Luka Jovic was officially unveiled as a Real Madrid player on Wednesday, and Los Blancos' new striker is one of the headline names taking part in the Under-21 European Championship.

The tournament starts on Sunday, with Poland taking on Belgium before hosts Italy face Spain; Jovic's first taste of the competition will come when Serbia play against Austria in Group B on Monday.

But Jovic is not the only young star who is looking to shine at this event, with Manchester City's Phil Foden likely to be a key cog in England's midfield, while Sandro Tonali is one of Italy's brightest prospects.

And, ahead of the tournament, we have taken a look at the main players who will be looking to make an impact for each side.

GROUP A

Belgium – Yari Verschaeren (Anderlecht)

Anderlecht are no strangers to a teenage star becoming a key man; think Romelu Lukaku, Aleksandar Mitrovic or Youri Tielemans. Verschaeren is the next such prospect and his form has been so impressive that he could feature for Belgium at this tournament, despite being just 17. He is not yet capped at under-21 level, but that will soon change in the coming weeks for the silky attacking midfielder.

Italy – Sandro Tonali (Brescia)

Despite only turning 19 last month, Tonali has already established himself in Brescia's first team. He was a revelation in Serie B in 2018-19, helping his side to the title and subsequent promotion. A technically gifted midfielder who has been likened to Azzurri great Andrea Pirlo, Tonali is sure to be central to most of the host nation's play throughout the competition.

Poland – Sebastian Szymanski (Dinamo Moscow)

While many players at this tournament might hope to earn a move with their performances, Szymanski has already done that. Dinamo Moscow paid a reported €5.5million to Legia Warsaw for the talented playmaker just a few weeks ago, having emerged as one of the primary talents in the Ekstraklasa. A fine dribbler, agile and possessor of great vision, the 20-year-old – who was in Poland's preliminary squad for last year's World Cup – will be key for his side.

Spain – Dani Olmo (Dinamo Zagreb)

Dinamo Zagreb have a fine reputation for developing young players and Olmo is the latest. The winger left Barcelona at 16 to move to Croatia and it appears to be working out, having established himself as a key player. Good on the ball and an able goalscorer, Olmo might not be one of the household names in Spain's squad, but that could be about to change.

GROUP B

Austria – Dario Maresic (Sturm Graz)

Although critics say Maresic did not enjoy the best of seasons at Sturm Graz, the centre-back is impressively experienced for a 19-year-old, having been around the first-team since he was 16. A fine ball-playing defender, Maresic has often been linked with German and English clubs – this might be his best chance to impress yet.

Denmark – Joachim Andersen (Sampdoria)

Robert Skov's goals will be vital if Denmark are to make a splash in Italy, but they will also need to be solid at the back – that's where Andersen comes in. Signed from Twente in 2017, the Sampdoria centre-back enjoyed a breakout season in 2018-19, catching the eye with his ability to play out from the back. Arsenal are reportedly interested, but an impressive tournament could see his price tag continue to rise.

Germany – Alexander Nubel (Schalke)

Among the players going head-to-head with Jovic in the group stage will be Nubel, who enjoyed a breakthrough season with Schalke in the Bundesliga, unseating Ralf Fahrmann. Nubel made nine appearances in qualifying, conceding just seven goals and keeping five clean sheets, and could well be on course to prove himself as Manuel Neuer's heir apparent.

Serbia – Luka Jovic (Real Madrid)

Jovic's sensational form for Eintracht Frankfurt has earned the 21-year-old a mega-money move to Madrid. The former Benfica youngster scored 27 goals in all competitions for Frankfurt last term, and has also netted twice for the senior international team. With seven goals in qualifying, and riding the crest of a wave, Jovic will be aiming to drag Serbia deep into the competition, and he certainly has the talent to do so.

GROUP C

Croatia – Lovro Majer (Dinamo Zagreb)

The second Zagreb player to feature on this list, Majer's style of play has drawn comparisons to that of Luka Modric, who of course led Croatia to the World Cup final at Russia 2018. But Zlatko Dalic's team is an ageing one, and midfielder Majer, who made his international debut in 2017, could well be in line to play a key part in the senior squad in years to come.

