We’ve taken a look at some of the talents on show at the under 21 European Championships next week. Find out who we think are the stars in the making!
Following the phenomenal debut season he’s just enjoyed with Tottenham, which saw him end it with 21 Premier League goals to his name, all eyes will be on the Englishman, particularly Manchester Utd who are keen to sign the 21-year-old this summer. Having come through the Tottenham Hotspur youth academy Kane made his Spurs debut in the Europa League in 2011 against Scottish side, Hearts. Since then he’s had loan spells at Norwich and Leicester and has come a long way having scored on his first start for Tottenham against Sunderland in the 2013/14 season, being named the PFA Young Player of the Year last season and scoring after just 90 seconds into his senior England debut. Gareth Southgate will be heavily reliant on the young striker, who is the England Under-21s captain, as he aims for the national side to win the tournament for the third time.
Having come through the ranks at Sporting Lisbon, Carvalho is following in the footsteps of Cristiano Ronaldo and Nani. The defensive midfielder made the news last summer when Arsenal made a bid for him after he had an impressive 2013/14 season; the offer was turned down by the Portuguese club. Despite being born in Angola, Carvalho has declared his services to the country of his residence and has played for the Portuguese national teams since underage level. Last summer, he was called up to the national side’s World Cup squad and made his debut against the USA. At 23 he’ll be one of the oldest players at the tournament, but possibly Portugal’s most important. If he has an impressive tournament expect several bids flying in from more clubs than just Arsenal.
Pierre Emil Højbjerg
The 19-year-old Danish talent is one of the most exciting players at the tournament after making an explosive debut against Slovenia where he scored twice and then provided three assists against Bulgaria. The dynamic box-to-box midfielder is a dead ball master having shown his expertise with free kicks. He’s won various domestic and international tournaments with home club Bayern Munich (for whom he holds the record for the youngest player to ever play for them) and spent last season out on loan to FC Augsburg where he scored twice in 16 appearances. He’s already made seven appearances for the national side, with one goal under his belt, but his goal-scoring record at U21 level is highly impressive: four in five.
Marc-André ter Stegen
Germany has a habit of producing world-class goalkeepers – Oliver Kahn, Manuel Neur – and the latest prodigy is 23-year-old Ter Stegen. He came to the world’s attention during Barcelona’s recent Champions League Final victory against Juventus where he impressed in front of goal and went onto lift the UEFA Champions League trophy. Indeed, this was in addition to the Copa del Rey trophy, which he also helped secure as he was used by the Catalonian club as their cup tournament goalkeeper. Ter Stegen joined Barcelona in 2014 for €12 million from Borussia Mönchengladbach with whom he spent four seasons with. He’s represented Germany at several youth levels and made his senior debut in 2012.
Italy will be relying on the goal-scoring abilities of 21-year-old Andrea Belotti whose strike rate at Under 21 level has seen him notch eight goals in 15 games. The striker has a decent goals-to-games ratio at each national team level with four goals in nine for the Under 20s and two goals in six for the Under 19s. At club level, with Palermo, he managed six goals last season in 38 appearances. Having made his debut for the Italian Under 21s in August 2013 in a 4-1 friendly win against Slovakia, the youngster has been spearheading their campaign ever since.
Kalas will be a recognisable name to Chelsea fans having joined them in 2010. The 22-year-old Czech Republic defender will be aiming to help his Under 21 side win on home soil as they host the tournament. Since joining Chelsea, Kalas – who’s capable of playing as either a centre-back or a right back – has made two appearances for the Blues. He’s been hampered by injuries so early in his career, but when he has played he’s looked very promising. The last few seasons he’s racked up some game time with loan spells at Vitesse and Middlesbrough, the latter of which he helped reach a playoff final last season and narrowly missed out on promotion to the Premier League. He’ll be hoping to use this tournament as an opportunity to break into Chelsea’s first team squad, or at least secure himself a loan move to a Premier League club.
It might feel like the name John Guidetti has been around for ages and that’s probably because it has having been signed for Manchester City back in 2008 by fellow Swede Sven Goran Eriksson, who was the then manager. Despite this the striker is still just 23 and he’ll be using this Under 21 tournament as a way of gaining the attention of European clubs as his contract with Man City expires this summer. He’s endured a frustrating time with the English club; he’s never made his debut for them and instead has been loaned out every season, including Burnley, Feyenoord, Stoke City and most recently Celtic. The talent is there and both Feyenoord and Celtic are keen to sign him after the Championship; he scored 20 goals in 23 games for the Dutch side and eight goals in 24 matches for the Scottish club. Will there be more European clubs fighting for his signature before the 2015/16 season begins?