European Under-21s Stock Watch: Whose Transfer Value Has Gone Up?
Summers between major international tournaments can be interesting if you look in the right places. Youth football reigns supreme over the course of June, and the European Under-21 Championship has become one of the most prestigious tournaments in the game.
It's a place where bona fide stars now often rock up. We've seen the likes of Thiago Alcantara and Isco blitz it in the past, and this year saw the likes of Saul Niguez, Dani Ceballos and Max Meyer—all Champions League-calibre players—grace the pitches of Poland while in action.
Here, we've done a little stock checking in the aftermath of Germany's shock victory in the final and brought you 10 players whose transfer values have most definitely risen off the back of impressive performances for their country.
Special Mention: Dani Ceballos, CM/AM, Spain
Dani Ceballos was named Player of the Tournament thanks to his dazzling displays for Spain, but his transfer value has not risen as a result. Therefore, we include him as a special mention.
Why? Because his release clause is and has been €15 million for a while. Real Betis wouldn't have sold him for less pre-tournament, and they can't ask for any more now he's taken the world by storm. His transfer value has remained exactly the same.
You can read a full scouting report on Ceballos here.
Alfie Mawson, CB, England
England's standout performer during the European Under-21 Championship was Alfie Mawson, whose commanding performances were key to a relatively successful campaign.
Ahead of the tournament he was already seen as a rising Premier League star, but now, with four strong performances under his belt at a prestigious international competition, interested clubs will have been forced to readjust their valuations of him once again.
According to The Sun's Alan Nixon (h/t Football Insider's Matt Farr), Swansea City will now want at least £20 million for the physical centre-half. It's quite conceivable that's a £5 million boost to his original summer price tag.
Marc-Oliver Kempf, CB, Germany
Germany conceded just three goals in 480 minutes of play at the European Under-21 Championship. That's an incredible feat for any defensive line, but particularly so considering it was assembled using odd parts.
On paper, the star of the line was Niklas Stark (of Hertha Berlin), but the man who played every single minute from start to finish and led proceedings was Freiburg's Marc-Oliver Kempf.
His composed, strong performance was the crutch upon which Die Mannschaft leant on in the final when fending off Spain, while during the groups—particularly against the Czechs and the Danes—his wand-like left foot switched play with pinpoint, long passes.
Jeremy Toljan, RB, Germany
Sure, Hoffenheim had their heart (Sebastian Rudy and Niklas Sule) ripped out this summer by Bayern Munich's smart transfer activity, but which other non-elite clubs find themselves in a position of such luxury at full-back?
With both Pavel Kaderabek (star of the 2015 Under-21 Championship) and Jeremy Toljan (star of 2017's version) in the squad, Julian Nagelsmann can consider himself officially spoilt for choice when it comes to tooling up his right side.
Toljan recorded three assists in Poland—a tournament-high regardless of position. It was his raids down the right that flummoxed England's Ben Chilwell in the semi-final, and it was his whipped cross that led to Germany's winner against Spain in the final.
If Hoffenheim decide to sell high on the back of a standout tournament, they'll get a good price and not have to concern themselves with replacing him.
Saul Niguez, CM, Spain
Saul Niguez was always expected to shine at this tournament. Someone who has played in two Champions League finals is naturally going to be a) way better than most at this level, and b) used to the pressurised environment it creates.
The Spaniard didn't disappoint. If anything, he exceeded expectations. His five goals (from central midfield) secured him the Golden Boot, with his hat-trick against Italy inclusive of two truly stunning strikes. He couldn't turn the tide for La Furia Roja in the final, but his contributions to his team's previous four stunning performances won't be forgotten in a hurry.
Atletico Madrid are clearly cognisant of this. That's why they've wasted no time in arming him with a new contract, tying him to the club for the next nine years. According to the Daily Mail's Ben Grounds, his buyout clause has been upped from the £71 million in his previous deal thanks to his June exploits.
Max Meyer, AM, Germany
This was Max Meyer's second run at the Under-21 European Championship, having played in Germany's disappointing 2015 effort.
