Today begins the European Under-21 Championship, in which we can enjoy the greatest soccer prospects of the old continent.
In the last editions of this championship, Thiago Alcántara, Fabián, Ceballos, William Carvalho or Fábio Vieira have won the best player award, and other stars such as Wirtz, Leao, Bernardo Silva, Foden, Chiesa, Upamecano, etc., have left their mark.
But the importance of this tournament isn’t something recent, as Pirlo, Cannavaro or Figo were also decorated with the MVP of the tournament in previous decades.
For this European Championship, held in Romania and Georgia, there are names already established in the best categories and with a potential already known to the general public (Gabri Veiga, Tonali, Mudryk, Moukoko, Smith-Rowe, etc.), but there are other names that are unknown to the average spectator and that, with a good performance, can attract even more attention from fans and technical secretariats.
The five bets to follow in the European Under-21:
We are going to analyze five players who come to the tournament with different profiles (we will scale from lesser to better known) and who could qualify as bets.
Antonio Nusa (2005):
We are talking about the Club Brugge winger, the biggest talent of the Norwegian national team in this generation. Nusa is the 4th youngest player of the U21 European Championship and two summers ago he already triggered a three million euro transfer to the Belgian club from Norwegian club Stabæk.
The 2005 player of the year shines as a left winger with a great deal of attacking flair, but he lacks that final decision making that has led him to finish the season with rather poor numbers for his club (two goals and two assists in 34 games).
Even so, he is a winger who shines for his overflow. He is an excellent dribbler in the 1 vs 1, and with a very powerful start that allows him to make great drives and be very difficult for opposing defenses to stop.
A player who, if he has the day, makes the neutral spectator enjoy, but who needs to improve a lot in the participation of the game if he wants to become what his potential hints at.
Oscar Gloukh (2004):
We now focus on Israel’s big bet for this generation, being another of the great promises of the future falling into the Red Bull factory. Red Bull Salzburg paid Maccabi Tel Aviv seven million this January for the attacking midfielder, after the 14 goals (goals + assists) he had been involved in since making the leap to the first team last season.
Oscar Gloukh is a playmaker who stands out for his play between the lines, being the classic player who stands out for his quickness when turning, and who can drop to the left flank taking advantage of his good dribbling.
In recent days, he went viral thanks to an Olympic goal in stoppage time against Belarus, with which he allowed his senior team to win in the qualifiers for Euro 2024.
Kenneth Taylor (2002):
We went from a great catcher of young talent as is the Red Bull factory, to a historical creator of quality as is the Ajax youth academy.
Taylor was one of the big bets of the Dutch team after the departure of Frenkie De Jong, and has corroborated the hype he got after being MVP of the U-17 European Championship in 2019.
He is not an unknown player, as he has been a key player for the team (eight goals and three assists in this Eredivisie) and a jump is expected in the coming years to one of the big leagues (it seems that the Premier League would already be interested in the player).
Kenneth Taylor is a midfielder with outstanding intelligence on the field who, despite being originally left-footed, uses both legs equally (he is one of the few players who can truly be called ambidextrous), with a great arrival from the second line and a great ball striking, both in shooting and in movement.
The Dutchman is also versatile, as he can operate both in midfield and in the center of the backline if necessary, providing a great outlet for the ball from the back.
He is my big bet for this tournament, a player who is more developed than others on the list and who will make that extra leap in the coming years. He will be very important in the future.
Giorgio Scalvini (2003):
We are not talking about an unknown, as he is the third player with the highest market value in the whole championship (€40 million), one of the nominees for young footballer of the season in Serie A and a center-back for whom Inter and Napoli would be willing to pay €40 million.
Scalvini is a 1.94m right-sided center-back who has played as a left-sided center-back for Atalanta. On occasion, he has also been seen in midfield for Atalanta, which shows that he is not lacking in technical quality either.
He is a dominant physical beast in duels and is in the top 3% of center backs in the five major leagues in terms of interceptions and in the top 6% in terms of passes intercepted.
On the ball, he also stands out compared to other center backs, both in progressive passing (best 2% in Europe) and in driving after recovery (best 5%).
Scalvini is a center-back of the present, not only of the future, and is, along with Tonali and Gnonto, one of Italy’s big bets to win the tournament.
Rayan Cherki (2003):
Cult player. He is one of the biggest stars of the tournament and will play for a French team favored for the title with players like Simakan, Thuram, Kalulu, Badé, Caqueret, Olise or Gouiri.
PSG already went for him in the winter and he is the big signing that Kylian’s mother has made for her representation agency. He is a footballer with the talent to be one of the best players in the world in the coming years (not just anyone sounds to sign for Real Madrid at the age of 19).
His talent leads him to make plays unimaginable for the rest and he is capable of inventing a roulette, such as the tweet in the rival penalty spot.
Cherki is a playmaker who has often played on the right flank, but his talent leads him to get between the lines. Technically privileged footballer, ambidextrous, with dribbling in tight spaces and with a superlative passing vision for his age.
His peaks of form are those of an extraordinary player, but he is also marked by his disconnections. This year, at Olympique Lyon, he has been one of the most important players of the season (four goals and six assists in Ligue 1), but he needs to improve his final decision making to increase his numbers and surpass double digits, both in goals and assists.
Prodigy that can make the public fall in love if he performs a great tournament and shoot, even more, his value in the market.
Don’t miss him because, if he has the day, he will be unstoppable against any team.
Translated by Marcos Rodríguez.
Main image: @equipedefrance.