The 2015 European U21 Championships kicks off on the 17th of June in Prague. This gives football fans the chance to see potential stars of the future. Plus, with scouts from all around the world there watching on, the transfer rumour mill tends to gather pace.
Holders Spain failed to qualify for this year’s tournament after losing to Serbia in a play-off, their team in 2013 contained the likes of Isco, Thiago and David de Gea. Memphis Depay, Nathaniel Clyne and Marco Verratti were just a few of the youngsters to partake in the same tournament. It is certainly a stage for players to make their mark. Here are five youngsters I’ve singled out who could take the tournament by storm and alert a few clubs around Europe.
Ruben Neves is a Portuguese midfielder who predominantly plays as a defensive midfielder, however, he isn’t afraid to start attacks as he posses a great range of passing, excellent ball retention and intelligent positional sense to break up play. Neves has come through the ranks at Porto and has made 24 Premeira Liga appearances scoring 1 goal in the process. Added to this, he’s also Porto’s youngest ever league starter and their youngest ever goal scorer.
For Portugal Neves has played for the U16’s, U17’s, U18’s and was fast tracked into the U21’s where he has made 6 appearances. A clever player who’s been likened to Sergio Busquets, Neves is a calm head on young shoulders who’s already attracted interested from Liverpool and Arsenal. The European Championships will certainly help raise his profile.
The German production line just keeps on producing, and shows no signs of stopping either. Max Meyer is one of the latest German youngsters to be making a name for himself in the footballing world. Meyer has been at Schalke since he was 14, a club that have a habit of producing talent with Mesut Özil, Manuel Neuer and Julian Draxler just a few of the players to have passed through the Gelsenkirchen academy.
Meyer won the best player at the 2012 Under 17 European Championships where he also finished top scorer. His playing style has been compared to Eden Hazard, Mario Götze and most notably Lionel Messi. This is down to his dribbling ability and incredible balance. A very creative player, Meyer is capable of changing a game with one of his trademark runs or a defence-splitting pass. The German is also versatile; he can play on the wing or in his strongest position being the striker where he picks up the spaces in the opposition defence. Meyer will be key if Die Mannschaft are to lift the title.
Sassuolo’s exciting attacking brand of football has earned many admirers. Domenico Berardi in particular has been key to this. Berardi is a versatile attacker whose game mixes skill with pace to make him a handful for opposition defenders. Juventus identified his potential in 2013 and took advantage of Serie A’s co-ownership rules to purchase a stake in the Italian. In the top flight of Italian football Berardi’s featured 61 times scoring 31 goals including 4 against AC Milan and a first half hat trick against Fiorentina. Expect to see an intelligent player whose willing to beat his man before completing the move with a goal or an assist. Manchester United have kept a close eye on Berardi’s situation, however, The Old Lady are keen to hold onto the forward, and there is no doubt Massimiliano Allegri will be watching him this summer.
If the host nation are to do a lot will depend on their star striker Kadlec. He already boasts 11 senior Czech Republic caps scoring twice in the process. The Frankfurt striker averages a goal every other game for the U21 side and will be keen to improve this in front of his home fans. The striker spent the later stage of the season on loan at Sparta Prague where he scored an impressive 10 goals in 14 games including five from four appearances in May. His form in his homeland has impressed manager Armin Veh who is keen to integrate Kadlec into his Frankfurt side. He has earned his name as the young star of Czech football having climbed through the youth ranks featuring in the U16’s, U17’s, U18’s and U19’s and those in the Czech Republic hold the youngster in high regard labelling him the greatest talent in Czech football since Tomas Rosicky.
At the start of the season Kane was virtually an unknown quantity, now he’s one of the hottest English strikers about, or arguably in Europe at this moment in time. Having impressed Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino in the Europa League, Kane was given his chance in the Premier League, a chance he took with both hands. He scored 21 league goals and 31 in all competitions and during spells of the season he looked unstoppable.
Kane scored on his international debut after 79 seconds and played the full 90 minutes in a friendly against Italy. One of the most impressive sides to Kane’s game is the fact he scores all types of goals; headers, left foot, right foot, volleys, he’s scored them all. Kane seems to possess a natural ability to score goals and his confidence is through the roof at the moment which should play a major factor in him finding the net in the Czech Republic. Having collected the PFA young player of the season award all eyes will be on Kane to help England lift the trophy.
By Callum Read – @