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Top 10 players to watch out for in the U-21 European Championship

Real Madrid CF v FC Barcelona - La Liga

The U-21 Championships kick off this week, with some of the best young and talented players on show. This tournament that lasts about two weeks gives viewers the chance to see the big talents of tomorrow, today. Recent winners include the likes of Juan Mata (2011), Mesut Ozil (2009), Klaas Jan Huntelaar (2007) and Danielle De Rossi (2004). Back in 1994, an Italian side equipped with a certain Fabio Cannavaro and Filipo Inzaghi won this tournament; 12 years later, the two were in the Italian side that won the World Cup in Germany. Needless to say, a good showing in this tournament could go a long way in any player’s career. This is the first real opportunity football fans get to see talents of tomorrow on show, a scout’s heaven!

So we’ve prepared a list of players to watch out for in the upcoming tournament in Israel. Ofcourse, we are well aware of the obvious talents such as the likes of Lewis Holtby and Isco Alcarcon; the list we’ve prepared consists of the ‘less-obvious’ talents (and one that isn’t guided by a Premier League myopia).

10. Alvaro Morata

Age: 20

National Team: Spain

Club: Real Madrid

Position: Forward

Despite being at the tender age of 20, Alvaro Morata has already experienced football at the top level, having featured (and started) in one of the biggest games in world football- The El Clasico. A typical frontman with the ability to dominate in the air, Morata already has a La Liga and Copa Del Rey winners’ medal to his name. He was a part of the Spain side that won the U-19 Euros two years back and finished the tournament in Romania as the top scorer. The Spaniard has tons of potential and will use this tournament to showcase his true abilities in the hopes of getting a loan move to an interested side, allowing him to play regular first-team football.

9. Bruno Martins Indi

Dutch Eredivisie - ADO Den Haag v Feyenoord

Age: 21

National Team: Netherlands

Club: Feyernoord

Position: Defender

A versatile defender with the ability to play in the central defensive area, or outwide, Bruno Martins Indi is a talented youngster who has come through Feyernoord’s youth academy. The Dutch defender of Portuguese descent is one of the most experienced players in the tournament, having played nearly 80 senior games for the Dutch club. With the option of playing for Portugal or Netherlands, the youngster picked the Oranje and has already made 9 appearances for the senior national team; also scoring 2 goals in the 2014 World Cup qualifiers in the process. In total, he has played 31 times for various Dutch sides.

8. Lorenzo Insigne

Italy U21 Training Session & Press Conference

Age: 21

National Team: Italy

Club: Napoli

Position: Attacking Midfielder

At 5 feet 4 inches, Lorenzo Insigne is one of the shortest players in the U-21 Championship. His creative ability though, is immense. Encouraged by Walter Mazzarri into the first team, Insigne has developed into a talented individual. Much of his first-team football experience came in the Serie B while on loan at Pescara, under the guidance of a certain Zdenek Zeman. During his time under the ex-Roma boss, Insigne even won the Serie B footballer of the Year Award. The Italian has all the prerequisites of a creative advanced playmaker to be deployed behind the striker. The once capped youngster could be in for a career-changing season under new boss Rafael Benitez, and he’ll want to showcase his talent in front of the new boss.

7. Sebastian Rode

Eintracht Frankfurt v Fortuna Duesseldorf 1895 - Bundesliga

Age: 22

National Team: Germany

Club: Eintracht Frankfurt

Position: Midfielder

22-year-old Sebastian Rode has been a part of the hugely impressive Eintracht Frankfurt side, guided by Armin Veh. He played a bulk of Bundesliga games in the 2012-13 season as Frankfurt occupied the final Champions League spot for much of the season before settling for a Europa League berth. The German is a rock in midfield, displaying immense strength to nullify the opposition, an enforcer almost. He is yet to receive a call-up to the national side but will undoubtedly be a part of Joachim Low’s plans in the near future. Various reports in Germany suggest he is set to sign for the star-studded Bayern Munich side next season, but neither party has given any official confirmation on this.

6. Nathaniel Chalobah

Leicester City v Watford - npower Championship

Age: 18

National Team: England

Club: Chelsea

Position: Midfielder

At 18 years of age, Nathaniel Chalobah is one of the youngest players in this youth tournament. Having been born in the civil war zone city of Freetown, Sierra Leone, the youngster is still eligible to play his first-team football for the African side. But his ability and potential make him a good option for future English sides. The youngster has come through the youth setup at Chelsea, and hasn’t yet played a first team game for the Blues. However, he was an integral part of Gianfranco Zola’s Watford side that came so close to a return to the Premier League, only to miss out at the last few hurdles. A place in Chelsea’s team is still unlikely, but he will be hoping to impress the scouts on show to get a temporary move in search of first-team football.

