With the group stages complete, scouts have had plenty of opportunity now to assess the talent on offer at this summer’s European Under-21 Championships in Poland.
But who will have impressed and which players could be going into scouts’ notebooks on the basis of their performances so far?
Recruitment specialist Rob Mackenzie picks out 10 who have caught the eye so far and explains why they will be on clubs’ radar…
Group A was dominated by both England and Slovakia, with Sweden and Poland failing to capitalise on periods within games where they had a number of promising situations. Within this group I think a lot of scouts will have been impressed by how some of the English players have started to adapt to the challenges that the tournament poses as their performance levels have generally improved game by game:
One player who has continued to improve and look at ease with the level is Alfie Mawson. He is quite a late developer in terms of the level that he has played at and, as a result, scouts will be looking at his performances in this tournament with great interest. He has had a significant two years in terms of his development. He achieved success under the guidance of Paul Heckingbottom at Barnsley (winning the Football League Trophy and promotion) before a positive first season in the Premier League with Swansea City.
Scouts are continually assessing a player’s ability to adapt to new situations or circumstances and Mawson’s reading of the game and willingness to play out from the back off either foot in this tournament has demonstrated yet further positive adaptation. His threat from set plays also makes him an interesting prospect and I would expect a number of top 10 to mid-table Premier League teams will be seriously considering him if he continues to deliver at this level. Scouts will be interested to see how he does up against Davie Selke in the semi-final.
While he hasn’t yet got himself on the scoresheet for England in the competition yet, Tammy Abraham’s athleticism and physical profile for the number nine role make him one of the most appealing central strikers in the competition in my opinion. His ever growing maturity in securing possession high up the pitch and his ability to both show to feet and also stretch in behind make him a nightmare for defenders to deal with as they can quite easily get caught in two minds as to how best to deal with him.
He showed good awareness to lure in challenges and win free-kicks high up the pitch versus Slovakia in order to alleviate the pressure on his team and he demonstrated those qualities again when winning the penalty against Poland. This part of his game will not have gone unnoticed by astute talent spotters and they will be assessing how much of a goal threat he poses against Germany.
While Skriniar is not the most pleasing on the eye to the traditional scout, his performances for Sampdoria this season in Serie A in his first full season will have contributed to him being on a lot of scouts’ lists to assess this tournament. Although the Slovakia backline appeared to lack a bit of discipline against England he still made a number of vital interventions and didn’t tend to commit himself easily when faced up one versus one.
His reading of the game generally allows him to mask a lack of pace on the turn and his strength of character and leadership make him a key player for Slovakia. It is perhaps no surprise to see him look unflustered at this level given he played for Slovakia in Euro 2016, most notably when playing holding midfield versus Germany. While Slovakia were perhaps unfortunate not to qualify for the semi-finals, his name will now be in the minds of scouts who were in attendance.
Group B had two of the most experienced teams in the competition in Spain and Portugal so it was therefore little surprise to see them both dominate the group. The biggest surprise is that Portugal failed to make the semi-finals. Scouts from the bigger clubs across Europe will have no doubt been watching this group with great interest:
Saul Niguez has arguably been the player of the competition so far and it will come as little surprise to scouts from top clubs who watched Group B. As a robust and deceptive athlete who played 53 times for Atletico Madrid this season, including scoring four goals in 12 Champions League games, his superiority has been easy to identify. His quality in possession, coupled with his composure and class when placed under pressure or when finding himself in promising positions, has set him apart.
These performance levels become even more remarkable when you consider that he played and trained with a catheter for two years and passed blood through his urine regularly. It is this mental strength and resilience in association with his consistency that will encourage many scouts from big clubs across Europe to type his name into Google while they are in Poland to double check the details surrounding the release clause in his current contract.
Marco Asensio’s quality was another easy spot from Group B. As a 21-year-old who recently scored in the Champions League final for Real Madrid and then scored an outstanding hat-trick in the opening game of this tournament, it is only the fact that he is owned by Real Madrid that will be off-putting for scouts. His poise in possession – as well as his technique – make him one of the competition’s standout performers alongside Saul thus far. He will no doubt play a prominent role for Spain versus Italy in the semi-finals.