England – Phil Foden (Manchester City)

There has been plenty of clamour for Foden to get more first-team opportunities at Manchester City in recent seasons, but Pep Guardiola has understandably taken his time in introducing the 19-year-old into a side that swept up four domestic trophies last term. Foden was a huge part in England winning the Under-17 World Cup in 2017, and Aidy Boothroyd is almost certain to turn to the playmaker to be England's creative fulcrum in their bid to win silverware.

France – Houssem Aouar (Lyon)

From one current City player, to a youngster that has been linked with a move to the Premier League champions. Aouar has been a consistent performer since establishing himself in Lyon's side during 2017-18, and is sure to be the one France look to supply the firepower for his club-mate Moussa Dembele. The 20-year-old, who is an exceptional passer, also thrives on getting among the goals, scoring 14 times in all competitions for Lyon over the course of the past two seasons.

Romania – Florinel Coman (Steaua Bucharest)

Winger Coman reportedly has a €100m release clause in his contract with Steaua Bucharest, whom he joined in 2017. A tricky, quick player with an eye for goal - he scored 12 across all competitions last term - he is without a doubt Romania's shining light heading into the tournament.

Manchester United and Tottenham are Gareth Bale's only realistic options for a move back to the Premier League, says Ian Rush.

Bale looks to be out of favour at Real Madrid, having failed to establish himself in Los Blancos' side since Zinedine Zidane made his return to the club.

The Wales forward was an unused substitute in Madrid's final-day defeat to Real Betis, with Zidane claiming afterwards he would not have brought the 29-year-old on even if he had more changes available.

Madrid have since spent big money on bringing in Eden Hazard to fill the void left by Cristiano Ronaldo, with Luka Jovic also joining from Eintracht Frankfurt to further bolster their attacking options.

Bale's future at the club looks firmly in doubt, though his agent has suggested that the ex-Tottenham winger, who scored eight LaLiga goals in 2018-19, is fully committed to seeing out his Madrid contract.

Wales icon Rush, however, is hopeful Bale will return to the Premier League, but suggested Spurs and United may be the only sides that would make a move for his compatriot.

"Apart from that, where else are you looking at?" former Liverpool and Juventus striker Rush told BBC Sport.

"Looking at Manchester United last season, I think he'd walk into that side now. 

"When a club wants to get rid of you and he wants to stay, it's very difficult and I feel for him because like I've said before, Real Madrid supporters should be applauding him.

"You get to a stage now where different managers have different ways. You just hope that Gareth gets back, hopefully, in the Premier League because everyone wants to see him play.

"In the last two Wales games he hasn't been the player he is, but sometimes even the greatest players have to have a couple of bad games.

"He's still got a few years left in him and it depends which club wants to take him."

Cristiano Ronaldo has told James Rodriguez to join Juventus, according to Lothar Matthaus.

James – who is currently preparing for Colombia's Copa America campaign – is set to leave Real Madrid this off-season.

The playmaker has spent the last two campaigns on loan at Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich, but will not extend his stay in Germany.

And Bayern great Matthaus believes the 27-year-old has his heart set on a move to Serie A, with James' former Madrid club-mate Ronaldo having instructed him to join Juve.

"I see him at Juventus," Matthaus told Spanish publication AS.

"We had a conversation two weeks ago, during the celebration of Bayern's Bundesliga win.

"He is very close to Ronaldo and told me that he was in contact with him and that he has told him that he wants to have him at Juventus.

"I understand why as James can serve Ronaldo so that he can score and the two of them can shine."

James signed for Madrid in 2014, on the back of starring for Colombia and winning the golden boot at the World Cup in Brazil.

Juve are not the only Italian club rumoured to be interested in the former Monaco player, with Napoli boss Carlo Ancelotti, who was in charge of Los Blancos when James arrived at the Santiago Bernabeu, reportedly keen on his services.

