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EURO journey begins with Under-17 and Under-19 EURO for likes of Mbappé, Carvajal, Havertz, Kane

Many of the biggest names at EURO 2024 and previous tournaments began their journeys at UEFA's youth national-team tournaments.

(Clockwise from top left) Dani Carvajal, Memphis Depay, Kai Havertz, Harry Kane, Kylian Mbappé and Bernardo Silva at UEFA youth final tournaments
(Clockwise from top left) Dani Carvajal, Memphis Depay, Kai Havertz, Harry Kane, Kylian Mbappé and Bernardo Silva at UEFA youth final tournaments Sportsfile/UEFA

For around 180 of the players across all 24 of the UEFA EURO 2024 squads, even if it is their debut in a senior European Championship, it will not be their first experience of a continental final tournament.

Each year the UEFA European Under-19 and Under-17 Championships showcase some of the brightest emerging talents from across the continent, as do their women's equivalents. Over the years it has given fans the first glance on an international competitive stage of the likes of Manuel Neuer, Cristiano Ronaldo, Kylian Mbappé, Harry Kane and Dani Carvajal, while the predecessor U18 and U16 competitions, which were reclassified in 2001, produced graduates including Luís Figo, Thierry Henry and Iker Casillas.

Kylian Mbappé Under-19 highlights

Each year teams compete in mini-tournaments to reach the respective summer finals that over the decades have given several thousand players a taste of competing for a European title. Some have gone on to do so many times at senior level, but even those who did not have the same experience took to the pitch with and perhaps even outshone the future superstars of the game.

Ten youth tournaments graduates at EURO 2024

Nicolò Barella (Italy) – 2016 U19 runner-up

Bernardo Silva (Portugal) – 2013 U19 semi-final

Memphis Depay (Netherlands) – 2011 U17 winner

Jérémy Doku (Belgium) – 2018 U17 semi-final, 2019 U17 quarter-final

Kylian Mbappé (France) – 2016 U19 winner

Kai Havertz (Germany) – 2016 U17 semi-final

Harry Kane (England) – 2012 U19 semi-final

Andriy Lunin (Ukraine) – 2016 U17 group stage

Nemanja Maksimović (Serbia) – 2013 U19 winner, 2014 U19 semi-final

Rodri (Spain) – 2015 U19 winner

The annual nature of the tournaments, with fresh generations given a chance each year, gives every nation a fresh opportunity to go for glory every season. Over the years, 47 of UEFA's current 55 member associations have had a team in a men's youth final tournament at some point, and nations like Cyprus, Iceland and Liechtenstein have had the opportunity to host.

Watch Toni Kroos score an U17 stunner for Germany in 2007

Over two decades of youth tournament products will be on display in Germany. Cristiano Ronaldo took part in the first reclassified U17 EURO in 2002 in Denmark, while Lamine Yamal scored four goals in Spain's run to the semi-finals in Hungary just last year.

Players immediately realise the value of the tournaments. Jonathan Tah was in Greece for the U19 finals in 2015 as Germany finished bottom of a group in which all teams ended on four points. Tah told UEFA.com in the aftermath of their exit: "This is certainly going to help us for the future. You learn from tournaments like this and you learn from your defeats, to take the best you can from them."

"It's helped me get to the position that I'm in today."

Kieran Trippier, 2009 U19 EURO runner-up

After that Tah went on to receive a late UEFA EURO 2016 call, captained Germany to the 2019 U21 EURO final and will be back at EURO this year. That follows a sensational Bayer Leverkusen season alongside fellow youth tournament graduates like Granit Xhaka and Alejandro Grimaldo, a U19 EURO winner in 2012 and among 14 members of the Spain squad with UEFA youth final tournament experience, the most of any team.

For England that number is 12, several of who helped their team to the final. Kieran Trippier was a U19 EURO runner-up in 2009 alongside Kyle Walker, and more than a decade later told the FA's website: "It's helped me get to the position that I'm in today, a great journey and it's one that I wouldn't change."

Players in EURO final-winning teams who had previously won UEFA youth national-team finals

ITALY 2020 (played in 2021)
Giorgio Chiellini U19 2003

João Moutinho
U17 2003
Ricardo Quaresma
U16 2000

SPAIN 2012
Iker Casillas U16 1997
Andrés Iniesta
U19 2002
Juan Mata U19 2006
Gerard Piqué U19 2006
Sergio Ramos U19 2004
David Silva
U19 2004
Fernando Torres U16 2001, U19 2002

SPAIN 2008
Iker Casillas U16 1997
Andrés Iniesta
U19 2002
Sergio Ramos U19 2004
David Silva U19 2004
Fernando Torres U16 2001, U19 2002

Thierry Henry
U18 1996
David Trezeguet U18 1996

While Tah, Trippier and others were embarking on their final EURO preparations, the latest iteration of U17 EURO was being played out in Cyprus. Italy beat Portugal in the final, and the players were given a guard of honour by both teams before the senior team's warm-up friendly against Bosnia and Herzegovina in Empoli on Sunday. They can now hope to emulate the more than 30 players at EURO 2024 who previously tasted U17 or U19 EURO victory.

Italy's EURO 2024 squad salute their U17 champions
Italy's EURO 2024 squad salute their U17 championsGetty Images

The 2024 U17 EURO final tournament had 16 teams but for Albania 2025 it will revert to an eight-nation event as part of a restructuring of UEFA's male youth tournaments, encompassing a two-tier structure that will mean no squad's season will end after the first round of qualifying in autumn, and comes in conjunction with a new annual 48-strong FIFA U-17 World Cup.

Wales did not make it out of the U17 group stage in Cyprus but their squad made history by qualifying for a second straight season, the first time their nation has done that at youth level. The 2007-born generation will have another opportunity when Wales hosts 2026 U19 EURO and among that number could be Brayden Clarke, in the Wales U17 finals squad for the last two years and a rising prospect at Arsenal.

"For all the lads this year and last year it’s big experience for us," Clarke told UEFA.com in Cyprus. "It's the biggest tournament we've played in at our age. We'll remember it for the rest of our lives, we don't know how long our careers will be."

"It's the biggest tournament we've played in. We'll remember it for the rest of our lives."

Brayden Clarke, Wales defender at 2024 U17 EURO

2024 U17 EURO top five goals

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