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The UEFA Europa League's bright young things

Published: Sunday 6 March 2016, 13.05CET
Some of Europe's top young players will be on display in the UEFA Europa League on Thursday. Here are 16 of the best under-23 talents still in the competition.
The UEFA Europa League's bright young things
©UEFA.com
 
Published: Sunday 6 March 2016, 13.05CET

The UEFA Europa League's bright young things

Some of Europe's top young players will be on display in the UEFA Europa League on Thursday. Here are 16 of the best under-23 talents still in the competition.

Rashford's dream debut for United

Marcus Rashford (Manchester United, forward)
The 18-year-old was unknown two weeks ago. He announced himself with two goals against Midtjylland and confirmed that haul was no fluke four days later with another double – and an assist – in United's 3-2 victory over Arsenal. Louis van Gaal – no bad judge – says he is a "special talent".

Hakan Çalhanoğlu (Leverkusen, midfielder)
A huge threat from set pieces and a canny performer in open play, the 22-year-old is wise beyond his years. Able to operate in every position in midfield, he may be most valuable in the centre. The Turkey international thrives in pressure situations.

©AFP/Getty Images

Iñaki Williams

Iñaki Williams (Athletic Club, forward)
Bilbao-born Williams has been a fixture for Athletic since making his club debut in December 2014. With many of Europe's biggest clubs reportedly circling, the 21-year-old signed a new deal in January. "He has spark, protects the ball, scores goals, is super-fast and gives us lots of options," says his coach Ernesto Valverde.

Coutinho (Liverpool, midfielder)
The Reds' creator-in-chief is known as 'the Little Magician' among team-mates and fans. With a deft touch, creative mind and sublime passing range, the Brazilian attacking midfielder has been one of the Premier League's most consistent performers over the past 18 months.

©AFP/Getty Images

Sergej Milinković-Savić

Sergej Milinković-Savić (Lazio, midfielder)
A key member of the Serbia side that became world and European champions at youth level, Milinković-Savić arrived from Genk last summer with a big reputation – he has not disappointed. Strong and technically gifted, the 21-year-old has been described as "the soul of the new Lazio".

Ozan Tufan (Fenerbahçe, midfielder)
Vítor Pereira has great expectations of this defensive midfielder. He is known for his hard tackling and ability to cover every blade of grass and, still only 20, already has 19 senior caps to his name. Pereira says there is more to come, too.

Highlights: Valencia 6-0 Rapid Wien

Santi Mina (Valencia, forward)
The forward caught the eye with a 'poker' (four goals) for hometown club Celta Vigo against Rayo Vallecano last April, aged 19. He joined Valencia last summer, and confirmed his reputation with two goals and three assists in last month's 6-0 romp against Rapid Wien.

Lukáš Juliš (Sparta Praha, forward)
The 21-year-old forward is seen as the long-term replacement for Sparta captain David Lafata, the Czech league's all-time record scorer. Juliš has an ability to get into the right space at the right time and has scored on each of his two UEFA Europa League starts.

Dele Alli (Tottenham Hotspur, midfielder)*
The 19-year-old has made the transition from third tier MK Dons to Premier League Spurs look seamless. Now an integral part of Mauricio Pochettino's side and an England international, the teenager has already made 100 league appearances, more than any other player under 20 in Europe's 'big five' nations.

2015 UEFA Youth League final

Viktor Kovalenko (Shakhtar Donetsk, midfielder)
A 20-year-old who has slotted neatly into the hole in attacking midfield left by Alex Teixeira's departure to China over the winter. Kovalenko came to prominence in Shakhtar's run to the UEFA Youth League final last season and is tipped for a place in Ukraine's XI at UEFA EURO 2016.

Julian Weigl (Dortmund, midfielder)
"A totally clear, friendly and open young man," according to coach Thomas Tuchel, Weigl played his way into Dortmund's starting XI last year. Bayern coach Josep Guardiola said he was "amazed" by the 20-year-old, a sure-fire Germany defensive midfielder of tomorrow.

Breel Embolo (Basel, forward)*
Suspended for the round of 16 first leg, the striker will be a big miss as Basel chase their dream of a home final. Big offers for the powerful forward, 19, were turned down in the winter, and he was voted the best and most popular player in the Swiss Super League.

Highlights: Watch Sevilla's 2015 glory

Sergio Rico (Sevilla, goalkeeper)
Parachuted into the first team at the start of last season as injury cover, Rico quickly convinced Unai Emery he was worthy of the No1 spot. Eight months later and the 1.95m keeper – then 21 – made a string of vital saves as the club claimed their fourth UEFA Europa League trophy in Warsaw.

Rafa Silva (Braga, midfielder)
The winger is Braga's driving force. Capped five times by Portugal (he was in their 2014 FIFA World Cup squad), the 22-year-old is the attacking fulcrum of a team built on a strong defence – he has been involved in six of Braga's 11 UEFA Europa League goals.

©AFP/Getty Images

Samu Castillejo

Samu Castillejo (Villarreal, forward)
Villarreal won the race to prise Castillejo from Málaga last summer, and the 21-year-old is already rewarding their efforts. The winger combines terrific individual technique and selflessness but prefers to be viewed as a grafter. "I'm no starlet," he says, "I'm a worker."

Frank Acheampong (Anderlecht, midfielder)
Youri Tielemans is Belgium's brightest young talent, but Ghana midfielder Acheampong has outshone him in Anderlecht's European campaign. He came off the bench to hit the winner against Monaco, then struck twice in extra time at Olympiacos to take them into the last 16.

*Suspended for the round of 16 first leg

Last updated: 09/03/16 6.15CET

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