Paris (AFP) – Ahead of the start of Euro 2020 on Friday, AFP Sport selects six of the continent’s brightest young stars to watch at the month-long tournament:
– Phil Foden –
The player of the tournament when England won the Under-17 World Cup in India in 2017, Foden is now set to be unleashed on a full international competition for the first time at the age of 21. He is coming off a superb season at Manchester City in which he starred in Pep Guardiola’s Premier League title-winning side, regularly cutting in from the left flank and contributing 16 goals in all competitions.
Foden, who likes to spend his free time fishing with his father, made his full England debut last September and scored his first goals against Iceland in the Nations League in November.
– Pedri –
Following in the footsteps of the likes of Juan Carlos Valeron, David Silva and Pedro Rodriguez before him, Pedri is the latest star to emerge from the Canary Islands and break into the Spain set-up.
The slight 18-year-old midfielder with the silky touch, who comes from Tenerife, joined Barcelona last year from Las Palmas. Growing up he modelled himself on Andres Iniesta and he wasted little time establishing himself at the Camp Nou, playing in all but one game in La Liga for Barca in the season just finished. He made his Spain debut in a World Cup qualifier against Greece in March.
– Jamal Musiala –
The 18-year-old Bayern Munich and Germany midfielder was born in Stuttgart but could have been lining up for England at the Euro. His father is British-Nigerian and he moved to England with his family aged seven. He has represented both Germany and England at youth level too. “I have a heart for Germany and a heart for England,” he told The Athletic earlier this year.
However, he left the Chelsea academy set-up to join Bayern in 2019 and committed his international future to Germany in February, just before signing a new five-year deal at his club. Shortly after that he was given his full Germany debut in a World Cup qualifier against Iceland.
– Matthijs de Ligt –
Centre-back De Ligt is still just 21 but his importance to the Netherlands cannot be understated, especially with Virgil van Dijk ruled out of the Euro. That explains the concern for his fitness when he appeared to suffer a groin injury in training at the weekend.
Dutch coach Frank de Boer needs De Ligt, who captained Ajax in the Champions League aged just 19, starring in the side that got to the semi-finals of that competition in 2019 before being sold to Juventus in a world-record deal for a defender, the fee an initial 75 million euros ($84.2m).
A symbol of the new Dutch generation after the Oranje missed both Euro 2016 and the 2018 World Cup, De Ligt made his full international debut as a 17-year-old.
– Jeremy Doku –
The Belgian squad is full of established stars these days, but amid concern for the fitness of Kevin De Bruyne and the form of Eden Hazard, Doku could have a notable role to play for Roberto Martinez’s side.
The winger who only recently turned 19 broke through at Anderlecht and made his full Belgium debut last September, just before Rennes paid a club record 26 million euros ($31.6m) to sign him. Doku needed time to adapt to his new surroundings but finished the season strongly in France and can be a threat on either flank.
– Joao Felix –
Felix, 21, became one of the five most expensive players in history when still a teenager after Atletico Madrid agreed to pay 126 million euros ($142m) to sign him from Benfica in 2019.
Capable of playing on either flank or through the middle in attack, Felix broke through at Benfica and is fresh from helping Atletico win La Liga. He is also a symbol of the new Portuguese generation that will support Cristiano Ronaldo at this Euro as Fernando Santos’ team defend the title they won in France in 2016.
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