5 players to watch at the U21 European Championships

Are we set to see some new stars?

The U21 European Championships kick off on Sunday 16th June, with Italy the hosts for this years competition. Unlike senior level, the U21 Euros are played every two years and it gives the finest young talent on the continent the opportunity to impress on the big stage.

The hosts come into it as favourites to go all the way but they're expected to face strong competition from the likes of France, Germany, Spain and of course England, who are led by former Watford boss Aidy Boothroyd.

He has a very strong squad to call upon which includes the likes of James Maddison, Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Demarai Gray along with several others - so hopes are high that they can build on their semi-final finish two years ago and win it for the first time since 1984.

But it won't be easy, there are some very strong nations on display in Italy over the next few weeks with some top, top players. Some of these are already regulars for elite clubs around Europe and after looking through some of the squads, we've selected 5 players we think you should look out for over the next few weeks.

Have a read below and let us know your thoughts by getting in touch with us @FootyAccums

Phil Foden - England

Let's start with someone who's known to many in England already and with him at the age of 19, he's one of the youngest players on display in Italy, Phil Foden. The Manchester City youngster has flown through the youth levels with the Three Lions and if his development continues to sky rocket how it has, it's surely just a matter of time before he breaks into the senior set up.

The Citizens often get criticism for the lack of youngsters that are given an opportunity in the first team but ever since Pep Guardiola arrived at the club, he immediately recognised Foden and promoted him to the first team - which shows what a special talent he is. Pep's coaching and playing alongside the likes of Kevin De Bruyne and the two Silvas has evidently had a massive impact on his career, resulting in him scoring 7 goals in 26 appearances last year as City became the first team in history to complete the English domestic treble.

Manchester City Premier League
Phil Foden enters the U21 European Championships on the back of a dream season for Manchester City

He's a very different player to what England usually produce, which is what makes him so unique. He's been compared to the likes of Xavi and Andres Iniesta by some and whilst he's very far away from that level, it's an understandable comparison. He's slight in stature but his agility, vision, dribbling and ability to take the ball on the turn anywhere on the pitch make him a real menace for the opposition. He'll be key to England's hopes in Italy and despite being 19, he has plenty of experience at the top level which is crucial.

Luka Jovic - Serbia

A man who needs little introduction. Luka Jovic enters the U21 European Championships as arguably the most talked about player following his superb season in Germany with Eintracht Frankfurt. The 21 year-old scored a mightily impressive 27 goals in all competitions as Eintracht made it through to the Europa League semi-finals, with him playing a massive part in their run by scoring 10 goals. He's constantly growing in stature and he very much looks like the complete strikes. He's mobile, strong, composed and capable of producing the unexpected, so it's no surprise that he's secured a big money move.

Real Madrid have spent over €350m on new recruits this summer, €60m of which went to Frankfurt to sign Jovic which shows just how highly rated he is. Real president Florentino Perez was keen to make him one of their Galactico signings this summer and he labelled him as "one of the greatest goalscorers in Europe" so no pressure Luka. Serbian fans are all looking to him to be the difference in Italy and as he's proven with Eintracht this summer, he's capable of carrying a team despite his tender years.

Luka Jovic
Jovic's superb performances in Germany earned him a dream move to Real Madrid

He's been prolific at every level of his development with the Serbian national team which includes 7 goals in 14 caps for the U21's, so he'll be keen to carry that form through into what will be his final international tournament for them. Can he cap off a fantastic season with some silverware before jetting off to Spain?

Moise Kean - Italy

After shockingly failing to qualify for last summers World Cup, a major inquest was called into the state of the Italian national team. It was the first time in 60 years that the four time winners had been absent from footballs showpiece event and something had to change. But now the future looks considerably brighter, with their squad at the Euros looking in very good shape. We could've selected a number of players to focus on like Patrick Cutrone, Federico Chiesa or Nicolo Zaniolo, but we've gone for Moise Kean.

The 19 year-old is one of the younger members of their squad but he enters the tournament on the back of a magnificent breakthrough season with Juventus. He netted 7 goals in 14 appearances (6 starts) for the Old Lady which led to him breaking into the senior set up with Italy. There he scored in each of his first two caps which saw him write history, with his goal against Finland in a Euro 2020 qualifier making him the youngest player to ever score a competitive goal.

Moise Kean Leonardo Bonucci
Moise Kean has been a revelation for both club and country in the second half of the season

Similar to the situation at Manchester City, young players at Juventus aren't often afforded too many opportunities in the first team so he's obviously held in very high regard. Playing and training alongside the likes of Paulo Dybala and Cristiano Ronaldo is evidently aiding his development and he's become a very important player both at U21 & senior level. Italy fans will be looking to him to be the difference over the next few weeks and he's proven this season that he's capable of coming up with the goods.

Pablo Fornals - Spain

A man who may not have been too familiar to England fans and followers of the Premier League a week ago, but Spain's Pablo Fornals is generating a lot of hype after completing a £24m move to West Ham on Friday. At the age of 23, he's one of the older players on display in Italy this summer so with that comes added responsibility and pressure, something he's proved he can cope with after a superb campaign with Villarreal.

A creative hub in midfield, he contributed 11 goals in all competitions, so West Ham fans will be excited about the prospect of him linking up with Marko Arnautovic, Felipe Anderson and Manuel Lanzini in attack. He's already been capped twice in the seniors which shows just how highly rated he is, along with 12 in the U21's. He's also made 159 appearances at club level in all competitions with Malaga and Villarreal which is impressive for someone so young.

Spanish midfield players are known for being technically gifted and in the case of Fornals this is no different. His vision, ability from deadballs and ridiculously quick feet make him a real nuisance and if Spain can click in Italy, he is a real contender for Player of the Tournament. West Ham have a gem on their hands and at £24m, he could prove to be a bargain.

Houssem Aouar - France

Similar to England and Italy, there's a number of players from France who could've made the cut with the likes of Mousa Dembele, Matteo Guendouzi and Ibrahima Konate all superb players, but we've gone for the highly rated Houssem Aouar who's made tremendous strides with Lyon this season. The 20 year-old was virtually unknown before this season but a fantastic breakthrough campaign which saw him contribute 17 goals (7G 10A) has made him one of European footballs hottest properties.

He's Lyon's latest protege to come from their renowned academy and his performances have led to him being linked with moves to the likes of Liverpool, Tottenham and Manchester City - so there's bound to be plenty of scouts keeping their eyes on him in Italy. If he can continue to produce how he has done for his club side it'll surely just be a matter of time before he makes the step up to the senior team, this guy really looks like the real deal.

His technical ability is what makes him so impressive but his versatility is also key, with him able to play anywhere across midfield. He changes position regularly during games which means he's a tough man to track and pick up for opposition defenders, so expect him to cause plenty of problems over the next few weeks for the U21's.


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