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Top 50 young players to watch at Euro 2016: 10-1

| 08.06.2016

Jamie Clark, Sports Editor | June 1, 2016

To celebrate Euro 2016, Coral are looking at the top 50 young players aged 23 and under before the tournament finals in France begin.

This extended look at talents to watch out for comes in five parts with our countdown starting at 50 and eventually reaching who our football experts consider to be the best youngster in Europe. All players have been valued by respected football stats site Transfermarkt.

Our final part counts down the top 10, and there wasn’t room for everyone in the age bracket because of the expanded format.

Discover who was ranked 50-41 by our experts in the first part of this Euros youngsters to watch countdown.

There’s also the 40-31 part of the list to look over.

Don’t forget part three of this series, that looks at those in the 30-21 section of the countdown.

Check out those who just missed out on the top 10 in the 20-11 penultimate part of our Euro 2016 youngsters to watch series.

Most importantly of all, though, who features from 10-1? Read on below to see who we’ve selected…

10 Mateo Kovacic (Croatia)

Croatia Israel Soccer Friendly

Date of Birth: May 6th 1994
Position: Central Midfield
Caps: 26
International goals: 1
Current Club: Real Madrid
Transfermarkt Value: £15m

While Croatia playmaker Kovacic’s stats of a goal and two assists for the Champions League winners look nothing to write home about, they do not tell the whole story.

Afforded the opportunity to learn from compatriot and one of the best Blazers midfielders of all-time, Luka Modric, at the Bernabeu, what a footballing education Kovacic is receiving from the pass-master.

That will stand this Croatia regular in good stead, who is set to benefit from Ante Cacic’s controversial omission of Alen Halilovic from the final Euro 2016 roster.

Linked with Liverpool, Kovacic could be the perfect engine room partner for Emre Can, who also featured earlier in our countdown. Jurgen Klopp will have to clear out a few names – Joe Allen and Lucas Leiva would be chief among them – to make squad space at Anfield, though.

9 Hector Bellerin (Spain)

Arsenal v Watford - Premier League match -  Stadium

Date of Birth: March 19th 1995
Position: Right Back
Caps: 2
International goals: 0
Current Club: Arsenal
Transfermarkt Value: £9.75m

We were going to have compatriot Saul Niguez in our top 10, but Spain boss Vicente del Bosque opted against selecting him for the final 23-man squad. Instead, it’s brilliant right back Berllerin to wax lyrical about.

Voted by his peers into the PFA Premier League Team of the Season, the Arsenal outlet made eight assists in all competitions. It is galling, however, that it took injury to Dani Carvajal for Bellerin to get a call-up for La Roja.

The Gunners have one of the best young full backs in the world here. Bellerin has played just over 50 Premier League games, but puts in performances way beyond that relative inexperience.

Having only just made his senior international debut just before Euro 2016, Bellerin must seize the moment and challenge ageing Juanfran for a first XI spot for Spain.

8 Renato Sanches (Portugal)

Portugal Norway Soccer

Date of Birth: August 18th 1997
Position: Central Midfield
Caps: 3
International goals: 0
Current Club: Benfica, moving to Bayern Munich after the Euros
Transfermarkt Value: £7.5m

Now we move to another player who has already secured a big money move following the tournament. Portugal’s teenage prodigy Sanches cost Bayern a cool €35m upfront and, if all add-ons and bonuses come in on him, he could see the Bundesliga big boys fork out a total of €80m.

What’s all the fuss about then? Well six goals and six assists for Portuguese Primeira Liga champions Benfica doesn’t sound like much, but this transfer is an investment in massive potential.

Incoming Munich manager Carlo Ancelotti could mould Sanches into almost any midfield type you can think of; he could be the next Deco, Rui Costa or Tiago Mendes. Sensational Sanches has already hinted at possessing all-round ability to be an asset in the engine room.

Portugal players past and present have been falling over themselves to heap praise on arguably the most exciting talent to hail from their shores since Cristiano Ronaldo. Sanches is certianly one to watch for the Navigators in Euro 2016 Group F.

