Euro 2020: Young Ballers To Watch

After a short hiatus we’re back with some Euros content, firstly focusing on the hottest young talent at the tournament, lets get into it!

Alexander Isak

Alexander Isak is a Stockholm born and raised 21-year-old striker. From young age Isak joined his boyhood club AIK. Through years of working up the Swedish side’s academy ranks, in February 2016 the 16 year old swede would make his debut in a 6-0 win over Telhults IF where he would score.

At the time Isak’s ability at such a tender age would make him subject to internet hype and comparisons, a tall striker that was predominantly a speedster and possesses remarkable low central gravity, he garnered several comparisons (at one point I remember him being compared to Henry and Ibra in the same breath in an article).

Having made himself a regular at AIK, he would be subject to attention from the biggest sides in Europe. In January 2017 he would opt to join Borussia Dortmund, a side with a reputation for nurturing young talent. Despite this reputation, the development of Isak at Dortmund was disaster. Despite him being considered a future world class talent, he would only register 12 senior appearances mostly coming in the cup.

The following season would see him loaned out to Willem in holland where he would register 14 goals in 18 games in a prolific season. This would draw interest in from Sociedad who would sign him in 5 a year deal in a rather rogue move for the youngster(with the argument of whether his style of play would even suit Spanish ball).

Fast forward to the 2020/21 season he would prove to be suited to Sociedad’s style of play registering 17 goals in 34 La Liga appearances. Valued at 36 mill by transfermarkt he’s been linked to Arsenal, with Sociedad claiming a 60 million release clause on the youngster. He impressed last night for Sweden and has already been an eye catching player so far. With the youngster registering 3 goals in the qualifiers, he looks to prove a point at the euros.

Jeremy Doku

Jeremy Doku is a 19-year-old exciting winger at Rennes. The Belgian native was born in Borgehout, in the suburb of Antwerp. Doku from a young age had trials at KVC Olympic Deurne for trials. He would then get snapped by what is considered to be one of Antwerps best academies, Beerschot AC. With notably great infrastructure for young players in Belgium, the club produced the likes of Toby Alderweireld, Mousa Dembele, Radja Naingollan, Wanyama and Vertonghen.

Doku would graduate through the Beerschot ranks idolizing Nainggolan despite being different stylistically to him. Doku from a tender age would be subject to interest from Europe’s biggest academy’s but would opt at 10 years old to continue his development in Belgium joining Anderlecht.

Doku would continue to impress in the Anderlecht ranks, and by age 15 he gained attention again from the biggest European clubs like Arsenal, Chelsea and Ajax. However, it was Liverpool that were closest to striking a deal seeing him as a long term replacement to Mane and flying him out to their training facilities. Doku however, would shockingly turn down a deal at Liverpool and sign a contract at Anderlecht where he would later earn a move to French side Rennes for 26 million Euros. 

In his first season he would explode. Despite registering 2 goals and 3 assists in 30 appearances for Rennes it would his individual performances that stood out. Valued at 19.8 million pounds, the winger could be heir to the Hazard thrown adding goals and assists to his game while developing at Rennes who have a good reputation for producing wingers.

Will we see him at the Euros? We hope so! Doku has contributed sporadically since being called up to the Belgium squad in September 2020, also playing a part in Belgium’s 8-0 trashing of Belarus. We expect to see him make substitute appearances or full start if Belgium progress from their group early.

Federico Chiesa

Genoa born Federico “Pepo” Chiesa is another hot prospect that’s being in the hot property scope the past few years. The Fiorentina academy graduate, he finally signed a professional contract for Fiorentina in 2016 and his first goal in 2017. In the years he would go on to be a key focal point in Fiorentina’s forward raising his profile to prominence in 2019 with a hattrick in 7-0 rout over Roma in the Coppa Italia.

