Festival of youth: five tyros ready to take centre stage at Euro 2020


Dejan Kulusevski, Sweden

The latest talent to emerge from the famed “Bromma Boys” production line in Stockholm after Bojan Djordic and John Guidetti. Kulusevski has made steady progress in his first full season at Juventus and was the hero of their Coppa Italia victory over his former club Atalanta. Having moved to Italy three months after his 16th birthday, the forward spent two spells at Parma and joined Juve for more than £30m last year. Kulusevki, whose father is from North Macedonia, was born in Sweden but represented Macedonia at under 16 and 17 level before making the switch and is often compared to Zlatan Ibrahimovic in his homeland. “He can do things by himself and can decide a game by himself,” said former England manager Sven Goran Eriksson last year. “Sweden need that and have always had that but right now we don’t.”

Jules Koundé, France

In a squad that could afford to lose Manchester City’s Aymeric Laporte to Spain given the existing quality of centre-backs available to Didier Deschamps, the 22-year-old’s first senior call-up could prove to be significant. Koundé – who also qualifies for Benin through his father – has been outstanding for Sevilla since moving to Spain from Bordeaux in 2019 and is expected to move on this summer for a fee in excess of £50m, with Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United among his many admirers. While Deschamps is likely to start with his tried and tested players in France’s opener against Germany, Koundé is an excellent alternative if required. At just 5ft 10, he is unusually short for a central defender but more than makes up for that with his reading of the game. “For me, height is not just a matter of centimetres,” he says. “The most important thing is to play smart.”

Pedri, Spain

The player who fittingly provided the backheel for Lionel Messi to score his record 644th goal for Barcelona – beating Pele’s all-time mark for a single team – in December is making rapid progress towards one day potentially inheriting the Argentina forward’s crown at Camp Nou. Signed for an initial €4m from Las Palmas last summer, where he became the club’s youngest goalscorer at 16 years nine months, Pedri is the first player since Arturo Vidal and Ivan Rakitic in 2014, to play more than 50 games in their first season at Barça and received his first senior cap in March. Having only turned 18 last year, such is the midfielder’s growing importance to both club and country that he was allowed to miss the last game of the season against Eibar and go on holiday to make sure that he is ready for the Euros. “Pedri already does wonderful things despite his age,” says manager Luis Enrique. “He is humble, intelligent and a hard worker. What I see is a top-level player.”

Pedri with Cristiano Ronaldo during their friendly.
Pedri with Cristiano Ronaldo during their friendly. Photograph: Javier Soriano/AFP/Getty Images

Ryan Gravenberch, Netherlands

Gravenberch became the youngest debutant in Ajax history, beating Clarence Seedorf’s 27-year-old record in September 2018 but has had to wait until the last 12 months to fulfil some of his vast potential. The decision to stay at Ajax last summer despite interest from Milan has paid dividends, with the dominating midfielder rated as the best ball distributor in all of Europe’s domestic leagues by the CIES Football Observatory and awarded the prestigious Johan Cruyff Prize for the Eredivisie’s best talent. “That boy is a sight to behold if you are a football fan,” the legendary Dutch coach Aad de Mos said. “He’s like an antelope, with coordination and feeling, that’s incredible.” A client of Mino Raiola, Gravenberch has always said that Barcelona would be his dream destination when he eventually leaves Ajax, although that may not be until next year after his father admitted the 19-year-old still has plenty to learn.

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Jamal Musiala, Germany

Singled out as a potential star at the age of 15 by his former teacher at Whitgift School in south London, Musiala’s development since joining Bayern Munich from Chelsea last summer has been phenomenal. He remains close friends with Jude Bellingham from their days in the England youth setup but opted to play for the country where he was bornafter much persuasion from his Bayern teammates. “I would be very happy to play against him at the Euros or World Cup,” Musiala has said. In an ageing squad that will rely heavily on several of the players who helped Germany win the 2014 World Cup, Musiala offers outgoing manager Joachim Löw some youthful energy and is capable of playing in several positions in midfield and further forward. Bayern’s youngest-ever scorer moved to the UK when he was seven and made 24 youth international appearances for England but described his Germany call-up for the Euros as “a childhood dream come true”.



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