Uefa’s Under-17 Championships have revealed many a burgeoning young talent to a wider audience in the last six years. It is the stage where Wayne Rooney (2002), Cesc Fabregas (2004), Nuri Sahin (2005), Toni Kroos (2006) and Bojan Krkic (2007) strutted their stuff and won the ‘Golden Boy’ award.
You have to wonder what happened to David Rodriguez after his 2003 performance, such is the mark of quality that goes with the recognition of being the best player on show. But who are this year’s likely lads ? Who cares which nation takes the trophy, we all want to know where the next generation of star names are going to come from!
From what I hear, he could come from an area of Liverpool called West Derby, via Madrid and Argentina and go by the name Gerry Brown (local translation), but we will have to wait and see. I’ve picked out eight names to keep an eye on for the duration of the event – May 4-16 in Antalya, Turkey.
John Fleck (Scotland & Rangers) — Left footed, energetic midfield player and supremely talented nephew of ex-Rangers and Chelsea striker Robert Fleck. Still only 16, he has been training with the senior squad for most of the season and scored two stunning goals against Celtic in the Scottish Youth Cup win over Celtic — including the last minute equaliser that took the match to extra time. Has been on the bench several times this season and made senior bow against East Stirling in January. The biggest talent to come out of Scotland since Kenny Dalglish.
Robert Brady (Republic of Ireland & Manchester Utd) — Tricky, two-footed winger with good close control and ability to go past defenders. Has enough pace to get in behind defences and possesses a decent goalscoring record. United are trying to toughen him up at the moment and at just 16, may not start every game for the Irish. Likened to Aiden McGeady in his style of play.
Jeffrey Bruma (Holland & Chelsea) — Tall, ball-playing centre back with the ability of a central midfielder — his former position when a youth at Feyenoord. Now looks at home in the back four of Chelsea’s multi-national youth team that lost out to Manchester City in the FA Youth Cup final.
Geoffrey Castillon (Holland & Ajax) — Tall, strong, fast striker that has been compared to Patrick Kluivert — such is the potential he’s shown for Ajax and Holland’s youth teams. After seven goals in qualifying for the Dutch, Arsenal began to take interest and he admits to play for the Gunners would be a dream come true.
Gael Kakuta (France & Chelsea) Mobile midfielder or pacy wide man who was signed through a loophole from Lens. Scores goals, four of them in qualifying, through his energetic surges and clever link-up play with the strikers. Club-mate Florent Malouda would appear to be his role model.
Clement Grenier (France & Olympique Lyonnais) Rangy, athletic playmaker who has been dubbed the ‘new Kaka’ by those who have watched him up close. Grenier is wanted by Chelsea, Real Madrid, Inter and Arsenal — unsurprisingly he’s mobile and possesses a good first touch, but also the vision that often develops later in such talents is already clearly there. Four goals in five qualifying appearances.
Gerardo Bruna (Spain & Liverpool) Skilful, eye-catching forward who was snapped up from Real Madrid amid much wailing and gnashing of teeth in the Spanish capital. Argentinian-born but naturalised Spaniard who can create and score goals with breathtaking pace and balance. Also hits a mean free-kick and could be the most naturally talented player on show in Turkey. Dubbed the ‘new Messi’ — enough said!
Gilles Sunu (France & Arsenal) Lightening quick and intelligent beyond his years, Sunu has been likened to Thierry Henry — his hero. The French connection was a factor in why he chose Arsenal when he left Charteroux over Man Utd, Chelsea, Barcelona and AC Milan. However, he’s not prolific and could benefit from being put through the same finishing school that Henry attended under Arsene Wenger.