With Euro 2020 behind us now, everyone’s attention turns towards the 2021/22 season which is just around the corner. As is always the case at a major tournament, there were emerging and resurgent stars left, right and centre, but will any of them earn a move off off the back of it?
Starting with the Euro 2020 champions Italy and given the presence of Jorginho, Nicolo Barella and Marco Verratti, there is no shame if you can’t get yourself into Mancini’s midfield. One man that certainly took his chances when they came to him though was Manuel Locatelli, who plays his club football for Sassuolo. He started the first couple of games in Verratti’s absence and it was the clash with Switzerland in Rome that saw him come to the fore. He netted twice, two very different goals in fact, but he impressed far beyond this brace. Arsenal are rumoured to be very keen to capture Locatelli but not only is that a poisoned chalice at the moment, Juve are in talks too so they seem to be the most likely destination for Locatelli.
From one player who got a couple of votes to be in our team of the tournament to another and whilst in very different circumstances, Mikkel Damsgaard seized the day as such. The Danish wide-man didn’t start the opener against Finland but the traumatic scenes involving Christian Eriksen in Copenhagen that day saw Damsgaard make his way into the side. It was obviously a horrible way for the young Sampdoria star to take to the field but he really did thrive, the peak being that glorious free-kick he rocketed home beyond Jordan Pickford in the semi-final. Kasper Hjulmand’s side may have fallen short in that Euro 2020 game but Damsgaard was a true shining light for the Danes, it will be fascinating to see if he continues this rich vein of form for the Serie A team or if he makes a swift move this summer.
Talking of young wingers that weren’t supposed to play as big as a role as they ending up doing and that takes us to Roberto Martinez’s Belgium. This golden generation for the Red Devils seems to be coming to an end but Jeremy Doku, who plays his club football in France, is part of the new wave. The nineteen-year-old wasn’t overly productive for Rennes this season but the talent was there for all to see at Euro 2020. Again there were no goals and assists to show for it but his desire to drive forward when on the ball, taking on defenders at will and often leaving them in the dust definitely catches the eye. France’s financial crisis is becoming more and more catastrophic and so it wouldn’t be surprising if Rennes were forced to cash in on their star teenage duo; Doku and Eduardo Camavinga.
Going back to the Euro 2020 victors who swept aside Doku and co in the quarter final and Locatelli was far from the only Italian outlier to thrive. It wasn’t a surprise to see the likes of Donnarumma, Verratti and Chiellini to play to such a high level but for someone like Leonardo Spinazzola, a member of a rather underwhelming Roma under the now-departed Paulo Fonseca, it was quite the awakening. Down the left flank, Spinazzola was causing big problems along with Napoli’s Lorenzo Insigne as he constantly went bombing forward and made it a duo of destruction. It remains to be seen what things will be like in the Eternal city following Jose Mourinho’s arrival but Spinazzola playing for someone like Conte (although he is club-less), who favours a back five, would be an interesting proposition.
One of the countries that Italy swept aside in their Euro 2020 group was Switzerland and whilst Breel Embolo stood out to me versus Wales in particular, it is an all too familiar name that features here. Xherdan Shaqiri has never been a starter in his Anfield tenure and his moments of magic this summer reminds everyone of his qualities. The little wizard has had opportunities come to him with Liverpool few and far between so it might be interesting to see if he seeks regular playing time in his final few peak years. A move to a high-end Europa League side in Italy or France for example would make sense to me, see Payet and Thauvin at Marseille.
Penultimately to Frank de Boer’s Netherlands who despite flying through their group, fell at the first knockout hurdle at Euro 2020. The former Crystal Palace, Ajax and Atlanta United manager lost his job following their defeat to the Czech Republic, Matthijs De Ligt’s bizarre red card proving to be the turning point in that one. A shining light of another disappointing Dutch summer was flying fullback Denzel Dumfries, the PSV man along with the likes of Maehle, Gosens and Spinazzola came to the fore playing a role born firmly in the 21st century. Not only did he score twice but his rampages were a constant threat, the knowledge of the quality of his centre-backs allowing him to play with freedom. Barcelona who are obviously in a dismal state are amongst those clubs in the top five leagues with a reported interest in Dumfries.
Finally then to one of the countries that came up short against Dumfries and the Dutch in their Euro 2020 group, Ukraine. At 2-0, it looked certain that the match favourites would live up to their name but quickfire strikes from West Ham’s Andriy Yarmolenko and striker Roman Yaremchuk struck fear into the heart of Les Oranjes. Whilst the former has played for Dortmund and now the Irons, the latter is yet to break into the big five leagues despite seemingly producing prevalently for the legend that is Andriy Shevchenko. He is still just 25 and has a good scoring record since signing for Belgian side Gent, something which could and probably should earn him that step up in his career.
There are many players that you could argue deserve a move following an impressive Euro 2020 and that is normally the case at major tournaments, but sustaining this is always an issue. Some of the many honourable mentions are as follows; Bukayo Saka given how poor Arsenal are currently, Tomas Kalas of the Czech Republic, his name sake and fellow countryman Tomas Vaclik too and another La Liga keeper in Unai Simon!