European Under-21 Championship: the players challenging for the golden boot
Álvaro Morata, Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and Andrea Pirlo have won the award in previous competitions. Who will be top scorer in Poland this time around?
Davie Selke, Germany
The Germany striker had a disappointing season so will feel he has a point to prove in Poland. The 22-year-old has already secured a move to Hertha Berlin this summer, having found gametime extremely hard to come by with high-flying Leipzig. He was a real marquee signing for the club two years ago but started just twice in the Bundesliga last season as Timo Werner was given the nod.
With Werner in Russia representing the world champions in the Confederations Cup, Selke has a chance to add to his impressive goal tally for his country. He was the top scorer when Germany won the U19 Euros in 2014, and he has since added 23 goals in 32 appearances for the U20s and seven goals in 11 appearances for the U21s. Last season did not go to plan but he still managed to find the net four times in just 436 minutes of action. He scored 10 goals for Leipzig the season before as they won promotion and will be trying to impress his new bosses at Hertha this summer.
Sandro Ramírez, Spain
As with most tournaments, the striker for the favourites is among the most fancied for the golden boot. Spain, the 2011 and 2013 champions, have named an extremely strong squad – including Héctor Bellerín, Marco Asensio and Iñaki Williams – and former Barcelona graduate Sandro Ramírez is expected to lead the line for them after a successful debut season with Málaga.
The 21-year-old Everton target scored 14 goals in La Liga this season, which was at least eight more than any player of his age or younger. He also has an eye for the spectacular; only Lionel Messi (nine) scored more goals from outside the box than his former blaugrana team-mate (5).
Lewis Baker, England
Having spent the past two seasons on loan at Vitesse Arnhem, Lewis Baker is better known to Dutch fans than English fans but he is certain to play an important role for his country this summer. In the absence of fellow Chelsea graduate Ruben Loftus-Cheek, the 22-year-old will need to provide a goal threat from midfield, which is certainly Baker’s greatest strength.
Along with 10 league goals last season, the youngster was the top scorer in the Dutch Cup with five goals in six matches. Vitesse lifted the trophy, thanks in part to Baker, who scored both goals in their semi-final victory over Sparta Rotterdam. That sort of big game experience will be required if England are to compete. His record at this level is superb, with seven goals in 13 appearances for the U21s.
Uros Djurdjevic, Serbia
One of only a handful of players in the squad still playing in his homeland, Uros Djurdjevic could be an outside bet for the golden boot if Serbia can upset the odds and progress to the knockout phase. The 23-year-old scored nine goals in qualifying – a figure bettered by just one player – though his record for Partizan Belgrade last season was even more impressive.
With a return of 24 goals in 29 league appearances, Djurdjevic will be attracting the interest of various scouts in Poland this summer. He’ll be hoping to prove a point, having already failed to make the grade at Vitesse and Palermo.
Patrik Schick, Czech Republic
Perhaps the favourite to win the Golden Ball for the best player at the tournament, Sampdoria striker Patrik Schick looks set to move to champions Juventus amid interest from across the continent. The 21-year-old scored more goals in qualifying than any other player (10) and, while a return of 11 goals in his debut season in Serie A may seem modest, he scored one every 134 minutes on average.
Tall, fast, elegant in possession and intelligent in his movement, Schick is the real deal and another underdog for the golden boot. Czech Republic will have a tough time getting past Germany and Italy in their group, but their talismanic striker will give them a fighting chance.
Marcus Ingvartsen, Denmark
Another 21-year-old marksman who could be in demand this summer – albeit for a significantly lower fee than Schick – Marcus Ingvartsen broke into the Denmark team in the qualifying campaign and scored eight goals in as many appearances.
A tally of 14 goals in the regular season for Danish club Nordsjaelland was a strong return but not as impressive as the nine in 10 appearances he scored in the subsequent championship round, making Ingvartsen the leading scorer in his homeland last season with 23 goals in total. Denmark will have a tough task of progressing past Germany, Italy and Czech Republic, but they will no doubt rely on their in-form forward to provide an upset.