Linked with the likes of Liverpool and United for a number of years, as far as Italian talent outside of Juventus goes, they end up at Juventus. Nailing down a loan with option to buy move and the Old Lady, Chiesa proved to be a key man in the struggling Pirlo side,
contributing to 9 goals and 9 assists in all competitions. A player that possess speed, skill and finishing, he is has displayed exciting performances for Juve with his performance against Porto in the CL almost looking like a Ronaldo-esque clutch performance.

Will we see him at the euros? Similar to Doku’s situation, he may make cameos for Italy as they may prefer Berardi on the right-hand side. This could be based on the fact in 10 games for Italy he’s made little goal contributions with 1 goal and 3 assists in 10.

Ryan Gravenberch

Gravenberch is an absolute Royals Royce of a midfielder already at 19. The Amsterdam born native to date has spent the majority of his career at Ajax signing from Zeeburgia youth at 8 years old. Little needs to be said about performances from the dutchman that have created attention. Domestically, the 19-year-old has dominated the majority of midfield battle in the league with his 6’2 frame. Some of his most notable performances have been in the CL, looking extremely composed in ties against Liverpool and impressing in the Europa league.

Deployed mainly at central midfield, he has the ability to play deeper in the defensive midfield. Despite his large frame, his control and ability to retain the ball has seen him draw comparisons to Paul Pogba and his Ajax predecessor Frenkie De Jong. Valued at 29.7 million, there’s a big future ahead for the youngster.

Will we see him feature at Euro 2020? With the omission of Van De Beek in the team it means he could play in a diamond with De Jong and Gini, with competition for a spot in the starting XI being Klaasen, Koopmeiners and De Roon. He didn’t make the starting XI against Ukraine but hopefully we will see him against Austria.

Jude Bellingham

17!! THIS GUY IS 17!! We can say from the profile early that he is a bonafide starter for the England squad(the only thing that stops him is Southgate’s inability to understand football). Another Rolls Royce of a midfielder, it would be interesting to witness
Bellingham/Gravenberch midfield debates in years to come. The remarkable thing is Jude is still 2 years younger than Gravenberch but plays with the maturity and grace of a player in his prime.

The more and more you get to see Bellingham play, the more it makes sense Birmingham City retired his number 26 jersey. The youngster rose to prominence with Birmingham in the championship, attracting huge interest from Manchester United. As a United fan, I sincerely feel like Bellingham rejecting a deal at Old Trafford and joining Dortmund was the best decision he could’ve possibly made for his development.

However, he has exceeded
expectations at Borussia Dortmund, registering 29 appearances, 1 goal and 3 assists. Despite rather unremarkable stats, its watching him live that is breathtaking, his ability to command a game is hard to fathom with him being only 17, his composure on the ball in games of the highest magnitude (with performances versus Manchester City catching the eye). If he’s mature enough, he is well capable of marshalling the England midfield.

We expect to see him a lot at the Euros (on the condition England make it out of their group). Declan Rice would make for a great partner for him sitting in the midfield. If Southgate wants to play expansive football at the Euros, you start Jude, it’s simple.

Owen Wijndal

Arguably after Alphonso Davis( who we won’t see in Euro 2020) the hype on young left backs dies down. One of the more hyped left backs in the game is Owen Wijndal. The youngster has played at every age level before becoming a regular starter in the Dutch squad. At the age of 21 he has already registered 100 appearances for AZ Alkmaar.

Conventionally an attacking left back, he can be utilized going forward or even being used on the wing. Last season he registered an impressive 1 goal 6 assists. With large legacy between
Barcelona and dutch talent, the dutch youngster is already be touted as a long-term replacement for Jordi Alba, while he has also been linked to dutch giants Ajax, who have built reputation for acquiring the biggest dutch talent.

De Bouer opted for a conservative 5 at the back approach so Wijnal had to settle for a spot on the bench behind Van Aanholt, hopefully we will see more of him in games to come.

