Euro 2024 Ones to Watch: Players, stats, market values and more

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The EURO presents a fantastic opportunity to discover talented players from diverse nations and witness their skills firsthand

The highly anticipated UEFA EURO 2024 has kicked off, promising to make this summer unforgettable for football fans across Europe and beyond. Previously, we covered the tournament’s format and the venues hosting the matches. This article will highlight the players who will be particularly exciting to watch throughout the month.

Jude Bellingham, England National Team (Real Madrid CF) – 20 years old 

Market value: €180 Million

Jude Bellingham is no longer just a promising youngster but a bona fide star at Real Madrid. Over three years at Borussia Dortmund, the Englishman developed into a top-class midfielder. In Spain, he has blossomed into a forward capable of excelling in almost every aspect of attacking play. His match-saving performances have been pivotal, often turning games around in the dying minutes. Bellingham played a crucial role in helping his club win the La Liga title, and his contributions of 23 goals and 12 assists in the 2023/24 season across 40 games were instrumental. He also lifted the UEFA Champions League trophy with Los Blancos, triumphing in the final against his former club.

Bellingham’s extensive skill set makes him a versatile player. He has played in various positions, including defensive midfield, box-to-box midfielder, attacking midfielder, withdrawn forward, and on the wings. This versatility is complemented by his impressive physical attributes, standing at 186 cm tall.

Gareth Southgate, the manager of the England national team, places great trust in the player, who has already taken part in 29 meetings for his country. Southgate particularly praises his character. “Among great players, there were those with the same mentality. This includes Steven Gerrard, Patrick Vieira, and Roy Keane. They hate losing and love winning. They can rally the team, often playing on the edge. Bellingham often operates on that edge, which gives him extra strength,” his mentor said in an interview.

The England national team is considered the main contender for the ultimate victory at the European Championship. This is hardly surprising, given that the coaching staff is taking an explosive squad to Germany, one so competitive that even stars like Jack Grealish couldn’t find a place. Every position is marked by fierce competition.

Florian Wirtz, Germany National Team (Bayer Leverkusen) – 21 years old

Market value: €110 Million

At just 21, Florian Wirtz has established himself as the main creative force for the Bayer Leverkusen of Xabi Alonso, boasting statistics that even seasoned footballers would envy. With 151 matches, 41 goals, and 50 assists, top clubs are already on the hunt for Florian. Remarkably, Wirtz reached this level after a severe injury. In March 2022, Germany’s brightest talent tore his cruciate ligaments, an injury that can end careers, but Florian overcame it all. He regained his form and became a pivotal part of Leverkusen, which went unbeaten throughout the Bundesliga season and won the league title for the first time in its history. Additionally, Wirtz and his team reached the UEFA Europa League final, where they lost to Atalanta BC, ending a phenomenal 51-match unbeaten streak.

Wirtz debuted for the German national team in 2021 against Liechtenstein. In his last 10 matches, he was in the starting squad 8 times and scored against France in a friendly match in March. His primary skill is delivering incisive passes. According to the analytical company Opta, Florian ranked third in the Bundesliga for actions leading to shots on goal (166), trailing only Xavi Simons of RB Leipzig (176) and Kevin Stöger of VfL Bochum 1848 (231).

Even more impressive is his statistics for passes that cut through the entire defensive line. Wirtz averages 1.68 of these per match, ranking just behind Matias Soulé of Frosinone Calcio (1.75) and Cole Palmer of Chelsea FC (1.77) in Europe’s top five leagues. Such a player is invaluable for the quick football Julian Nagelsmann favours.

This tournament is crucial for Germany, not least because they are hosting Euro 2024. There’s no room for failure. The memory of the team’s poor performances in recent major tournaments is jarring, and there’s a need for redemption. 

Xavi Simons, Netherlands National Team (RB Leipzig) – 21 years old 

Market value: €80 Million

Once hailed as one of the brightest prospects in Barcelona’s academy, Xavi Simons was lured away by PSG. Currently, his talent is being polished through various stages — after a stint at PSV Eindhoven, he spent a season on loan in Germany, notching 10 goals and 15 assists in 43 matches for RB Leipzig. The management of FC Barcelona are already contemplating bringing back their prodigy, as Simons’ contract (which runs until summer 2027) includes a clause allowing him another year on loan to a club of his choice.

