11 Stars to watch at the European Under-21 Championships

Manchester United and Chelsea transfer targets feature along with a Manchester City midfielder recently linked with a switch to Arsenal.

On Wednesday the Under-21 2013 European Championships will begin, and it promises to be quite a show.

Stuart Pearce is leading his England side in his fourth attempt as manager to lift the trophy, the closest he got was in 2009 when the Three Lions were defeated 4-0 in the Final by Germany.

The last championships were won by Spain, with their side boasting the likes of Javi Martinez, David de Gea and Thiago Alcantara. The latter two of those are included once again by La Roja as they seek to retain the trophy.

Their main threat comes in the form of a strong Holland side, with Germany and Russia also fielding strong sides, along with England's talented squad.

It has been a difficult job to pick out the 11 potential stars of the tournament, for there are so many to mention. In our list we have included some obvious names and some less so, as we look to predict the players who will have the biggest impact and boost their own reputations.

Exciting players not included in our 11 are the Chelsea tipped Marco van Ginkel of Holland, and Tottenham and Germany's Lewis Holtby.

We have deliberately not included any England players in our list, for we will examine their squad in a separate article, and the additional criteria is that at least one player from each of the other seven competing countries: 

Marco Veratti (Italy)

PSG midfielder Veratti has enjoyed a tremendous season in France, courting attention from Real Madrid, Juventus and Manchester United. The Frenchman is a 20-year-old central midfielder who has earned the glowing praise of compatriot Andrea Pirlo.

Lorenzo Insigne (Italy)

Lorenzo Insigne is a number 10 who has broken into the Napoli first team this season, scoring five times and providing seven assists. Already a senior international, he will turn 22 a day before leading the Italian attack in their opener against England.

Ibrahim Abdisalam (Norway)

Abdisalam is owned by Manchester City and has spent the season on loan in Norway. A defensive midfielder, he recently said he would welcome a move to Arsenal amid reported interest and will likely be using the tournament as a way to put himself in the shop window with one year left on his present deal.

Nir Biton (Israel)

Biton is Israel's key central midfielder, with his athleticism compared to Patrick Vieira, an imposing figure at 6 foot 5. He had trials at Manchester City last summer even playing in a friendly alongside Yaya Toure and also held talks with Tottenham, and will also be eyeing the tournament as a way to earn himself a dream move.

Thiago Alcantara (Spain)

The Barcelona midfielder is a hot topic of discussion at present regarding his future, and will have fond memories of the last tournament. He played a key role in Spain winning it, netting a memorable goal in the final against Switzerland. It would be tough to bet against him making a similar impact.

Jordy Clasie (Holland)

Feyenoord's Clasie has famously been dubbed the Dutch Xavi for his passing ability and he will now be given a grand stage to show what the hype is about. He will pull the strings for attacking midfielder Adam Maher to do the damage, and seek to show just why Tottenham and Arsenal are interested.

Kevin Strootman (Holland)

Betting was this week suspended on Kevin Strootman joining Manchester United, but the central midfielder is likely to be fully focused on his exploits with the Dutch side. Strootman is a dynamic midfielder capped several times by the senior side and will seek to prove his worth in a tough group featuring Germany, Spain and Russia.

Matthias Ginter (Germany)

Central defender Matthias Ginter has been hailed as the next great German defender, and will face a real test when he faces the attacks of Spain, Russia and Holland in the group stages. The 19-year-old is seen as Mats Hummels future defensive partner in the senior squad, and plays for Freiburg in the Bundesliga.

Denis Cheryshev (Russia)

22-year-old Cheryshev is contracted to Real Madrid and has been playing for their B side this season in the Segunda Liga where he has netted 11 goals from the wing. Now he has his big chance in the spotlight to show why he deserves a place in the senior side.

Alan Dzagoev (Russia)

Russia's inclusion of Dzagoev in their squad shows just how seriously they are taking the competition. The 22-year-old CSKA Moscow playmaker scored three in three games for the senior squad at Euro 2012 and could have an even greater impact this time around.

Isco (Spain)

Isco's inclusion on this list should come as little surprise, with the Malaga star high on several club's wanted lists this summer. Chelsea and Manchester City are keen but Real Madrid are said to lead the way. Expect him to add a few million to his price tag at the tournament.

Who will you be watching closely this summer?

images: © strollers, © rafizeldi, © Robert Hertel

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