Josip Brekalo

Josip Brekalo is a Croatian international that came from the illustrious Dynamo Zagreb that has produced world class players over the years. While there was a lot of hype behind Brekalo when he signed for Wolfsburg for 10 million euros in 2016 it was short lived. The now 22 year old has a point to prove off the back of producing solid numbers in the Bundesliga with Stuttgart(on loan) and Wolfsburg respectively. Despite these solid numbers and recent Everton links, he hasn’t set the world alight. 

The beauty of international competition is one under the radar player can play a worldie in 3-5 games at a competition, and they’ve drastically increased their price overnight. 

We’ve seen this down the years with the likes of Arshavin, Dyzuba, Golovin, Rebic, Forlan and James Rodriguez. While we haven’t watched much of Brekalo (highly recommended by Reebin) we will be viewing his progress closely in the Euros.

Will we see him at the euros? Possibly. His ability to play either flank means there’s a chance we could see him come on as a sub at either side, however we seen a system of Rebic/Perisic guide Croatia to a World Cup final in 2018. While both have aged since, they may go with the same system if they want to recreate a memorable competition.

Josko Gvardiol

Another Dynamo Zagreb graduate in the list, I may be biased towards this guy because he repeatedly becomes a beast for me in Fifa 21 career mode at left back. However in real life he’s played the vast majority of his time at left centre back with sporadic appearances at fullback. This season he has put in solid displays in the Europa League.

While there was hype surrounding the youngster within the Zagreb frame, he has exploded in the 20/21 season. RB Leipzig have showed their scouting network is exceptional and it was no different with the signing of Gvardiol in January. While he was loaned back to Zagreb in January to continue his progression, the club view him as a immediate replacement for Konate and
Upemacano in the upcoming season.

Will we see him feature at the euros? I assume so as his only competition is 56 year old Corluka! Having the capabilities of playing left back will benefit Gvardiol in starting at the competition, which is indicative of his rapid rise, having only gained a senior national call up in June.

Jamal Musiala

Musiala is an 18 year old German international. Controversially, he played the majority of his youth international football at dual nationality for England and Germany. He made the first transition from England to Germany by leaving Chelsea and going on to join German giants Bayern Munich (He has an interesting past playing for Lehnerz Youth in Germany and moving to Southampton, then to Chelsea, then to Munich, making his return to Germany come full circle).

For further controversy, through the majority of his breakthrough season (26 app, 7 G/A and a Bundesliga title) he was being hyped as an England prospect, only for Musiala to declare for Die Mannschaft.

Musiala is talented player with technical ability and vision, but also the ability to finish and shoot. Preferably his position is in the 10, he also has the ability to play on the left side.

Will we see him feature for Germany in the Euros? Surely. Germany have a reputation of funnelling young players in the international set up seamlessly, so we expect him to start some games if not appear as a substitute as he looks to be crucial in Germanys plans.

Orkun Kokcu

Finally we have the dynamic young Turkish midfielder Orkun Kokcu. The Haarlem born midfielder grew up in holland and played for the local clubs before getting snapped up by Groningen at youth level. Kokcu would then join Feyenoord in 2014 where he would make a name for himself. Kokcu would spend the majority of his international youth career playing for Netherlands at youth level, before in 2019 stating his intent to play for Turkey, playing twice for the u21’s and 6 times for the senior squad.

Kokcu has become a vital player to the Feyenoord and Turkey set up. Having risen to prominence in 2019, he has since been linked to Arsenal, Chelsea and Roma, with the likely
destination being Chelsea with Drogba involved in talks. Kokcu can be versatile as a progressive midfielder, initially playing as an 8 sitting in the midfield he would move up to a 10 or on the left for Feyenoord.

Coming off the back of a fine season (7 G/A), we should see him star for Turkey at the euros, a team that initially looked like dark horse in this years competition but disappointed in the opener however there’s still plenty of time left to shine.

Thanks for Reading!

Stay tuned for more Euros content throughout the month and if you’re new to the page check out some of our older catalogue below!

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