Maurizio Sarri looks set to be appointed as Juve's coach, following Massimiliano Allegri's departure at the end of last season, with a compensation package reportedly agreed with Chelsea.

Real Madrid have announced the signing of Takefusa Kubo, who was previously at Barcelona's academy and has been dubbed the 'Japanese Messi'.

Kubo, who moves from Tokyo for a reported €2million fee, made his J.League debut at the age of just 15.

The 18-year-old, who is considered one of Asia's most exciting young talents, made his full Japan debut this month and is in their squad for the Copa America.

Kubo will play for Madrid's reserve team Castilla next term and becomes their latest signing ahead of the 2019-20 season.

Following an underwhelming campaign, Zinedine Zidane's squad has been boosted by the arrivals of Eden Hazard, Ferland Mendy, Luka Jovic, Eder Militao and Rodrygo Goes.

Kubo was previously on the books of Barcelona and was linked with a return to Madrid's LaLiga rivals, with Paris Saint-Germain also said to be interested.

But Madrid have signed the teenager, who was described in a club statement as "one of the most promising young players in world football".

Mohamed Salah out and Nicolas Pepe in at Liverpool?

Liverpool are reportedly willing to sell star forward Salah in order to bring Lille's Pepe to Anfield.

Salah is coming off a memorable Champions League triumph with the Reds but could be heading out the door.

 

TOP STORY – SALAH COULD MAKE WAY FOR PEPE

According to le10sport, Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp is prepared to sacrifice Salah to sign Lille forward Pepe.

Pepe took Ligue 1 by storm with 22 goals as Lille qualified for the Champions League and Liverpool are believed to be among the Ivory Coast international's admirers.

The Reds are so keen apparently that they are prepared to sell top scorer Salah, who reportedly has a complicated relationship with Klopp.

 

ROUND-UP

- The Maurizio Sarri saga appears to be reaching its conclusion, with Sky Italy reporting Chelsea and Juventus have reached a deal to allow the Italian to move to the Serie A champions. The former Napoli coach's return to Italy is set to pave the way for ex-Chelsea star and Derby County manager Frank Lampard to take over at Stamford Bridge.

- According to AS, LaLiga champions Barcelona are making back-up plans should they miss out on Ajax captain Matthijs de Ligt, who is the subject of interest from Paris Saint-Germain, Manchester United and Juve.

- Premier League title-holders Manchester City have been put off by a £90million price tag on Leicester City defender Harry Maguire, according to The Daily Mail. Pep Guardiola is reportedly eyeing the England international as a replacement for Vincent Kompany, while neighbours United are also interested.

- Liverpool are not interested in making another move for Lyon captain Nabil Fekir, The Independent reports. The Champions League winners came close to signing the France international last year but pulled out amid reported concerns over his knee.

- Carlo Ancelotti is still determined to bring Real Madrid midfielder James Rodriguez to Napoli, says AS. James' future is up in the air after Bayern Munich opted against signing the Colombia international permanently following a two-year loan spell.

- Cadena SER claims Barcelona head coach Ernesto Valverde is ready to sell Ivan Rakitic amid reported interest from United. The same station also says Marco Asensio is among the players on the market at Madrid following the arrivals of Eden Hazard, Luka Jovic, Ferland Mendy, Eder Militao and Rodrygo Goes.

- United and rumoured Madrid target Paul Pogba has no intention of remaining at Old Trafford in 2019-20, according to L'Equipe.

Eden Hazard hailed Kylian Mbappe and Paul Pogba as two of the world's best players as the pair continue to be linked with Real Madrid.

Hazard was presented by Madrid on Thursday after making the move from Chelsea for a fee which could reportedly rise to £130million.

Paris Saint-Germain star Mbappe and Manchester United midfielder Pogba are also linked with Madrid, where Zinedine Zidane's rebuild is gathering steam.

While Hazard had little interest in talking about transfers, the attacker said the duo were among the world's best.

"I'm not here to discuss transfers. I came to play with the best," he told a news conference.

"There are new players already and we'll have some time to adapt.

"It's true that we want to play with the best and the guys you've mentioned are two of those, but I don't decide these things."

