From Madrid's €70m man Jovic to Man Utd target Dembele - the stars to watch at Under-21 Euros

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With the tournament set to kick off in Italy on Sunday, Goal runs through all of the young stars set to shine over the course of the next two weeks

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    Moise Kean (Italy)

    Believe the hype: Moise Kean is the real deal, the talented young striker Italy has long needed, both from a sporting and cultural perspective.

    That's a lot of pressure to place on a 19-year-old's shoulders but Kean, the Vercelli-born son of Ivorian parents, has already proven himself ready, willing and able to overcome every obstacle placed in front of him.

    Just like his childhood hero Mario Balotelli, he has been forced to endure horrendous racial abuse, but the Juventus forward, who has already scored twice for the senior Italy squad, has responded in the best way possible: with inspirational defiance.

    Indeed, his silent celebration in front of the imbeciles who had been insulting him during a league game at Cagliari in March was the most profound image of the Serie A season and the hope now is that a striker who netted in six consecutive games for club and country earlier this year will score the goals that will unite an entire country this summer.

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    Moussa Dembele (France)

    Manchester United may have mixed emotions about Moussa Dembele shining at the European Under-21 Championship.

    On the one hand, a stellar showing would vindicate their attempts to sign the France forward. On the other, it could drive up the asking price for a player that United have already tried – and failed – to persuade Lyon to part with for €40m.

    Dembele certainly looks poised for a big tournament. He caught fire during the second half of last season, ending his campaign with 20 goals in all competitions, and should be provided with plenty of chances in an attack also likely to feature Jonathan Ikone and Jonathan Bamba.

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    Phil Foden (England)

    Just 19 years of age and already a two-time Premier League winner, Phil Foden is one of the most exciting prospects England has produced in years.

    What's more, while the versatile midfielder may have only played a bit-part role in Manchester City's 2017-18 title triumph, he was an important member of the squad that saw off Liverpool's incredible challenge last season, even netting a crucial goal against Tottenham during the run-in.

    Pep Guardiola cannot say enough good things about a player nicknamed 'The Stockport Iniesta' and having already helped England win the Under-17 World Cup two years ago, few would bet against him lifting more silverware in Italy this summer.

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    Joachim Andersen (Denmark)

    With Marco Giampaolo taking over at AC Milan, it would be hugely surprising if he does not attempt to bring Joachim Andersen with him from Sampdoria.

    Following his arrival from FC Twente in 2017, the defender was expertly managed by the respected coach, who only introduced the Dane into his first team in February of last year.

    Since then, Andersen has flourished, establishing himself as one of the best ball-playing centre-halves in Serie A after becoming a regular fixture at the back during the 2018-19 campaign.

    Now, he will be one of the most scouted players at the Euro Under-21s, with Arsenal also keen on the versatile 23-year-old stopper, who is so good on the ball he can also serve as a defensive midfielder.

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    Brahim Diaz (Spain)

    Brahim Diaz declared last month, "I want to stay at Real Madrid." Whether he stays at the Santiago Bernabeu could hinge upon his performances at the European Under-21 Championship.

    The tournament represents an excellent opportunity for him to show Blancos boss Zinedine Zidane, and indeed any coaches interested in taking him on loan next season, what he can do at international level.

    Of course, Diaz has already netted in La Liga since joining Real from Manchester City for €17m in January and the two-footed attacker should be afforded plenty of opportunities to show off his Messi-like dribbling and David Silva-esque intelligence in a Spain squad packed with creative talent.

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    Dodi Lukebakio (Belgium)

    How good is Dodi Lukebakio? Just ask any Bayern Munich fan.

    The Belgian sensation spent last season on loan to Fortuna Dusseldorf from Watford and scored four times in two Bundesliga games against the Bavarians, including a sensational hat-trick at the Allianz Arena in November.

    The versatile right winger, who can play anywhere across the forward line, is as unpredictable as they come, a fantastic dribbler blessed with blistering pace.

    Indeed, no matter how Lukebakio fares at this summer's Euros, it would be a major surprise if he is not recalled by Watford for next season.

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    Luka Jovic (Serbia)

    It may be a classic footballing cliche but Luka Jovic's transfer to Real Madrid really was a 'dream come true' for the striker, who used to sleep in a Blancos jersey as a child.

