‘Iceman’, ‘The Robot’, ‘The New Modric’ – 24 new players to watch at Euro 2024

Young players to watch at Euro 2024BBC Sport

It is 20 years since Wayne Rooney announced himself as a global talent on the international stage at Euro 2004, but who will be the breakout stars of this summer’s European Championship?

Not many of the 622 players who could feature in Germany can be classed as total unknowns, but are any of them world-beaters in the making?

Here, BBC Sport’s TV and radio Euro 2024 commentators pick 24, from outside the Premier League and Scottish Premiership, who are worth watching out for this summer.

1. Martin Baturina (Croatia)

Age: 21 Position: Midfield Club: Dinamo Zagreb

Martin Baturina

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Steve Wilson: The up-and-coming face of Croatian football has inevitably been dubbed ‘The Next Modric’ – well of course he has!

Title winners Dinamo Zagreb will not be able to hold on to him much longer after an impressive Under-21s Euros in 2023, followed by his best goalscoring season to date. Juventus and Arsenal are on his case, and they won’t be the only ones.

2. Warren Zaire-Emery (France)

Age: 18 Position: Midfield Club: Paris St-Germain

Warren Zaire-Emery

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Vicki Sparks: Zaire-Emery is already used to shouldering responsibility as one of Paris St-Germain’s stand-out performers this season as they won the French double. That earned him both the UNFP Young Player of the Year Award (the French equivalent of PFA Young Player of the Year) and a new contract until 2029.

Game time will be the question here because the France midfield oozes quality and experience, but Zaire-Emery is a real talent and, having been given permission to delay his school exams until September, he will hope Didier Deschamps gives him a chance to show what he can do on the big stage.

3. Benjamin Sesko (Slovenia)

Age: 21 Position: Striker Club: RB Leipzig

Benjamin Sesko

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Radio 5 Live football correspondent John Murray: Is there a potential danger for England lurking in their third group match?

Sesko is a 21-year-old, 6ft 5in striker who Arsenal fans will be aware of because there has been much talk of a £50m-plus transfer from RB Leipzig. Although his new deal will dampen that.

He’s taken the well-trodden path from Red Bull Salzburg (with a loan at Liefering) to Leipzig, and the goals have kept flowing. He scored 18 goals for Salzburg in 2022-23 and almost equalled that for Leipzig last season.

Steve Wilson: Sesko was becoming one of the most sought-after players of the summer of 2024. He could soon rival Zlatko Zahovic as the best Slovenia outfield player of all time.

4. Brian Brobbey (Netherlands)

Age: 22 Position: Striker Club: Ajax

Brian Brobbey

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Robyn Cowen: As well as a name with pleasing alliteration, Brobbey had a coming-of-age season with a struggling Ajax side, scoring 22 goals in all competitions. In a campaign in which the Dutch giants spent most of the time in the lower reaches of the table, his contributions led them to a semi-respectable fifth place finish in the Eredivisie.

Brobbey only had a single senior cap to his name before his selection for the Dutch squad, but he’s already tasted success on the international stage, winning back-to-back Under-17 European Championships in 2018 and 2019.

5. Florian Wirtz (Germany)

Age: 21 Position: Midfield Club: Bayer Leverkusen

Florian Wirtz

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Alistair Bruce-Ball: One of two 21-year-olds in the Germany team who are already pretty well known to English audiences from their exploits in club football.

Wirtz has dazzled as a creative force in Xabi Alonso’s all-conquering Leverkusen team and will be itching to do the same for Germany, having missed the World Cup in Qatar with a knee injury.

He’s started seven of the eight games since Julian Nagelsmann took charge last year, mainly on the left of an attacking three in a 4-2-3-1 with Jamal Musiala on the other flank.

6. Giorgi Mamardashvili (Georgia)

Age: 23 Position: Goalkeeper Club: Valencia

Giorgi Mamardashvili

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Steve Wilson: Considered by many to be the outstanding young goalkeeper in European football.

Mamardashvili has become first choice for his country, playing their last 13 competitive internationals, and has proved to be a steal for Valencia who paid Dinamo Tbilisi less than 1m euro to sign him in 2022 – he could easily cost 50 times that now.

7. Johan Bakayoko (Belgium)

Age: 21 Position: Right-wing Club: PSV Eindhoven

Johan Bakayoko

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Steve Wilson: Moved to PSV Eindhoven as a 16-year-old from Anderlecht and has excelled in PSV’s title-winning campaign with 16 goals and 14 assists.

