From Bellingham to Mbappe: 10 top players to watch at UEFA Euro 2024

Euro 2024 kicks off in Germany when the hosts take on Scotland at Munich’s Allianz Arena in Group A on June 14, Friday.

High-profile players and breakout stars from the best leagues in the world will compete in the month-long Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) championship.

⚽ Jude Bellingham (England)

Jude Bellingham’s stunning debut season at Spanish mega club Real Madrid has rapidly turned the attacking English midfielder into one of the hottest commodities in European football.

Bellingham took the Spanish giants by storm with 18 league goals in the 2023-24 season, helping Madrid win the La Liga title and reach the Champions League final.

Apart from his impressive statistics, the 20-year-old’s leadership qualities and winning mentality have earned him the status of a hero among the Bernabeu faithful.

Bellingham will be keen to build on his spectacular club performance and could be the X factor in England’s Euro 2024 campaign, as they look to claim a maiden European nations title.

⚽ Florian Wirtz (Germany)

Florian Wirtz was named the Bundesliga’s Player of the Year for his key role in Xabi Alonso’s revolutionary 2023-24 title-winning team at Bayer Leverkusen, as the attacking midfielder racked up the joint second-most assists (11) and scored an equal number of goals.

Wirtz is one of the brightest stars to emerge out of Germany in the last decade, with a rare talent to control and dominate the midfield in a way few other players in world football can.

⚽ Xavi Simons (Netherlands)

Xavi Simons is a product of Barcelona’s La Masia Academy and his game boasts admirable traits of ‘Total Football’ – a tactical system common in Dutch and Spanish football in which any outfield player can take over the role of any other player – allowing the 21-year-old to impact a game from a multitude of positions.

At RB Leipzig, Simons operated on both wings and also as an attacking midfielder, carrying the ball around, maximising possession and creating goal-scoring opportunities for his teammates.

If given the game time and attacking liberty by manager Ronald Koeman, Simons can be a standout player for the Netherlands, allowing the Dutch a puncher’s chance to defeat the main contenders at Euro 2024.

⚽ Rasmus Hojlund (Denmark)

Having joined Manchester United as their most expensive signing in the summer of 2023, Rasmus Hojlund fully justified his price tag, scoring 10 English Premier League goals and at just 21 years old, becoming the youngest player to reach double-figure goals in the 2023-24 EPL season.

After overcoming injury issues and a form slump, Hojlund emerged as a promising attacking talent in the final months of the Premier League and will be keen to carry that form into Euro 2024.

In the past year, Hojlund has also thrived at an international level, leading Denmark’s attack with a sizzling seven goals during the Euro 2024 qualifying campaign.

⚽ Kevin De Bruyne (Belgium)

Playmaker Kevin De Bruyne was the midfield maestro behind Manchester City’s victorious 2023-24 English Premier League (EPL) title charge, orchestrating the Sky Blues’ charge to their fourth straight EPL title.

⚽ Kenan Yildiz (Turkey)

Eighteen-year-old Kenan Yildiz transformed Max Allegri’s dull Juventus side in Italy’s Serie A, helping the defensive-minded team score far more than expected.

His presence improved not only his fellow striker Dusan Vlahovic’s form, but also Juve’s wingbacks, allowing them space between the lines.

As one of Serie A’s most exciting attackers, Yildiz stands on the brink of stardom for Turkey, for whom he scored his first international goal against Germany in November last year.

Euro 2024 will be a homecoming of sorts for the lanky forward: Yildiz was born in Regensburg, Germany to a Turkish father and a German mother.

⚽ Phil Foden (England)

Phil Foden’s impressive haul of 19 goals and eight assists for Manchester City earned him the Player of the Season award, as his side clinched a record fourth successive English Premier League title.

The 23-year-old impressed in an attacking midfield position for City and should Gareth Southgate play him in the same position instead of out wide, Foden could be the Three Lions’ dangerman.

⚽ Kylian Mbappe (France)

Known for his mesmerising dribbling, speed and clinical finishing, Kylian Mbappe has been one of the premier players on an awesome France national team in recent years.

The 25-year-old, who will wear the captain’s armband at the Euros, heads into the tournament on the back of a terrific final season with Paris Saint-Germain, scoring a whopping 44 goals in all competitions. Mbappe has signed on to play for Real Madrid next season.

With Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo now in the twilight of their illustrious careers, Euro 2024 represents the ideal platform for Mbappe to signal to the global footballing community that he is ready to be crowned the world’s greatest player – and that there’s no better way to do that than by leading France to their first European Championship in 24 years.

⚽ Josko Gvardiol (Croatia)

Josko Gvardiol arrived at Manchester City primarily as a central defender, but the 22-year-old spectacularly transformed into a goal-scoring left back, making him one of the Premier League’s biggest matchup nightmares for opposing teams.

In the 2023-24 EPL season, when he wasn’t torturing opposing forwards and keeping clean sheets, Gvardiol also chipped in on the offensive end for City, scoring a handy five goals and bagging three assists in all competitions.You can follow the action on Al Jazeera’s dedicated Euro 2024 tournament page with all the match build-up and live text commentary, and keep up to date with group standings and real-time match results and schedules.

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