Euro 2020: 5 young players who could become household names after the tournament

Euro 2020 has seen several young players make a massive impression on the grandest stage
Euro 2020 has seen several young players make a massive impression on the grandest stage

With the knockout stages fast approaching, Euro 2020 has already seen several young players enhance their reputations with eye-catching displays for their respective teams. When it comes to a major tournament, you could argue that the style of football doesn't matter. No one remembers the details of an ugly win with a scruffy goal - results matter more than anything, making it even harder for young players to nail down regular starting spots.

That said, some of the biggest sides across the continent have had young players play starring roles for them, with someone like Mason Mount coming on the back of an outstanding season with Chelsea. Similarly, other players have cemented their status as key players for club and country and continue to belie their age.

All of the players I've mentioned have a competitive edge and the determination to overcome disappointment. You might be tripped up every now and again, but you have to keep bouncing back and that's the sign of a budding superstar.

I've picked five players who could announce themselves as superstars at Euro 2020, but the list could've so easily had names like Jeremy Doku and Kalvin Phillips, who've both made massive impressions so far. However, after careful consideration, they didn't quite make the cut, but there's enough time left at Euro 2020 for them to make their presence felt.

On that note, here are five players who've really caught my eye so far.

#5 Denzel Dumfries | Netherlands, PSV Eindhoven

North Macedonia v Netherlands - UEFA Euro 2020: Group C
North Macedonia v Netherlands - UEFA Euro 2020: Group C

Denzel Dumfries is the type of guy you don’t like playing against because he’s got boundless energy, pace and running power. He’s a tormentor and a danger that keeps popping up when you least expect it, as we’ve seen at Euro 2020 so far with his two goals against Ukraine and Austria. Much like Patrick van Aanholt on the other flank for the Netherlands, Dumfries is a risk-taker.

I’ve always said this about Van Aanholt over the years and the same applies to the PSV man. He gets caught out at times, but he makes daring runs up and down the flank and is absolutely devastating to come up against. Other than his desire and drive, what I've liked most about Dumfries at Euro 2020 is the timings of his forward bursts. It’s very well measured and he wears people down with his energy.

His fitness and athleticism combined with his work rate make him almost unstoppable, I feel exhausted just by watching him at home! He’s scored twice already, but he’s getting into some excellent positions with the timing of his daring runs and could’ve well had three or four goals to his name at Euro 2020.

People want to watch entertaining football and this guy gives you just that - he entertains and brings you to the edge of your seat. It’ll be interesting to see if he stays at PSV beyond this summer because he strikes me as someone with Premier League potential. Teams from other leagues would’ve taken notice as well, so he’s unlikely to be short of suitors.

It wasn’t long ago that the Netherlands were in a bit of a crisis. Ronald Koeman arrived, steadied the ship and sort of got them back on track, but you have to admit that Frank de Boer has also done a decent job so far. Most Dutch coaches over the years have preferred to play a 4-3-3 by adopting the principles of total football, but De Boer has stuck to his guns and resorted to playing five at the back at Euro 2020 despite being criticized.

You’ve got to admire him for that and his decision has been rewarded by a Netherlands side that has looked good at Euro 2020 so far, with Dumfries playing an important role for them in the group stages.

#4 Nicolo Barella | Italy, Inter Milan

Italy v Switzerland - UEFA Euro 2020: Group A
Italy v Switzerland - UEFA Euro 2020: Group A

I became a fan of Nicolo Barella while watching Inter Milan in the UEFA Champions League last season. I worked on a couple of their group stage games and he was a player who really stood out to me. He’s probably gone under the radar so far, because other Italian players like Manuel Locatelli have grabbed the attention.

Barella didn’t provide an assist in Italy’s Euro 2020 opener against Turkey, but he was involved in all three goals they scored on the night by providing the pass that led to the assist, indicating the role he plays for his side. He’s understated for what he’s delivering now for club and country and it goes without saying that he’s learned lessons of the game under Antonio Conte at Inter Milan. He used to be a bit more instinctive and was seen drifting around the pitch in the past, but now he has a discipline about his game and knows exactly where to be and what role to play for his team, be it for club or country. He’s matured really well under Conte, who has been a good influence on his career.

The fact that he’s being relied upon by Roberto Mancini at Euro 2020 also speaks volumes about how much he’s developed as a player. He doesn’t jump at you when you watch Italy play, but he gets the job done in a quieter, less noticeable fashion.

If he continues playing like this, everything will elevate. Sometimes, you like something in a player and tend to keep an eye on him - Barella is that player for me. He has the trust of a demanding coach like Conte and someone as experienced as Mancini for the Azzurri, so he’s making massive strides for a 24-year-old at Euro 2020.

Also Read: Paul Merson names 5 surprise packages of Euro 2020 so far

#3 Mason Mount | England, Chelsea

England v Croatia - UEFA Euro 2020: Group D
England v Croatia - UEFA Euro 2020: Group D

England didn’t play particularly well against Scotland in their second Euro 2020 encounter, but the fact that Mason Mount still managed to stand out is a startling example of his quality. I have huge admiration for him because he was as effective as he could be in the circumstances. Looking back on the game, he took the corner that led to John Stones clattering the upright from close range and kept on probing as the game went on. He gave England moments of hope with his refusal to accept the mediocrity around him in that game, as he attempted to find pockets of space to provide the incision they lacked.

