Euro 2020: From Bale to Zakaria – the stars in the shop window

By Sports Desk June 06, 2021

Euro 2020 is just days away, and that means the rumour mill is about to go into overdrive.

International tournaments always represent something of a showcase for clubs seeking reinforcements and this year will be no different, even if the impact of the pandemic means spending may not quite reach levels of old.

There will be several players eager to impress at these finals: some will be long-term targets out to justify the hype, while others will be seeking a new challenge as contracts begin to wind down.

Using Opta data, Stats Perform has compiled a list of some of the candidates vying to be front and centre of this particular shop window...

 

Belgium: Jeremy Doku

One of Belgium's less-known attacking stars, Jeremy Doku was directly involved in 10 goals in the Jupiler League by the time he was 18 years and 115 days old, a record bettered only by Romelu Lukaku.

Previously wanted by Liverpool, the Rennes forward could become a target for Jurgen Klopp – thought to be exploring new attacking options – should he be given the chance to impress by Roberto Martinez.

Croatia: Bruno Petkovic

"Bruno Petkovic has to be at Euro 2020 what [Mario] Mandzukic was in Russia," said Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic last month. No pressure, then.

Still, the Dinamo Zagreb forward impressed in last season's Europa League with four goals in nine starts and could represent a relatively low-cost option in the market.

England: Jadon Sancho

The star performer as Borussia Dortmund won the DFB-Pokal final, Jadon Sancho was the first English player since David Beckham 20 years ago to register at least 10 assists for three seasons in a row in Europe's top-five leagues.

Manchester United continue to be mooted as the winger's most likely destination should he leave Dortmund, but a star turn at the Euros could trigger a bidding war among some of the biggest clubs.

France: Jules Kounde

Getting into the France starting line-up is no easy task these days, but Jules Kounde could well force Didier Deschamps' hand given the qualities he brings to centre-back.

An accomplished stopper, the Sevilla man is also impeccable on the ball: he made 887 forward passes in LaLiga last season, the most of any outfield player. Little wonder that Barcelona, Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal have all been linked.

Germany: Florian Neuhaus

Given he has been linked with Bayern Munich for months now, Florian Neuhaus must be doing something right.

The 108th Germany debutant under Joachim Low, the Borussia Monchengladbach midfielder could well find himself in high demand in the transfer window should he earn a regular spot at the Euros.

Italy: Manuel Locatelli

The heartbeat of a vibrant Sassuolo side, Manuel Locatelli in January became the first Italian player born after January 1, 1998 to record 10 Serie A assists.

Juventus are considered his likely next destination, but there are reports of interest from the Premier League, which would likely only increase in number should he shine at the Euros.

Netherlands: Memphis Depay

It appears likely Memphis Depay will leave Lyon for Barcelona on a free transfer, but, as long as that deal is not concluded, other clubs may sense the chance to snap up the forward.

Depay just became the first Lyon player to register at least 20 goals and 10 assists in a single Ligue 1 season since at least 2006-07 and looks like one of the Oranje's form players.

Poland: Kacper Kozlowski

At just 17, Kacper Kozlowski has established himself in the Pogon Szczecin first team, something made all-the-more remarkable given he was badly injured in a car crash in January 2020.

Although a name not well known outside Poland, the midfielder has been scouted by Manchester United and interest across the continent could well pick up after this tournament.

 

Portugal: Nuno Mendes

Considered one of Portugal's brightest prospects, Nuno Mendes has already been linked with the Manchester clubs after shining for Sporting CP.

Interest in the 18-year-old is only likely to increase should he perform well at the Euros, especially if he ousts Raphael Guerreiro from the side, and Sporting would surely be prepared to sell for a handsome fee.

 

Russia: Denis Cheryshev

Zero goas in 21 games for Valencia in LaLiga last season underlined a frustrating spell for Denis Cheryshev at club level.

The 30-year-old was Russia's star performer at the World Cup three years ago, though, and the Euros offer a good chance to tempt any possible suitors as he considers his future.

Spain: Pau Torres

Pau Torres was at the heart of Villarreal's Europa League triumph. In fact, he made nine appearances without being dribbled past, a single-season tally only bettered twice in the competition's history.

The centre-back has made it clear he is happy at the club, but strong performances for Spain could tempt suitors including Manchester United to test Villarreal's resolve to keep him.

Sweden: Alexander Isak

Linked with Barcelona during the season, Real Sociedad's Alexander Isak broke Zlatan Ibrahimovic's record for most goals by a Swede in a single LaLiga campaign by scoring 17 in 2020-21.

With Ibrahimovic missing these finals due to injury, 21-year-old Isak has a good opportunity to impress on the international stage.

Switzerland: Denis Zakaria

With his contract expiring next year, Denis Zakaria could be a more affordable midfield signing for any clubs willing to tempt Borussia Monchengladbach into a sale.

The 24-year-old offers great variety to the Switzerland midfield and English sides are expected to be watching him closely at these finals.

Ukraine: Ruslan Malinovskiy

Ruslan Malinovskiy is another Atalanta player to catch the eye under Gian Piero Gasperini. He was directly involved in a goal every 94 minutes in Serie A in 2020-21, the most of any midfielder to play at least 15 times.