One of the lesser known players at the tournament to have potentially impressed scouts so far is Enis Bardhi. Those familiar with the Hungarian Premier League will be less surprised to have seen him perform well in an inconsistent Macedonian side given his 13 goals and seven assists for Ujpest this season. He missed only 92 mins (of a possible 900) in qualifying and his quality on the ball and his set-play threat have been impressive in the tournament.
The accuracy of his delivery coupled with his “knuckleball” free-kick technique make him a threat when presented with a dead ball in and around the final third. Similarly, his finish versus Portugal from the edge of the box further demonstrated his excellent technique. While his lack of physicality and natural athleticism may pose questions for scouts, I would still be surprised to see him at Ujpest next season.
With both Italy and Germany having been drawn in Group C, scouts who are out in Poland will have been eagerly watching how players from Czech Republic and Denmark fared against two of the most fancied teams in the competition. They will have also been prioritising:
While Sassuolo will have been disappointed that this season they followed up a sixth place in Serie A with a 12th placed one, Lorenzo Pellegrini certainly played his part with an impressive output of eight goals and eight assists in 34 appearances. It is this level of performance for his club that earned him his first senior cap for Italy versus Liechtenstein and will have ensured that he was on scouts’ “to-watch” list in this competition. The audacity and co-ordination that he displayed when executing a sublime overhead kick versus Denmark in Italy’s first group game will have done little to discourage potential interest from bigger clubs.
His mobility and ability to get about the pitch has certainly been noticeable thus far, as has his bravery to get on the ball in tight areas. His high pressing and turnover of possession in the previous game versus Germany, which led to the Azzurri’s match-winning goal, further emphasised his ability to influence proceedings. As a player not yet playing at a “top club”, many scouts will be watching Italy’s semi-final versus Spain with great interest in order to see how he does up against the likes of Saul.
Scouts are always looking for players who “make the difference” and who affect games when it really matters. Players who are typically capable of that tend to be ones who are either top level or players who have the potential to be so. Therefore, Federico Bernardeschi’s goal versus Germany will have been credited with enhanced importance in scouts’ minds given that it ensured Italy’s progression and was scored against top opposition.
His positivity and quality in possession has been impressive in the competition so far and as a 23-year-old who is coming off the back off his career best top flight season of 11 goals and four assists in Serie A with Fiorentina he is currently meeting expectations in the tournament and will be someone who scouts will want to see up against Hector Bellerin in the semi-finals as a Premier League point of reference.
Left-footed central defenders are often vital to having a balanced and functional centre-half pairing. They are, however, not that easy to find! As a result, scouts will have profiled the squads going into the tournament and highlighted Marc-Oliver Kempf as one of the few naturally left-footed centre-halves to be playing out in Poland.
Despite injuries in recent seasons, the fact that he played the last 13 Bundesliga games consecutively for a Freiburg side who over-achieved will not have been lost on scouts and recruitment analysis departments within the Premier League and beyond. He poses a threat from set plays, as demonstrated against Denmark, and he is comfortable in possession. This makes him interesting for a variety of teams who play with different styles across Europe. With only one year left on his current contract at modest Freiburg, I would expect that scouts will have earmarked the battle between him and Tammy Abraham as to one to watch closely in the semi-final.
One of the players within the Germany squad who has been outperforming expectations in his career to date is Max Meyer of Schalke 04. Given he has only one year left to run on his contract at the Bundesliga club, he will have been on the list of many Premier League scouts going into the tournament. His goal in the opening game and assist versus Denmark will have only encouraged scouts to want to watch him up against domestic-based players in the upcoming semi-finals.
His versatility across the front line as well as his positivity in possession will have caught the eye. As a 21-year-old to have already played over 100 Bundesliga games and who has provided 17 goals and 17 assists in his career to date at that level, I would imagine that the name of Max Meyer will be one that scouts put a little star next to on the team sheet when they line up in the semi-finals versus England.
