The 2015 U-21 Euro kicks off in a few days’ time in the Czech Republic and the tournament has been the breeding ground for many future stars over the years. The previous edition of the tournament saw players like Alvaro Morata, Thiago and Marco Verratti make a mark, and today all of them are superstars at their respective clubs.
Some notable players who participated in earlier tournaments who went on to make a big impact at club level include Cesar Azpilicueta, Javi Martinez, Juan Mata, David De Gea, Daniel Sturridge, Manuel Neuer, Mats Hummels, Sami Khedira and Mesut Ozil. Spain were the champions in the previous two editions of the tournament, but La Roja have failed to qualify for the tournament this year.
We pick out 5 players who will be playing in the tournament this year and are worth watching.
Honourable Mentions: Srdan Mijailovic (Serbia), Maximilian Arnold (Germany), Andrea Belotti (Italy), Robin Quaison (Sweden) and Tomas Kalas (Czech Repubic)
5) Pierre Emile Højbjerg – Denmark
Club: Bayern Munich
Højbjerg joined Bayern Munich in 2012 from the academy of Danish club Brøndby which has produced players like Daniel Agger. Aged just 17 years, he made his professional debut for the Bavarians as a substitute and in doing so he became the youngest ever player to play for the Bayern Munich first team in the Bundesliga.
After Pep Guardiola took over as Bayern’s manager, Højbjerg was given decent playing time for a player of his age. Guardiola started the teenager in the final of the DFB-Pokal in 2014 before taking him off in the first half of extra time.
His steady improvement for Bayern warranted a new contract and he was also loaned out to Augsburg for the second half of the previous season so that he could get more playing time. His loan spell at Augsburg was quite effective and while playing for them, he even assisted the only goal of the game against Bayern at the Allianz Arena.
In 2013, he was honoured as the Danish talent of the year and in May 2014 he was called up to the Denmark senior side for the very first time. In only his third appearance for his country, he scored the equalizing goal in a Euro 2016 qualification game against Armenia which helped his side to an eventual 2-1 win.
4) Kevin Volland – Germany
Club: 1899 Hoffenheim
Volland is one of the hottest properties in German football today and he has been linked with a move to several of Europe’s big clubs for a while now. The German is often used as a right winger and sometimes as a second striker, but in either position his composure in front of goal has come in handy for Hoffenheim.
Considering Germany’s lack of quality options in the striking department, it comes as a surprise that Lowe hasn’t called Volland up to the senior side more often as he is capable of operating as the man up front. Nevertheless, he has already featured three times for the senior squad and could feature more in the coming years.
Volland is an agile and versatile forward who uses his pace and technique to cut inside and open up spaces when he plays as a winger and when playing through the middle he often sits deeper in a number 10 role and uses his excellent vision to create goalscoring opportunities for his teammates. Add his cut-throat finishing and he becomes a valuable player to any side. He has scored 28 goals for Hoffenheim and registered 16 assists in three seasons.
There will be plenty of scouts from some of Europe’s big clubs to watch Volland and he will be hoping to put up a good show to impress them.
3) Domenico Berardi – Italy
Although Berardi is a Juventus player, he has never featured for the Old Lady despite signing for them two seasons ago. He gained attention while helping Sassuolo gain promotion to Serie A in 2013 after which Juventus signed him and sent him back on loan for two consecutive seasons. Despite his age and inexperience playing in Serie A, the youngster has found the back of the net 31 times in 61 league games for Sassuolo in the Italian top flight.
Berardi is a quick player, with good work rate and an eye for goal. He is versatile and has been deployed on either wing or through the centre as a striker or a second striker. The 20-year-old is highly regarded in Europe and he could finally get his chance to play for Juventus next season.
The Italian was enjoying a very good debut season in Serie A and he rose to stardom abruptly after scoring all four goals against Milan in a 4-3 win for Sassuolo. In doing so, he became the second-youngest player to score four goals in a Serie A match and the first to score four in a league match against Milan.
He finished the last season with 15 goals and 10 assists to his name and once again proved to be Milan’s tormentor as he scored a hat-trick against them in a 3-2 win for Sassuolo.