Jumaat, 21 Jun 2013

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U21 top targets

Never mind UEFA's slogan of 'stars of today, superstars of tomorrow' - the starkest measurements of fame, talent and potential come with currency symbols attached. That was apparent from Matchday One here in Israel, when a list of over 40 top clubs who had sent scouts to the European U21 Championship appeared in the media zones (on official UEFA notepaper, no less). 

So which players would have put themselves on the scouts' radars with impressive performances? Who might be best suited to a switch to the Premier League? Some names will have been familiar before we kicked off a fortnight ago, others less so - but you can guarantee you'll be hearing plenty more of this lot, and in most cases before the summer is out.

10. Nathan Redmond (England)


Redmond was thrown in at the deep end in England's tournament opener against Italy in Tel Aviv, but drew plenty of admiring glances for his application, willingness to run at defenders and general enthusiasm over 90 minutes. He was less useful in the two defeats that followed, making abbreviated appearances in both games, but that hasn't stopped the likes of Swansea, Norwich and Fulham earmarking him as a potential addition for next season. Birmingham need the money and want around £4million for the teenage winger.

9. Nir Biton (Israel)


Beanpole midfielder Biton was already being talked about at several Premier League clubs having played on trial for Manchester City in pre-season less than a year ago, but he successfully enhanced his burgeoning reputation by being the stand-out player for the hosts over the course of their Group A challenge. With Israel U21 coach Guy Luzon leaving his post to take the Standard Liege job, it's thought Biton could follow him to Belgium - but there might yet be bids from the other side of the Channel. His man-of-the-match display in the 1-0 win over England, in which he hit the crossbar from 30 yards, should have made the rest sit up and take notice, at any rate.

8. Sebastian Rudy (Germany)


Having made noises that he's happy at Hoffenheim, there's currently no great fuss over the future of Rudy but he must be among the most marketable of the Germans whose U21 Euro ended disappointingly early. But although they, like England, were sent packing after two defeats, Germany looked a good side in spells, especially in midfield. Rudy and his almost-namesake Sebastian Rode patrolled the centre with confidence, a blend of breezy efficiency and bulldog spirit respectively, allowing skipper Lewis Holtby to push forward. Rudy's calmness under pressure suggested he would adapt well to the helter-skelter nature of the Premier League.

7. Orjan Nyland (Norway)


Arguably the best goalkeeper on show at the tournament (on account of being busier than either Spain's David De Gea or Italy's Francesco Bardi), Nyland has only been with reigning Norwegian champions Molde a few months after moving on a free transfer. Whether Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's club would be interested in making a fast krone on him remains to be seen, but Molde's current Tippeligaen struggles (they are 15th out of 16 teams at the time of writing, after 12 games) coupled with firmed-up interest from an English club in need of a young keeper with quick reactions might result in a transfer. Nyland may have conceded three goals in the semi-final against Spain, but it could have been twice that were it not for his athleticism.

6. Asier Illaramendi (Spain)


Spain crowned U21 champions

The Real Sociedad midfielder was on course to be my player of the tournament before Thiago's hat-trick in the final, having oozed class as the fulcrum in Spain's central trio. With a passing accuracy of 95.8% - the best of any player who made more than one appearance in Israel - he is clearly the heir apparent to Xabi Alonso (a fellow Basque) and if Arsenal could land him for £10million, it would represent a significant coup. However, Real Madrid still seems a more likely destination for Illaramendi and with his San Sebasti├ín employers set for UEFA Champions League football, a sale this summer is probably not necessary.

5. Giulio Donati (Italy)


Bayer Leverkusen head the queue for Azzurrini right-back Donati, whose Inter Milan future looks decidedly uncertain. He spent last season on loan at Grosseto in Serie B, but must now be considered top-flight class after a series of excellent displays in the Italian defence in Israel, most notably in the narrow semi-final victory over Holland. Keen to get forward, he helped launch a series of attacks and set up Ciro Immobile for Italy's first goal against Spain in the final in Jerusalem. Leverkusen are understood to have only offered around £2million for Donati at this stage so if any Premier League clubs are in the market for a right-back, they could tempt Inter with a bigger bid.

4. Marco van Ginkel (Holland)


Despite my best efforts in the mixed zone after the Jong Oranje fixtures, I couldn't get a definitive answer out of Van Ginkel on his future - but he at least always answered my questions with a smile and a laugh! Chelsea's close ties with Vitesse surely puts them ahead of Manchester United in the race for his signature, despite Red Devils scout Jim Lawlor travelling to the U21 Euro to see him and Kevin Strootman close up. Van Ginkel's height gives him a distinct advantage over similar box-to-box types - he won the most aerial duels of any midfielder at the tournament - and he is said to be valued at around £15million by his Arnhem club.

3. Kevin Strootman (Holland)


The PSV Eindhoven midfielder has his heart set on a move to England, according to his agent - and the player himself didn't contradict that view whenever he spoke to the media at the U21 Euro. Further along in his development than his colleague Van Ginkel due to the number of senior caps and UEFA club competition experience he has accrued, there is talk that a transfer to Manchester United has already been arranged. The tantalising prospect of Strootman teaming up with Thiago in the Old Trafford engine room should be enough to whet the appetites of those who want to see more young blood in the team under David Moyes.

2. Thiago Alcantara (Spain) 


After improving upon his man-of-the-final display at Denmark 2011 by becoming the hat-trick hero in Jerusalem on Tuesday, Thiago underlined that he is still the cream of the Spanish crop at Under-21 level. However, he could leave Barcelona with a bitter after-taste due to the news that he is apparently available for just £18million this summer, having made less first-team club appearances at this stage of his career than he had hoped for. Manchester United lead the race for the coveted midfielder, whose all-round game and achievements at the age of just 22 are probably eyed enviously by Jack Wilshere - eight months younger and surely the closest English football has to Thiago's class.

1. Isco (Spain) 


Will Isco follow Manuel Pellegrini from Malaga to Manchester City? It was probably the biggest transfer line in Israel, and it seemed that every journalist attempted at one point to get an answer out of the attacking midfielder on the topic. Eventually he was quoted by Madrid-based sports daily AS as saying that there is an offer on the table from the Etihad - but also one from the Bernabeu. Whether you admire him most for his dribbling, his eye for a key pass or his ability to draw fouls in dangerous positions around the box, there's no denying that he is already a player with significant stature in European football and worth every penny of his £30million release clause.

source: http://www1.skysports.com/football/news/12040/8784032/U21-top-targets

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