Euro 2020 has been a festival of great football – but scouting at international tournaments is famously risky business.
Naturally, clubs should be cautious about signing players on the basis of how they’ve coped in this environment. It’s a different tempo, tactics are not nearly as detailed as they’ll be at club level, and often, it’s the odd superstar grabbing their nation by the scruff of the neck that decides the winners.
Still, that’s not stopped big clubs making impulse purchases off the back of major tournaments. Remember when Real Madrid shelled out for James Rodriguez in 2014 after his stellar displays in Brazil? Or when Patrik Berger’s Euro ’96 campaign earned him a move to Liverpool? John Jensen got a move to Arsenal after one amazing goal at Euro ’92, while Newcastle United were sufficiently impressed by Stephane Guivarch’s goalless France ’98 to offer him a deal.
Perhaps these lads will be next in line. We’ve gone for players on this list who have all had tournaments to enhance their reputations, though, rather than random Finnish full backs with superb long throws who might have caught the attention.
All in all, Doku got limited minutes to show just what he’s capable of. The youngest member of Belgium’s squad, he was dropped into the side as Eden Hazard’s replacement for the Italy loss.
But while Belgium were all over the place, the Rennes winger was excellent. He’s not long been playing in Ligue 1 – and had a solid season – but his creativity and decision-making against an experienced defence in such a huge game showed that he’s not going to shy away from big occasions.
Perhaps a team like Everton, Leicester City or Arsenal should be looking at him while he’s still young and relatively affordable.
2. Granit Xhaka, Switzerland
With one foot already out the Arsenal door, Granit Xhaka’s displays at Euro 2020 are somewhat irrelevant when it comes to interest from Roma. Still, perhaps another side should take note of how good he’s been.
The cliche is that deep-lying playmakers are often calm and cool, while the ball-winning midfielder is usually the aggressive one. Xhaka showed against France that his passion and leadership could be the difference in the centre of the park, pulling the Swiss to 3-3 in the game, as they eventually won on penalties.
His transfer is probably already secured but maybe Arsenal should demand an extra £5 million. Euro 2020 has provided Xhaka with more examples of what a big-game player he is, after all.
3. Robin Gosens, Germany
Atalanta have had a solid Euro 2020. Right-footed Joakim Maehle has been a revelation in the attacking third from the left – not unlike Leonardo Spinazzola of Italy – but since he’s only been at La Dea for six months, Robin Gosens might be a more realistic target for big sides.
Gosens was Germany’s most dangerous player against Portugal, as he looked to overload attacking areas, whip crosses in or connect with them from the other flank. He’s excellent in transition and perfect for a high-octane, three-at-the-back system; he’s not had the injury woes of Spinazzola, either.
He looks like a Nuno Espirito Santo-style player – though Arsenal, Manchester City and Leicester City could all do with depth and attacking dynamism from the left-back area.
4. Nicolo Barella, Italy
Italy’s renaissance can largely be traced to the glut of exciting midfielders they’ve produced in the post-Pirlo era. Marco Verratti is the gold standard in this respect: all the class and elegance of a classic Italian No 10, with the positional sense and grit of a Gattuso-type chucked in for good measure.
While Nicolo Barella is not exactly a secret in Italian football, Euro 2020 has been a breakout tournament for a wider audience to see what he’s capable of. The freshly crowned Scudetto champion has showcased a complete midfielder’s repertoire so far at the Euros and perhaps most importantly for an Italian, he’s showed he can hack it at a higher tempo.
Liverpool would be an excellent destination, as would Arsenal if they had the money. As he showed against Belgium, he’s cool and composed in the box as well as dictating play.
5. Ugurcan Cakir, Turkey
He conceded three on opening night – and it didn’t get much better in the following matches – but Ugurcan Cakir was probably the best Turkish player on the pitch at Euro 2020.
The Trabzonspor stopper has good positioning, though his distribution could do with a bit of work. Traditionally, Turkish keepers don’t tend to travel well – so the option of a transfer to a bigger in Europe’s top-five leagues seems like a bit of a risk.
The upside could be huge, though. The keeper has a lot of potential, wouldn’t command a huge fee and, at 25, could develop into a solid goalkeeper for an ambitious side. Don’t let a catastrophic team performance cloud your judgement.
6. Donyell Malen, Netherlands
Arsenal let Donyell Malen leave as a teen. In the years since his English adventure, however, the Dutch wonderkid has blossomed into an exciting talent at PSV.
Taken to the Euros more as cover than anything else, Malen started the last couple of games for the Netherlands up front with national talisman Memphis Depay. Malen is still raw but the essential components of his game are clear to see. He’s got pace to burn, good awareness of what’s around him and can play either out left or through the centre.
Strikers can get expensive: tempting Malen away from PSV now could be the best option for a club looking to invest in something long term and the 22-year-old has shown he’s ready to step up to bigger stages already … despite his fluffed one-on-one against the Czech Republic.
7. Renato Sanches, Portugal
Five years ago, Renato Sanches dazzled on the big stage, won the Golden Boy award at Euro 2016 and earned a move to Bayern Munich.
In truth, it came too soon. Sanches has had to refind his mojo and this season won the title with Lille. His quality at Euro 2020 was, again, undoubted: is he ready this time for a step up?
Probably. He’s older, wiser and in slower-paced environments, he’s a necessary spark of brilliance in a midfield. At Max Allegri’s Juventus, for example, he would be a good squad option to have around.
8. Denzel Dumfries, Netherlands
A 25-year-old bullet train of a right back named after actor Denzel Washington, PSV’s Denzel Dumfries has become a household name back home in the Netherlands.
Dumfries has come up from Sparta Rotterdam and Heerenveen before getting his move to PSV, but now might be the time for him to go abroad. His pace, physicality and willingness to get on to the end of a cross, as well as whip one in, was a joy to watch at Euro 2020.
In a tournament where left backs have dominated, Dumfries has been one of the stars on the other side. There are plenty of Premier League sides who could well take a closer look at him after his exploits this summer.
9. Mikkel Damsgaard, Denmark
Mikkel Damsgaard has had an international tournament perhaps unlike anyone else, ever. Taken as a 20-year-old backup to Christian Eriksen, he didn’t expect to play much – the traumatic circumstances in which the Sampdoria attacker found himself in the first team, however, are well documented.
Damsgaard has been excellent. Described by club boss Claudio Ranieri as a “prodigy”, the youngster has worked his socks off in Denmark’s press, offered creativity in abundance and even broken the record to become the nation’s youngest-ever scorer at the Championships.
Countless clubs in Europe should be taking note. Hopefully one day, we’ll see him alongside Eriksen in the Danish first team.
10. Danny Ward, Wales
Danny Ward has never played a league game for Leicester City. Rob Page’s decision to select him ahead of 96-cap Wayne Hennessey in the Welsh goal was no doubt the biggest risk that the interim boss made at Euro 2020 – but it’s safe to say it paid off.
Ward was superb for the Dragons. He was easily the best player for Wales in their first game against Switzerland and a calm presence throughout the tournament, even ahead of two young central defenders.
At just 28, there could still be one big move left for the Leicester backup keeper. He’s shown at this tournament that he’s certainly good enough to compete for a No 1 shirt somewhere.
You may also like