When Swansea bought Alfie Mawson from Barnsley last season, more than a few eyebrows were raised. Although Mawson impressed as Barnsley won the League One Play-offs, a 22-year-old centre-back who had barely played higher than the third tier was an interesting signing no doubt. But look whose laughing now.
The 23-year old had been playing non-league football just over three years ago and now he is the best defender at a Premier League club and arguably the best player in England’s team at the U21 European Championship.
Mawson’s four games in the Championship, scoring twice, convinced Francesco Guidolin to shell out £5.5.million on the English defender, and he has proved to be the Italian’s best signing in his short stint at the club. The start of Mawson’s Swans career was far from ideal, however, as the Welsh club struggled to replace Ashley Williams.
The former Brentford man didn’t make his Premier League debut until 22 October when he started and helped keep a clean sheet against Watford, but he scored an own goal in the next game against Stoke. He started the ensuing loss to Manchester United but then missed the next three.
After shipping nine goals in back-to-back games against Crystal Palace and Tottenham, Mawson was restored to the starting line-up in the 3-0 victory over Sunderland. And from that point on, Mawson didn’t miss a minute. Three of Mawson’s four league goals came in victories as Swansea managed to avoid relegation courtesy of a five-game unbeaten streak to finish the season.
The 23-year old centre-back was named as part of England’s squad for the U21 Euros and, after never appearing for England at any age level, has become a leader on and off the field.
He equalised in the Three Lions’ comeback win over Slovakia and kept a clean sheet against hosts Poland to help his side finish top of the group and set-up a semi-final date with Germany. The squad fell short of their championship aspirations, losing 4-3 in a penalty shootout after a 2-2 draw.
He spoke ahead of the Germany match of his goal to one day captain England and it’s not an outlandish dream if he continues to perform at club and international level.
Mawson has come out of nowhere and appears destined to join one of Europe’s top clubs if he can have another great season with Swansea. Who knows, maybe he could play himself into Gareth Southgate’s plans for next summer’s World Cup.
The Premier League’s elite are sure to be keeping an eye on Mawson development but, as he’s English, his price is only going to get astronomical if he keeps performing.