Euro 2024: Wirtz, Yamal, Mainoo, Sesko and the 10 potential breakout stars in Germany

Ten emerging talents of European football who will be looking to make their mark this summer

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There isn't much that can boost a young player's reputation more than having a breakout major tournament.

Think Enzo Fernandez, who earned a world-record transfer from Benfica to Chelsea after his stellar performances in Qatar in 2022, or Wayne Rooney, who dazzled at Euro 2004 as an 18-year-old and then joined Manchester United from Everton.

This summer, the centre of the footballing world will be Germany, where Europe's leading 24 national teams will compete for continental supremacy.

In the coming weeks rising stars will become household names thanks to their performances in this tournament. Below are 10 young players who could light up Euro 2024.

Florian Wirtz, Germany

Club: Bayer Leverkusen; Position: Attacking midfield; Age: 21; Caps (goals): 16 (1)

The stylish Wirtz has long been earmarked as a future star in Germany, and the 2023/24 season saw him come good on all that promise as he led Bayer Leverkusen to an unbeaten domestic season with a league and cup double. In league matches he reached double figures for both goals (11) and assists (12) to claim the Bundesliga player of the season prize.

That form was replicated in the cups with Wirtz, a dynamic dribbler with a lethal shot from distance, ending up with 18 goals and 20 assists in 49 games across all competitions. That tally of assists was the highest of any player in Europe's big five leagues.

His first international goal arrived in March – Wirtz scored from range after just eight seconds – when Germany upset France 2-0 in a friendly in Lyon. The tournament hosts are likely to field a youthful and fluid attacking front three with Wirtz on the left, another 21-year-old in Jamal Musiala on the right, and Kai Havertz through the middle.

Lamine Yamal, Spain

Club: Barcelona; Position: Winger; Age: 16; Caps (goals): 6 (2)

If there is a record out there for being the youngest to do something in Spanish football then it likely now belongs to Yamal. Notably, he is the youngest player and scorer for Barcelona and the youngest player and scorer in La Liga.

Last September he became the youngest full international and scorer for Spain when he netted on his debut against Georgia. He followed that up with an electric display in a 2-2 draw with Brazil in March.

Either playing from the start or used as an impact sub, expect to see Yamal terrorising defenders down the right wing with his mazy dribbling and eye for goal.

Yamal turns 17 on July 13, the day before the Euro 2024 final.

Joao Neves, Portugal

Club: Benfica; Position: Midfield; Age: 19; Caps (goals): 5 (0)

Portuguese football has been quite the talent factory in recent years, and in Joao Neves it seems they have their next elite midfielder.

The high-energy 19-year-old has flourished at Benfica, mainly used as part of a double pivot, attracting major interest from Manchester United, Arsenal and Paris Saint-Germain.

Neves is tactically astute, happy to take the ball in tight spaces, and is tenacious – punching well above his weight.

Perhaps the trait that stands out the most, however, is his ball-carrying ability, with Neves able to beat his man and accelerate away from trouble with ease to get his team on the front foot. Neves compares favourably in duels and interceptions, but he is so much more than a midfield destroyer.

Kobbie Mainoo, England

Club: Manchester United; Position: Midfield; Age: 19; Caps (goals): 2 (0)

The midfielder's goal in the FA Cup final win over Manchester City and subsequent Euro 2024 call-up capped an astonishing rise for the Manchester United academy product.

Such has been his form – a shining light in an otherwise gloomy campaign at Old Trafford – that he's competing for a starting place in the Three Lions midfield alongside Declan Rice and Jude Bellingham.

Whether it be from the start or from the bench, there's every chance Mainoo will make an impact on England's campaign given his creative talents and knack for producing in the big moments.

Warren Zaire-Emery, France

Club: PSG; Position: Midfield; Age: 18; Caps (goals): 2 (1)

Described as a "diamond" by his club boss Luis Enrique, Zaire-Emery has been one of the major success stories of PSG's season. He became the club's youngest player in August 2022 before making 43 appearances across all competitions. That tally included 11 Champions League games as he helped the Parisians reach the last four.

