Euro 2012: five youngsters to watch
Tournament football, they say, is never a good time to scout new players, but Euro 2012 will be home to some of the continent’s most exciting young talents. Will they flourish on the big stage? Here’s Rant’s guide to five…
Ivan Perisic – 23 – Croatia/Borussia Dortmund – midfielder
The chances of Perisic featuring in more than three games this summer are slim, but don’t miss an opportunity to watch this young midfielder take on Europe’s best. Top scorer in Belgium’s Pro League for Club Brugge, and then later signed in 2011 by German champions Borussia Dortmund, Perisic has enjoyed a flying start to life in the Bundesliga notching up nine goals in 40 appearances this season. One only needs to recall the wonderful volley Perisic scored against Arsenal in last season’s Champions League to see what all the fuss is about. Often used from the bench by Croatian coach Slaven Bilic in qualifying, but delivering the goods when called upon. A jewel in an ageing Croatian side – expect big things in ‘Polkraine’ from this talented left-footer.
44 appearances in all competitions
Nine goals, seven assists
Value > £5 million
Yann M’Vila – 21 – France/FC Stade Rennes – midfielder
Despite being just 21-years-old M’vila has notched up 18 caps for his national team, with performances that have brought inevitable comparisons with the great Patrick Viera. Strong, level-headed and an unforgiving tackler, M’Vila has progressed to become one of Europe’s hottest young prospects. With a phenomenal ability to read and direct play, and to create chances for Franc Ribery, Karim Benzema and company, England’s players will have to be on their toes when the two sides meet in Group D. Arsène Wenger is a keen admirer – expect a good performance at Euro 2012 to seal his move from French side Rennes to one of Europe’s elite.
Alan Dzagoev – 21 – Russia/CSKA Moscow – midfielder
Since winning the Russian Young Player of the Year award in 2008/9, Dzagoev has developed into one of the best, and most sought after, playmakers in European football. Despite only scoring six goals in 48 appearances over the course of the 2011/12 season for CSKA, Dzagoev was top scorer in Russia’s successful Euro 2012 qualifying campaign. A deadly link between midfield and attack, expect Dzagoev to dazzle should Russia advance from Group A as widely expected.
One goal, four assists
Value > £14 million
Cristian Eriksen – 21 – Denmark/Ajax – midfielder
No top young player list would be complete without Ajax’s phenomenally talented starlet Cristian Eriksen. Blessed with an extraordinary ability to read the game and a radar-like passing ability, the hopes of Denmark’s campaign rest solely on the 21-year-olds shoulders. A sure starter for Denmark, Eriksen is likely to be played just behind Sunderland striker Nikolas Bendtner with two wingers supporting him in a 4-2-3-1 formation. Probably the pick of the bunch in this selection. One not to be missed this summer!
Nine goals, 22 assists
Value > £18 million
Mario Götze – 19 – Germany/Borussia Dortmund – midfielder
Any such list would also be irrelevant without Dortmund’s young German player. Götze beat a group of six top-class German youngsters to make the final cut, and it’s not surprising to see why. The 19-year-old star of Borussia Dortmund’s league and cup double winning side has taken the world by storm over the past 18 months, securing the award for European U-21 player of the year in the process. Not only a goal scorer, with seven in an injury-hit season for Dortmund, Götze possesses a Messi-esque dribbling talent that strikes fear into even the most experienced European defenders. Götze may struggle to gain a starting berth in a very strong German national team, but he is likely to play a regular substitute role throughout the campaign. He’s unlikely to let the chance slip by. Remember the name.
Eight goals, eight assists
Value > £27 million
Andre Schuurle, Germany
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, England
James McClean, Republic of Ireland
Kevin Strootman, Netherlands
Kyriakos Papadopoulos, Greece
Rant will be providing regular ‘scouting reports’ during the tournament, with our assessment of the best players on show. Like a player? Add your favourites below!