Madrid have already signed Hazard, Luka Jovic, Eder Militao, Ferland Mendy and Rodrygo Goes ahead of the 2019-20 season.

Eden Hazard is happy to let captain Sergio Ramos carry on taking penalties at Real Madrid and admitted he could not convince Luka Modric to give him his number 10 shirt.

Belgium international Hazard completed his move to Los Blancos last week after seven years at Chelsea, where he earned a reputation as one of the most reliable penalty-takers around.

However, centre-back Ramos has also proven adept from 12 yards since replacing Cristiano Ronaldo as Madrid's designated spot-kick taker and Hazard is happy for his new skipper to continue in that role.

"I think the captain takes a really good penalty," Hazard said at his unveiling on Thursday.

"I don't think he's going to ask me to take them! I think he'll keep taking penalties and he'll keep scoring no doubt."

Hazard has made a request of his own, though, as he revealed he had already attempted to acquire the number 10 shirt.

Ballon d'Or winner Modric is the owner of that jersey and Hazard revealed he had used the Croatian's international team-mate Mateo Kovacic, who was on loan at Chelsea last season from Madrid, in a bid to obtain the shirt.

However, at his presentation, Hazard only had his name on the back of a numberless shirt and he conceded his efforts to sway Modric had been futile.

"I've been in contact with Modric via Kovacic and I asked him if I could have the number 10 and he said no," Hazard added.

"[It was] a bit of a joke we had. I'll have to find a number but I don't think the number is the most important thing.

"I think the most important thing is to wear the Real Madrid shirt and defend this club."

Eden Hazard insists he does not view himself as a Galactico just yet, but the Belgium international hopes he can make a lasting impression at Real Madrid.

After several transfer windows in which Los Blancos were linked with a move for Hazard, the 28-year-old finally made the switch from Chelsea last week, signing a five-year deal with the 13-time European champions.

Madrid have overhauled their squad following a disappointing 2018-19 and Hazard is the biggest name to arrive at the Santiago Bernabeu so far.

The club have a history of acquiring the best players in the world having brought in Luis Figo, current boss Zinedine Zidane, Ronaldo and David Beckham during the Galactico era of the early 2000s, yet Hazard refrained from putting himself in that company at his unveiling on Thursday.

"I'm not a Galactico, maybe one day I'd like to be considered a Galactico," he told reporters.

"I'm Eden Hazard and I have to start afresh here, it's a new chapter. I think I'm a very good player."

In five of the last six years, the Ballon d'Or winner has been playing for Real Madrid, with Luka Modric succeeding Cristiano Ronaldo - now of Juventus - in winning the prize in 2018.

Hazard finished eighth in the voting last year and many believe he can strengthen his credentials for the game's top individual prize having swapped Chelsea for Madrid.

"Well the [current] Ballon d'Or winner plays for Real Madrid... do I think it's easier? I don't know," he said.

"It depends how we play. It's true they've been winning the awards for many years now but it's not a goal of mine to win the Ballon d'Or.

"I'm here to help my team, my team-mates and maybe one day I'll win it but it's at the back of my mind. It's more important the club win titles."

Hazard spent seven seasons at Chelsea but insists he is still only entering his prime.

"I don't think I'm joining the club late on in my career - I'm just 28... between 27 and 32, those are the best years for a footballer," he claimed.

"I know there's been a lot of rumours and I've been linked to this club for many years but I've enjoyed spells at Lille and Chelsea and now I'm joining the biggest club in the world and will hopefully continue to develop and progress as a footballer."

Real Madrid should allow Gareth Bale to leave on loan, says the club's former president Ramon Calderon.

Bale fell out of favour at Madrid after Zinedine Zidane returned for his second spell in charge in March.

But his lofty wages - reportedly as high as £350,000 a week - mean few clubs will likely be able to afford the Wales star.

Madrid have been spending heavily on reinforcements with France international Ferland Mendy their latest signing, the left-back joining Eden Hazard, Luka Jovic and Eder Militao in heading to the Santiago Bernabeu.

