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Emre Can carving out niche with Germany

The new Michael Ballack? Steven Gerrard Mark II? UEFA.com's Philip Röber says Germany's Emre Can is showing he is very much his own man at the 2015 U21 EURO.

Leading the way for Germany: Emre Can
Leading the way for Germany: Emre Can ©Getty Images

Comparisons between talents and established players can be tricky affairs. At this UEFA European Under-21 Championship, however, you will come across them almost as regularly as you would see tourists taking pictures on the popular Charles Bridge in central Prague.

As for the German team, you would be hard pressed to find anyone who will be put in juxtaposition as much as Emre Can. He has been labelled as "the new Sami Khedira", designated as the successor to Steven Gerrard and dubbed a "Michael Ballack type". Quite sizeable footsteps to follow in.

The 21-year-old certainly does not need to hide from these comparisons. Indeed given his imposing stature and presence on the pitch, Can can hardly be overlooked. "He's the player who will seize the game and set the tone," coach Horst Hrubesch says. A natural leader, who despite his young age has already played for three top European clubs and has embraced responsibility for Germany's youth teams since turning out at U15 level.

This career trajectory suggests that Can is already seasoned enough to be pigeonholed with other players. "He has his own style," says Pierre Højbjerg. "You cannot compare him with Ballack or Gerrard." The Danish U21 international knows Can from their time at Bayern München, where both played for the B team together and later also shared experiences in the senior squad.

Watch Emre Can's goal against Serbia

"He's a sublime footballer and there is nothing he can't do," Højbjerg told UEFA.com. "His physique and his passing game are extraordinary, he also reads the game very well. You just have to look at how he established himself at Liverpool. And he's done it at a very young age, so these experiences will really pay off one day."

The reds hold Can in high esteem because of his versatility. After Gerrard's retirement from football, the Frankfurt-born midfielder is tipped to assume a central role from next season. "Emre needs a few more years and he could play for any team in the world," said Liverpool coach Brendan Rodgers. "He is aggressive and fast and does the dirty work as well. You can see his intelligence in every position he plays."

Many observers predict the former Leverkusen man will be a star for Germany's senior team in the future, but it remains too early to draw comparisons with the likes of Gerrard.

Can does not have to cheat time either. He made his debut at the U21 EURO finals two years ago in Israel, and has two chances to follow in the footsteps of Germany's 2009 champions. If it is not meant for him this month in the Czech Republic, Can could have another go in Poland in 2017.

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