Which teenagers could light up Euro 2024?

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Which teenagers could light up Euro 2024?

Following in the footsteps of several teenage trailblazers Sports Mole selects the under-20s set to make an impact on Euro 2024.

At most major tournaments, experience is cited as essential for any team hoping to lift the trophy; while that may hold true, a number of teen stars have made a major impact on past European Championships.

‘Danish Dynamite’ legend Michael Laudrup kicked off Euro ’84 just before his 20th birthday, Patrick Kluivert played a part for the Netherlands 12 years later, while Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney both confirmed their youthful potential in 2004.

More recently, Pedri, Jamal Musiala and Jude Bellingham all caught the eye at Euro 2020, when the rather less heralded Kacper Kozlowski became the championships’ youngest ever player, aged just 17 years and 246 days.

This summer, a new crop of future football megastars could emerge in Germany, where the stage is set for such wonderkids to fulfil their promise.

Despite a stellar start to his senior career, Barcelona prodigy Pau Cubarsi has been left out of Spain’s squad, but several teen talents are still poised to take part at Euro 2024, and Sports Mole now selects the best of them.

© Reuters

Well accustomed to performing above his age range, Zaire-Emery first came to prominence in the UEFA Youth League when only 15, before being called by Mauricio Pochettino into Paris Saint-Germain’s star-studded first team squad.

Now 17, he has become a integral player for Luis Enrique‘s new-look PSG, and even a relatively conservative national coach like Didier Deschamps was not slow in handing such a talent his senior France debut.

Scoring on his first international appearance confirmed that the silky midfielder can cut it among more experienced teammates, and Zaire Emery now competes for a place alongside established stars like Adrien Rabiot, Eduardo Camavinga and N’Golo Kante.

Benfica midfielder Joao Neves pictured on May 21, 2023© Reuters

A teammate of 20-year-old Antonio Silva at Benfica, both men could play their part in Portugal‘s quest to regain the Henri Delaunay trophy at Euro 2024.

It is no secret that fallen giants Manchester United have plans to strengthen their midfield this summer, and many reports suggest that 19-year-old Neves is their number one target.

Widely regarded as one of the best young midfielders in Europe, he has already played 75 club games – including several in the Champions League – and was called up by Selecao boss Roberto Martinez for the first time in October of last year.

England midfielder Kobbie Mainoo on March 23, 2024© Reuters

A recent graduate of Manchester United’s renowned youth system, Mainoo has shot to prominence since making his first Premier League start late last year and is now aiming to partner Declan Rice in England‘s midfield at Euro 2024.

Unphased by all the hype, he has not only secured a starting spot for his troubled club but also impressed Gareth Southgate sufficiently in games against Brazil and Belgium to virtually ensure his seat on the plane to Germany.

Having capped off his breakthough season with the winning goal in last month’s FA Cup final, the 19-year-old has already shown enough maturity to be truly trusted on the big occasion.

Royal Antwerp's Arthur Vermeeren pictured on September 19, 2023© Reuters

Still only 18 in 2022-23, Vermeeren played an integral role in the Royal Antwerp team that won the club’s first league title for 66 years, before going on to feature in the Belgian champions’ subsequent Champions League campaign.

Atletico Madrid did not hesitate to sign the gifted midfielder in January, though after making 64 consecutive starts for Antwerp, his spell in the Spanish capital has so far seen him starved of first-team opportunities.

Nonetheless, after making his senior Belgium debut last November, Vermeeren is one of several strong contenders to start in the Red Devils’ engine room this summer.

Real Madrid's Arda Guler celebrates scoring against Villarreal on May 19, 2024© Reuters

Taking Mesut Ozil‘s place in the side, Guler was immediately dubbed ‘the Turkish Messi’ following his breakthrough into Fenerbahce’s first team two years ago.

He quickly became Fener’s youngest Super Lig goalscorer, having just turned 17 three weeks earlier, and a series of stellar displays saw the left-footed winger snapped up by Spanish giants Real Madrid for an initial £17m.

Though his first season in Spain was decimated by injury, Guler scored his first Turkey goal in Euro 2024 qualifying and also found the net six times in his last seven club games of 2023-24: he has since been nominated for the prestigious ‘Golden Boy’ award won by Bellingham last year.

Kenan Yildiz celebrates scoring for Turkey in November 2023© Reuters

Another Turkish talent that could shine in Germany – where he was born and the Crescent-Stars will have backing from a large diaspora – burst onto the scene in the campaign just concluded.

A month after scoring on his senior international debut, Yildiz made his first Juventus start last December, immediately making his mark by becoming the club’s youngest foreign goalscorer in Serie A, aged just 18 years and 233 days.

The versatile forward – who also scored against his nation of birth when Turkey beat the Euro 2024 hosts in a friendly – continued to impress intermittently as Juve’s form fell away, and a return to familiar territory now awaits a product of Bayern Munich’s academy.

Spain's Lamine Yamal celebrates scoring their first goal with Gavi on November 16, 2023© Reuters

Last but certainly not least, 16-year-old Barcelona prodigy Yamal made the cut for Spain’s final Euros squad while clubmate Cubarsi was sent home, following a remarkable rise to stardom over the past few months.

Like his fellow La Masia graduate Lionel Messi, the Catalan winger prefers to cut in from the right on his left foot, and a fearless style has made him an essential selection for Xavi and Spain boss Luis de la Fuente alike.

Both his club and country’s youngest-ever player, Yamal is also the second-youngest ever to play in the Champions League, and no-one of such tender age has previously found the net for Barca or Spain, in La Liga, or in European Championship qualifying.

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