Simons roams across the attacking third, constantly creating danger for opponents with his technical skills and unconventional thinking. At just 14, Simons amassed his first million followers on social media thanks to videos of his skills, and now he’s demonstrating his prowess at the senior level.

In the Euro 2024 qualifiers, Simons played in all the matches for the national team. “Xavi is developing fantastically at RB Leipzig. It’s a pleasure to see. Everything points to him having a great future, including with the national team,” said Ronald Koeman, the Netherlands head coach, in a press conference in November 2023.

António Silva, Portugal National Team (SL Benfica) – 20 years old 

Market value: €45 Million

The Portuguese team is set for an intriguing generational connection at the heart of its defence for Euro 2024, likely featuring the 41-year-old Pepe (FC Porto) and the 20-year-old Silva. The Benfica centre-back has already completed two full seasons with the club and is now attracting interest from FC Bayern Munich, PSG, and Manchester United FC. Silva’s playing style is reminiscent of Manchester City defender Rúben Dias, who also played for Benfica and whom Silva considers a role model.

Regardless of the national team’s performance in the tournament, Silva is expected to move to a bigger club this summer, with an estimated transfer fee of €100 million, as Benfica need the funds. However, to secure his place in the national team’s starting lineup, Silva will have to outcompete another highly talented centre-back, 22-year-old Gonçalo Inácio from Sporting CP.

Benjamin Šeško, Slovenia National Team (RB Leipzig) – 21 years old

Market value: €40 million

The young forward has progressed through the entire hierarchy of the Red Bull football empire, starting with Austrian side FC Liefering and culminating at Leipzig. Last season, Šeško scored 18 goals in 42 matches. Despite RB Leipzig having an underwhelming season, many young players from the club have been called up to their national teams, highlighting the club’s effective development approach.

Benjamin Šeško – an outstanding player of the Slovenian national team, in whom Arsenal soccer club is interested

Arsenal are showing serious interest in Šeško and are prepared to activate his buyout clause of €50 million. For someone of his height (195 cm), Benjamin is impressively technical and composed in front of goal. He even was the best striker in the Bundesliga for converting chances into goals, netting 14 times from an expected goals (xG) tally of 8.60, which is 5.40 more than expected. Moreover, he is often called the Slovenian Erling Haaland. While Norway will not be participating in Euro 2024, Slovenia will face Denmark, Serbia, and England.

Lamine Yamal, Spain National Team (Barcelona) – 16 years old

Market value: €75 million

In recent years, Barcelona has seen many young stars emerge: Pedri, Gavi, Ansu Fati, and now Yamal. What’s interesting, Euro 2020 showcased Pedri and Gavi to the world, Euro 2024 is set to do the same for Lamine. The winger recorded 7 goals and 9 assists in 48 matches for the club this season – remarkable statistics for a 16-year-old, even Lionel Messi was only playing for the youth team at that age.

Yamal has already scored twice for Spain in Euro qualification matches. His grit, speed, and technical prowess make him a valuable asset for Luis de la Fuente, particularly with his explosive dribbling that can break through man-to-man marking.

La Liga fans often compare the winger to Messi, but former Barcelona coach Xavi has urged caution with such comparisons: “They are both left-footed, which might lead us to draw parallels. But any player would fall short when compared to Messi. We are talking about the best player in the history of the sport; he is incomparable.” Yamal will now face his first major tournament test, where he will celebrate his 17th birthday. 

The Spanish collective is considered one of the main contenders for victory at Euro 2024. While some are surprised by such predictions due to the youthful nature of their squad, this blend of fresh talent brings both potential and risk.

