The European Championships have always provided the scouts with a chance to scour talent and snap up the best of them. Whilst this has meant inflated prices, teams still like to gamble on them.
This throw of the dice has had mixed results. Wayne Rooney lighted up the 2004 Euros but so did Roman Pavyluchenko in 2008. While Rooney has had a successful career at Manchester United Pavyluchenko on the other hand managed just 21 goals in his four year spell at Spurs.
With the Euros beginning on Friday, let’s look at 10 young players who could be on everyone’s lips cometh the end of the tournament:
1. Samuel Umtiti (France)
Samuel Umtiti typifies a modern defender. Composed with the ball at his feet, superb in the air and most of all leader at the back. The youngster has the best duel success % amongst French players in the top 5 leagues in 2015/16(70.4%). Having risen through the youth ranks at Olympique Lyon, Umtiti has been steadily building a reputation of being one of the best of his generation.
The unfortunate injury to Jeremy Mathieu and suspension of Sakho has given Umtiti a chance to star at the Euros. The uncapped Frenchman will not be there to make up numbers. Mangala’s poor club form might leave Umtiti competing directly with Sevilla’s Adil Rami to partner Lorient Koscienly in defense. Recent links to Barcelona showcase his burgeoning reputation.
2. Breel Embolo (Switzerland)
Breel Embolo who was born in Cameroon has come through the ranks of the famed Basel academy which has produced the likes of Xhaka, Shaqiri, Elneny, Mo Salah, etc. The teenager made his debut in the 2013/14 season and come on leaps and bounds since. He became the 6th youngest goal scorer in the Champions League when he scored in the 4-0 win over Ludogorets in 2015.
The Swiss International is part of a rare breed of strikers whose 6’1″ frame ensures that he can play as a target man but his pace means he can terrorize defenses from out wide and launch counter attacks. Though he didn’t have the best of seasons producing a modest 10 goals in 27 league games, his versatility means he could become an important cog in Petkovic’s Swiss pack. His all-round approach means he can play anywhere in the front three in Switzerland’s 4-3-3 formation.
With the Swiss international most likely to leave Basel this summer, a good Euros would insure he wouldn’t be short of suiters.
3. Aleksandr Golovin (Russia)
A recent title winner with Russian side CSKA Moscow, Aleksandr Golovin will have to use the title winning experience when he takes the field for Russia. Unlikely to start, the 20-year old must bide his time on the sidelines. Given Russia’s injury crisis he will most likely feature as a super-sub.
In a 4-2-3-1 formation, he can play in any of the three positions behind the lone striker. It is the 20-year old’s high attacking and defensive work rates which has caught the eye of National team manager Leonid Slutsky. Having mustered a shot every 39 minutes and tackle every 26 minutes, Golovin’s presence will not only be a real threat against tiring defenses but also help in seeing out games.
4. Piotr Zielinski (Poland)
Poland are considered as one of the dark horses of the tournament. They have an explosive front pairing of Lewandowski and Milik the duo would not be able to do much without help from the midfield. This is where 22-year old Piotr Zielinski will come in handy. He is expected to run the show for the Poles along with Krychowiak.
The 22-year old has established himself as a key man for Empoli. With 5 goals and 4 assists, the midfielder helped the Florence based club to an impressive 10th place finish. Dribbling is his strength, with only two players in Serie A completing more dribbles than him. He is capable of driving from deep and has the ability to play sumptuous through balls for the likes of Lewandowski and Milik to finish. He’s also a strong passer with him completing 82.5% of his passes.
A move to the Premier league has been mooted. He has the talent and dedication to drive the Poles to at least the Quarters.
5. Leroy Sane (Germany)
Such is the embarrassment of riches that Germany currently possess, most teams will be enviously looking at their future. The likes of Draxler, Sane, Kimmich, Julian Brandt, Gotze, and Weigl have the potential to dominate football for at least 10 years. The one man that stands out among them is Leroy Sane. The Schalke Youth product possess the natural flair and the required hard work to succeed.
Added to the squad to replace the injured Marco Reus, the teenager gets his first taste of an International tournament. The winger possesses amazing dribbling skills with only Bellarabi completing more dribbles in the Bundesliga last season. Improved end product has meant an impressive 8 goals and 6 assists last season. It’s Sane’s ability to move past defenders at speed that makes him a weapon from the bench for the Die Mannschaft.