    Now 21, the pressure is on the Serbia star to demonstrate just why the Spanish giants were willing to pay Eintracht Frankfurt €70 million for his services. But he should have little trouble doing just that at the Euros.

    Jovic has already played and scored for Serbia's senior side, while he racked up seven goals and four assists during the U21's qualification campaign.

    He is brimming with belief, describing himself as "the happiest man in the world right now" after his Madrid move, so the forward who idolised Cristiano Ronaldo as a kid should prove just as big a nightmare for defences in Italy.

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    Alexander Nubel (Germany)

    When Alexander Nubel was playing for Paderborn's youth team, his astounded team-mates nicknamed him 'Manuel', given his similarity to Germany No.1 Manuel Neuer.

    Such comparisons have only intensified in recent months, with Nubel having followed in the footsteps of the Bayern Munich ace by making his Bundesliga breakthrough at Schalke while exhibiting excellent shot-stopping skills and impressive composure and precision with the ball at his feet.

    The 22-year-old is now perfectly placed to emulate Neuer by lifting the European Under-21 Championship in Italy, 10 years after his idol triumphed in Sweden.

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    Ianis Hagi (Romania)

    Romania legend Gheorge Hagi made no secret of his disgust at how his son Ianis was treated during a disappointing 18-month spell at Fiorentina in which the attacking midfielder was used just twice in Serie A.

    Hagi senior is smiling now, though. Ianis is presently being pursued by Sevilla after kickstarting his fledging career after rejoining his father at Viitorul Constanta, the club Gheorge owns and coaches.

    An intelligent and creative two-footer, the 20-year-old Ianis has already been capped three times by Romania at senior level and will, thus, carry the Under-21s' hopes of emerging from a terribly tough group at the Euros in Italy.

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    Nicolo Zaniolo (Italy)

    This time last year, Nicolo Zaniolo was a relatively unknown makeweight in the deal that saw Radja Nainggolan leave Roma for Inter

    Now, though, the gifted and versatile attacking midfielder is the main protagonist in a number of transfer plotlines, with several top clubs tracking the 19-year-old, who was recently named Serie A's Young Player of the Season.

    Zaniolo has already been capped twice at senior level by Roberto Mancini and the Under-21 Euros should provide the Tottenham target with a perfect platform on which to showcase his impressive vision, poise and ingenuity.

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    Houssem Aouar (France)

    After facing Pep Guardiola's Manchester City twice in last season's Champions League, Houssem Aouar made no secret of his admiration of the English side and their Catalan coach.

    The feeling is mutual too, with Guardiola describing the 20-year-old midfielder as an "incredible" talent: "He's always very calm with the ball at his feet, with an excellent technical quality."

    Aouar's composure and precision passing are only likely to draw more suitors in Italy this summer, with Aouar set to pull the strings for a France side tipped to make a big impact on the Under-21 Euros.

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    Aaron Wan-Bissaka (England)

    Aaron Wan-Bissaka only made his professional debut in February 2018 but he has quickly established himself as one of the best right-backs in the Premier League.

    Indeed, after a fantastic 2018-19 campaign that ended with him being named Crystal Palace's player of the season, the 21-year-old is now desperately wanted by Manchester United, who have already had one bid rejected for the Londoner.

    England boss Aidy Boothroyd will, thus, be hoping that Wan-Bissaka, who was previously capped at Under-20 level by Congo, can remain focused on the task at hand, namely helping the Young Lions win the Under-21 Euros in Italy.

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    Josip Brekalo (Croatia)

    Dinamo Zagreb product Josip Brekalo was still only 17 when he was signed by Werder Bremen for €10m in the summer of 2016. Unsurprisingly, he initially struggled to live up to his price tag.

    However, after a crucial loan stint at Stuttgart, the left winger returned to Bremen and played a pivotal role in the club avoiding relegation in 2017-18, with two goals in their final three Bundesliga games, before netting again in the play-off win over Holstein Kiel.

    Brekalo has since gone from strength to strength. Often likened to Arjen Robben, Brekalo is even more athletic and versatile than the Dutchman, having even been used as a full-back by Croatia's senior team, who he has already represented six times.