An honourable mention goes to David Kownacki of Poland given his influence on the game against Sweden, providing an assist and scoring a well-taken penalty late on. Scouts value moments like that in games as the pressure to deliver is really on and that’s where you see what a player is all about mentally. While his development for Lech Poznan in recent seasons has arguably stalled a bit since his initial introduction to first-team football back in 2013, given he only has a year left to run on his current contract, scouts will have been watching him closely here.
Similarly, Jacob Murphy’s performances from the bench for England have certainly been noteworthy and support a positive season in the Championship with Norwich City (eight goals and eight assists). As a player with a similar biographical profile to Demarai Gray and Nathan Redmond, Murphy’s positivity and athleticism will make him an interesting prospect for teams in the Premier League and also teams with well-defined recruitment philosophies such as Red Bull Leipzig.Soccer Accumulator Bonus
Our fantastic Euro Soccer accumulator offer gives you the chance to earn a bonus of up to 100% on accumulators on the top domestic leagues in Europe along with the group and knockout stages of the Champions League.
This offer applies to returns on pre-match accumulators of 3 or more selections on Full Time Result or Result/Both Teams To Score markets for the English Premier League, Italian Serie A, Spanish Primera Liga, German Bundesliga 1 or UEFA Champions League.
The maximum bonus that you can receive is €100,000 or currency equivalent. The bonus will not apply where a stake has been fully Cashed Out. Where a stake has been partially Cashed Out, the bonus will be calculated based .on the remaining active stake. If a qualifying bet is edited .using our Edit Bet feature. The bonus will be calculated based on the new stake. Where a bet has been edited to include or amend a selection for an event that is In-Play, the bonus will no longer apply. Double Chance bets or combination bets with bonuses. Such as Lucky 15’s or Lucky .31’s do not apply for this offer.
If your bet is successful, we will add the following bonuses to your returns:
Bet Type Bonus
14-folds and upwards 100% bonus
Terms and Conditions
Applies to straight pre-match accumulator bets on the Full Time Result or Result/Both Teams To Score markets for UEFA Champions League, English Premier League, Italian Serie A, Spanish Primera Liga, German Bundesliga .1 or Australian A-League matches. Maximum bonus €100,000 or currency equivalent. Soccer Accumulator Bonus does not apply to Double Chance bets or combination. bets with bonuses such as Lucky 15’s, Lucky 31’s etc.
If any selections are postponed/void then the bonus will still apply, but the percentage bonus added will reflect the actual number of winning selections. For example, an 8-fold accumulator with 7. winners and 1 postponed match will receive a 30% .bonus to returns.
The bonus part of your returns will be added to your account within 24 hours of your final selection having played.
This bonus will not apply where a stake has been fully Cashed Out. Where a stake has been partially Cashed Out, the bonus will be calculated based on the remaining active stake.
If a qualifying bet is edited using our Edit Bet feature, the bonus will be calculated based on the new stake. Where a bet has been edited to include or amend a selection for an event that is In-Play, the bonus will no longer apply.
Where any term of the offer or promotion is breached or there is any evidence of a series of bets placed by a customer or group of customers, which due to a deposit bonus, enhanced payments, free bets, risk free bets or any other promotional offer results in guaranteed customer profits irrespective of the outcome, whether individually or as part of a group, bet365 reserves the right to reclaim the bonus element of such offers and in their absolute discretion either settle bets at the correct odds, void the free and risk free. bets or void any bet funded by the deposit bonus.
In addition bet365 .reserve the right to levy an administration charge on the customer up to the value of the deposit bonus, free bet, risk free bet or additional payment to cover administrative costs. We further reserve the right to ask any customer to provide sufficient documentation for us to be satisfied in our absolute discretion as to the customer’s identity prior to us crediting any bonus, free bet, risk free bet or offer to their account.
All bet365 offers are intended for recreational players and bet365 may in its sole discretion limit the eligibility of customers to participate in all or part of any promotion.