Now 28, this could be his best chance to secure a significant transfer should he decide to leave Bergamo, and there have been rumblings of interest from Chelsea.

Wales: Gareth Bale

With 11 goals in 10 Premier League starts in 2020-21, Gareth Bale registered the best minutes-per-goal ratio (84) of any of the competition's top goalscorers.

He is returning to Real Madrid following his loan at Tottenham and Carlo Ancelotti appears keen to keep him, but heroics for Wales could encourage suitors to bid.

Related items

  • Sancho left out of Man Utd training camp trip to Spain Sancho left out of Man Utd training camp trip to Spain

    Jadon Sancho will not be a part of Manchester United's training camp in Spain, instead staying behind to work on an individual programme "as part of a process to get back to his highest level."

    United will spend a week in Spain preparing for the return of domestic football, playing friendlies against Cadiz on Wednesday and Real Betis on Saturday.

    Erik ten Hag will be without 13 first team players due to the World Cup, while the Premier League club confirmed that Sancho – who missed out on a place in Gareth Southgate's England squad for Qatar 2022 – will also not be present.

    The 22-year-old was recently spotted training with Dutch amateur side OJC Rosmalen, reportedly with coaches recommended by Ten Hag.

    United confirmed on Sunday on their website: "Jadon Sancho is continuing his individual training programme as part of a process to get back to his highest level. The club is fully supporting him in this."

    Sancho has three goals and one assist in 14 games (12 starts) for his club this season, having only managed five goals and three assists in 38 games (27 starts) last campaign following a £73million (€85m) move from Borussia Dortmund.

    United will also be without defensive trio Axel Tuanzebe, Aaron Wan Bissaka and Brandon Williams in Spain as they continue their recoveries from injury.

    The Red Devils return to competitive action in the EFL Cup on December 21 when they host Burnley in the fourth round, before resuming their Premier League campaign at home to Nottingham Forest on December 27.

  • Man Utd not at same level as Madrid - Van Dijk offers Gakpo advice and takes swipe at Liverpool's rivals Man Utd not at same level as Madrid - Van Dijk offers Gakpo advice and takes swipe at Liverpool's rivals

    Virgil van Dijk said Manchester United are not "at the same level" as Real Madrid as he offered transfer advice to his in-form Netherlands team-mate Cody Gakpo.

    PSV forward Gakpo scored in each of the Netherlands' three group-stage games and played alongside Van Dijk as the Dutch defeated the United States 3-1 to reach the World Cup quarter-finals on Saturday.

    With nine goals in 14 Eredivisie games this season, Gakpo's stock has continued to rise in Qatar and rumours of a switch to United have exacerbated since the Red Devils terminated the contract of Cristiano Ronaldo.

    LaLiga heavyweights Madrid have also been registered with an interest, while Liverpool are also reportedly monitoring the situation.

    Van Dijk has no doubt Gakpo is ready to take the next step in his career but offered a cheeky dig at Liverpool's rivals when speaking to reporters after the USA game.

    "Are Manchester United and Real Madrid on the same level? No disrespect, not at all," he said.

    "I definitely think he has that next step in him. I definitely feel like it could happen, whether that is in the winter or the summer or next year, time will tell. 

    "He is a great boy who works hard, very talented and definitely there is more in him. We are so pleased he is doing so well for us. Long may it continue."

    Gakpo did little to quell rumours of a January move when speaking to De Telegraaf about his future last week.

    "As it stands now, I will still be playing for PSV after the winter break," he said. "But, as I said before the start of the World Cup, we will see what will happen."

  • Kane will 'come alive' for England against Senegal, says Rooney Kane will 'come alive' for England against Senegal, says Rooney

    Wayne Rooney has backed Harry Kane to end his World Cup goalscoring drought and "come alive" in England's last-16 clash with Senegal.

    Captain Kane has yet to find the net at the finals, though he has provided three assists for Gareth Southgate's side.

    Kane won the golden boot at the 2018 World Cup with six goals and Rooney expects the pressure of the knockout stages to inspire a return to that kind of form.

    "Harry Kane is made for these games," England's record goalscorer wrote in his column in The Times. 

    "The games that are tighter, where the pressure is higher, where the football has to be more calculated – they are where Harry steps up.

    "He hasn't scored in the tournament yet but I think there will be a shift in his mindset. He'll think, 'right, it's on me now to make sure we progress', and I think this is when he'll come alive.

    "Gareth's other forwards are talented but no one has Harry's consistency. He is always calm and composed and he doesn't let misses bother him.

    "Failing to score in the group stage won't affect him like at Euro 2016, where you could see frustration. I reckon this will be more like Euro 2020 when we had similar conversations about his lack of goals in the group stage – and then he started scoring."

    Rooney anticipates changes to the starting XI from the 3-0 win over Wales, but would stick with both Phil Foden and Marcus Rashford in the front three.

    "It wouldn't surprise me if Gareth brought back Sterling or Bukayo Saka, and maybe even both," the DC United manager added.

    "I think he will leave either Foden or Marcus Rashford out and will be keen to use Sterling because he knows and trusts Raheem more than any of the other wide forwards.

    "Me? I would stick with the side that beat Wales and keep Rashford and Foden. Foden gives you better control and helps you a lot more and you could see Rashford's confidence grow after his goals against the Welsh. Confidence is key with him."

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