Spain starlets claim Euro U19 glory

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The Under-19 European Championships host some of the continent's brightest and best young stars - and this year was no exception.

Once again, Spain came out on top - the Iberians now hold the Under-19, Under-21, and full adult European Championship as well as the World Cup - and like their senior national team cousins, the youth team is dominated by the products of Real Madrid and Barcelona.

England's lions similarly followed the example set by their elders, crashing out in desperate fashion in the semi-finals - a 2-1 defeat to a Greek team that had been reduced to 10-men sent Noel Blake's squad packing. Spain subsequently dispatched Greece 1-0 in the tournament showpiece, with the only goal of the game coming from competition top scorer and rising Real Madrid star Jese Rodriguez.

While Spain have dominated world football since 2008, their Under-19 age group has been dishing out lessons since 2002. In the last 11 Championships, Spain have won six, reaching the final seven times - and that startling success has evidently graduated along with the players into the senior side.

During that period some of the sport's future stars have provided a brief glimpse of the superstar they subsequently become. Back in 2002, a young Fernando Torres top scored, bagging the final's only goal in a carbon copy of Spain's Euro 2008 triumph six years later.

In 2006, the stars of the show were Chelsea ace Juan Mata and Barca defender Gerard Pique. In the past Wayne Rooney, Hugo Lloris, Philipp Lahm, David Silva and Roberto Montilivo have all played some part in the tournament, as the best players of their generation gather for the annual competition.

This year, like many of the others before, was dominated by Spain. But away from Jese and co, there were some other gems to look out for - and some of them could be plying their trade in the Premier League sooner rather than later.

For England, West Bromwich Albion's George Thorne was an imposing midfield presence, Tottenham's Harry Kane and Arsenal's Benik Afobe both led the line impressively while Everton's Ross Barkley demonstrated his undoubted potential in flashes.

England defender Eric Dier looked comfortable in possession, perhaps a product of the young centre-back playing his club football on the continent with Sporting of Portugal.

Greek captain and star striker Giorgos Katidis was heroic for his country as they guarded their advantage in the semi-final against England. The 19-year-old, who had a three-day trial with Everton in February, scored three times during the competition and, along with PAOK FC left-back Kostas Stafylidis, was his country's best player.

Portugal endured a disappointing tournament, with a squad packed full of talent, they would have expected to progress beyond the group stages. Bruma, the 17-year-old Sporting star was a rare bright spark and the young forward has represented Portugal at every age level since Under-15's. Real Madrid, Manchester City and Chelsea have all reportedly show an interest, but Bruma signed a 5-year-deal with Sporting in 2010.

France similarly promised much but ultimately came up short when they bumped up against an inspired Spain side. Their penalty defeat was tough to take, especially after 3-3 draw, during which they twice pegged the Spaniards back with minutes to spare.

French captain Paul Pogba didn't sparkle as expected, which United fans will be pleased to hear, but the former Red Devil is still one of his country's brightest prospects, and Juventus will be quietly confident their transfer coup will pay off over the next few seasons.

Paris St-Germain striker Jean Christophe Bahebeck also impressed - his quick feet allied with blistering pace catching the eye. The 19-year-old winger has already made a handful of appearances for his Ligue 1 team and Bahebeck expected to have a bright future.

But the top teenagers predictably wore Spanish shirts. The pick of the bunch was undoubtedly Jese. The Real Madrid striker has made one appearance for the La Liga giants, coming on for Cristiano Ronaldo in March last season, and the 19-year-old will be hoping for a lot more first-team action next year.

Not to be upstaged by their fierce rivals, Barca offered up the latest starlet produced by the world famous La Masia academy. Gerard Deulofeu helped Spain win last year's tournament, and he returned to terrorise defences once again this summer.

The 19-year-old winger was a bundle of creative energy, frustrating and fantastic in equal measure. Capable of unpicking defences in the blink of an eye, Deulofeu provided the telling assist for Jese in the final. But the Barca star will hope to become a little more consistent to improve his chances of following Messi, Pedro, Xavi, and Iniesta in transitioning from youth team to first team.

Inevitably some of these young starlets won't make the grade at senior level. While the bulk of most national squads was made up of players from Europe's elite clubs, including Barca, Manchester United and Chelsea, few of these youngsters will break through into their first teams. But remember the names and keep an eye out because one or two of these teenage talents could be the next Wayne Rooney or David Silva.

Which young star are you tipping for international superstardom in the years to come? Tell us who impressed you this summer by leaving a comment below...

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