7 Anthony Martial (France)

Netherlands Soccer Netherlands France

Date of Birth: December 5th 1995
Position: Forward
Caps: 8
International goals: 0
Current Club: Manchester United
Transfermarkt Value: £22.5m

Red Devils attacker Martial has made a real impact in his maiden season in English football, ending up with an FA Cup winner’s medal on his CV. At the time of his signing by Man Utd, he was the most expensive teenager ever.

A return of 17 goals and seven assists for the Old Trafford outfit has gone a long way to justifying the £36m pricetag paid on transfer deadline day last summer to secure his services from Monaco.

Martial’s memorable performances include making a Premier League scoring debut off the bench against United’s bitter rivals Liverpool, and setting up Marouane Fellaini versus former club Everton before grabbing a Wembley winner in the FA Cup semis himself.

When slipped into the channels, magnificent Martial has wreaked havoc on defences that cannot cope with pace. The fact he’s yet to break his international duck for France is surprising, but it is surely only a matter of time before he does.

6 Dele Alli (England)

England v Turkey - International Friendly - Etihad Stadium

Date of Birth: April 11th 1996
Position: Central/Attacking Midfield
Caps: 7
International goals: 1
Current Club: Tottenham
Transfermarkt Value: £9m

If it’s box-to-box ability you’re after, then look no further than Spurs sensation Alli, who burst onto the scene with one of the most notable debut seasons in Premier League history. Just over 12 months ago he was playing for MK Dons in the third tier of English football.

Everyone loves a Cinderella story and, had he not been overshadowed by Leicester City’s against all odds title triumph, much more would’ve been written about Alli, who scored on his full England debut against France this past November.

In double figures for both goals and assists across all competitions at White Hart Lane, Alli is compelling evidence of Tottenham head coach Mauricio Pochettino’s canny knack of bringing through young players and trusting them to perform on big occasions.

Look up dynamism in the football dictionary, and you’d find an artist’s impression of Alli next to the word. Some of his Spurs teammates have also featured in our countdown and with good reason, but perhaps none more so than the PFA’s Young Player of the Year.

5 Alvaro Morata (Spain)

Britain Soccer Champions League

Date of Birth: October 23rd 1992
Position: Striker
Caps: 9
International goals: 3
Current Club: Juventus
Transfermarkt Value: £18.75m

Say you need a striker to score goals in matches like cup finals, but Vicente del Bosque leaves out Spain’s leading marksman in Euro 2016 qualifying, Paco Alcacer. Why would you do that? Because of rangy attacking alternative Morata.

A dozen goals and as many assists for Turin titans Juventus has helped the Spaniard to a second consecutive Serie A and Coppa Italia double. While still with Real Madrid, Morata lifted La Decima – the Bernabeu boys’ 10th Champions League and European Cup success in 2014.

In fact, he’s won the lot in his homeland; La Liga and Copa del Rey medals to boot, and all by the time he was 21. Morata is particularly menacing in the left channel, an area into which he has always had a penchant for drifting.

While Real have first refusal on this star striker of the Old Lady’s, London pair Arsenal and Chelsea are understood to be considering big money bids to bring Morata to the Premier League. He has plenty to offer either Gunners or Blues.

4 David Alaba (Austria)

Austria Switzerland Soccer

Date of Birth: June 24th 1992
Position: Defender/Central Midfield/Winger
Caps: 45
International goals: 11
Current Club: Bayern Munich
Transfermarkt Value: £33.75m

By the time he turns 24 during the tournament, incredibly versatile Austrian star Alaba could be closing on 50 senior caps. He has been highly rated for a very long time, is already first-choice national penalty-taker and netted four goals in qualifying.

Settling into a pushing on from midfield role when playing for his country, regular Bundesliga and Champions League viewers know Alaba as an attack-minded left back used in the heart of defence by Bayern because of defensive crises under Pep Guardiola.

When he was younger, Alaba even played out wide for Austria and is their established key man. For Munich, meanwhile, he has helped bring five Bundesliga titles, four DFB Pokals and the 2013 Champions League to the Allianz Arena.

