For most young footballers, their ultimate dream is to represent their countries with their national teams. For a number of talented ones, this dream will come true in the UEFA Nations League that kicks off tonight. Here are five we have picked to keep an eye on.
Justin Kluivert – Netherlands
Slowly but surely, Justin Kluivert is emerging from the shadow of his illustrious father, Patrick. The 19-year old son of the former Ajax and Barcelona legend joined AS Roma this summer, having previously been strongly linked with Manchester United. He made an instant impact, as he stepped off the bench to create the winner for Edin Džeko against Torino on his debut.
Netherlands national team manager Ronald Koeman gave Kluivert his senior international debut in a friendly match against Portugal earlier this year. The Dutch will face Peru in a friendly tonight. This could be a perfect platform to hand the promising youngster a first start, ahead of Sunday’s Nations League clash with world champions France.
José Gayà – Spain
José Gayà is one of the big beneficiaries of the new Luis Enrique regime for the Spain national team. Alongside Chelsea’s Marcos Alonso, the young Valencia left-back has been called up to the squad for La Roja’s matches against England and Croatia. This is no mean feat, considering that it means that Barcelona’s Jordi Alba, considered by many to be one of the world’s best left-backs, has missed out.
Gayà will be hoping to win his first cap within the coming week.
Joe Gomez – England
Liverpool centre-back Joe Gomez was a central part of Gareth Southgate’s very early experimentation with a back-three formation for England. Struggles with injury meant that he narrowly missed out on a place in the Three Lions’ World Cup squad, but he is now back fit and in form for his club.
Gomez was man-of-the-match when England drew 0-0 with Brazil at Wembley in November last year. Harry Maguire, John Stones and Kyle Walker were all impressive at the World Cup, but it would be no surprise if Gomez usurps one of them for the upcoming matches against Spain and in the friendly against Switzerland.
Kai Havertz – Germany
Had Kai Havertz been of the nationality of any of the 31 countries other than Germany that participated in the 2018 World Cup, he would have in all likelihood been in Russia. At just 18-years old, the Bayer Leverkusen midfielder only missed four Bundesliga matches for his club. He scored three goals and created a further nine.
After the Germans were deposed of their world crown in a chastening manner, Havertz has finally earned his ticket to the party, and will want to make the most out of it. Germany face France in the Nations League tonight and then Peru in an international friendly on Sunday.
Nicolò Barella – Italy
New Italy manager Roberto Mancini has refreshed the Azzurri with a few new faces as they look to build again after they missed the World Cup. Among them is 21-year old Cagliari midfielder Nicolò Barella. The youngster reportedly turned down the chance to join Inter Milan this summer in order to continue his development at the Sardegna Arena.
Barella could be involved against Poland and Portugal, Italy’s opponents in the Nations League tomorrow and on Monday night respectively.