Euro Stars: The big names at the U21 tournament
With the U21 Euros kicking off in Israel, James Dart looks at the big names coming your way...
With no World Cup or senior European Championship this summer, football fans will turn their attention to the Under-21 Euros, which get underway tonight with hosts Israel welcoming Spain, Italy, Germany, Norway, England, Netherlands and Russia.
The championship has previously acted as a first glimpse for stars of the future, promoting the likes of Juan Mata, Mesut Ozil, Sami Khedira, Andrea Pirlo and Luis Figo into the wider consciousness. This year could be no different, although the trend toward younger stars mean that you'll already know some of the headline names.
Here FourFourTwo takes a look at some of the potential stars of the tournament.
Isco, full name Roman Alarcon Suarez, is the next quality player to come out of Spain. The 21-year-old Spanish sizzler is already becoming a household name after some dazzling displays for his club side Malaga in their run to the quarter-finals of this seasonÃ¢ÂÂs Champions League. The playmaker is blessed with a wealth of technical ability, vision and intelligence which has alerted the likes of Manchester City. Expect to see his star rise after this tournament as it could be the Isco show.
Marco Verratti (Italy)
Hardly a well-kept secret, the Paris Saint-Germain starlet has already represented Italy at senior level and the talented creative playmaker should show why many believe him to be the ready-made replacement for Andrea Pirlo. With the Italians strongly backed for the tournament, Verratti could collect a winnerÃ¢ÂÂs medal to go along with his recent Ligue 1 title.
Wilfried Zaha (England)
Recently promoted with Crystal Palace, Zaha will look to show why Manchester United splashed the cash on him in January. The forward has an abundance of pace and trickery; if a good season with the champions is preceded by a strong tournament here, he could be on the plane to Brazil next summer Ã¢ÂÂ assuming the senior England side get there...
Luuk De Jong (Netherlands)
Brother of Ajax captain Siem, 6ft 2in forward De Jong already has seven senior caps for Holland and played a starring role in the U21s' play-off win over Slovakia, getting two assists and netting once over the two legs. He hasn't had a great domestic season at new club Borussia Monchengladbach, scoring six goals in 23 games, but has been tipped by many to make a big impact in this summerÃ¢ÂÂs tournament.
Alan Dzagoev (Russia)
Brilliantly-named Russian Alan Yelizbarovich Dzagoev burst onto the world scene with three goals at the senior Euros last summer, making him the tournament's joint top scorer. Skilful on the ball yet willing to do the box-to-box running, the CSKA Moscow midfielder will miss the first game due to him being on senior duty, but should play a starring role for his country's U21 side thereafter.
Lewis Holtby (Germany)
A key figure in GermanyÃ¢ÂÂs route to the finals, Holtby has been named his country's captain for the tournament.
The Tottenham midfielder only made seven starts after moving from Schalke to Spurs in January, but this tournament should prove what a talented player the North Londoners have on their books.