Derby captain Shaun Barker concedes coveted teenager Will Hughes, linked with Liverpool and Manchester United, could leave the club in pursuit of his Premier League ambition, although hopes the midfielder reaches the top-flight with his current club.
Hughes has established himself as one of the most exciting young players outside of the Premier League, and has already recorded an impressive century of appearances for Derby despite being aged only 19.
He played a prominent role last season as the Rams fell agonisingly short in their quest for promotion, losing the playoff final in the last minute, and he will be an important player again as Steve McLaren’s side bid to go one step further term.
Barker believes Hughes has already demonstrated that he is worthy of a transfer to a club of more prominent standing although, of course, he remains hopeful the youngster will continue to play his trade at Pride Park.
Premier League ambition
“He has the ability to step up and it is only a matter of time before we see him in the Premier League, either with Derby or at another club,” Barker wrote in his Derby Telegraph column.
“I’m sure he has aspirations to play at the top level. When you have his ability, you have to look to do that.
“But things are working out really well for him here at Derby.
“There is no doubt he has benefited from playing regularly.
“Had he gone to Manchester City, Arsenal, Manchester United or Liverpool, would he have played 100 games by now?”
Liverpool and Manchester United are the clubs to have been most frequently credited with interest in the player, and Brendan Rodgers has even publicly expressed his admiration for the England under-21 international.
It has been claimed that Liverpool have negotiated a first option on Hughes when Derby decide to sell the playmaker, with this agreement having been struck when the Reds allowed Andre Wisdom joined the club on loan last season.
There has been a £12 million valuation, a fee it had been reported Liverpool had already met, mentioned with regards Hughes in the past, and it will be interesting to see how this story develops as the season progresses. Liverpool would appear his most likely destination, although Manchester United and others are unlikely to allow them a free run.