The best U21 XI in European football was named in 2012 - where are they now?

Mario Balotelli in action for Manchester City in 2012

In 2012, the best under-21 XI in European football was named by Bleacher Report.

10 years have now passed and all the players that featured should now be in their prime.

But have they fulfilled their potential?

We’ve listed the players that were listed in the XI and looked at where they are now below.

GK: Wojciech Szczęsny

Where were they in 2012? Arsenal
Where are they in 2022? Juventus

Szczęsny’s form fluctuated at Arsenal. He has thrived since joining Juventus in 2017. He has played 177 times for The Old Lady in the last five seasons.

CB: Kyriakos Papadopoulos

Where were they in 2012? Schalke 04
Where are they in 2022? Unattached

It’s fair to say that Papadopoulos has not fulfilled his lofty potential. A few serious injuries at the start of his career curtailed his progress. He is now looking for a new club after spending the 2021/22 season at Greek outfit, Atromitos.

Kyriakos Papadopoulos on Greece duty
WARSAW, POLAND – JUNE 07: Kyriakos Papadopoulos looks on during a Greece training session ahead of the UEFA EURO 2012 Group A match against Poland at National Stadium on June 7, 2012 in Warsaw, Poland. (Photo by Alex Grimm/Getty Images)

CB: Mamadou Sakho

Where were they in 2012? Paris Saint-Germain
Where are they in 2022? Montpellier

Sakho played 201 times for PSG before making the £18 million move to Liverpool in 2013. After an erratic spell at Liverpool he joined Crystal Palace in a permanent deal in 2017. He joined Montpellier at the start of the 2021/22 campaign.

CB: Phil Jones

Where were they in 2012? Manchester United
Where are they in 2022? Manchester United

Jones is still at United, although he finds first-team action very hard to come by nowadays. He has only played 13 times for the club over the past three seasons.

DM: Yann M’Vila

Where were they in 2012? Rennes
Where are they in 2022? Olympiacos

After leaving Rennes in 2013 ,M’Villa has had stints at Rubin Kazan, Inter Milan, Sunderland, Saint-Etienne and now Olympiacos. He joined the Greek side in 2020 and has helped them to consecutive league titles.

Yann M'Vila
Football – Wigan Athletic v Rubin Kazan – UEFA Europa League Group Stage Matchday Three Group D – DW Stadium, Wigan, England – 13/14 , 24/10/13 Yann M’Vila – Rubin Kazan Mandatory Credit: Action Images / Jason Cairnduff EDITORIAL USE ONLY.

RM: Gökhan Töre

Where were they in 2012? Hamburg
Where are they in 2022? Unattached

Tore is currently searching for a new club after spending the 2021/22 season at Besiktas. The last of his 26 Turkey caps came in 2015.

CM: Thiago

Where were they in 2012? Barcelona
Where are they in 2022? Liverpool

Thiago is one of the best centre midfielders in the world. He’s won an incredible 27 trophies at club level, including two Champions League triumphs (2010/11 with Barcelona, 2019/20 with Bayern Munich).

Thiago in action for Liverpool
Soccer Football – Champions League Final – Liverpool v Real Madrid – Stade de France, Saint-Denis near Paris, France – May 28, 2022 Liverpool’s Thiago Alcantara in action with Real Madrid’s Casemiro REUTERS/Lee Smith

LM: Andre Schürrle

Where were they in 2012? Bayer Leverkusen
Where are they in 2022? Retired

Schurrle left Leverkusen for Chelsea in a £18 million deal in 2013. He went on to play for Wolfsburg, Dortmund, Fulham and Spartak Moscow. He decided to retire in 2020 at the age of just 29.

RW: Mario Götze

Where were they in 2012? Dortmund
Where are they in 2022? Eintracht Frankfurt

Gotze scored the winner for Germany in the World Cup final in 2014. His career has gone downhill since. After two seasons at PSV, Gotze recently joined Frankfurt on a free transfer.

ST: Mario Balotelli

Where were they in 2012? Manchester City
Where are they in 2022? Adana Demirspor

Balotelli has played for 11 clubs in his career, including Inter Milan, Manchester City, Liverpool and AC Milan. The former Golden Boy winner scored 19 goals for Turkish side Adana Demirspor in the 2021/22 campaign.

LW: Eden Hazard

Where were they in 2012? Lille
Where are they in 2022? Real Madrid

Hazard was borderline unstoppable at his very best. He scored 110 times in 353 for Chelsea as he established himself as one of the greatest players in their history. He has struggled since signing for Real Madrid in an initial €100 million deal in 2019, scoring just six times in 66 games for Los Blancos.

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