The Under-21 European Championships concluded on Sunday as Germany beat Portugal 1-0 in the final.
It was Germany’s third Euro U21 title following wins in 2009 and 2017, while Portugal have now lost all three finals they have appeared in.
Germany’s victory was sealed thanks to a second-half strike from Manchester City’s Lukas Nmecha who impressed throughout the tournament and finished it as the top scorer with four goals.
The 22-year-old spent last season on loan with Anderlecht, scoring 18 times while registering a further three assists.
Yet, he wasn’t the only young player to impress, and with Manchester United in the market to add greater quality to their squad before the start of the next campaign, below are three names who might have impressed Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and his recruitment team over the past few weeks.
Ridle Baku – Germany – 23
United already have one of the best young right-backs in the Premier League in the form of Aaron Wan-Bissaka, yet it’s generally accepted that the 23-year-old is much better at defending than attacking. Therefore having a backup who’s proven to be dangerous going forward from this position could be welcome.
Baku, 23, rose to prominence in unique circumstances in 2018 after he was due to travel to a reserve away fixture with Mainz 05 before being pulled from the team bus and instead promoted to the first team to fill a gap ahead of the visit of RB Leipzig.
Not only did the then-teenager go on to make his senior debut in that match, but he also scored his side’s third goal in a memorable 3-0 victory.
He was at the time a high-energy box-to-box midfielder, yet his skill set has adapted excellently into a right-back/wing-back role and that’s where he predominantly featured for Mainz for the bulk of the 2019/20 season.
He performed so impressively in this new role that Wolfsburg swooped in at the start of the last campaign for a deal thought to be worth in the region of around £8.5million.
In the tournament for Germany, he proved reliable and disciplined without the ball, yet it was his influence on their attack that perhaps stood out most.
He did a great job of driving up and down the right flank, sprinting and dribbling at opposition defences before swinging in dangerous crosses or threading through clever acute passes into the feet of forwards.
He finished the tournament having started all six matches whilst contributing two goals, three assists and 12 key passes.
Fabio Vieira – Portugal – 21
It was a bittersweet moment on Sunday for Vieira as he scooped the Player of the Tournament award despite being on the losing side in the final with Portugal.
The Porto midfielder was selected by UEFA’s team of technical observers and afterwards, a member of that panel, Dusan Fitzel, explained their choice: “During the tournament, he was a key player for Portugal. A playmaker who creates a lot of chances. An excellent link between midfield and attack.”
That’s an accurate summary of a player who’s slowly risen to prominence at Porto, shining for the club’s second team initially before being rewarded with a number of appearances for the first in the later stages of the last campaign.
There are shades of Bruno Fernandes in his playing style as he’s able to operate almost anywhere inside the opposition’s half, providing lots of dribbling, shooting and creating chances for teammates around him.
For a midfielder, the 21-year-old is not the most physically imposing, standing at just 5ft7in with a slim build, yet his intelligence combined with good pace and agility make him a tough opponent to dispossess.
With the likes of Scott McTominy and Fred, United’s midfield can often be very conservative. Paul Pogba brings a creative spark from the middle, yet his future remains uncertain, therefore Vieira could be seen as a worthwhile investment.
Florian Wirtz – Germany – 18
Wirtz was the two-goal hero for Germany in their 2-1 semi-final victory vs the Netherlands, and he’s a player who looks set to have a very bright future.
Despite his age, the Bayer Leverkusen teenager has already established himself as a regular in the Bundesliga side’s starting 11, playing over 2,700 league minutes last season whilst chipping in with an impressive six league goals and a further four assists.
Although he’s primarily an attacking midfielder, more recently for Germany he’s featured as a right-winger. His versatility is one of his most attractive qualities and he’s been used by Leverkusen in both of these positions, as well as in the centre of midfield and even upfront.
His best asset is perhaps his outstanding technical ability – he’s great at operating in between the lines and picking up the ball in tight spaces inside the opposition’s half.
The 18-year-old’s style of play, added to the fact he’s playing at Leverkusen, has inevitably led to comparisons with Kai Havertz, and whilst he still has a long way to go, it’s clear that there are similarities between the two.
United were cautiously linked with Havertz prior to his move to Chelsea, yet they were ultimately put off by the £75million fee it would have taken to land him.
Perhaps they’ll see Wirtz as a cheaper alternative who has a very similar profile with a ceiling that has the potential to be just as high.