5 England U21 players to keep an eye on in the European Championship
While the England senior team’s summer is now over following the end of the Nations League last week, and the England women’s team are only just beginning their own World Cup journey, it’s easy to forget that starting next week, the Three Lions’ U21 side are also taking part in a major tournament of their own – the 2019 European Championship.
Last time Aidy Boothroyd’s side entered the tournament, in 2017, they made it to the semi-finals only to be eliminated by eventual winners Germany after a penalty shoot-out. Despite that heartbreak, a number of the players involved – Jordan Pickford, Ben Chilwell, Nathaniel Chalobah and James Ward-Prowse – have gone on to make the Three Lions’ senior squad, to mixed successes.
Faced with France, Romania and Croatia in the group stage this time around, which players from Boothroyd’s current squad should we be looking out for as the tournament begins – and could any of them make their way into Gareth Southgate’s plans next season?
Here are 5 England U21 players to keep an eye on during the upcoming European Championship.
#1 James Maddison
One name on everyone’s lips during the discussion about England’s midfield shortcomings in their Nations League loss to the Netherlands was Leicester’s James Maddison. An outstanding creative midfielder, many fans felt that Maddison should’ve been included in the senior squad for last week’s matches, but instead it was decided he would fare better with the U21 squad, with whom he already has 6 caps.
So why is there so much hype around the 22-year old, who began his career with Coventry City? The statistics essentially tell their own story when it comes to Maddison. Only signed by Leicester in the summer of 2018, he had an outstanding debut season in the Premier League, appearing 36 times and scoring 7 and making 7 assists too. He also established himself as a rare dead-ball expert, scoring beautiful free-kicks against Huddersfield and Burnley.
It’s his creative talents that have fans most excited, though. Incredibly, Maddison created a mouth-watering 100 goalscoring chances in 2018/19 – the most in the Premier League, two more than his nearest rival Eden Hazard. If Maddison can help England’s U21’s to glory this summer, there can be no doubt that he’ll be gaining his first senior cap soon.