There isn’t a squad in Europe that would benefit from having a player so competent and convincing in a number of varied roles as Alaba. The five-time Austrian Footballer of the Year won’t be leaving Bayern any time soon, but Premier League clubs would queue up for his services.

3 Romelu Lukaku (Belgium)

Soccer - UEFA Euro 2016 - Qualification - Group B - Belgium v Bosnia and Herzegovina - Koning Boudewijn Stadium

Date of Birth: May 13th 1993
Position: Striker
Caps: 43
International goals: 12
Current Club: Everton
Transfermarkt Value: £26.25m

What do Robbie Fowler, Michael Owen, Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo have in common with lethal Lukaku? All five are the only Premier League players in history to score 50 goals before reaching their 23rd birthday.

Hitting 25 goals for the Toffees across all competitions represents Lukaku’s best-ever season in front of goal. One of the prized assets of Everton he may be, but some pretty big hints from his camp suggest the future lies away from Goodison Park after a mid-table finish.

There is no denying that powerful Belgium frontman Lukaku, established as leading the line for the Euros because of Christian Benteke’s struggles across Merseyside at Liverpool, should be playing at a higher level.

Admitting himself he has unfinished business at Chelsea, Lukaku returning to Stamford Bridge would represent a younger and more reliable option than current Blues poacher Diego Costa, whose fitness record is mixed at best.

2 Harry Kane (England)

England v Turkey - International Friendly - Etihad Stadium

Date of Birth: July 28th 1993
Position: Striker
Caps: 11
International goals: 5
Current Club: Tottenham
Transfermarkt Value: £22.5m

Spurs star striker Kane grabbed the Premier League Golden Boot, netting 25 times. Enough said. Although he didn’t break the 30-goal barrier like last season, he is pretty much averaging that across his two full seasons in the Tottenham first-team.

Is Kane more like Alan Shearer or Teddy Sheringham? Either way he has the best attributes of either of England’s Euro ’96 striking vintage 20 years on from the Three Lions reaching the semi-finals. Coral offer odds of 13/8 on Roy Hodgson’s team getting to the last four at Euro 2016.

Perhaps the most exciting thing about Kane in an England shirt is the potential for him to reprise his Spurs partnership with Alli on international duty. That increased understanding helped lead to Tottenham’s best-ever Premier League finish of third.

More than willing to shoot from any angle, Kane brings something quintessentially English to the table at the Euros. He chases lost causes, grafts and never gives up, but most importantly of all reaps the rewards that hard work brings.

1 Paul Pogba (France)

France Cameroon Soccer

Date of Birth: March 15th 1993
Position: Central Midfield
Caps: 30
International goals: 5
Current Club: Juventus
Transfermarkt Value: £48.75m

In a way, it’s fitting that the poster boy of Euro 2016 came top of the charts unanimously in the minds of Coral’s football experts. Pogba seems destined to star on home soil for France, following a club campaign with Juve where he reached double figures for goals and made the joint-most assists in Serie A.

Aiding the Old Lady to four of their five consecutive Scudetto successes, he has the Rolls Royce engine of an all-action midfielder. Didier Deschamps doesn’t have any natural heir to Michel Platini and Zinedine Zidane in Les Bleus’ team of today, but who needs one with attractive alternative Pogba?

He’s the one that got away from Manchester United – a decision that should haunt Sir Alex Ferguson, who could have left a better legacy in terms of the Old Trafford squad had he kept Pogba in it. Juventus have gained from this rare lapse of judgement, though.

Like Alaba, any club anywhere would make room for Pogba on their roster and competition for his services shall be cut-throat. Chelsea could hold an edge over Manchester City, with Antonio Conte coming to the Bridge this summer, having previously coached the player in Turin.


You’ll find more Euro 2016 content on Coral’s dedicated page.



Jamie Clark

Athletics aficionado, die-hard snooker fan and Crystal Palace supporter Jamie has written for Coral since February 2014 after spells with Soccerlens and the Press Association as a digital journalist and copywriter. A former East Midlands sports correspondent and Bwin tipster, he is a graduate of both the University of York and University of Sheffield, with a Masters in web journalism from the latter.