Position: Attacking midfielder
Hosts Denmark will quietly fancy their chances of lifting the European Under-21 Championship trophy on home soil, and if Johan Cruyff is to be believed then Ajax wonderkid Christian Eriksen is the player to take them all the way.
Eriksen was recently named Ajax ´Talent of the Year´ by a panel under Cruyff´s command, leading the Dutch legend to say: “He’s a player I really like with all my heart. This prize is just the beginning, a stimulus to get the maximum out of his career. The talent is there, the recognition also; now it is up to the player himself. He is a typical product of the Danish school. You can compare him with Brian and Michael Laudrup. Only time will tell if Eriksen can reach the same level as them.” For the 19-year-old Dane the time has now arrived to take an important step towards that level.
A product of the Odense youth academy in his native country, Eriksen was called up for the Danish Under-17 squad in 2007 and one year later moved to Holland when he was snapped up by Ajax for a reported £1m fee. After representing the Danish Under-18 and Under-19 sides – and a couple of seasons in the Ajax reserve team – he began 2010 by making his first-team bow for Ajax in a match against NAC Breda, and followed this with his full international debut in a friendly in Austria. His meteoric rise continued a few months later when he was selected for the Denmark squad to compete in the 2010 World Cup, the youngest player to feature in South Africa.
The 2010/11 season has seen Eriksen establish himself in the Ajax starting line-up, making 46 appearances in all competitions with eight goals, with the likes of Liverpool and Barcelona keeping tabs on him. However, he is fully expected to continue his footballing education in Amsterdam before treading the well-worn path into the top European leagues.
Eriksen has also been likened to Wesley Sneijder and Rafael van der Vaart by former Ajax boss Martin Jol, who described him as having all the attributes of the modern footballer, and with his exceptional passing ability, allied to a willingness to shoot from distance with both feet, he has the opportunity to go straight to the very top. Able to operate on the right or left-hand side of midfield he frequently fills the role just behind the main striker, and although not the tallest of players at around 5ft 9in, his presence of mind and vision more than makes up for this.
If he does have a weakness it is that he does not score enough goals despite getting himself into the positions to do so. Given his tender years, and playing much of his football in the final third of the pitch, this is something that will surely come with experience. What better chance to add to it than mixing it with the cream of European football’s young talent?