The youngster has been linked with the likes of Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester City. But perhaps Barcelona’s interest in the talented teenager is the one to look forward to.
6. Anthony Martial (France)
With such incredible depth in squad, France are undoubtedly the bookies favorite to go all the way. One man who will look to shoulder the attacking responsibility will be Anthony Martial. Manchester United faced a lot of criticism when they forked out £36 mil to sign the youngster from Monaco last season but his scintillating performances since has justified their faith in the 20-year old.
The youngster possesses excellent ball control along with terrific dribbling abilities. He’s an excellent finisher with a touch of Thierry Henry about him. He ended his first season in Manchester with 17 goals and 5 assists to his name. Most likely to be starting wide left in France’s preferred 4-3-3, Martial will have the dual burden of creating goals along with scoring a few. If France are to repeat their showing of Euro 2000, the youngster has to be in full flow.
7. Arkadiusz Milik (Poland)
Milik has already been somewhat of a journeyman despite him being only 22-years old. He had already played at the likes of Katowice, Gornik Zabrze, Leverkusen, and Augsburg before finally finding his feet at Ajax. Since joining Ajax before the start of 2014/15 season, Milik has scored 47 goals in all competitions. He ended the campaign with a personal tally of 21 goals and 7 assists in the Eredivisie.
He netted 4 goals en-route to France and has the potential to be one of the rising stars of the tournament. He will be playing as a second striker acting as a perfect foil to Lewandowski and linking the midfield with attack. His excellent finishing skills are complemented by a power header. What stands out from other forwards is his vision. He has the ability to pick out a pass which showed with 7 assists last season.
8. Oguzhan Ozyakup (Turkey)
The oldest player of the list is a 23-year old Turkish International currently plying his trade for Turkish side Besiktas. He started his career at Arsenal where he made one solitary league cup appearance before being shipped off to Besiktas in 2012. He was an unused substitute in Arsenal’s infamous 8-2 thrashing by Manchester United.
Since then he has grown in stature. He was Turkey’s 2nd best player last season with whoscored rating of 7.33 only behind Gokhan Gonul. He recorded 10 goals and 8 assists in all competitions. He took part in 5 of the 10 Euro 2016 qualifiers scoring once in the 3-0 win over Netherlands. Turkey have been drawn into the group of death with Spain, Croatia and Czech Republic. The youngster will have the responsibility to set up goals for the attackers as well as chip in with a few himself to have any chance to progress further.
9. Rafa Silva (Portugal)
At 22 years of age Rafa Silva is fast approaching his peak years and has drawn admiration from many of the Continent’s big names. The winger was the best player in the Europa League last season for Braga with a rating of 7.24 conjuring 3 goals and 4 assists in 12 appearances.
Though he played only one match of the European qualifiers injury crisis and wonderful club form has meant that he is line to start in a fluid front three of Ronaldo, Nani and him. The front 3 on their day can tear any defense apart. Last season ended with him scoring 12 goals and assisting another 4. He also made 1.2 key passes per game. Portugal have been drawn in a tricky group containing the likes of Austria, Hungary and Iceland. Rafa Siva has the potential to perform splendidly at the Euros for the bigger clubs to take notice.
10. Marcel Sabitzer (Austria)
22-year old Marcel Sabitzer is the next big thing in Austria thanks to his exploits for Salzburg in 2014/15 season. He took part in all 10 of Austria’s qualifying games. He scored the winner in the 3-2 win over Montenegro. Austria are one of the dark horses of the tournament owing to their unbeaten qualifying campaign winning 9 and drawing the other.
Likely to start from the bench, the youngster has the ability to be a match winner for his country. Capable of playing as a second striker or on either flanks, the 22-year old returned to his parent club Leipzig last summer after a sensational loan spell with Salzburg after scoring 19 league goals. Although he couldn’t replicate his goal scoring exploits for Leipzig, he still managed to score 8 goals helping Leipzig gain promotion to the Bundesliga. There will be quite a few admirers of his present in France keeping a keen eye on him.
Author – Debjyoti Samanta