He marked his senior international debut with a goal in a 14-0 qualifying romp against Gibraltar before being confirmed in Didier Deschamps' final 25-man squad for Germany. Despite having won only two caps, there's every chance that this gifted all-rounder starts the tournament at the heart of the French midfield.

After the Euros he will go straight to the Paris Olympics where he will hope to help the host nation win gold.

Arda Guler, Turkey

Club: Real Madrid; Position: Attacking midfield/winger; Age: 19; Caps (goals): 6 (1)

Guler signed a six-year contract when he joined Real Madrid last summer, with the now European champions viewing the skilful Turkish attacking midfielder as a long-term prospect. With some early injury problems and competition for places red-hot at the Bernabeu, he has struggled for consistent playing time. That said, there have been positive signs and coach Carlo Ancelotti has spoken glowingly of his ability.

When he has played he has been a good source of goals with six coming in just 10 games, including a brace in a 4-4 draw with Villarreal.

Despite his lack of opportunities at his all-conquering club, Guler is already a key player for his country and will be central to their hopes this summer. The presence of Guler and another exciting youngster in the shape of Juventus forward Kenan Yildiz means Turkey should be an exciting watch.

Xavi Simons, Netherlands

Club: RB Leipzig (on loan from PSG); Position: Attacking midfield/winger; Age: 21; Caps (goals): 13 (0)

The Amsterdam-born Simons was a child football prodigy who joined Barcelona's La Masia academy aged seven. He eventually signed professional terms with Paris Saint-Germain and has since made his name in two loan spells away from the Parc des Princes.

The first came at PSV Eindhoven where he scored 22 times in 48 appearances, won the Dutch Cup and was named Dutch player of the year.

He then spent last season with RB Leipzig and was named in the Bundesliga team of the season. He'll expect to break into the first team with PSG next season, although Chelsea and Arsenal are long-term admirers of the tricky attacking midfielder.

Before that, though, he will hope to make a difference for his country. Simons, who has at times drawn criticism from national team boss Ronald Koeman, is expected to be used alongside Liverpool's Cody Gakpo behind focal point Wout Weghorst.

Johan Bakayoko, Belgium

Club: PSV Eindhoven; Position: Winger/forward; Age: 21; Caps (goals): 10 (1)

With Belgium having (mostly) moved on from their previous "golden generation" and now being led by Domenico Tedesco, this tournament represents something of a new dawn.

There are plenty of exciting young players in the squad, such as Charles De Ketelaere and Arthur Vermeeren, but it's out on the wings where they might do some serious damage. Manchester City's Jeremy Doku will start on the left, and PSV Eindhoven star Bakayoko on the right.

The muscular winger has been linked with numerous Premier League clubs in the past 12 months, while new Bayern Munich coach Vincent Kompany is rumoured to be eager to recruit his countryman. After the championship-winning season he has had at PSV, it's hardly a surprise.

Benjamin Sesko, Slovenia

Club: RB Leipzig; Position: Striker; Age: 21; Caps (goals): 28 (11)

With Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United all fighting to sign him, it's fair to assume that Sesko has something about him – height, pace and an ever-improving goalscoring record for starters. Not to mention those Erling Haaland comparisons.

Having scored 18 times for Leipzig last season – in addition to the goals that fired Slovenia to a first major tournament in 20 years – and with an achievable release clause in his contract, it's a fair bet he will switch to English football this summer.

And, having landed in Group C alongside the Three Lions – as well as Denmark and Serbia – he will have an opportunity to show Premier League clubs and English fans precisely what he can do.

Giorgiy Sudakov, Ukraine

Club: Shakhtar Donetsk; Position: Midfield; Age: 21; Caps (goals): 12 (1)

A good Euro 2024 might convince one of the clubs monitoring Sudakov to firm up their interest.

The midfielder, twice Ukrainian young player of the year, has been linked with Liverpool, Tottenham and, of course, Chelsea.

Now with more than 100 senior appearances for his club and a regular starter for his country, Sudakov is a versatile and technical midfielder who is capable of carrying out various roles. He is most often used as a conventional central midfielder but has been pushed up into the No 10 position before. There have also been occasions when Sudakov has been used as a left winger for Shakhtar.

Updated: June 11, 2024, 8:55 AM