10 stars of the U20 World Cup who could interest Premier League teams
The Under-20 World Cup has previously provided early glimpses of some of the world’s best players, with Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero and Paul Pogba having played in previous campaigns. The 2015 edition is already well in motion (minus England, who didn't qualify), with the knockout stages set to begin on Thursday. Here's 10 players who've caught the eye so far in front of noseying scouts in New Zealand...
Marc Stendera (19, Germany)
Another product of the World Cup-winning nation, Stendera established himself as a first-team regular at Eintracht Frankfurt last season. The 19-year-old made his debut against Bayern Munich in 2013, scoring three league goals and notching five assists in his 26 league appearances. Another German with four goals in the tournament so far, the attacking midfielder has quickly proved the threat he can provide at the sharp end in terms of both his goals and assists. Good on the ball and deadly from set-pieces, Stendera is proving himself as a Bundesliga gem worth keeping tabs on next term.
André Silva (19, Portugal)
A product of FC Porto, the Portuguese hitman found the net twice against Colombia in the group stage after notching once against Qatar, despite scoring just seven in 35 for FC Porto B last season. His goalscoring is a different story on the international stage: Silva has netted six in seven matches for Portugal U20s, after impressing with 16 goals in 24 games for the U19s. He's not yet played above the second tier in Portugal, though, so a move might not be wise just yet.
Giovanni Simeone (19, Argentina)
Argentina may be the highest-profile team to bow out early, but that shouldn’t put suitors off Simeone Jr, Giovanni. Despite scoring only once in New Zealand, Simeone has previously netted twice in the Copa Sudamericana for River Plate, and hit nine in the South America Under-20 Championship at the beginning of the year. The 19-year-old clearly has an eye for goal, and is confident with both feet. He's already struck up a fine partnership with Atletico Madrid’s Angel Correa, which seems like an inevitable destination for him one day if Simeone Snr sticks around.
Viktor Kovalenko (19, Ukraine)
Top scorer in the group stage, the Ukrainian midfielder has made headlines for all the right reasons. He netted a hat-trick against the United States in the final group clash, earning Ukraine top spot in Group A ahead of the Americans. Aged 19, Kovalenko has made four appearances for Shakhtar Donetsk's first team, and offers versatility, grit and determination – three skills needed for the Premier League.
Godfred Donsah (19, Ghana)
Following a breakout season with Serie A’s relegated Cagliari, Donsah reportedly has a host of Premier League clubs wanting his signature, plus Champions League runners-up Juventus. A small but agile box-to-box midfielder, Donsah has been one of the most talked about players in Italian football this year after consistent impressive performances. Likened to Michael Essien, the 19-year-old offers versatility, and is able to play in defence as well as across a three-man midfield. Featuring in all three group games for Ghana, Donsah’s powerful performances in central midfield haven’t gone unnoticed.
Hany Mukhtar (20, Germany)
Mukhtar has proved himself important in Germany's U20s setup. His hat-trick from midfield against Fiji helped Die Mannschaft top Group F, adding to a tournament-high 16 goals for his country. Now plying his trade with Benfica, Hertha Berlin will feel hard done by after letting him go for just €500,000 in January. Mukhtar is already building up the personal accolades: he was selected in the 2014 European U19 Euros team of the tournament, and with four goals to his name in this edition, may well be recognised once again.
Alexis Zapata (20, Colombia)
The Colombian midfielder has caught the eye with his cool composure that suggests he has all the time in the world when on the ball. Scoring a cheeky panenka in Colombia’s 1-1 draw against Senegal, Zapata has been the brightest spark for los Cafeteros. He's happy to receive possession in any situation, and with that the Udinese man is able to comfortably distribute balls all over the park. Having come from Envigado, the same club that helped produce the likes of Fredy Guarin, James Rodriguez and Juan Fernando Quintero, who’s to say Zapata won’t be next?
Tino Casali (19, Austria)
Standing at 6ft 4in, the Austrian goalkeeper has played his part in making sure favourites Argentina were unable to qualify from Group B. With 27 shots on goal, it felt like the South Americans could have kept playing for another 90 minutes and still not managed to find the net thanks to Casali. "It was the game of my life – simply brilliant," the 19-year-old told FIFA.com. He plays his football for Austria Wien and has featured four times for his nation's U20s, helping them advance from their group by conceding just two goals.
Rodrigo Amaral (18, Uruguay)
The third South American to appear in this list, youngster Amaral has only played 90 minutes of football across three games for Uruguay, but is often compared with Uruguay legend Enzo Francescoli. The 18-year-old has an exhilarating arsenal of tricks and finished with the most assists in qualification, being voted as the 'Revelation of the Tournament' in South America. Having joined Club Nacional at the under-14 age group and scored 143 goals at various levels over the next four years, Amaral has signed his first professional contract with an increase in calls to see him in the Tricolores' first team.
Mykyta Burda (20, Ukraine)
Ukraine have yet to concede a goal in the competition, and stopper Burda has been at the heart of that record. He joined Dynamo Kyiv when he was 16, made his debut for the first team last year and enjoyed 14 appearances last term – six of them in the Europa League. In Burda, you'd be getting a defender who isn’t afraid of putting in a commanding tackle at centre-half.