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UEFA European Under-17 Championship: Where are they now?

24 April 2018

In the Euro 2008 final, Fernando Torres dinked the ball past the onrushing Jens Lehmann to set Spain on an era of European and world dominance.

It was a repeat of his trick from seven years earlier, in another European final, when Torres’ scored the only goal of the then European U16 Championship to beat France.

Now the UEFA European U17 Championship, the tournament has been a springboard for a whole host of players who would go on to reach the summit of the international game.

That Spain team also featured a certain 16-year-old Andres Iniesta, and ahead of the UEFA European U17 Championship 2018 taking place in England, here is a look at some of the best players to have featured in its history.

 

Andres Iniesta

Where better to start than with Barcelona’s midfield maestro?

The Catalan playmaker has won the Champions League four times, La Liga on eight occasions, the European Championship twice, and scored the winner as Spain won the World Cup in 2010.

Since Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi started winning the Ballon d’Or in 2008, Iniesta is the only player to have been named in the top two, second to Messi in 2010.

 

Cesc Fabregas

Another Spanish great who shot to prominence in the European U17 Championship was Cesc Fabregas, a young player destined to be a crucial part of Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal team before moving on to his boyhood club Barcelona and subsequently Chelsea.

Fabregas was named player of the tournament in the 2004 edition, but Spain lost out on that occasion to France.

Fabregas went on to win two European Championships with Spain in 2008 and 2012, as well as the World Cup.

 

Karim Benzema

A tournament winner in 2004, Karim Benzema helped France to beat Spain in that game, although it was Samir Nasri, formerly of Arsenal and Manchester City, who scored the winner.

Benzema has never managed to replicate his club form for France’s senior team, but has been a stalwart of Real Madrid’s team since joining in 2009.

The Frenchman has scored 127 times for Madrid and has won the Champions League in three of the last four seasons.

 

Toni Kroos

Benzema’s Madrid teammate Toni Kroos is another global star to have featured in the European U17 Championship, winning player of the tournament in 2006, despite Germany only finishing fourth.

Kroos is one of a handful of players to have won the Champions League with two different clubs, Madrid and Bayern Munich, and he has won the league and domestic clubs for both clubs too.

Admired for his passing ability, Kroos was part of the Germany side that won the World Cup in 2014, dismantling hosts Brazil 7-0 en route.

 

Mario Gotze

In the 2014 World Cup final, the tournament was won in extra-time, with Mario Gotze volleying the ball home in extra time to sink Argentina.

Just five years earlier, Gotze was leading the Germany U17 side to another extra-time victory, against the Netherlands to lift the European U17 Championship trophy.

The Borussia Dortmund attacking midfielder has won five Bundesliga titles in his career with Dortmund and Bayern, and was named player of the tournament for his efforts in 2009.

 

Ivan Rakitic

Now part of a hugely talented Croatian midfield duo alongside Luka Modric, Ivan Rakitic actually turned out for Switzerland in the 2005 European U17 Championship.

Born in Switzerland, Rakitic pledged allegiance to his parents’ country of Croatia in 2007, since earning more than 90 international caps.

Rakitic won the treble with Barcelona in his first season with the Catalan club, a year after captaining Sevilla to Europa League glory.

 

David de Gea

Manchester United’s David de Gea was in goal as Spain knocked out hosts Belgium in the 2007 European U17 Championship on penalties, and would go on to beat England in the final.

De Gea won the Europa League with Atletico Madrid in 2010 before repeating the feat with the Red Devils in 2017, and also has a Premier League winners medal.

Now Spain’s number one, the United man is widely regarded as one of the world’s finest goalkeepers.

 

Eden Hazard

No goalkeeper can save everything and de Gea was beaten back in that 2007 semi-final by a young Belgian named Eden Hazard.

The Chelsea midfielder narrowly missed out on being named player of the tournament to Spanish playmaker Bojan, but he was in scintillating form throughout the tournament, which he brought to his club football with French outfit Lille.

A two-time Premier League champion, Hazard is part of a hugely talented Belgian side looking to make their mark on the World Cup in Russia this summer.

 

Paul Pogba

Briefly the world’s most expensive footballer, Paul Pogba is an incredibly talented midfielder who turned out as a 17-year-old for France in the 2010 European U17 Championship.

France came third that year, but Pogba has a runners-up medal from the 2016 European Championship at senior level.

A four-time Serie A winner with Juventus, Pogba has since won the League Cup and the Europa League with Manchester United.

 

Raheem Sterling

Plenty of talented English players have played at the European U17 Championship, including Manchester City’s Raheem Sterling in 2011.

Formerly of Liverpool, Sterling is set to win his first Premier League title this season, having already won the League Cup on two occasions.

The young goalscorer will be one of England’s leading attacking players at this summer’s World Cup after getting a taste for international competition at the European U17 Championship.   

 

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.


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