Comparisons with fellow Belgium winger Jeremy Doku are inevitable, though he prefers to play on the opposite flank. Last summer he was said to be wanted by Brentford and Burnley, this year it’s Bayern, Arsenal and Liverpool – it may be harder for PSV to say no.

8. Georgiy Sudakov (Ukraine)

Age: 21 Position: Midfield Club: Shakhtar Donetsk

Georgiy Sudakov

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Steve Wilson: A dynamic and inventive attacking midfielder who is considered to be comfortably the best Ukrainian player still playing in war-torn Ukraine.

Shakhtar Donetsk rejected a big Napoli bid in January, but Sudakov says it’s time to get his family away from the war and is certain to get his wish – possibly to London as he has been linked to Arsenal, Spurs and Chelsea.

9. Jamal Musiala (Germany)

Age: 21 Position: Midfield Club: Bayern Munich

Jamal Musiala

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Alistair Bruce-Ball: Musiala is the other young Germany star who I am looking forward to watching this summer. Like Wirtz, he brings speed, skill, invention and a youthful verve.

Remarkably, Musiala, who grew up in London and represented England up to under-21 level, is already at his third major tournament for Germany having first dipped his toe in the water as an 18-year-old at Euro 2020. That will surely bring with it a confidence that will only be boosted in front of fervent home support if Germany start well.

10. Joao Neves (Portugal)

Age: 19 Position: Midfield Club: Benfica

Joao Neves

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Steve Wilson: Neves barely missed a minute of Benfica’s season, and played every second of their 12-game European campaign.

He got his chance when Enzo Fernandez left Lisbon for Chelsea in 2023 – Benfica consider Neves to be an upgrade and are talking upwards of £80m to take him away. If he has a good Euros there could well be a queue of clubs knocking at agent Jorge Mendes’ door.

11. Strahinja Pavlovic (Serbia)

Age: 23 Position: Centre-back Club: Red Bull Salzburg

Strahinja Pavlovic holds off Austria's Marco Grull

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John Murray: Pavlovic has spent two seasons at Red Bull Salzburg after they signed him from Monaco.

From the no-nonsense school, he’s likely to start on the left side of Serbia’s three-man central defence when they face England on Sunday.

12. Leopold Querfeld (Austria)

Age: 20 Position: Centre-back Club: Rapid Vienna

Leopold Querfeld tackles Serbia striker Aleksandar Mitrovic

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Steve Wilson: Nicknamed ‘The Austrian Wall’, Querfeld has become a shining light at the back for Rapid Vienna over the last two seasons, and made his international debut in March.

Tall and elegant with a shock of blond curly hair, he certainly catches the eye.

13. Arda Guler (Turkey)

Age: 19 Position: Midfield Club: Real Madrid

Arda Guler

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John Murray: Not the greatest stab in the dark, but after Real Madrid’s impressive season, the Euros could give a chance to Guler to show what he can do.

He’s only been on the fringes of Real’s achievements but with Turkey he’s likely to be centre-stage in the midfield playmaker role.

Steve Wilson: Joined Real from Fenerbahce last summer and almost immediately got seriously injured, not making his debut until late January.

He was understandably used mainly to give older and wiser heads a break in Real’s busy season – but with six goals in his first 12 games for the club, he is already demanding attention in his own right. Turkey coach Vincenzo Montella must be tempted to start him at the Euros.

14. Xavi Simons (Netherlands)

Age: 21 Position: Forward Club: PSG

Xavi Simons

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Vicki Sparks: Versatile attacker Simons has excelled on loan at RB Leipzig from PSG this season.

He’s a very difficult player to stop once he gets going – he was the most fouled player in the Bundesliga this season – and loves to be the provider for his team-mates, finishing joint second for assists in the German top flight.

Robyn Cowan: After being surrounded by a lot of hype since childhood – difficult to play down with a first name like his – could this be the tournament the footballing world sits up and notices Simons?

His best position is just behind the striker, and he has the quality to make the difference in tight games.

15. Zeno Debast (Belgium)

Age: 20 Position: Centre-back Club: Anderlecht/Sporting

Zeno Debast

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Steve Wilson: Debast went to the World Cup in 2022 and got valuable tournament experience, if not any actual playing-time.

He impressed in Belgium’s draw at Wembley in March and his consistently excellent performances for Anderlecht last season triggered an early summer transfer scramble which has just been won by Sporting, thus disappointing West Ham, AC Milan and Napoli.