Earlier, I described him as an all-rounder, but he’s gone higher in my estimation. Wherever you play him, you get consistency and a performance from him, which is largely down to his sense of intelligence and versatility. My respect for Mount is growing hugely with each passing game. He’s a household name in England and the rest of Europe after winning the UEFA Champions League, but the more I watch him, the more I see a talent with real depth to his game.

He’s got layers of talent. When you pull one layer away, you’ve got another one waiting and it’s something different. Mount is very hard to shake off the ball and works extremely hard to win it back, all this while also having an awful lot of natural ability in between. He’s very versatile and composed regardless of where he ends up on the pitch.

He’s already up there, but he could develop into a magnificent talent for England as Euro 2020 enters its business end. If he can do something remarkable like score a worldie or pop up with an important goal, that will elevate his profile across the continent. I bow in respect to Mason Mount - the more you ask of him, the better he delivers.

#2 Youri Tielemans | Belgium, Leicester City

Belgium v Russia - UEFA Euro 2020: Group B
Belgium v Russia - UEFA Euro 2020: Group B

Youri Tielemans has a great chance to take his game to the next level at Euro 2020. He’s coming on the back of an outstanding season with Leicester City where he made his mark in the FA Cup final with a wonderful goal to decide the game against Chelsea. He’s already put himself out there, but if you look at the Belgium squad at Euro 2020, the likes of Kevin De Bruyne, Eden Hazard and Romelu Lukaku are bigger names than him.

I watched him at Monaco in his younger days and remember him being a little erratic with his passing. He’s always had great shooting prowess with both feet, but some of his basic passes used to go astray. He’s developed a passing maturity in the Premier League and Brendan Rodgers would’ve definitely had a say in his development so far.

When you look at Leicester City, their wing-backs are involved in the game heavily, which is pretty much the case for Belgium at Euro 2020. He’s got Jamie Vardy to find at club level and another top-class striker in Romelu Lukaku to feed with his long passes for his country, while his role in midfield also allows De Bruyne to move further forward.

I think Tielemans has the belief to dictate the Belgian midfield and how it operates. There’s venom in his feet - he can hit the ball purely and can be a big threat even from 30 yards out. He was rested against Finland with one eye on the Euro 2020 knockouts, as they sat back and sent Belgium sideways for large parts of the game. If he had played, you’d have seen him have a pop or two from distance because he’s a sweet striker of the ball.

There’s a lot of quality players and forward movement around him, so the stage is perfectly set up for him to play a telling role for Belgium in the knockout stages of Euro 2020. I really like him and the game he provides, he’ll look to feed off the talent around him while also adding to his own name and stature in the games ahead.

#1 Pedri | Spain, Barcelona

Spain v Sweden - UEFA Euro 2020: Group E
Spain v Sweden - UEFA Euro 2020: Group E

I think Pedri, from what I’ve seen of him at Barcelona in the UEFA Champions League and Spain at Euro 2020, has made remarkable progress in such a short span of time. He’s a Tenerife lad schooled in a Barcelona team, which has helped him adapt seamlessly to life at the Camp Nou. He played more games for Ronald Koeman last season than most players and has become a key player for Spain at Euro 2020 at the age of 18, which shows how good a talent he is.

The likes of Thiago Alcantara and Koke, who are senior pros and fantastic players in their own right, are being made to sit on the bench, with Pedri being preferred to pull strings in midfield. His reputation is growing fast - he’s got lovely natural ability on the ball and really good footwork. He’s quick on the turn and really crisp in the way he keeps things ticking. Most of all, Pedri is very calculative and has exhibited outstanding spatial awareness - he knows where his next pass is going to be even before the ball reaches him.

He’s also got that desire to be first on the press and win the ball back for his side, which is once again a testament to his education at Barcelona in the past year or so. Coming to his role for Spain at Euro 2020, there seems to be a clear disconnect between midfield and attack. There’s no chemistry there, as Alvaro Morata and Gerard Moreno are not on the same wavelength as him. I’m more inclined to look at the attack as the problem, as Spain have created plenty of chances at Euro 2020, but they’ve scored just one goal so far.

They can seal qualification to the knockout stages of Euro 2020 with a victory against Slovakia, so I’d be really surprised if they leave Pedri out for the game. He’s a lovely operator who is neat on the ball and cheeky with his movement, his ability to find a pass could be crucial to Spain and their hopes of progressing further in the competition.

His elevation in terms of superstardom might not necessarily happen at Euro 2020, but trust me, it will happen. The foundations have already been laid, we’re talking about an incredibly gifted 18-year-old footballer who is a key player for club and country.

As I said earlier with Nicolo Barella, some players just attract your attention, and Pedri is definitely another one of those for me. I wish each of these players the best, I hope they do great things and announce themselves to the rest of Europe and the wider world with their performances at Euro 2020, they deserve it for what they’ve done so far.

Also Read: David James ranks the top 5 favorites to win Euro 2020

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Edited by Vishal Subramanian