The latest international break has seen many top countries trying out their next generation of talent on the road to the 2018 World Cup. The need for regeneration is constant given injuries, loss of form and, simply, the passage of time. So how do the top five nations in Europe look for quality in this World Cup cycle and beyond?
We asked ESPN FC writers to pick the players we’ll need to know about during the next decade. There’s a lot to be excited about here.
Gareth Southgate’s move up to managing the senior side lends a sense of continuity to the national team given his role as U-21 manager from 2013 to 2016. His knowledge of England’s depth, including the likes of Demarai Gray, Nathan Redmond and Jordan Pickford, bodes well for the future.
Read more about Nick Miller’s Next XI here.
Like England, La Roja are benefiting from the appointment of Julen Lopetegui as manager. His work with Spain’s youth sides led European Championships at the U-19 (2012) and U-21 (2013) levels means he’s already well-acquainted with the talent pool, as well as which players are capable of making the jump. Jose Gaya, Inaki Williams and Atletico Madrid’s all-action midfielder Saul Niguez definitely fit the bill.
Read more about Dermot Corrigan’s Next XI here.
In the Bundesliga, it’s a fair statement that the “future” is already here. With squads boasting significantly lower average ages than other top leagues, there’s no shortage of opportunities for young talent to get plenty of top-flight experience. Some on our list — like Borussia Dortmund’s Julian Weigl — are in such good form that they might even get a chance in next summer’s World Cup rather than having to wait for the next cycle.
Read more about Raphael Honigstein’s Next XI here.
If any national team is poised to usher in a true “golden generation” and emulate Spain’s dominance from 2008 to 2012, it might be Les Bleus. Their talent goes well beyond Kylian Mbappe, too: Adrien Rabiot, Thomas Lemar and Presnel Kimpembe are also future stars.
Read more about Julien Laurens’ Next XI here.
Well, Gianluigi Buffon and Daniele De Rossi have to retire eventually, right? Luckily for the Azzurri, they’re spoiled for choice at almost every position. With Gianluigi Donnarumma set to begin a long reign in goal, Daniele Rugani the next anchor at centre-back and Andrea Belotti primed to handle the scoring duties, their rivals should beware.
Read more about James Horncastle’s Next XI here.
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