16. Mario Mitaj (Albania)

Age: 20 Position: Left-back Club: Lokomotiv Moscow

Mario Mitaj

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Steve Wilson: After his breakthrough at AEK Athens, two very promising seasons with Lokomotiv Moscow have followed, in what has become the footballing backwater of the Russian Premier League.

Juventus are reported to be very keen, and he is expected to start Albania’s opening game against Italy in Dortmund – the perfect shop window.

17. Vladyslav Vanat (Ukraine)

Age: 22 Position: Striker Club: Dynamo Kiev

Vladyslav Vanat scores for Dynamo Kiev

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Steve Wilson: Blessed with both great pace and control, Vanat made his international debut against Germany last June.

He signed a new three-year deal to stay in Kiev not long after – but seems destined to leave Ukraine sooner or later. He will almost certainly be behind Spanish-based Roman Yaremchuk and Artem Dovbyk for Sergei Rebrov’s Ukraine side this summer – but could be very useful from the bench.

18. Jeremie Frimpong (Netherlands)

Age: 23 Position: Right-wing or right-back Club: Bayer Leverkusen

Jeremie Frimpong

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Vicki Sparks: Frimpong has enjoyed a brilliant season with German double-winners Bayer Leverkusen, netting 14 goals and being named in the Bundesliga team of the season for the second year running.

Frimpong can play at right wing-back and right-back, and was used on the right wing by Ronald Koeman to great effect in the Netherlands’ pre-tournament friendly against Canada, in which he bagged a goal and an assist. He was part of the squad at the 2022 World Cup, but didn’t feature – that won’t be the case here.

19. Matej Jurasek (Czech Republic)

Age: 20 Position: Winger Club: Slavia Prague

Matej Jurasek

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Steve Wilson: For at least two years Adam Hlozek has been tipped as the next big thing to come out of the Czech Republic and could still reasonably be included on this list, but his career is yet to take off at Leverkusen a couple of seasons on from his move from Sparta Prague.

So, enter Jurasek – a year younger and still playing in Prague with Slavia. Is he the (next) next big thing? Highly effective on either flank, he may struggle to find a starting berth at the Euros in the Czech’s narrow formation.

20. Morten Hjulmand (Denmark)

Age: 24 Position: Midfield Club: Sporting

Morten Hjulmand wins a header above Famalicao forward Oscar Aranda

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John Murray: Holding midfielder Hjulmand has been a big part of Ruben Amorim’s Portuguese league title-winning team this season.

He’s 25 later this month but this wasn’t his first season at Sporting and he only made his international debut in September, so he’s still quite new on the big stage. No relation to Denmark coach Kasper, by the way.

21. Kenan Yildiz (Turkey)

Age: 19 Position: Striker Club: Juventus

Kenan Yildiz

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Steve Wilson: The German-born teenager scored in the Olympiastadion in Berlin on his first international start back in November as Turkey beat Germany in their own capital city.

He left Bayern Munich two summers ago when his contract expired and rejected an offer from Barcelona, preferring to join Juventus. He became a regular in Turin this season, where he is extremely highly regarded.

22. Lazar Samardzic (Serbia)

Age: 22 Position: Midfield Club: Udinese

Lazar Samardzic

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Steve Wilson: A product of Hertha Berlin and RB Leipzig’s youth teams, he moved to Udinese three years ago and almost joined Inter Milan last summer. A move this window looks certain – Juventus head a list which is said to include Borussia Dortmund and Brighton.

He could be an understudy to Dusan Tadic at these Euros, but Tadic is 35 and that pecking order can’t last much longer.

23. Adam Obert (Slovakia)

Age: 21 Position: Centre-back Club: Cagliari

Adam Obert beats Genoa's Mateo Retegui to a header

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Steve Wilson: A left-footer who has caught many an admiring glance at the heart of Cagliari’s defence.

He has captained the Slovakian Under-21 side and is ready to step up to the seniors, having played both the March friendlies against Austria and Norway.

Cagliari’s decision to tie him to a new contract last summer looks a wise one.

24. Zan Vipotnik (Slovenia)

Age: 22 Position: Striker Club: Bordeaux

Zan Vipotnik

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Steve Wilson: Certainly a cheaper choice, when compared to Benjamin Sesko, for any club wanting to bag a Slovenian striker this summer – but a useful option.

Vipotnik scored on his international debut against Kazakhstan a year ago and moved from Maribor to Bordeaux soon afterwards. Ten goals for a mid-table Ligue 2 side made him one of the few pluses from Bordeaux’s poor campaign.

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