Four Euro 2016 youngsters playing themselves into the shop window
Lee Gormley | June 16, 2016
Four youngsters playing towards big moves
Euro 2016 is in full swing on French soil and the summer’s showcase football event hasn’t disappointed, with plenty of goals having been fired in and many individual performances setting the tournament alight.
Among those players starring for their respective European nations are talented young prospects, potentially catching the eye of big clubs across the continent, including those in the Premier League, who will be aiming to strengthen come July 1st when the summer transfer window opens.
With every country having featured now at the France finals, Coral look at four youngsters that have played themselves into the shop window this year, as possible big career moves lurk on the horizon…
Arkadiusz Milik, Poland
Ajax frontman Milik featured at number 20 in Coral’s top 50 young players to watch at Euro 2016 before it all kicked off, and the Poland attacker has lived up to the hype and expectations surrounding him already in France.
International strike partner Robert Lewandowski netted more goals than anyone in qualifying and was hailed as one of the favourites to land the Golden Boot this summer, but 22-year-old Milik has stepped out of his teammate’s shadow to become just as important for the Polish outfit.
Against a stubborn Northern Ireland in their opener, it was Milik that produced a moment of magic to open proceedings and finally crack the Green and White Army’s rearguard, dancing into the penalty area before clinically firing into the corner to earn a 1-0 victory.
Following his cracking opening fixture strike in Group C, the Eredivisie youngster is now 28/1 to finish top scorer at the tournament, with his performances seeing his stock rise and further heroics may force Premier League clubs such as Manchester City or Chelsea to hand Ajax a reasonable sum for his services.
Elseid Hysaj, Albania
Albania have won over the admiration of football fans with their defiant showings in Group A so far, putting in gallant displays against Switzerland and hosts France, but being hugely unlucky to come up short on both occasions.
Among their star performers has been talented right back Hysaj, with the fearless, attack-minded defender showcasing his dynamic talents on the big stage with his country, having also become a key player for Serie A club Napoli last campaign.
Hysaj was born in Shkoder, close to the border with Montenegro, and linked up with Empoli at just 14 years of age, going on to make his first team debut at 17. Following two seasons in Serie B and a single campaign in Italy’s top-flight, Napoli came calling in 2015 and he made his maiden outing for them that same year.
The 22-year-old’s strong showings in France, both when bursting forward on the right flank and helping Albania defend against France and the Swiss, have undoubtedly propelled him into many top club’s transfer plans, with Arsenal the latest to be linked with his signature after showing great maturity at a young age.
Andre Gomes, Portugal
Cristiano Ronaldo may have been far from his prolific best in Portugal’s opening stalemate with Iceland but Valencia talent Gomes looked bright in the heart of midfield, with Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United, and more recently Chelsea, being linked with a big-money move for the towering playmaker.
Since the arrival of Mourinho at Old Trafford, speculation surrounding a bid for the Los Che prospect has been rife, and it’s clear why ‘the Special One’ is reportedly seeking his services to boost the Red Devils’ central ranks for next season.
The 22-year-old stands at a commanding 6ft 2in and is more than capable of taking charge in midfield, a central authority which Man Utd are lacking at the moment but, with the Blues having had a £32m offer rejected by Valencia, their top-tier rivals will need to move quick if they truly want him.
Gomes was considered one of Valencia’s key members last term, registering eight assists and scoring five times in 41 appearances, and featured for 84 minutes in the draw with Iceland when he set-up Nani to open proceedings for a Portugal side that are 13/10 to win Group F.
Laszlo Kleinheisler, Hungary
Hungary enjoyed one of the shocks of the finals so far with their 2-0 Group F triumph over highly-fancied Austria, and their 22-year-old midfield ace Kleinheisler played a pivotal role throughout that success, including assisting Adam Szalai’s opener.
The Werder Bremen youngster, hailed as Hungary’s answer to Paul Scholes due to his style and fiery red hair, was involved in a tidy one-two with eventual first goalscorer Szalai in the build-up to their opener, while he also enjoyed a freeflowing outing which almost saw him come close to netting himself on several occasions.
Kleinheisler, who struck on his international debut just last year, was key to his nation’s grasp on the game as they dominated possession throughout and, with the promising midfielder having only joined his current Bundesliga club in January, his stay there may well be short lived if his performances continue to impress on French turf.