup is on, there will be a pause to the Premier League season. A busy period should follow, with the action resuming on Boxing Day, shortly before the January transfer window opens.
By then, clubs will have been firming up their shortlists for potential reinforcements in the winter market or beyond.
But even now, they could be taking any chance they can get to plan ahead. Indeed, there are several players in the Italy and Germany squads – not to mention any homegrown options who might be worth assessing on a different stage – who could take this weekend as a chance to impress.
With that in mind, TEAMtalk takes a look at five players who might be worth keeping an eye on for Premier League clubs over the next few days of the international break.
Nicolo Barella (Italy)
Nicolo Barella has been linked with a Premier League transfer for a while. His qualities would suit English football, just as they already align for Serie A success.
Currently with Inter Milan, the box-to-box midfielder debuted for Italy in 2018 and already has 39 caps.
Barella was influential when his country won Euro 2020, starting every match except the last group game, in which Roberto Mancini rested key players.
Sadly, Barella and Italy won’t be at the World Cup. However, the 25-year-old is still getting the chance to shine in other ways. He already has two goals and two assists from seven Serie A appearances this season, even though Inter’s form has been indifferent.
Also competing in the Champions League, Barella has taken every step in his career in his stride. The ex-Cagliari prospect could yet end up with an opportunity to test himself not just against English players in the Nations League, but in English football itself if a Premier League side tries to sign him.
A few are already taking a look. There was supposedly an enquiry in the summer from Tottenham Hotspur, who could reunite Barella with former Inter boss Antonio Conte.
Of course, Conte’s own future is unclear, but that is another matter. Even if the manager ends up returning to Juventus in future, as has been speculated, director of football Fabio Paratici could still ensure an Italian theme to Tottenham’s business.
Another keen observer of Barella could be Liverpool, who have been linked since the transfer window closed. They are looking to evolve their midfield in 2023.
By the end of the season, as things stand, Arthur Melo’s loan spell from Juventus will have ended, while James Milner, Naby Keita and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain will all be out of contract. Furthermore, Thiago Alcantara – who is in his 30s – will be entering the final year of his terms.
Liverpool are looking at a few options, such as Borussia Dortmund’s English superstar Jude Bellingham. But perhaps they could also observe someone from the opposite side when England face Italy at San Siro – Barella’s home ground with Inter.
Alessandro Bastoni (Italy)
Barella’s teammate for club and country, Alessandro Bastoni has been building up his reputation as one of the most promising Italian defenders.
Stepping into the shoes of Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci in the long term will not be easy for any player. But Bastoni, already a Serie A winner with Inter in 2020-21, has big potential.
Still only 23 years old, Bastoni will be out of contract with Inter in 2024, unless they can renew his deal. That has previously seemed like his preference, but now the situation is developing.
Inter head coach Simone Inzaghi took him off after around half an hour of their last fixture before the break. It has prompted some speculation that he might now consider his future.
In that case, Tottenham could become potential bidders again. Currently, they have Clement Lenglet on loan from Barcelona as a left-sided centre-back. If they do not keep him, Bastoni would be an ideal successor – and probably an upgrade.
There have been connections with Chelsea and Manchester United in the past, too. Having featured at Champions League level, Bastoni can be good enough for anyone like that. He certainly has the individual ambition to match.
Comfortable in a back three, Bastoni still has room to develop. It makes him an exciting candidate for other elite clubs.
Giovanni Di Lorenzo (Italy)
Finally from the Italian selection, perhaps one player to keep in mind could be Giovanni Di Lorenzo.
The Napoli right-back was tentatively linked with Manchester United in the summer of 2021. Instead, he has since gone on to become the captain of his current club.
There has been little to suggest an interest might remain from Manchester United since. However, right-back remains an area of their squad under scrutiny.
Aaron Wan-Bissaka was linked quite heavily with an exit in the summer. Such rumours could resurface in January if his situation has not improved.
Besides, the man who has dislodged him, Diogo Dalot, is out of contract in 2023. That said, there is an option to extend his deal by a further year.
Still, if Wan-Bissaka leaves, he would need more competition. Di Lorenzo is Italy’s main right-back in their current squad, so will likely be on view against England.
It could be an ideal time for the 29-year-old to send a reminder of his qualities.
Armel Bella-Kotchap (Germany)
Next on the agenda for England after the Italy game will be a clash with Germany at Wembley on Monday.
On that occasion, there could be an interesting opportunity for a defender already becoming familiar to Premier League fans, Southampton’s Armel Bella-Kotchap.
The 20-year-old is in the senior Germany squad for the first time. He will be hoping to make a debut either against Hungary on Friday, or England on Monday.
It will be interesting to see how Bella-Kotchap adapts to the international stage. He has already been showing his potential with Southampton in his first few weeks there, so much so that Liverpool might be looking at him, according to reports.
At this stage of the season, only one other player in the entire Premier League has made more interceptions than Bella-Kotchap so far. He is also in the top 10 for clearances and is yet to be dribbled past.
A player with significant potential, Bella-Kotchap could step up to a bigger Premier League club in the years to come. He will be eager to cement himself as a candidate for further Germany squads, too.
These are still early days for Bella-Kotchap as a Southampton and Germany player. But it wouldn’t be overly surprising if some of the biggest clubs, with extensive scouting networks, are already monitoring him closely.
Jamal Musiala (Germany)
Finally, another exciting prospect in the Germany squad is Jamal Musiala.
The attacking midfielder previously spent time in the academies of Southampton and Chelsea. Formerly an England under-21 international, he has represented Germany at senior level since 2021.
Since 2020, Musiala has been developing with the Bayern Munich first team. But while he cannot go back on his decision to switch English football for the German variety at international level, he could do so at club level.
The teenager has plenty of time ahead of him in which to attract the Premier League elite. The likes of Liverpool, Manchester United and Manchester City have all been suggested as potential landing spots.
On the topic of Premier League links, Musiala recently told Bild: “The Premier League is a really strong league. The big stars go there.
“But whether I’ll go there at some point? No idea. I only know that I enjoyed my time in England. Now I’m playing for FC Bayern, one of the best clubs in the world.”
For how long that remains the case, only time will tell. Monday’s meeting at Wembley, for the time being, should give Musiala a good chance to show English teams what they are missing.