Alexander Nübel (l.) and Jonathan Tah (r.) are just two of the young talents set to light up Germanys UEFA Euro U21 bid in Italy. - © 2018 Getty Images
Alexander Nübel (l.) and Jonathan Tah (r.) are just two of the young talents set to light up Germanys UEFA Euro U21 bid in Italy. - © 2018 Getty Images

Nübel, Tah and the 5 Germany U21 stars to watch in Italy this summer

Germany head into this month's UEFA Euro U21s with a title to defend and a legacy as a nation that produces some of the planet's most promising talent to protect.

It will not be easy to follow in the footsteps of men such as Manuel Neuer, Jerome Boateng, Sami Khedira, Thomas Müller and Serge Gnabry when the tournament kicks off in Italy and San Marino on 16 June.

But has handpicked a quintet of talents from Stefan Kuntz's squad that can live up to the stratospheric standards set by their predecessors.

Goalkeeper: Alexander Nübel - the next Manuel Neuer?

Nübel kept five clean sheets in 18 Bundesliga appearances for Schalke in 2018/19. - imago images / Uwe Kraft

Marc-Andre ter Stegen and Bernd Leno are likely to battle out the tricky succession to the Bayern Munich icon in the national team in the short term, but Schalke's emerging No.1 may be the long-term answer for Die Mannschaft.

He's not a Gelsenkirchen native like Neuer, but Nübel shares many other traits of the man who once stood in the position he has made his own since being installed as first-choice by Domenico Tedesco midway through the 2017/18 campaign.

At 6'4", he possesses a frame just as imposing as Neuer's - a must for the modern-day 'keeper - and in addition to his shot-stopping ability, the 22-year-old has that other fundamental facet to his game: the ability to play football.

"Alex was always better with his feet than many of our outfield players - when you had Alex on your team, that was half the job done, you knew you could always pass the ball to him," said Eric Kroll, who played with Nübel at Paderborn where - for obvious reasons - the youngster was known as 'Manuel'.

"I can imagine seeing him as Germany No.1 in future." Kroll isn't alone.

Centre-back: Jonathan Tah - the next Jerome Boateng?

Tah (r.) won 68 per cent of his attempted challenges in 2018/19. - INA FASSBENDER/AFP/Getty Images

There's the Hamburg connection - Boateng played for them, Tah was born there too; the African roots - the former's stemming from Ghana, the latter from Cote d'Ivoire; and they're both centre-backs.

At 6'5", Tah is an inch more imposing than his Bayern doppelgänger, but they do also share another trait: put the ball at their feet, and the fans in Row Z are not instinctively ducking.

"Quick, technical and tough," is how Bayer Leverkusen's sporting director Rudi Völler defined Tah when Die Werkself gleefully snapped up the man-mountain in 2015.

Four years later, the ex-Germany striker and coach is still being proved right: 67 per cent of duels contested won - 74 per cent in the air - a 92 per cent pass completion in 2018/19, and just 16 fouls committed in 33 league games. In short, the sort of numbers rarely seen outside the virtual confines of a games console.

The only surprise is not that Tah is in the squad, it's that he is STILL eligible for it as he already has six senior international caps to his name and has been a virtually permanent fixture in the top flight since making his Bundesliga debut in August 2013 and .

He was only 17 then though, and given how Boateng has flourished in the latter stages of his career, Tah - anything but a shrinking violet - still has plenty of time to blossom. Frightening, isn't it?

Midfielder: Arne Maier - the next Sami Khedira?

Maier has been described as "the flagship of the Hertha Berlin academy". - Boris Streubel/Bundesliga/DFL via Getty Images

Fans love a local boy made good, the player they would have been had they possessed a natural ability beyond the norm to kick a ball. Maier is that man at Hertha Berlin just as Khedira was when he broke through at VfB Stuttgart.

Goals and assists are not his business - Maier registered neither in 24 Bundesliga games in 2018/19 - but those inside the game are fully aware of his talents. You want proof? He has twice finished runner-up to the phenomenon that is Kai Havertz in the rankings for the Fritz Walter Medal, the honour handed to Germany's best young players;

It is his positioning and industry, combined with technique, that allowed him to complete 90 per cent of his passes, that made the 20-year-old indispensable to the capital club's engine room. He's more than a cog, he is THE cog.

A left knee injury that cut short his season in early April threatened to see him miss out on the trip to Italy and San Marino. It says much about his abilities that even without a minute of competitive football in his legs for over two months Kuntz has still included him.

"My goal is to be fit for the Euro," Maier said. Mission accomplished.

Attacking midfielder: Florian Neuhaus - the next Thomas Müller?

Gladbach youngster Neuhaus was one of the surprise packages of the 2018/19 Bundesliga season. - Photo by Lars Baron/Bongarts/Getty Images

Space was the final frontier for Star Trek's Captain James T. Kirk; for Neuhaus and Müller, it holds no mystery as they understand it better than anyone in the Bundesliga.

While Müller's special talents as a Raumdeuter - a space invader - are well documented, those of his fellow Bavarian only fully came to the fore in 2018/19. Perhaps there's something in the Alpine air?

If Neuhaus impressed in helping Fortuna Düsseldorf to promotion from Bundesliga 2 in 2017/18, he confirmed that potential and more when he returned to Borussia Mönchengladbach - who signed him from 1860 Munich in 2017 - at the end of his loan with the Foals' neighbours.

Only Thorgan Hazard and Alassane Plea were involved in more of Gladbach's league goals than Neuhaus, who - with three strikes and eight assists - did not trail Müller (six goals, nine assists) by all that much given the Bayern man's status as a global great of the game.

On the evidence of Gladbach's post-season trip to China, Neuhaus may soon catch up. The 22-year-old was presented with flowers by an adoring fan and even showered with marriage proposals. For now, though, the midfielder is - like Müller - staying faithful to his club.

"Everything has gone ridiculously fast, but I'm just enjoying playing at Borussia," he explained before revealing the ethos that has taken him this far and will propel him still further. "I always want to improve."

Forward: Lukas Nmecha - the next Marco Reus?

Nmecha showed his class against record Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich last summer. - imago/ZUMA Press

Nmecha was a surprise inclusion in the squad having only made his debut in late March, and the Manchester City youngster had more caps for England's U21 side than Germany's when the 23-man list was announced.

But the tournament is likely to show why Kuntz was so keen to bring the Hamburg-born talent, who was raised in England by his Nigerian parents, into his plans.

A forward with an eye for goal who also has the pace and trickery to play out wide - just like Reus - the 20-year-old was sent on loan to Preston North End last season as Pep Guardiola grooms him for the step up to the City first team with whom he has already trained regularly.

He even scored for them against Bayern in the International Champions Cup last summer, and has been honing his game alongside the likes of world-class forwards Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus.

"Most of their advice comes from training, watching what they are doing," said Nmecha, who took his own advice when it came to switching international allegiance.

"I chose Germany, where I was born, I've been thinking a long time about what I really want, that was the right decision, and it's final."