Ryan Sessegnon, Ruben Neves among the Championship's hottest talent
While most Premier League clubs look abroad for January signings that could give them a boost in the second half of the season, there is a wealth of young talent to be found in the Football League.
Here are five exciting prospects who have caught the eye.
Ryan Sessegnon -- Fulham
It has been a mixed season for Fulham in the Championship, but their 17-year-old star Ryan Sessegnon has delivered a string of outstanding performances to attract interest from Tottenham, Manchester United and even Real Madrid. Usually operating as a full-back, Sessegnon has been deployed further forward on occasion, drawing comparisons to Gareth Bale thanks to his fleet-footed runs down the left flank.
He shone in a more advanced position in England's European Under-19 Championship triumph in the summer, scoring a brace in a 4-1 win against Germany, and has claimed seven goals and four assists this season, including a hat trick in Fulham's thrilling 5-4 victory at Sheffield United. The Cottagers will do well to fend off bids for Sessegnon in January as they look to mount a late dash for promotion. His younger brother Steven is also coming through the ranks at the club and played a part in England's Under-17 World Cup success.
Ollie Watkins -- Brentford
It has been a meteoric year for Watkins, who was leading Exeter City's League Two playoff push at this stage last season. The Grecians ultimately lost the final to Blackpool at Wembley, and Watkins was quickly snapped up, climbing two divisions in a £1.5 million switch to Brentford. The 22-year-old has immediately looked at home at a higher level, adjusting to Brentford's attacking style of play and recording eight goals and three assists as the Bees threaten to break into the top six. A left-sided inverted winger, Watkins likes to cut inside to devastating effect, scoring one of the Football League goals of the season when he slalomed through Bolton's defence and rifled home a powerful shot in a 3-0 victory at the Macron Stadium in September.
"Ollie's got everything you need to be a top level professional footballer," said his former Exeter teammate David Wheeler, who also moved up to the Championship in the summer with QPR. "He's very skillful, he's very quick, he scores goals, he's strong, he's got a good attitude, and he works hard. He could play in the Premier League and I'm sure he will at some point."
Ruben Neves -- Wolverhampton Wanderers
Neves could be the most talented player ever to grace the second tier and almost certainly steals that crown in recent seasons. The midfielder made his debut for Porto at 17 and captained the Portuguese side in the Champions League before following Nuno Espírito Santo to Wolverhampton in July for a Championship record fee of £15.8m. While some wondered how the 20-year-old would cope with the rough and tumble of a fast-paced division, Neves' class has been obvious.
Having already picked up four caps for Portugal, the youngster sets the tempo for a Wolves side that is destined to end the campaign with promotion to the Premier League. Chipping in with the occasional goal, including a recent match-winner at Sheffield Wednesday, it may prove difficult for Wolves to keep him in the long term, along with Atletico Madrid loanee Diogo Jota who has often been the grateful recipient of Neves' raking passes.
James Maddison -- Norwich City
Norwich were expected to challenge for promotion this season after pursuing a Huddersfield-style revolution in the form of David Wagner's Borussia Dortmund II successor, Daniel Farke. Instead it has been a tale of inconsistency for the Canaries, who have been held back by a goal-shy strike force and relied heavily on Maddison for creative impetus. The 21-year-old has impressed with six goals and five assists, making a direct contribution to the scoreline in eight of his team's nine victories so far, and scored a brilliant winner in the derby against Ipswich in October.
Maddison's form has seen him earn a first England under-21 callup as the attacking midfielder continues to stand out in an underperforming Norwich side. He moved to Norfolk from Coventry for a reported £2m in February 2016 but, if he continues his current rise, it will take a lot more to convince the Canaries to part ways with their star player.
David Brooks -- Sheffield United
Brooks was all set to join Chesterfield on loan for the season in June but Sheffield United pulled the plug on the deal, sending another promising midfield prospect, Louis Reed, to the Spireites instead. Blades boss Chris Wilder decided Brooks would play a part in his first-team plans at Bramall Lane and, while the 20-year-old has only started five matches so far, he has often made an impact from the bench as United strive to make it back-to-back promotions.
Drifting between midfield and attack with the touch and slight frame to quickly move the ball out of tight situations, Brooks scored a fine winner in a 2-1 victory at Leeds in October and claimed his second goal with a volley from a tight angle, somewhat reminiscent of Marco van Basten, away to Millwall. He was named player of the tournament and scored England's goal in the final against Ivory Coast as the Young Lions brought home more silverware from Toulon last summer, but switched his allegiance to Wales and made his senior debut against France in November.
Matthew Stanger covers European football for ESPN and is the editor of The Set Pieces. Twitter: @MatthewStanger