Football

Europe's best young players in 2014

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Presenting Europe's best u-21 players who made a name for themselves this season and are likely to establish themselves among the continent's elite in the coming years...

10. Viktor Fischer

Club: Ajax
Age: 19
National team: Denmark
Position: Left-wing

Ajax are most known for one of the best youth academies in the world, developing players like Christian Eriksen and Wesley Sneijder. 

Well, Fischer is their biggest new discovery. While some 19-year-olds still play for under-21 team, he made a debut nearly two years ago in October 2012. He scored his first goal just a week later. In 47 appearances, the winger has scored 13 times.

He scored 20 goals in 30 games for Denmark under-17s, leading to links with some Premier League teams. Six caps for the senior national team at the age of 19 should be a big accomplishment for any player.

9. Lucas Digne

Club: Paris Saint-Germain
Age: 20
National team: France
Position: Left-back

The product of Lille's youth school made a debut for the club in October 2011, at the age of 18. In the second season in Ligue 1, Digne was often chosen for the starting XI and soon made a name for himself, appearing against Bayern Munich and Valencia in European competition.

Paris Saint-Germain signed the player for €15 million last summer, and he made 15 appearances during his first campaign at the Parc des Princes. Also, he made it into the World Cup squad, where he will face a fight with Patrice Evra for the left-back position.

8. Ross Barkley

Club: Everton
Age: 20
National team: England
Position: Midfield

The Englishman has ensured a place in the national team for the World Cup after establishing himself as one of Everton's most important players of this season. 

The transfer of Marouane Fellaini to Manchester United opened up the gate for Barkley who took the advantage of it and secured a place in the starting XI. He took part in 34 out of 38 Premier League matches.

After just three caps for the national side, the Evertonian received a call-up for his first big international competition, being the second youngest player on Roy Hodgson's list.

7. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain

Club: Arsenal
Age: 20
National team: England 
Position: Winger

This Arsenal youngster is one of the country's top talents and has earned himself a place in the England squad for the World Cup, which stars in Brazil next month.

Due to many inquiries, Chamberlain has played only 14 Premier League matches this season, scoring two goals and assisting three times. But Roy Hodgson has shown faith in the Southampton youth academy product.

Could another injury keep him out of the biggest international competition in June and July? He hasn't yet recovered from an ongoing groin problem, and has yet to recover fully.

6. Mateo Kovacic

Club: Internazionale
Age: 20
National team: Croatia
Position: Central-midfield

The youngster will be one of his team's biggest weapons next month, with Kovacic set to team up with Real Madrid's Luka Modric in midfield for Croatia.

Although he is often benched by Walter Mazzari at Inter, Kovacic uses every opportunity to impress the fans and the manager. In Javier Zanetti's last game, Kovacic made three incredible assists in a 4-1 win versus rivals Lazio.

It would be a mistake to keep him away from the starting XI next season, and if that happens, Kovacic should make a move out of Serie A.

5. Domenico Berardi

Club: Sassuolo (on loan from Juventus)
Age: 19
National team: Italy u-21
Position: Right-wing

Sassuolo can thank this youngster for keeping them in the Italian top-flight. In the most crucial match of the season, away to Fiorentina, Berardi scored a hat-trick which gave the club another chance in the Serie A next season.

Berardi signed for Juventus last summer but was loaned back to Sassuolo, although it could be that he earns a debut for the Serie A champions next season. He was last called-up for Italy u-21, but could be a part of the senior national team soon after the World Cup.

The winger shook the net 16 times in 29 league matches last season, and became the first player ever to score four goals in just one match against AC Milan.

4. Julian Draxler

Club: Schalke 04 
Age: 20 
National team: Germany
Position: Midfield

Draxler almost joined Arsenal in January, but is most likely to move in the summer transfer window - although perhaps not the the Emirates Stadium. Schalke are aware they are unlikely to be able to hold onto Draxler for much longer, and a transfer to Bayern Munich has been mentioned.

Draxler has 11 caps for Germany, and has been able to earn a place in his nation's final 23 players for the World Cup. The 20-year-old is probably one of the most consistent players in the Bundesliga, and is set to establish himself among Europe's elite.

3. Luke Shaw

Club: Southampton
Age: 18
National team: England
Position: Left-back

In February 2014, Shaw made a debut against Denmark, replacing centurion Ashley Cole in the second half. Three months on, and Shaw had taken Cole's place on the plane to Brazil.

Manchester United and Chelsea are fighting to bring Shaw from his current club, with a reported bid of £30 million made for the player. He is a big fan of the Blues, although Manchester United appear to have the most serious interest at present.

2. Adnan Januzaj

Club: Manchester United
Age: 19
National team: Belgium
Position: Left-wing

Promoting Januzaj to the senior team was one of David Moyes' few smart moves, and there weren't many of those while he was in charge. Januzaj couldn't have wished for a better start - while playing his first full match for the Red Devils, the winger scored two goals in a win against Sunderland.

Since then, he is a regular starter at Old Trafford, playing over 25 matches, and is role may well increase following the appointment of Louis van Gaal as the successor to Moyes.

Januzaj, eligible to represent numerous nations, has chosen to play for Belgium instead of Kosovo, what made Kosovo fans declare him a traitor. Marc Wilmots will surely preserve a spot for him for the upcoming international competition.  

1. Raheem Sterling

Club: Liverpool
Age: 19
National team: England
Position: Right-wing

Sterling is the youngest player to represent England in Brazil. Of course, without great performances for Liverpool, he wouldn't have been where he is now.

The teenager had an extraordinary season, scoring nine goals and making seven assists in 33 appearances. Now the stage is set for Sterling to star at the World Cup and beyond.

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This article has been written by a member of the GiveMeSport Writing Academy and does not represent the views of GiveMeSport.com or SportsNewMedia. The views and opinions expressed are solely that of the author credited at the top of this article. GiveMeSport.com and SportsNewMedia do not take any responsibility for the content of its contributors.

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