The Under-21 European Championship gets under way today with England playing their first match against Italy tomorrow evening. It’s an exciting event which will showcase some of the best young talent Europe has to offer.
It’s also a superb opportunity for players from different countries to fight against common themes like trying to win their club place back or trying to force a move in the summer transfer market.
Here are five players to keep an eye on.
Wilfried Zaha – England
Wilfried Zaha showed with his late season performances for English Championship side Crystal Palace that he’s versatile as a winger or in the pocket behind a main striker.
Zaha scored six goals and provided ten assists for Crystal Palace last season meaning he is one of the names certain to be down on every team sheet for England and one of the few players in Stuart Pearce’s squad effective in terms of scoring and creating goals.
This is a very big tournament for Zaha because he needs to play well if he wants to head off to Manchester United and be considered in David Moyes’ squads ahead of next season.
Kevin Strootman – Netherlands
Kevin Strootman goes into the Dutch squad as one of the qualified players actually over the age of 21-years-old.
He’s the captain of PSV Eindhoven and a very important figure for the team in terms of leadership and organisation. He pulls the string and does the box-to-box work while the more creative players sit and form the attack.
He started every single match he played for PSV last season which shows his consistency and fitness. He will be integral to the success the Netherlands have in this tournament.
Lewis Holtby – Germany
The Tottenham midfielder should start in the heart of Germany’s side after impressing during a short spell with Spurs.
Lewis Holtby is a player who can do any role effectively across the midfield. He plays simple balls, tackles well and retains possession effectively, which means the majority of Germany’s play is likely to go through him.
Some criticised him in Germany following his move from Schalke 04 to Tottenham Hotspur and this is his chance to silence those critics, proving that the move to the Premier League hasn’t affected his form for his country.
Cristian Tello – Spain
Cristian Tello scored seven goals for Barcelona last season in what can be considered his breakthrough year.
In terms of technique, there will be few strikers at the tournament better than Tello. He should thrive on the responsibility of leading the Spain attack and he will be full of confidence because of how difficult it is to break into the Barcelona first team.
It will also be a welcome distraction for Tello who has been linked continuously with moves away from the Spanish giants, where he still has three years remaining on his current contract.
Fabio Borini – Italy
The Liverpool striker faces a big tournament which could dramatically enhance his current status at Anfield. Fabio Borini made just 13 Premier League appearances last season in a campaign which was hampered by injury and inconsistency.
He is an important component in the Italian team linking the top of the attack with the midfield, dropping off to get the ball and also playing slightly wider when necessary.
With Luis Suarez was banned for the first six games of next season and Daniel Sturridge injured, he should relish the chance to become one of Italy’s and Liverpool’s most exciting players.