As the Nations League kicks-off again, Robson Friend takes a look at ten breakout stars who you may, or may not have, heard of before this week, but will surely be aware of once the international tournament draws a close.
Krzysztof Piatek (Poland & Genoa):
Genoa’s star man has quite literally popped up out of nowhere this season. With 13 goals in just eight matches, the 23-year-old is leading Europe’s elite leagues in goalscoring, presenting as a must watch when Poland play Portugal on Thursday and when they face Italy on Sunday.
Expect a host of scouts to be present and a flurry of transfer rumours to circulate following the two matches, with the young striker, who only won his first Poland cap during the last international break, proving to be a hidden gem in northwest Italy this season.
Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund and Chelsea have all been linked already to a player being described as the next Robert Lewandowski.
Manuel Akanji (Switzerland & Borussia Dortmund):
Manuel Akanji’s development since joining Dortmund from Basel in January has been incredible. The 23-year-old defender has quickly become one of Lucien Favre’s reliable men in his back four as the German giants currently occupy first-place in the Bundesliga.
Expect Akanji, who was part of Switzerland's World Cup squad and has previously said he would one day like to play for Manchester United, to earn a start when his country face Belgium on Friday and Iceland on Monday.
David Brooks (Wales & Bournemouth):
Bournemouth boss Eddie Howe has already told David Brooks not to get ahead of himself, but he couldn’t help but praise the Welsh winger who has impressed early on for the Cherries this season.
With Gareth Bale a doubt, the 21-year-old may be given the opportunity by Ryan Giggs to shine against the Republic of Ireland on Tuesday. Brooks represented England at under-20 level but committed to Wales and made his senior debut against France in Nov 2017.
Rodri (Spain & Atletico Madrid):
Atletico Madrid’s latest recruit spent last season arguably under the radar for Villarreal. But this season, the 22-year-old midfielder has continued to impress in the heart of Diego Simeone’s midfield.
Luis Enrique has likened him to Sergio Busquets and will surely use him to his advantage when La Roja face England on Monday.
Nicolo Barella (Italy & Cagliari):
Andrea Pirlo recently praised Cagliari’s midfield prodigy Nicolo Barella who has attracted interest from almost every top club in England as well as those in the rest of Europe, and it’s not hard to see why.
The 21-year-old has been the focal point of the Serie A outfit’s midfield and is continuing to mature at an alarming pace, which is why Roberto Mancini may be expected to experiment with him when Italy face Poland on Sunday.
Lorenzo Pellegrini (Italy & Roma):
Sticking with Italy, Roma’s latest midfield hope arrives in the form Lorenzo Pellegrini who has been subject of interest from both Manchester United and Liverpool in recent weeks.
His performances in Serie A this season has prompted the capital city-side to increase his current modest release clause (25 million euros) with a number of scouts ready to watch the 22-year-old try-out for the Azzurri.
Ruben Dias (Portugal & Benfica):
Benfica’s towering centre-back has shined ever since Victor Lindelof’s departure to Manchester United, and now he is set to feature in Fernando Santos’ squad.
The 21-year-old defender’s recent standout performance against Porto in O Clasico may have earned the youngster a chance to impress against Poland.
Tanguy Ndombele (France & Lyon):
Ligue 1’s latest revelation has been heavily linked with Manchester City and Tottenham this year, and now he’s been rewarded with his first call-up to Didier Deschamps star-studded squad.
The 21-year-old has been described as having the potential to be one of the best midfielders in the world, and we may get the chance to see why when France face Germany on Tuesday.
Steven Bergwijn (Netherlands & PSV):
Ronald Koeman’s side naturally will have seen an influx of new stars poised to lead the next generation. One of which is PSV’s highly rated winger Steven Bergwijn who has Europe standing up and watching following his impressive start to the Eredivisie season.
Expect the high-flying winger to play on either side of the flank when the Netherlands face Germany on Saturday.
Frenkie de Jong (Netherlands & Ajax):
Ajax’s 21-year-old creative midfielder was a name featured in the Spanish press all summer due to Barcelona’s admiration for the youngster’s ability to dictate the play for Erik ten Hag’s side.
The Catalans and many others will have a watchful eye on the Netherlands this week with Frenkie De Jong presenting as one of the leaders of the future for this adolescent Dutch side.