Five Youngsters Who Could Take Euro 2020 By Storm
Just like Renato Sanches did in the last Euro championships for Portugal, the international stage is where young footballers can make their mark globally.
Whilst the 'Young Player Of The Tournament' criteria is reserved for players 22 or under, the fact is so many youngsters have already electrified world football in recent times with the likes of Phil Foden and Joao Felix, as well as Chelsea's Mason Mount and Kai Havertz already piling up a tonne of trophies and accolades.
Instead, let's dig a little deeper and shine a light on five young players who haven't completely exploded just yet, but who could use these Euro's as a springboard to stardom.
Jeremy Doku - Belgium
X-factor. If you could use one word to describe Jeremy Doku you would be hard-pressed to find a better suited one.
The 19-year-old has gone from strength to strength after moving from Anderlecht to Rennes, starting 30 games for the French club and playing a massive role in their 6th place finish.
Doku possesses dribbling ability like few others and which is complimented perfectly by jaw-dropping speed. He can be such a difference-maker in this ageing, somewhat predictable Belgium side, potentially playing either side of Romelu Lukaku up front where he'll prove a nightmare to handle, especially on the counterattack.
He led Ligue 1 for progressive carries with 278, which is a number that even surpassed Kylian Mbappe. He recorded the 2nd-most amount of dribbles past opponents with 105 (again, more than Mbappe) while he ranked in the top 3% of all of Europe's top-5 leagues for progressive carrying distance with 188.62 metres per-90 minutes.
Doku is also a very capable passer of the ball. His 58 passes into the penalty area this season ranked him 3rd in Ligue 1, while his 72.5% Long Ball completion number ranks him in the top 6% across Europe for wingers.
Look out for Doku when he comes off the bench. He's a complete game changer.
Ryan Gravenberch - Netherlands
The 19-year-old is the definition of a complete player. Attack and Defence, on the ground or in the air, this guy is a menace. The 6 foot 2 Ajax midfielder has maturity and physicality well beyond his age. Frank De Boer's persistent use of a 4-2-3-1 might see Gravenberch find it hard to break into the squad. However, should there be a suspension or injury, expect this man to be front and centre to take the mantle and run with it.
In his 9 games this season in continental competitions, he didn't disappoint. He's a fantastic carrier of the ball, as his statue suggests. 6.54 progressive carries per-90 minutes, 2.68 carries into the final third and 0.46 carries into the penalty area position him in the top 12% of all of Europe's big-5 leagues.
Defensively, he's astonishingly good as well. His 2.30 interceptions per-90 in addition to his 1.47 tackles won, place him in elite company. At just 19-years of age, Gravenberch has an enormous future, the likes of which he's hopefully able to showcase at these Euro's.
Jude Bellingham - England
The youngest player at the Euros, and by a considerable distance at just 17-years of age. Already, Bellingham is perhaps the most 'natural' number 8 in this England squad while there's every chance the young Borussia Dortmund star starts in England's opener against Croatia, earning what would be his 5th cap at international level.
Bellingham has already excelled on both the domestic and continental front. His all-around game is on display with his immense defensive ability and fantastic ball carrying prowess. His 0.72 tackles in the attacking third per-90 minutes ranks him in the Top 1% of Europe's big leagues and 5th in the Bundesliga overall. He has both the physicality and the mental smarts to get it good positions and to provide fantastic outlet opportunities for this hungry and talented English side.
Alexander Izak - Sweden
The understudy to none other than Zlatan, and while the self-proclaimed 'Lion' won't be at the Euro's to help the 21-year old along, Alexander Izak is sure to blaze a path of his own.
Playing for Copa Del Rey champions Real Sociedad, Izak exploded this season netting 17 times in his 30 starts , while these Euros could be the stage for him to break into a new stratosphere entirely.
Izak is an all-round striker who's also able to drop in and play-make. His 0.78 passes into the 18-yard box this season indicates he's more than capable taking on different roles mid-game, and performing excellently. He can also get on the ball and drive at defences, as seen through his 1.03 carries into the 18-yard box, ranking him in the top 20% throughout Europe. Izak's the definition of a penalty area operator and he'll be vital should Sweden be looking to make waves at Euro 2020.
Nuno Mendes - Portugal
Sporting Lisbon's Nuno Mendes has been on the radar of nearly all the big European clubs this season, with Manchester City the favourites to secure this phenomenal left-sided, multi-dimensional talent.
Playing for the Portuguese champions this season, Mendes excelled starting 29 games and proved a constant threat in both attack and defence.
Mendes' all round ability will be crucial for Portugal as they defend their 2016 Euro championship. While the 18-year old only amassed a single goal and assist in the league, his underlying stats painted a different picture of destruction. His SofaScore average rating of 7.14 was the 4th most on a thundering team, while his 44 successful dribbles ranked him 2nd. He created 8 'big chances' this season, (again ranked 2nd) and 17th in the whole of Portugal.
Although used to applying his trade higher up on the pitch, he's more than capable of playing left-back at a high level. While he mightn't start, with Borussia Dortmund's Raphaël Guerreiro first in line, Mendes will be sure to impress with any opportunities he's given.
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