Euro best young players: Wirtz to be Germany’s golden boy?

We have come up with a list of the Euro's best young players dating back to the Euro 2000. An official Young Player of the Tournament award has only been given out since 2016, and here we will speculate who could have gone on to win it in the tournaments prior.

Renato Sanches
Renato Sanches nets at Euro 2016 – Photo by Icon sport

Euro best young players: Our picks

Renato Sanches won the Young Player of the Tournament award at Euro 2016, as he helped Portugal on their way to winning the trophy, while central midfield prodigy Pedri dazzled for Spain as he won the last award at Euro 2020. Both have their own unique set of skills, but neither can claim the same cult status as our first entry…

Euro 2012 – Mario Balotelli

Fresh after helping Manchester City win their first ever Premier League title in dramatic fashion ahead of bitter rivals Manchester United on the final day of the 2011/12 season, as he famously claimed his only assist of the campaign by setting up Sergio Aguero to score the winner deep into stoppage time to beat Queens Park Rangers 3-2 at the Etihad Stadium, a 21-year-old Balotelli would then lead the line for Italy at Euro 2012.

The controversial “Why always me?” striker ended up being the joint-top scorer in the tournament with three goals, including two in the semi-finals against Germany as Italy triumphed 2-1. Unfortunately, they would then go on to lose 4-0 to Spain in the final, but Balotelli certainly had an impressive Euros, and we think that he would have gone on to win the Young Player of the Tournament.

Balotelli would have been our pick for Euro 2012 Young Player of the Tournament – GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP/Getty Images – Photo by Icon Sport

Euro 2008 – Cesc Fabregas

After an impressive individual 2007/08 season with Arsenal, where he recorded the most assists over all competitions in the squad, 21-year-old Fabregas headed to Euro 2008 with Spain. He helped his team win the first of an unmatched three consecutive major international titles, and played with a maturity that was beyond his years.

Indeed, Fabregas scored and assisted in Spain's opening group stage game of the competition as they beat Russia 4-1, while against the same opponents in the semi-finals, the central midfielder produced a further two assists to help his team win 3-0 and reach the final. Fabregas was also named in the 23-man Squad of the Tournament.

Euro 2004 – Milan Baros

There were plenty of young breakout stars at Euro 2004, notably Portugal's 19-year-old Cristiano Ronaldo and England's 18-year-old Wayne Rooney. Both were named in the Team of the Tournament, but we have picked the third forward that was named in the XI in Baros.

The then 22-year-old finished as the competition's top scorer with five goals, while he also produced two assists for a perhaps less-fancied Czech Republic team. He helped the Czechs reach the semi-finals, where they were knocked out by eventual shock winners Greece.

Euro 2000 – Thierry Henry

Henry was just 22 years of age when he lit up Euro 2000 for France, helping his team go on to win the competition. The talented forward scored a total of three goals, including one in the semi-finals against Portugal, and was named in the 23-man Squad of the Tournament.

Henry also won France's Player of the Year in 2000, and started to really kick on into his prime. He had unfortunately lost the UEFA Cup final with Arsenal (against Turkish giants Galatasaray) at the end of the 1999/00 season, and was clearly determined to win silverware at the Euros.

Florian Wirtz
Wirtz will look to be the creative hub for Germany as he is with Leverkusen – Photo by Icon Sport

Who could win the Young Player of the Tournament at Euro 2024?

We have previously picked out some candidates to clinch Player of the Tournament at Euro 2024. Here, we'll take a more in-depth look at the potential candidates that could win the Young Player of the Tournament award in Germany…

Florian Wirtz

Wirtz will surely be a contender for this esteemed award. Indeed, the 21-year-old was the creative hub of a Leverkusen side that won their first ever Bundesliga title and completed a domestic double. Die Werkself were only one game away from an unprecedented full unbeaten campaign, after losing 3-0 to Atalanta in the UEFA Europa League final.

Wirtz scored an impressive 18 goals and produced a further 20 assists from midfield in 49 appearances in total over all competitions, and will be hoping to increase those numbers at the Euros. He has only ever scored one senior goal for Germany, supplying four assists in 16 caps, as he will look to improve on his record.

Lamine Yamal

At just 16 years of age, Yamal is one of the hottest properties in world football, and he could be lining up at the Euros with Spain off the back of a remarkable season with FC Barcelona. Indeed, the winger played an incredible 50 times across all competitions, scoring seven goals and making 10 assists.

Unsurprisingly for a player so young, this will be Yamal's first major international tournament, but he has already earned six senior caps, netting twice and providing two further assists. He will celebrate his 17th birthday on 13th July, just a day before the final…

Kobbie Mainoo

Our last pick for potential Young Player of the Tournament comes in the form of England starlet Kobbie Mainoo.

The 19-year-old shone in an otherwise underwhelming Manchester United side for most of the 2023/24 campaign, capping of his fine season with a well-taken goal in the FA Cup final as he helped the Red Devils beat bitter rivals Manchester City 2-1 at Wembley Stadium, earning the club precious silverware and a place in next year's Europa League.

Mainoo could line up alongside Arsenal's Declan Rice in central midfield for England, and Gareth Southgate's Three Lions will be one of the favourites to go all the way and win the whole competition.

Adam is a lead writer on Football Whispers. He is a big Arsenal fan, and also follows his local club Wealdstone, made famous by The Wealdstone Raider, of whom he has interviewed. Adam also follows darts, boxing, cricket and tennis, among many other sports.