The UEFA European Under-21 Championship is like the European Championships except it’s just for players under the age of 21. Obviously.
Well, actually it’s not. It’s for players who were under the age of 21 when qualifying for the tournament begins, meaning many can be as old as 23 by the time the finals come about. Italy and Spain are the most successful sides in the history of the competition with five titles each, and it was Spain who won the most recent finals in the summer.
Star men at the finals over the years include the likes of Gianluigi Buffon, Frank Lampard and Raul, but it isn’t always the best senior players who make the best youth team players. The under-21 Euros take place every two years, meaning this look at the last 7 Golden Boot winners takes us back to the 2007 finals hosted by the Netherlands.
Here are the last 7 Euro Under-21 Golden Boot Winners: Where are they now?
7. Luca Waldschmidt – SC Freiburg
Spain won the 2019 under-21 European Championships, but their top scorer Dani Olmo only bagged three goals throughout the tournament. The top scorer at the finals in Italy and San Marino, by some distance, was German striker Luca Waldschmidt. Waldschmidt scored seven goals in Germany’s five games en-route to the final, getting on the scoresheet in every game barring the final. The youngster scored a hat-trick against Serbia, a brace against Romania and one apiece against Denmark and Austria. Aged 23, Waldschmidt has been with Freiburg since 2018, and he won his first senior caps for Germany over the most recent international break.
6. Saul – Atletico Madrid
Whilst the 2019 finals saw a German be named as top scorer as Germany lost to Spain in the final, the 2017 finals saw a Spaniard named as top scorer as Spain lost to Germany in the final. Midfield all-rounder Saul was the tournament’s top scorer with five goals, three of which came in Spain’s 3-1 defeat of Italy in the semi-finals – the other coming in a 5-0 demolition of Macedonia in their opener. Saul had already been a part of the Spanish senior team since 2016, and a regular for Atletico Madrid since 2014. One of the most complete footballers on the planet and a real jack-of-all-trades, Saul is still a key man for Atletico, and he has now won 18 caps for Spain.
5. Jan Kliment – Stuttgart
It didn’t take much to be named as top scorer at the 2015 finals in the Czech Republic, where Czech striker Jan Kliment picked up the Golden Boot despite only scoring three goals. Those three came in the form of a hat-trick against Serbia in the group stages, but that was the only game the Czech Republic won as the hosts failed to reach the knockout stages. A quick, tall and versatile footballer who can play wide on the right or through the middle, Kliment’s rise to prominence earned him a move to Stuttgart in 2015. He is still contracted to the Bundesliga side, but the 26-year-old has only made 10 appearances for the club, having spent two seasons on-loan at Brondby. Kliment has also scored 3 goals from 8 caps for the Czech Republic’s senior team.
4. Alvaro Morata – Atlético Madrid
Atletico Madrid are the only team with two players in this seven, and Alvaro Morata wasn’t playing for the Mattress Makers when he won the under-21 Euro Golden Boot back in 2013. Morata struck four times in the tournament, scoring in every game except the final to outscore teammates Thiago and Isco as Spain won comfortably in Israel. Morata was in his first stint at Real Madrid at the time, soon to join Juventus, before returning to Real, making a club-record £60 million move to Chelsea and then returning to Madrid for a third time – but this time with Atletico. Morata is still only 26, he will join Atletico on a permanent deal next summer, and he has scored an impressive 16 goals from 31 caps for Spain’s senior team.
3. Adrian Lopez – Osasuna
You can tell that Spain have been pretty dominant in under-21 football over the last eight or nine years from this seven, and they were victorious once again in Denmark in 2011. Team mates Ander Herrera and Juan Mata both scored twice at the finals, but the tournament’s top scorer with five goals was Adrian Lopez. A versatile and nonchalant forward with good technique, Adrian scored twice against the Czech Republic and Belarus, and once against Ukraine. He joined Atletico Madrid the following summer, where he scored 26 goals in 143 games in three seasons. Lopes has since turned out for Villarreal and Deportivo la Coruna on-loan from Porto, but he returned to Spain on a permanent deal to sign for newly-promoted Osasuna over the summer.
2. Marcus Berg – Krasnodar
There can be no doubt about the fact that Marcus Berg knows how to score goals, the Swedish frontman is incredibly prolific, but he is yet to do it in one of Europe’s top leagues. He ravaged defences in Sweden, the Netherlands, Greece and the United Arab Emirates, but struggled at Hamburg, and he returned to Europe in a move to Krasnodar in the summer. Berg scored more than twice as many goals as any other player at the 2009 under-21 finals on home soil, scoring a hat-trick against Belarus and braces against both Serbia and England as Sweden reached the semis. The 33-year-old has gone on to score 19 goals from 74 caps for the senior team.
1. Maceo Rigters – Retired
The 2007 under-21 Euros were hosted by the Netherlands, won by the Netherlands, and it was a Netherlands striker who won the Golden Boot. That man was Maceo Rigters, who scored in the Netherland’s games against Portugal, Belgium, England and Serbia. Sadly, however, Rigters didn’t go on to light up the European game. He is the only uncapped player in this seven, having made an unsuccessful move to Blackburn Rovers following the under-21 finals. He floundered on-loan at Norwich, Barnsley and Willem II, before heading to Australia to play for Gold Coast United. That was the last professional football Rigters played, aged 28, and information on him since then is sparse. He was pictured playing heavily overweight in the Dutch amateur leagues in 2015, but has reportedly even quit that level of football now.