Football Features

Nine international debuts we can’t wait to see this summer

By Harry Edwards

International debuts we're excited about this summer

Published: 13:37, 5 June 2019

Although the big domestic seasons are over until August, there is still a big summer of men’s football ahead of us.

We have the inaugural Uefa Nations League finals, Euro 2020 qualifiers, Copa America, Africa Cup of Nations, Concacaf Gold Cup and the usual international friendlies.

So, ahead of a busy summer of international football, we’ve had a look across all the squads and come up with the nine most exciting debuts we’re most looking forward to seeing.

Diogo Jota (Portugal)

Age: 22

Club: Wolverhampton Wanderers

Position: Winger

Wolves had a wonderful season in the Premier League under Nuno Espirito Santo, finishing seventh and securing a place in the Europa League qualifying rounds.

Part of that success came through the impact of Diogo Jota, who was directly involved in 14 goals, scoring nine and recording five assists. His performances earned him a first Portugal call-up in the March international break, but the Wolves man had to make do for the bench.

Jota is now back in the squad and will have an eye on making his senior debut in the upcoming Nations League tournament, starting a new era of football for the European champions.

Joao Felix (Portugal)

Age: 19

Club: Benfica

Position: Forward

Another young star who could make his Portugal debut at the Uefa Nations League is Benfica starlet Joao Felix.

The teenager has risen to prominence in the Primeira Liga this season, scoring 15 goals and providing another seven assists in 26 appearances, as well as becoming the youngest player to score a hat-trick in the Europa League.

As well as drawing interest from the likes of Manchester United, Manchester City and Real Madrid, Felix’s season has earned him a first Portugal call-up.

And Felix has been backed by compatriot Jose Fonte to make an impression for years to come, with the Lille man telling Squawka: “In terms of young Portugal players who can reach the top level, I’m sure you’ve heard about a few of these kids – but we have Joao Felix – he’s a good prospect a good young player who can get there.”

Leandro Trossard (Belgium)

Age: 24

Club: Genk

Position: Winger

Although Belgium already have a plethora of attacking stars, with the likes of Eden and Thorgan Hazard as well as Dries Mertens, Leandro Trossard will be looking to make his mark this summer.

The 24-year-old was key in Genk winning the Jupiler League, being named captain for the final 15 games of the campaign after Alejandro Pozuelo left for Toronto.

As well as lifting the league title, Trossard scored 22 goals in 47 games across all competitions from out wide, ending the season as Genk’s second-top goalscorer, while also recording 11 assists.

Takefusa Kubo (Japan)

Age: 18

Club: FC Tokyo

Position: Forward

This summer will see Japan take part in the Copa America for the second time, 20 years on from their only previous appearance. Making the most of the opportunity, Japan manager Hajime Moriyasu has named a young squad including 17 uncapped players, in preparation of next year’s Olympics.

“I’ve selected many players who are in the age group to play at the Tokyo Olympics,” Moriyasu said.

“I wanted the young players to grow ahead of next year’s Olympics by competing at this wonderful tournament, the Copa America.”

One of the most exciting names on the list is FC Tokyo forward Tekefusa Kubo, who has been dubbed the ‘Japanese Messi’. Kubo spent four years in La Masia between 2011 and 2015 but had to leave after Barcelona were sanctioned for singing underage players illegally.

But now he is 18 and ready to announce himself on the world stage, with the likes of Real Madrid and Manchester City reportedly set to keep a close eye on his performances this summer.

Tatsuya Ito (Japan)

Age: Hamburg

Club: 21

Position: Winger

Another exciting newbie to Japan’s young Copa America squad this summer is Hamburg winger Tatsuya Ito.

The diminutive 21-year-old is currently playing in the Toulon Tournament for Japan and recently helped the Samurai Blue beat England, providing an assist for the winning goal.

But once that is finished Ito will travel with the senior squad to Brazil.

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Robert Skov (Denmark)

Age: 23

Club: FC Copenhagen

Position: Winger

Another goalscoring winger, Robert Skov was in devastating form for FC Copenhagen in the 2018/19 Superliga season, helping his side confirm the title.

In 34 league games, the Danish winger scored 30 goals including six in eight appearances in the championship round, post-split. His performances have seen Skov linked with a big move to the Premier League, with Champions League runners-up Tottenham Hotspur reportedly interested.

Add this to the impressive tally of nine goals in 18 appearances for Denmark’s U21 side across the past three years, and Skov looks like he could be a big player for the first team for years to come.

Leon Bailey (Jamaica)

Age: 21

Club: Bayer Leverkusen

Position: Winger

Ahead of the 2018 World Cup, there was much speculation over whether Leon Bailey was eligible to represent England and some talk of the winger even making Gareth Southgate’s squad.

But he wasn’t eligible and didn’t make the World Cup, keeping him open to represent his native Jamaica. And that’s exactly what he is set to do this summer, after confirming his allegiance to the Reggae Boyz and accepting a call-up to their provisional squad for the Concacaf Gold Cup.

Ravel Morrison (Jamaica)

Age: 26

Club: Ostersund

Position: Midfielder

Another name in Jamaica’s provisional squad for the Concacaf Gold Cup is former Manchester United and West Ham midfielder Ravel Morrison.

Born in Manchester, the 26-year-old has featured for England across the youth groups but never made the step up to senior level. In the past, Morrison had spoken of the possibility to represent Jamaica – eligible through his mother, and he officially made the switch in March 2018.

And now the midfielder has a debut in his sights, with his first call up for the Reggae Boyz.

Giannelli Imbula (DR Congo)

Age: 26

Club: Rayo Vallecano

Position: Midfield

There aren’t many current international stories more interesting than that of Giannelli Imbula.

The former Stoke City midfielder has represented France at U20 and U21 level, but was reportedly considering Belgium – the country of his birth – on the senior stage. In March 2018 he was called up for the DR Congo team but rejected the opportunity.

However, one year on Imbula is now in the provisional DR Congo squad for the Africa Cup of Nations and could make his senior international debut this summer.