Manchester United have long been linked with a move for Bale, but reports suggest the Premier League side are no longer considering a move. 

Calderon therefore feels a loan deal could suit both Madrid and Bale, who cost what was then a world-record £85million fee when he signed from Tottenham in 2013.

"His situation here is very difficult," Calderon told Sky Sports. "It is clear Zidane has discarded him in his mind.

"He showed that last season by not having him in the starting line-up. It is very disappointing for a player like him.

"Also the problem is the transfer fee. Real Madrid want to get a lot of money for him, but I find that difficult.

"Maybe the best thing for everyone would be a loan. The player could recover his confidence on the field and Real Madrid could see his value rise.

"He wasn't successful here for many reasons - injuries, also the handicap of the money. When he came we paid more than we did for Cristiano [Ronaldo].

"People thought he should be better than Cristiano but that is very difficult."

Hazard has become Madrid's latest 'Galactico' signing and the Belgium star will be presented by the club on Thursday.

But Calderon does not believe Hazard, who joined from Chelsea for a fee that could reportedly exceed £150m, can succeed Ronaldo either.

"[Hazard] is a fantastic player, but Cristiano is unique," Calderon said. "I've never seen or found a player like him.

"Hazard is very talented and skilful, he's proven that in the strongest championship in the world, which is the Premier League.

"He can play on both flanks, is a good dribbler with excellent passing. He can play in many positions - attacking midfielder, winger, even a false nine - so it is a fantastic opportunity."

Rodrygo Goes bid an emotional farewell to Santos ahead of joining up with Real Madrid.

The Brazilian teenager signed for Madrid in June 2018, with Los Blancos paying a reported €45million for him, but remained at Santos for another year.

Rodrygo has not played since May due to a dispute between Santos and the Brazilian Football Confederation, although he was present at Wednesday's 1-0 win against Corinthians.

The 18-year-old was given a shirt with the number 82 to mark the amount of games he played for Santos and was visibly emotional as a video tribute was played on big screens.

Rodrygo joins a major squad rebuild at Madrid, who have signed Eden Hazard, Eder Militao, Ferland Mendy and Luka Jovic to boost Zinedine Zidane's options.

"I will not say much, I do not like crying in front of everybody," Rodrygo told reporters ahead of the Corinthians game.

"I'm very emotional and I want to say to every Santos supporter that I'm going to miss it so much and I'm always going to take Santos in my heart."

Iker Casillas has denied fresh reports he is retiring from football after he suffered a heart attack during training with Porto last month.

The Real Madrid and Spain great had a myocardial infarction on May 1 and underwent emergency surgery before returning home five days later.

Reports in Portugal claimed Casillas will announce his retirement on Thursday, with the goalkeeper said to be taking up a role on Porto's board of directors.

But the 38-year-old indicated the media have jumped the gun, because he is yet to be told by medical experts whether he has recovered enough to play football again.

"The same as this tweet a month ago, except for the part of the medical check with the doctor," Casillas wrote on Twitter, referencing a previous retirement denial.

"More than anything because I have it tomorrow."

Casillas came through Madrid's academy and established himself in their first team as a teenager, going on to play 725 times for the club in all competitions, a total bettered only by striker Raul (741).

He won every trophy possible with Los Blancos, including three Champions League crowns and five LaLiga titles, and was also a part of the historic Spain team that won the country's first World Cup in 2010 and ended a 44-year wait for European Championship success two years earlier.

The keeper, who went on to win Euro 2012 and is regarded among the finest of his generation, remains Spain's all-time leading appearance maker with 167 caps, though Sergio Ramos will likely overtake him soon.

Manchester United know what they want for star midfielder Paul Pogba, according to reports.

Pogba, 26, has been heavily linked with a move away from Old Trafford, with Real Madrid reported to be his most likely destination.

With Zinedine Zidane starting a rebuild at the Santiago Bernabeu – Eden Hazard, Luka Jovic and Ferland Mendy have all just been signed – perhaps Pogba could be next.