5. Koke

FBL-ESP-LIGA-ATLETICO-SEVILLA

Age: 21

National Team: Spain

Club: Atletico Madrid

Position: Midfielder

A Los Colchonero throughout his career so far, Koke made his debut for Atletico Madrid at the tender age of 16. He continued his development in the B team, before gradually earning his promotion into the first team. Despite making a couple of appearances prior to Simeone’s arrival, Koke developed into the quality player that he is today only under the guidance of the Argentinian. He has been a constant feature in Simeone’s side, being a part of their Europa League and Copa Del Rey successes. Impressively, the midfielder has made over 50 appearances for 6 different Spanish sides (starting from the U-16s) but is yet to receive a call-up to the national side. He was also a part of Spain’s disappointing Olympic campaign.

4. Emre Can

FC Bayern Muenchen v SC Freiburg - Bundesliga

Age: 19

National Team: Germany

Club: Bayern Munich

Position: Midfielder

Germany has a fantastic track record of promoting young players of Turkish descent, most notably from Germany’s last U-21 winning side – Mesut Ozil. Emre Can is another one who has come through from that category, having joined Bundesliga giants Bayern Munich from Eintracht Frankfurt’s youth academy. The midfielder is another one of those rare players still in their teens, but have managed to earn a place in an U-21 side. He recently scored his first goal for the club against Monchengladbach. Being a part of Bayern Munich would be a fantastic opportunity for any player, but with the club establishing themselves as the biggest brand in football, regular opportunities may be hard to come by. The 19-yr-old could take this opportunity in Israel to stamp his authority in first-team football.

3. Jordy Clasie

Dutch Eredivisie - ADO Den Haag v Feyenoord

Age: 21

National Team: Netherlands

Club: Feyernoord

Position: Midfielder

The second Dutch and Feyernoord player to feature on the list, Jordy Clasie is one of the biggest talented midfielders in world football. He has been labelled as the ‘Dutch Xavi’ back in Netherlands which just gives you an idea of his immense ability. Despite being questioned about his physical stature and lack of height, Clasie has established himself at the Eredivisie club. His exploits with Feyernoord even earned him a call-up to the senior side and he has managed to make 5 international appearances, featuring in the Dutch national team’s World Cup qualifiers. Creative midfielders are a joy to watch, and Clasie will be a spearhead in the Dutch team’s U-21 campaign.

2. Daniel Carvajal

FBL-GER-BUNDESLIGA-LEVERKUSEN-BAYERN MUNICH

Age: 21

National Team: Spain

Club: Bayer Leverkusen / Real Madrid

Position: Right-Back

Dani Carvajal is one of many players to have come through from Real Madrid’s youth academy, making the move to their Castilla side but not being promoted to the first-team. He found a new home in the Bundesliga with Bayer Leverkusen in 2012, and has helped the side to a Champions League berth. Real Madrid still retain the right to buy him back based on a clause in his contract, and rumours are they’re set to exercise it this summer. No surprise, as Carvajal put in impressive performances this past season in Germany, and has widely been regarded as the best right-back in 12/13 (beating Philipp Lahm). Not only is he solid at the back, but is a potent threat going forward down the flanks. This could be a revolutionary tournament for the Spaniard, as positive performances could see him earn a starting berth at Real Madrid, and make his way into the top of world football. He too was a part of the U-19 Spanish side that won the European Championship in 2011.

1. Adam Maher

Friendly match - Netherlands v Italy

Age: 19

National Team: Netherlands

Club: AZ Alkmaar

Position: Attacking Midfielder

The Moroccan born AZ Alkmaar starlet is just 19 and has already made nearly 100 appearances for his club, to add to the 4 caps he has earned with the national side. It’s a true testament of his ability. The youngster has a smoothness about his play, and he almost flows across the midfield; best being deployed in an advanced role. Although his club had a disappointing league finish, Maher had an incredible season and is en-route to establishing himself as one of the top footballers today. A win in the KNVB Cup allowed Alkmaar qualification into Europe’s second tier competition. But needless to say, Europe’s top clubs will be casting a keen eye on our Top Player to watch out for in the U-21 European Championship.

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Edited by Staff Editor
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