Illia Zabarnyi, Ukraine National Team (AFC Bournemouth) – 21 years old

Market value: €28 million

Ukraine are set to face Belgium, Slovakia, and Romania. Their squad features many talented young footballers playing in top leagues. Towering center-back Illia Zabarnyi made his national team debut in 2020, playing every match at Euro. Last winter, he transferred to Bournemouth for €22.7 million. This season, with new manager Andoni Iraola, the Cherries secured a respectable 12th place in the Premier League, and Zabarnyi formed a strong defensive partnership with Marcos Senesi. Fans voted the Ukrainian as the club’s best player for the 2023/24 season.

Zabarnyi is a ball-playing centre-back with technical qualities usually associated with world-class midfielders. His defensive positioning, height, and physical attributes make him one of the most complete defenders in European football today.

Kenan Yıldız, Turkey national team (Juventus FC) – 19 years old 

Market value: 30 million euros

Kenan Yıldız, an 18-year-old football sensation, has quickly made a name for himself both at Juventus and on the international stage with Turkey. Born in Regensburg, Germany, to a Turkish father and a German mother, Yıldız chose to represent Turkey, a decision that has already earned him five international caps.

Yıldız’s journey to stardom began in Bayern Munich’s youth academy. In 2022, he made a pivotal move to Juventus, rejecting an offer from Barcelona. His debut season in Turin has been nothing short of transformative, helping the team of Massimiliano Allegri significantly increase their scoring capabilities. His presence has not only improved the form of his fellow striker Dusan Vlahovic but also allowed Juve’s wingbacks to exploit spaces between the lines more effectively.

One of Yıldız’s most notable achievements came in last season’s Coppa Italia final, where he played a crucial role in helping Juventus beat Atalanta. His impressive performances continued on the international stage; he scored in his first international start as Turkey defeated Germany in Berlin in November.

Despite his age, Yıldız has become a key player for the Turkish national team. It has faced challenges in recent major tournaments and is looking to its young stars like Yıldız and Arda Güler to lead them to a better outcome in Euro 2024. The team aims to move past their disappointing exits in the last two Euros and reach at least the quarterfinals in the upcoming tournament. 

Leo Sauer, Slovakia National Team (Feyenoord Rotterdam) – 18 years old

Market value: €5 Million

If you’re looking for a classic winger to watch this Euros, keep an eye on Leo Sauer. The 18-year-old Slovakian talent, currently dazzling fans in the Eredivisie with Feyenoord, is poised to make a significant impact at UEFA EURO 2024. Sauer’s breakout season has been impressive, featuring 12 times for the team of Arne Slot, where he has scored 2 goals and provided 3 assists. His style is a throwback to traditional wingers: a constant threat with his direct approach, always looking to take on defenders and create opportunities for his team.

Player’s performances have already caught the attention of major clubs, with rumours of a big-money move circulating. Scouts from top European teams are expected to keep a close watch on him during the tournament. The young winger’s ability to beat his man and deliver precise crosses or shots makes him a valuable asset for Slovakia. His dynamism on the field could be crucial for Slovakia as they aim to make a mark at Euro 2024.

Riccardo Calafiori, Italy National Team (Bologna FC 1909) – 22 years old

Market value: €30 Million

In early June, a minor controversy erupted around the Italian national team. José Mourinho claimed that the current squad lacks talent, a sentiment echoed by some. However, national team coach Luciano Spalletti offered a different perspective, praising the significant progress of the young players. Indeed, the Italy squad for Euro 2024 features several emerging stars who have made a strong impression this season. One such player is Bologna defender Riccardo Calafiori, aged just 22.

Riccardo Calafiori played a crucial role in securing his team’s Champions League qualification and is now set to contribute to Italy’s campaign in UEFA EURO 2024

A graduate of Roma’s academy, Calafiori returned to Italy from FC Basel 1893 as a left-back lacking experience. However, under the guidance of coach Thiago Motta, the 22-year-old was transitioned to the centre-back position, where he has excelled in Serie A. He enjoyed a stellar season, helping Bologna qualify for the Champions League. Expectations are high for him in the upcoming tournament, as he is seen as the successor to veterans Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci, who have both retired from international football.

UEFA Euro 2024: All you need to know – Dates, Venues, and Format Explainer