But, unsurprisingly, there will be work to do between United and Madrid to make the move happen.

 

TOP STORY – UNITED SET POGBA PRICE

Manchester United want at least £150million for Pogba, according to the Mirror.

That would top the then-world record £89m United paid to bring Pogba back to Old Trafford from Juventus in 2016, an indicator of the state of the market rather than the France international's performances.

However, Eduardo Inda reports Real Madrid have offered €120m (around £107m) plus bonuses, leaving a rather big gap between the teams' valuations.

 

ROUND-UP

- Atletico Madrid's chief executive claimed on Wednesday he has known since March that Antoine Griezmann will join Barcelona. But it seems Manchester United still have hope, The Sun reporting the Premier League giants are ready to offer £95m for the forward.

- While Manchester United are looking to strengthen their attack, perhaps they have little interest in Real Madrid attacker Gareth Bale. ESPN report that United have rejected the chance to talk to Madrid about the possibility of signing the Wales international.

- Benfica teenager Joao Felix is sought-after. Goal report that Atletico Madrid also want the attacker, hoping to convince the Portugal international he will get more first-team chances with them than possibly Manchester City. According to Estadio Deportivo, Atletico have also put in a bid – close to €55m – for reported Tottenham target and Real Betis midfielder Giovani Lo Celso.

- Bayern Munich may want Manchester City attacker Leroy Sane, but they have other options. Bild report the Bundesliga champions will target Yannick Carrasco, who is at Dalian Yifang but wants a return to Europe, if they cannot land Sane.

- Barcelona are seemingly ready to head into next season with Ernesto Valverde as coach. Sport report that Valverde met with president Josep Maria Bartomeu on Tuesday to discuss possible transfers.

- Dejan Lovren has fallen down the pecking order at Liverpool, but the European champions will not let the defender go cheaply. Lovren is linked to AC Milan and the Mirror report Liverpool want around £25m for the Croatia international.

Real Madrid have completed the signing of Lyon full-back Ferland Mendy for an initial €48million.

Los Blancos announced the arrival of the France international on a deal until June 2025, with Lyon confirming they have received €48m up front with a further €5m in add-ons.

Mendy has spent the past two seasons with Lyon after joining from Le Havre in June 2017.

It marks another foray in the transfer market for Madrid, who have already bolstered their ranks for next season with the signings of Eder Militao, Luka Jovic and Eden Hazard.

Zinedine Zidane has swiftly bolstered his squad after Madrid disappointingly finished third in LaLiga last term and crashed out of the Champions League in the last 16.

The arrival of Mendy is also sure to spark speculation about the future of Brazil left-back Marcelo, with Sergio Reguilon and Theo Hernandez adding competition for the position.

Mendy, 24, made 30 Ligue 1 appearances for Lyon and also started eight times in the Champions League.

He has won four caps for world champions France after making his debut in November.

Real Madrid have completed the signing of Lyon full-back Ferland Mendy for an initial €48million.

Los Blancos announced the arrival of the France international on a deal until June 2025, with Lyon confirming they have received €48m up front with a further €5m in add-ons.

Mendy has spent the past two seasons with Lyon after joining from Le Havre in June 2017.

It marks another foray in the transfer market for Madrid, who have already bolstered their ranks for next season with the signings of Eder Militao, Luka Jovic and Eden Hazard.

Dani Ceballos plans to decide his Real Madrid future after the European Under-21 Championship amid reported interest from Tottenham.

The midfielder made just 19 starts for Zinedine Zidane's side last season but is part of Spain's Under-21 squad competing in Italy this month.

Tottenham are among the clubs who have been linked with the 22-year-old, who arrived at the Santiago Bernabeu from Real Betis two years ago.

Zidane, who returned as boss in March, is expected to ring the changes after a disappointing campaign that saw Madrid finish third in La Liga and crash out of the Champions League in the last 16.

Madrid have already sealed the captures of Luka Jovic, Eden Hazard, Eder Militao and Rodrygo Goes, with former Eintracht Frankfurt striker Jovic unveiled on Wednesday.

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