Transfer Talk: Eagles swoop for exciting Derby starlet Ebiowei
Malcolm Ebiowei's time in Derby's first-team may have been fleeting — but it was certainly impactful.
Crystal Palace have signed the 18-year-old starlet, who has reportedly been courted by Manchester United and Premier League new-boys Nottingham Forest.
That is despite the youngster racking up just 954 minutes of Championship football last term.
After the Eagles swooped for Ebiowei, we take a look at why there has been so much interest in the prodigious winger.
From A to B
The very best wide forwards in the world today are all ultra-aggressive when in possession — picking up the ball and driving at the full-back tasked with marking them.
This direct approach causes chaos. It changes a game's tempo, opens up space and creates transitional moments for teams to truly exploit.
Finding players with the explosiveness, the confidence and the ability to do that is not easy. Yet that is what Ebiowei is all about.
The wide man averaged 8.9 dribbles per 90 minutes for Derby last season, completing over half of those take-ons. He possesses a trait that teams will pay plenty of money for.
The right attitude
Wayne Rooney was the very definition of a wonderkid, so knows all about the pressures of being a hotly-tipped talent.
And he singled out Ebiowei for special praise, following Derby's 1-1 draw with Coventry in March.
The former Derby boss said: "I thought he [Ebiowei] was excellent all game, the best player on the pitch.
"It was one of the best performances I have seen from a young player, consistently for 90 minutes, in a long time.
"He deserved that because he has worked extremely hard. His attitude is incredible, he wants to learn and he is an exciting young player. First of all, his attitude is very good.
"He has got an enormous amount of ability, he is brave, he will take the ball, he is not afraid to take players on, to get tackled, to make mistakes. So he has got a really bright future."
A rare profile
Ebiowei is a special talent.
Not only is he direct, tricky, confident and a good height for a wide forward at 5ft 11in — but he is also left-footed.
There is a shortage of players with that profile in the game's upper echelons, which has only added to the clamour for his services.
Interest in Ebiowei stemmed from his unique skill set, in an otherwise diluted market, and clubs were fully aware that he will be a bargain if he fulfils his potential.
Soaring with the Eagles
Ebiowei will certainly have more first-team opportunities at Selhurst Park than at Manchester United, who will be disappointed to miss out on the Londoner.
However, it is worth noting that they already have young stars Eberechi Eze and Michael Olise within their ranks.
Like Ebiowei, the latter is a left-footed creative player who nominally operates on the right, while Eze is a right-footed maestro but can play across the width of the pitch.
Eagles boss Patrick Vieira could well have a job on his hands next season juggling all three talents to make sure they get the minutes needed to progress.
Speaking after completing his move to Selhurst Park, Ebiowei said: "I'm incredibly excited about the prospect of joining Palace, as they have an incredible squad and huge potential.
"I very much hope to contribute positively to the team this season."
The right move
Despite those concerns over playing time, there is little doubt that Palace are a club at the forefront of talent development.
Chelsea loanee Conor Gallagher excelled in South London last season, while first-team regulars Tyrick Mitchell and Marc Guehi are just 22 and 21, respectively.
Age is no barrier to success at Selhurst Park, so Ebiowei will be confident of making a breakthrough with the Eagles.
And with cash-strapped Derby suffering relegation to League One last season, the time is right for their flying forward to take the next step in his career.