    He is likely to be shorn of any defensive responsibilities with the Under-21s this summer, which should make him a nightmare to deal with.

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    Dani Ceballos (Spain)

    Two years ago, Dani Ceballos' often breath-taking displays of skill during Spain's European Under-21 Championship triumph in Poland earned him a transfer to Real Madrid. Superstardom beckoned for the midfielder.

    Unfortunately, he has still to nail down a regular place in the Blancos starting line-up and Zinedine Zidane's recent return as coach is bad news for the 22-year-old, given he was rarely trusted by the Frenchman.

    Italy 2019, thus, represents an excellent opportunity for Ceballos to post a timely reminder of his undoubted ability, with Tottenham Hotspur believed to be among those particularly interested in seeing how the former Betis prodigy fares.

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    Dawid Kownacki (Poland)

    Dawid Kownacki was the top scorer in qualifying for the European Under-21 Championship, netting a whopping 11 times to propel Poland to the finals via the play-offs.

    Czeslaw Michniewicz's side will need their captain and talisman in just as inspirational form if they are to progress from a group containing Italy, Spain and Belgium. But Kownacki, who featured for the senior squad at last summer's World Cup, should savour the challenge.

    The Sampdoria-owned striker, who can also play on either flank, enjoyed a morale-boosting loan spell at Fortuna Dusseldorf during the second half of last season and has the composure and talent to impress on his summer return to Italy.

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    Federico Chiesa (Italy)

    Fiorentina are adamant that their most prized asset, Federico Chiesa, will not be sold this summer but the Tuscans' resolve could be tested to the limit in the coming weeks and months.

    Indeed, Juventus are leading the chase for the €70m-rated right winger, who scored 12 goals in all competitions last season for a Viola side that was nearly relegated from Serie A.

    Chiesa has now come straight from the senior squad to take his place in a ridiculously strong Azzurrini attack that should allow him to show off the many skills that have previously seen him described as "a young Gareth Bale".

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    Kevin Danso (Austria)

    Described by Germany striker Timo Werner as a "colossus", Kevin Danso will be absolutely integral to Austria's hopes of making it out of the group stage in their first ever appearance at the European Under-21 Championship.

    Having started out as a midfielder at MK Dons' youth team, he has since developed into a commanding centre-half, with his blend of power, pace, intelligence and terrific technique prompting comparisons with France legend Marcel Desailly.

    While still only 20, Danso made 18 Bundesliga appearances for Augsburg last season and has already been capped six times at senior level by Austria.

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    Maximilian Eggestein (Germany)

    It was not in the least bit surprising to see Werder Bremen hand Maximilian Eggestein a new contract in April, given the likes of Borussia Dortmund were tracking the 22-year-old.

    Having originally started out as a defensive midfielder, Eggestein has developed into a more complete midfielder over the past 12 months, one now being compared to Toni Kroos.

    He even added goals to his game last season, scoring five times in the Bundesliga, as he became a key figure in Werder's starting line-up. He should prove just as influential for Germany's Under-21s in Italy.

  19. Reiss Nelson (England)

    Arsenal loaned Reiss Nelson to Hoffenheim last summer with the hope that the forward would secure more game in Germany and develop as a player. He has surpassed all expectations in both regards.

    Despite his tender age, the 19-year-old right winger settled quickly and ended the season with an impressive seven goals to his name, with his fine form earning him gushing praise from Gunners boss Unai Emery, who looks set to welcome Nelson back into this first-team squad for the 2019-20 Premier League campaign.

    Before that, though, he is set to play a pivotal role in England's bid to win the European Under-21 Championship for the first time since 1984, having helped them make it to Italy with a couple of goals in the Young Lions' qualifying campaign.

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    Carles Alena (Spain)

    Frenkie de Jong's arrival at Barcelona means that the battle for midfield places is only going to become even more fearsome at Camp Nou next season.

    Carles Alena, then, could really do with an impressive showing at the Under-21 Euros to remind everyone why he has previously been compared with Blaugrana legend Andres Iniesta.

    Although nicknamed 'Maradona' at under-age level because of fantastic left foot - and mop of curly dark hair - the 21-year-old prefers to operate on the right-hand side and should excel alongside the likes of Fabian Ruiz and Dani Ceballos in Spain's talent-packed midfield.