Two years ago Sweden defeated Portugal and their team of young stars to lift the European U21 Championship in the Czech Republic and write their names into the history books.
Many of those players have gone on to bigger things like recent Manchester United signing Victor Nilsson Lindelöf from Sweden and Bayern’s Renato Sanchez from Portugal.
It is a tournament that can ignite a career and set young players on the path to something bigger.
For many players, winning the competition has given them a taste of winning that has carried on throughout their careers. Players like Mesut Ozil, Manuel Neuer, Daniele De Rossi, Andrea Pirlo and Guti have all lifted the trophy.
With this year’s competition getting under way in Poland we take a look at five players to watch in this season. There are some obvious choices like Gianluigi Donnarumma and Renato Sanches, but we thought to put forward some slightly more unheralded players you might not have heard of now but almost definitely will in the future.
Linus Wahlqvist; Sweden- IFK Norrköping – Right-Back:
Wahlqvist is an exceptionally talented young right back, who despite being only 20-years-old, has already played 81 games for his hometown club IFK Norrköping.
He was part of their amazing side which surprised Sweden and won the 2015 Allsvenskan despite almost being relegated the season before. He was also part of Sweden’s U-17 World Cup squad that came third in 2013.
He is quick, has a great positional sense and can chip in going forward. With five senior caps already under his belt, expect him to get more sooner rather than later.
Ben Chilwell; England – Leicester City – Left-Back:
Calm and assured whenever called upon by Leicester manager Craig Shakespeare, Chilwell got his first taste of the Champions League this season and was excellent when brought on at half time against Atletico Madrid looking like a natural at such a high level.
He used his quick and direct running to pressure Atleti’s defence when attacking and managed to keep Atletico’s wingers relatively quiet when defending.
He seems like a future full England international in the making and should get more first team minutes this season.
Patrik Schick; Czech Republic- Sampdoria – Striker:
Schick was a star for Sampdoria this season and scored a seriously impressive 11 goals in just 32 games in his first full season in the Serie A.
He is likely to be the Czech’s main goal threat and has already scored for the senior side. He is a strong dribbler and passer, plus his height gives him a fairly good aerial presence.
Big clubs are hovering on the horizon to with Juventus interested according to ESPN.
Andrija Živković; Serbia – Benfica – Winger:
Serbia are a real dark horse for this year’s competition.
Many of their squad was part of their U-20 world cup winning side from 2015 and will be hungry to get more silverware.
At that tournament, Živković scored two goals and provided two assists. He is also the youngest player ever to make an appearance for the full Serbian national side having done so in 2013 at 17.
Andrija made 15 league appearances in his first full season with Benfica. He joined from Partizan Belgrade after becoming their youngest ever captain and seems destined for big things.
Sandro Ramirez; Spain- Malaga – Striker:
Sandro came through the youth academy at Barcelona and was seen as one of their next big things. However, he struggled to establish himself in Catalonia, no surprise when you have Messi, Suarez and Neymar in the way and thus he moved to Malaga to try and get his career back on track.
He did so with aplomb scoring 14 goals in just 30 La Liga matches, a superb record and one that has bigger clubs watching with Everton apparently close to sealing a deal for him according to The Guardian. If he repeats the kind of form he has shown at Malaga, then return to Barcelona could well be on the cards.