He cut an anonymous figure back then despite being given an important, creative role in Horst Hrubesch's side; he didn't impact games, didn't produce any vital moments and bowed out meekly with his colleagues as Portugal crushed Germany 5-0 in the semi-finals.
That lack of impact has been the consistent knock on Meyer throughout his senior career. Once the golden boy of Schalke, the academy prospect certain to replace Julian Draxler's brilliance, he's become "just a guy" for them, making only 18 Bundesliga starts in 2016-17 and not making the difference anywhere near often enough.
What he needed to do was make a statement, and that's exactly what he did in Poland.
He produced the delightful moments long demanded of him, excelling against the Czech Republic and Denmark and working hard for the team in the final (and shaving the post with a brilliant header). His passing, dribbling and set-piece deliveries were all sublime.
Enis Bardhi, CM, Macedonia
Macedonia made a real fist of their first-ever European Under-21 Championship, and key to their fight for pride was Enis Bardhi.
The Ujpest midfielder never gave up, never stopped tracking and closing down, and he put everything he had into stymieing the likes of Spain and Portugal from his central midfield position.
His soft feet and intelligent movement set him apart from his colleagues, and his driving runs forward led to two goals—one against Serbia in a draw (his country's first-ever point at the Championship) and one against Portugal that helped knock the Selecao out.
Many will have been seeing Bardhi for the first time at this tournament, but his displays will necessitate a thorough check on his Hungarian league film. This summer might not be so quiet for Ujpest.
Stanislav Lobotka, CM, Slovakia
Stanislav Lobotka has been voted FC Nordsjaelland's Player of the Year in both seasons he's been at the club, but that's not the sort of thing that brings you international recognition. But performing well at a European Under-21 Championship will.
He's spent his time in Denmark orchestrating his team's play with slick passes and surging forward from deep with the ball and slaloming round markers. His end-product is hardly perfect, but he creates ripples on the pitch when he moves.
Slovakia gave him a big role in their midfield for the tournament, and he saw plenty of the ball. From dispossessing opponents cleanly to spreading it around, he led a confident team effort that came oh-so-close to being rewarded with a semi-final berth.
Tomas Soucek, CM, Czech Republic
Tomas Soucek's brilliant all-round performance against Italy landed him UEFA's man-of-the-match award. The result (3-1) was a high point for the Czech Republic, and Soucek's individual showing was one of the best we saw at the entire tournament.
The 22-year-old belongs to Slavia Prague but spent the second half of the season on loan at Slovan Liberec, filling up on playing time after losing his spot in the XI. It's quite conceivable his parent club planned to introduce him to first-team matters for 2017-18, but now they might be fearful of vultures swooping in from afar.
At the very least, Soucek's bulked up his own chances of landing a role to play with Slavia.
Ben Chilwell, LB, England
It's arguable Ben Chilwell was England's best performer through the group stages. He and Alfie Mawson both played brilliantly, and it was only the semi-final—in which Chilwell suffered at the hands of Jeremy Toljan—that brought him down a notch.
Those first three performances captured everything that's good about Chilwell: a smart, positive player, he's economic with the ball, pushed forward superbly to give England speed on the left and defended his corner well.
Some Leicester City fans will be pointing to this body of work and suggesting it's time for him to assume the starting role at left-back for the club over Christian Fuchs. Scouts of other clubs will be thinking they can offer a new home if that football doesn't materialise.
Chilwell came into the tournament with a burgeoning reputation but not much real top-tier film to hang his hat on. That's changed now.
Edgar Ie, CB, Portugal
Things haven't really gone to plan for Edgar Ie in his career so far, but perhaps his strong performances at the European Under-21 Championship will change things for the better.
A Sporting CP academy boy, he joined Barcelona in 2012 but failed to make the breakthrough. A switch to Villarreal followed, but B team action was all he could get, and in January this year he returned to Portugal to sign for Belenenses for free.
At least there he's played some first-team football, the perfect tune-up to ready himself for this summer's competition. Edgar Ie put in three good shifts, showcasing the sort of aggression and one-on-one ability you want from a centre-back. He also netted a header against Macedonia.
All statistics via UEFA.com