Under-21 EURO: one to watch from each team
Friday, June 14, 2019
UEFA.com picks out one player from each of the 12 finalists who might be worth keeping a special eye on.
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Austria: Xaver Schlager (Salzburg)
An all-action midfielder with an eye for goal, Schlager has been preparing for this tournament by featuring in the Austria senior side's European Qualifiers against Slovenia and North Macedonia. A UEFA Youth League winner with Salzburg in 2017, he has since excelled in the club's first team, scooping four Austrian league titles and featuring in every game of the run to the 2017/18 UEFA Europa League semi-finals.
Belgium: Dodi Lukebakio (Watford/Fortuna Düsseldorf)
Back in November, on loan in Germany from Watford, Lukebakio pulled off a Bundesliga first: he scored a hat-trick against Manuel Neuer. The Belgian speedster followed his sensational treble to rescue a 3-3 draw for Düsseldorf at Bayern with the opener in a 2-1 triumph against Dortmund. His knack for scoring in the big games perhaps comes from his pace, the 21-year-old thriving in attacking transitions. "Dodi can become a very good player," said Fortuna coach Friedhelm Funkel. "He's so unpredictable with his pace and dribbling."
Croatia: Nikola Vlašić (Everton/CSKA Moskva)
Joining CSKA on loan from Everton proved just the ticket for Vlašić. This 21-year-old attacking midfielder established himself as a key man for the Army Men, not least in the UEFA Champions League. He was CSKA's key player in the group stage, scoring three goals including the winner against Real Madrid. "He did a great job in Russia and we are possibly looking at one of the key players in Croatia's future," said senior coach Zlatko Dalić. Vlašić scored five goals in 25 league appearances for CSKA last season.
Denmark: Robert Skov (København)
The 2018/19 campaign marked Skov's breakthrough. Deployed on the right wing, he scored 32 goals and made ten assists in 48 appearances for København, including no small contribution in the UEFA Europa League. Leading scorer in the Danish top flight, he struck eight goals direct from free-kicks alone and deservedly made his senior Denmark debut in the European Qualifier against Georgia on Monday.
England: Phil Foden (Manchester City)
Only just 19, Foden made 13 Premier League, four UEFA Champions League and eight cup appearances for Josep Guardiola's 2019/19 domestic treble-winning City side. "He's special," said Guardiola in April. "I see many players as a manager and this guy has something that is difficult to find." Foden only made his U21 debut in October last year but many observers feel this summer could be the springboard that launches him into Gareth Southgate's senior England team plans.
France: Houssem Aouar (Lyon)
Aouar, who turns 21 at the end of the month, has further cemented his credentials at Lyon this season. He has particularly impressed with his vision and technical ability, scoring seven goals and contributing six assists in Ligue 1. He also caught the eye in the UEFA Champions League, Manchester City manager Guardiola describing him as "incredible" and praising his "calmness with the ball at his feet" after his team's two group stage encounters with Les Gones. A full France debut is unlikely to be too far away.
Germany: Florian Neuhaus (Borussia Mönchengladbach)
A clever attacking midfielder, Neuhaus enjoyed a breakthrough campaign with Borussia Mönchengladbach in 2018/19, his three goals and eight assists propelling the Foals to a fifth-placed finish. While some have likened his appreciation of space and darting late runs to Thomas Müller, the 22-year-old idolises a different senior international. "I love watching Toni Kroos," he said. "It really impresses me how confidently he plays and how his pass completion is almost always perfect."
Italy: Moise Kean (Juventus)
Aged 19, the Juventus forward has already broken a long list of records at club and international level. The first player born after 2000 to play in the UEFA Champions League, to play and score in Serie A and to score for Italy, Kean has great pace and can shoot with both feet. That goal in the UEFA EURO 2020 qualifier against Finland – he quickly added another in the following game against Liechtenstein – also made him the youngest player to net for Italy since 1958. "Kean has quality and enormous potential," said Azzurri coach Roberto Mancini.
Poland: Dawid Kownacki (Sampdoria/Fortuna Düsseldorf)
Poland's captain, Kownacki was the overall top scorer in qualifying for this tournament. He already has considerable top-flight experience – more than 100 games – in Poland (Lech Poznań), Italy (Sampdoria) and Germany (Fortuna Düsseldorf). He spent last season on loan in Dusseldorf from the Blucerchiati, further demonstrating his versatility and eye for goal, and could yet extend his stay in the Bundesliga. Some have dubbed him The New Lewandowski; no pressure, then.
Romania: Ianis Hagi (Viitorul)
Son of all-time Romania great Gheorghe, Ianis Hagi has inherited his father's passion and no small amount of his skill but is very much a talent of his own. "We can't compare him to me," said Gheorghe. Ianis made his Romanian top-flight debut for Viitorul – the club established and managed by his father – aged 16. He subsequently captained the club either side of a spell at Fiorentina and is now a senior international to boot. He is two-footed, creative and a set-piece specialist. "The name Hagi is not a burden, but a huge honour," he said.
Serbia: Luka Jović (Eintracht Frankfurt/Real Madrid)
Bound for Real Madrid this summer after a breakthrough campaign with Eintracht Frankfurt in which he scored ten UEFA Europa League goals en route to the last four, Jović comes into this tournament this fresh from impressing for the Serbia seniors. The 21-year-old has been likened to Germany great Gerd Müller in terms of physique, although he idolises Radamel Falcao.
Spain: Dani Ceballos (Real Madrid)
Player of the Tournament in the 2017 finals as Spain finished runners-up, those displays earned Ceballos a move to Real Madrid. While he has been unable to hold down a regular berth at the Bernabéu, he has been a useful squad member, making 13 starts and a further ten substitute appearances in the Spanish Liga this term. He will be looking to use this summer's tournament as a platform for more regular club football next season.