Palmer, Mainoo lead Premier League’s breakout XI for 2023-24

Who are the breakout stars that have emerged from near-obscurity to make waves in the Premier League this season? Last summer, your average fan would have known next to nothing about these players, but their form has raised their profile through the roof.

So here is my team of “unlikely lads” — in a 4-3-3 formation — who have got clubs queuing up to sign them. Note that I’ve omitted a few — like Alejandro Garnacho of Manchester United and Mohammed Kudus of West Ham — on the grounds that they were already well-established names.

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GK: Thomas Kaminski, 31, Luton Town: He has played every minute of Luton’s valiant attempt to stay up and has made more saves than any goalkeeper in the league so far (114). The Belgium international arrived from Blackburn for a fee of €2.9 million after a nomadic career in Europe and that seems a bargain.

RB: Conor Bradley, 20, Liverpool: The Northern Ireland right-back has been a revelation after injuries to first-choice Trent Alexander-Arnold gave him a chance. Bradley was voted Bolton’s Player of the Season while on loan at the club last season. He is quick, bright, dangerous pushing forward, and it will be very difficult for Jurgen Klopp to leave him out when Alexander-Arnold is fit.

CB: Murillo, 21, Nottingham Forest: Arriving from Corinthians for a bargain €12m fee last summer, the young Brazilian immediately caught the eye with his speed, reading of the game and ability to pick passes. Forest might need to ease their financial problems by moving him on in the summer and he’ll already be on the radar of several big clubs.

CB: Jarell Quansah, 21, Liverpool: The defender from Warrington has had plenty of chances in the Reds’ first team after the long-term injury to Joël Matip. He has looked reliable, comfortable in possession and assured in his defending, especially in the big game against Manchester City last month. Quansah likes to study video of the world’s great defenders to learn his trade and it seems to be working.

LB: Destiny Udogie, 21, Tottenham: A sense of “destiny” indeed at Spurs since he arrived for €18m. His forays forward from left-back are a trademark of Tottenham’s cavalier style, and he will feature for Italy at Euro 2024 this summer.

CM: Kobbie Mainoo, 18, Manchester United: Only four months after making his United debut, the 18-year-old forced his way into the England team and Gareth Southgate will find it hard to leave him out for Euro 2024. Composed and comfortable on the ball, and with no ego, Mainoo looks as if he has been playing at the top level for a decade.

CM: Lewis Miley, 17, Newcastle United: Seen as a big talent in the academy, Miley was fast-tracked into the first team because of Newcastle’s injury-ravaged season. The teenager has featured in 17 league games and has looked gifted, serene and classy.

CM: João Gomes, 23, Wolves: Tenacious, busy and a good passer, Gomes has been such an important cog in Wolves’ fine season that he earned his first senior caps for Brazil against England and Spain recently.

FW: Cole Palmer, 21 Chelsea: After spending time on loan, Palmer did not want to wait for a regular starting spot at Manchester City and moved to Stamford Bridge for £40m last summer. It was a great move as he has been Chelsea’s brightest star in a poor season. Clever and creative, he has 13 goals and eight assists in the Premier League (exactly the same as Arsenal‘s Bukayo Saka).

FW: Rodrigo Muniz, 22, Fulham: After Fulham’s top scorer Aleksandar Mitrovic left in the summer, the Brazilian wasn’t really trusted and had to wait for his chance. But now he has scored eight goals in eight games, including a spectacular late equaliser at Sheffield United on Saturday. His transfer only cost £7m from Flamengo and he has impressed after being loaned out to Middlesbrough last season.

FW: Wilson Odobert, 19, Burnley: Odobert is only 19 but is a constant threat from the left wing, even in a struggling Burnley team. Signed for around €12m from Troyes in France, he became the youngest Premier League goal scorer in Burnley’s history and looks to have a bright future if he can convert his menace into more goals and assists.


GK: Guglielmo Vicario, 27, Tottenham
DF/MF: Rico Lewis, 19, Manchester City
RB: Malo Gusto, 20, Chelsea
LB/CM: Alfie Doughty, 24, Luton Town
CM: Adam Wharton, 20, Crystal Palace
CM: Tommy Doyle, 22, Wolves
CM: Alex Scott, 20, Bournemouth
FW: Morgan Rogers, 21, Aston Villa
FW: Simon Adingra, 22, Brighton