Big-ticket international football tournaments have a bit of a carnival feel to it for its exclusivity. It’s more a celebration of football than being its bread and butter.
But when it comes to throwing up new players, the international tournaments lead the way. They provide a great stage for budding footballers to announce themselves on the global stage with eyes of the entire world glued to these events.
The European Championships are perhaps second only to the Fifa World Cup when it comes to these post season footballing festivals. Over the years the Euros have churned out some amazing players that have gone onto rewrite the history of the sport.
As Euro 2020 approaches a year later in 2021, there will be a host of young players on show that make a breakthrough. With many teams enjoying the privilege of playing at home, it would provide addition boost to these young players that are present in ever squad in plenty to shine.
Here is a look at some of the best young players to watch out for at Euro 2020.
Phil Foden (England)
The player of the tournament when England won the Under-17 World Cup in India in 2017, Foden is now set to be unleashed on a full international competition for the first time at the age of 21. He is coming off a superb season at Manchester City in which he starred in Pep Guardiola’s Premier League title-winning side, regularly cutting in from the left flank and contributing 16 goals in all competitions.
Foden, who likes to spend his free time fishing with his father, made his full England debut last September and scored his first goals against Iceland in the Nations League in November.
Following in the footsteps of the likes of Juan Carlos Valeron, David Silva and Pedro Rodriguez before him, Pedri is the latest star to emerge from the Canary Islands and break into the Spain set-up.
The slight 18-year-old midfielder with the silky touch, who comes from Tenerife, joined Barcelona last year from Las Palmas. Growing up he modelled himself on Andres Iniesta and he wasted little time establishing himself at the Camp Nou, playing in all but one game in La Liga for Barca in the season just finished. He made his Spain debut in a World Cup qualifier against Greece in March.
Jamal Musiala (Germany)
The 18-year-old Bayern Munich and Germany midfielder was born in Stuttgart but could have been lining up for England at the Euro. His father is British-Nigerian and he moved to England with his family aged seven. He has represented both Germany and England at youth level too. “I have a heart for Germany and a heart for England,” he told The Athletic earlier this year.
However, he left the Chelsea academy set-up to join Bayern in 2019 and committed his international future to Germany in February, just before signing a new five-year deal at his club. Shortly after that he was given his full Germany debut in a World Cup qualifier against Iceland.
Matthijs de Ligt (Netherlands)
Centre-back De Ligt is still just 21 but his importance to the Netherlands cannot be understated, especially with Virgil van Dijk ruled out of the tournament. That explains the concern for his fitness when he appeared to suffer a groin injury in training at the weekend.
Dutch coach Frank de Boer needs De Ligt, who captained Ajax in the Champions League aged just 19, starring in the side that got to the semi-finals of that competition in 2019 before being sold to Juventus in a world-record deal for a defender, the fee an initial $84.2m.
A symbol of the new Dutch generation after the Oranje missed both Euro 2016 and the 2018 World Cup, De Ligt made his full international debut as a 17-year-old.
Jeremy Doku (Belgium)
The Belgian squad is full of established stars these days, but amid concern for the fitness of Kevin De Bruyne and the form of Eden Hazard, Doku could have a notable role to play for Roberto Martinez’s side.
The winger who only recently turned 19 broke through at Anderlecht and made his full Belgium debut last September, just before Rennes paid a club-record $31.6m to sign him. Doku needed time to adapt to his new surroundings but finished the season strongly in France and can be a threat on either flank.
Joao Felix (Portugal)
Felix, 21, became one of the five most expensive players in history when still a teenager after Atletico Madrid agreed to pay $142m to sign him from Benfica in 2019.
Capable of playing on either flank or through the middle in attack, Felix broke through at Benfica and is fresh from helping Atletico win La Liga. He is also a symbol of the new Portuguese generation that will support Cristiano Ronaldo at this Euro as Fernando Santos’ team defend the title they won in France in 2016.
Kai Havertz (Germany)
Havertz is considered one of the most talented footballers among the new crop of German players and it became evident when Chelsea signed for big money in the summer of 2020. Havertz proved his worth despite a slow start to life in England by scoring the winner for the Blues in the Champions League final.
Playing in his first major international tournament on the back of being a European champion at club level, the stage is set for the versatile German midfielder to showcase his true potential at the Euros. With great vision, dribbling ability and an eye for goal, Havertz could be a key figure in Joachim Low’s side.
Federico Chiesa (Italy)
Chiesa was the shining light of an otherwise dull campaign for Juventus. The 23-year-old scored ten goals and provided 13 assists in an excellent debut season in Turin after moving from Fiorentina. The 23-year old also scored the winning goal in the Coppa Italia final that helped Juventus win their only trophy this season.
A settled member of Roberto Mancini’s Italian squad, Italy will hope young Chiesa provides the X-factor for the team in attack.
Jude Bellingham (England)
The 17-year-old English midfielder caught everyone’s attention with impressive performances in the Champions League for Borussia Dortmund this season. He scored against Manchester City in the quarter-final and was denied another goal in the first leg by VAR. Those performances effectively convinced Gareth Southgate to add the teenager to his Euro squad to bolster his midfield options.
Having made his senior debut with Birmingham City at the age of 16, Bellingham is the kind of attacking talent that excites every football fan. Whether or not he gets enough game time to show his skills remains to be seen, but he has done enough in his very young career so far to suggest that he is not there just to make up the numbers.
Ryan Gravenberch (Netherlands)
The tall midfielder from Ajax had an impressive Champions League campaign for Ajax and it saw him rise through the ranks in the Dutch football system having only made his U-21 debut in September. A box-to-box midfielder with immense technical quality, Gravenberch is likened to French star Paul Pogba. The 21-year-old though says he has modeled himself on the great Zinedine Zidane.
Gravenberch could add a great deal of physicality to the Dutch midfield and give them a valuable option from the bench.
(With AFP inputs)
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