Fans attending the UEFA European Under-17 Championship can look forward to seeing future World Cup, Champions League and Premier League winners in action on their doorstep if previous editions of the tournament are anything to go by.
The next generation of football superstars will showcase their talents at Burton Albion, Chesterfield, Loughborough University, Rotherham United, St. George’s Park and Walsall as England host the tournament in its current format for the very first time from May 4-20.
Jadon Sancho was named player of the tournament last year as England lost a heart-breaking final on penalties to Spain, but the Borussia Dortmund man is following in the footsteps of some of the world’s great players in the modern game.
Past winners of the best player award include World Cup winners Cesc Fabregas, Toni Kroos and Mario Gotze, in 2004, 2006 and 2009 respectively.
Wayne Rooney won the award in 2002, as England finished third, and since then the Three Lions have been champions twice, in 2010 and 2014.
Those teams featured current England players Jack Butland, Ross Barkley and Joe Gomez, who used the tournament as a stepping stone for senior international success.
Two other notable England performers were Connor Wickham, player of the tournament during the 2010 victory, and Dominic Solanke, who finished as joint top scorer in 2014 with four goals.
The list of players to have featured in the tournament over the years reads like a who’s who of top performers in European football.
Not every player goes on to become a household name, but several have caught the eye. Five-time Ballon d’Or winner Cristiano Ronaldo featured in 2002, but it was the following season that Portugal lifted the trophy, Monaco’s Joao Moutinho the biggest name from that team.
Fabregas and Gerard Pique were part of a talented Spain side in 2004, but they lost to France in the final, with Samir Nasri scoring the winner.
David de Gea won the trophy with Spain in 2007 while Germany took the title in 2009, with Gotze, Marc-Andre ter Stegen and Shkodran Mustafi all playing prominent roles.
However, as is often the case with tournament football, many great players end up on the losing side. David Silva missed out on the title with Spain in 2002 and 2003, but has gone on to great success for his club and internationally.
Ivan Rakitic in 2005, Eden Hazard in 2007, Isco and Koke in 2009, Paul Pogba in 2010 and Raheem Sterling in 2011 are just some of the continent’s biggest stars to taste defeat at the European U17 Championship but go on to bigger things.
England hosted the final edition of the European U16 Championship in 2001, when a certain Fernando Torres finished top scorer and Spain went home with the trophy.
Seventeen years on, and now reclassified as the UEFA European Under-17 Championship, which future stars will be cutting their teeth at the Pirelli Stadium, Proact Stadium, Aesseal New York Stadium, Banks’s Stadium, St. George’s Park and Loughborough University?
See the stars of tomorrow in the UEFA European Under-17 Championship, 4-20 May 2018. Visit www.TheFA.com/U17Euro for tickets and further information.