A hectic, congested year of football culminates in the delayed European Championship, which starts on June 11 when Turkey take on Italy in Rome.

Euro 2020, hosted in 11 cities spread across the continent, was meant to be a celebration of the 60th anniversary of UEFA's international tournament. Instead, the coronavirus pandemic derailed the plans, forcing the postponement of the event until 2021.

Though the qualified teams had been readying themselves to play last year, and the pandemic has forced a much-altered football calendar in 2020-21, some countries may have benefitted from the delay.

For others, it may be a case of what might have been. Here, using Opta data, Stats Perform looks at how the main favourites to go all the way have been boosted by the postponement. 

Belgium

Romelu Lukaku – Belgium's record scorer – has built on a brilliant debut season with Inter, going on to help the Nerazzurri claim the Scudetto, with the 28-year-old netting 24 times in Serie A (a tally bettered only by Cristiano Ronaldo), at an average of one goal per 120 minutes, and providing 11 assists in the process.

Another player who has gone from strength to strength in 2020-21 has been Youri Tielemans, who lashed in an exceptional strike to win Leicester City's first FA Cup. The midfielder racked up 4,438 minutes of playing time, the sixth-highest total in Europe's top five leagues, so Roberto Martinez – whose future is uncertain – may have to manage him carefully.

England

Gareth Southgate named a 33-man provisional squad, and while the England boss does have doubts over the fitness of some key stars, he cannot complain at the wealth of talent at his disposal, with several players having come to the fore in the last year.

John Stones is back to his best, and right-backs Kyle Walker and Kieran Trippier have won titles in England and Spain respectively. Ahead of them, Jude Bellingham – who could become the youngest Three Lions player to appear at the Euros – had an outstanding season with Borussia Dortmund, though it is in attack where Southgate really is spoilt for choice.

Harry Kane won the Premier League golden boot and topped the assist charts, while back-up Dominic Calvert-Lewin registered a top-flight goal every 179.63 minutes. Behind them, Phil Foden and Mason Mount are talismanic figures Champions League finalists City and Chelsea, while Jack Grealish created 81 chances – the third highest in the division – for Aston Villa, despite missing 12 games through injury. 

 

France

England's options somewhat pale in comparison to the depth Didier Deschamps has to play with. Eduardo Camavinga looked set to be one of the youngsters to break onto the scene for Les Bleus, but the Rennes teenager has not even made the squad for the rearranged tournament, while Anthony Martial is another big name to miss out.

Kylian Mbappe reached last season's Champions League final and has gone on to score 42 goals in 47 appearances across all competitions this term, averaging a strike every 89 minutes, while Antoine Griezmann is looking sharp.

As if it was not enough, Deschamps has also recalled Karim Benzema, who scored 30 goals in all competitions for Real Madrid to earn his first call up in over five years. In midfield, N'Golo Kante has been spectacular for Champions League winners Chelsea, with only six Premier League midfielders who have attempted over 75 tackles recording a higher success rate than his 53.16.

Germany

Joachim Low has decided to call it quits after the tournament, with Hansi Flick incoming. But surely that will only spur Germany on as they look to end Low's tenure on a high, and he has recalled 2014 World Cup winners Thomas Muller and Mats Hummels to help the cause.

With Timo Werner having struggled to convert chances into goals for Chelsea – scoring 12 times in 52 appearances and registering a shot conversion rate of just 7.59 in the Premier League – Muller, who created the most chances (93) and provided the most assists (18) in the Bundesliga – will share the burden, while Jamal Musiala, Bayern Munich's youngest Champions League goalscorer, is surely one of the youngsters to watch.

 

Italy

After failing to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, Italy were in need of a rebuild, and Roberto Mancini has provided the steady hand required.

Mancini is unbeaten in all 26 games of his Italy tenure, as he closes in on the all-time record of 30 set by Vittorio Pozzo in the 1930, and the Azzurri look well placed to challenge. One question mark could be over goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma, who seems destined for a move to Juventus.

Netherlands

Perhaps no team has undergone more change in the past year than the Netherlands. Ronald Koeman looked set to have a strong side heading into Euro 2020, albeit injuries would have shorn him of Memphis Depay and Donyell Malen.

As luck would have it, both of those attackers will be fit for the Oranje, and come in off the back of strong seasons with Lyon and PSV respectively. But it will not be Koeman who is in charge – he is of course now at the helm at Barcelona, though whether his tenure continues for much longer remains to be seen – with Frank de Boer his replacement.

Portugal

More records tumbled in 2020-21 for Ronaldo, though there is no doubt the 36-year-old's powers are waning slightly with age.

Portugal are, of course, the holders, having seen off France in 2016, but Fernando Santos' squad is arguably much stronger than it was five years ago, with Andre Silva – who finished behind only Robert Lewandowski in the Bundesliga scoring charts this season – providing a focal point up top, while Bruno Fernandes, Diogo Jota and Joao Felix have continued their trajectories of improvement in the last year.

But it is Ruben Dias' form over the last season that may benefit Portugal the most. The centre-back has been imperious for Man City, playing a crucial role in a defence that has conceded just 42 goals in all competitions.

Spain

With Sergio Ramos not judged to be fit, Luis Enrique has picked a relatively inexperienced – at least at international level – defence, with only 24 players named in his squad.

Pau Torres is certainly a player who has improved over the past 12 months. He has just helped Villarreal to a Europa League triumph, with the centre-back, who is sure to be interesting some of Europe's biggest clubs, being the defender with the most games played in the competition without being dribbled past (nine). Spain have also been buoyed by Aymeric Laporte's switch of allegiance from France.

Thiago Alcantara has not always hit his best form at Liverpool, though Spain's midfield is boosted by two title winners in Atletico Madrid duo Koke and Marcos Llorente, who was involved in 23 goals in 2020-21.

Up top, Gerard Moreno netted 30 goals in all competitions for Villarreal – among LaLiga players, only Lionel Messi played a part in more goals.

Roberto Martinez is confident Kevin De Bruyne will be fit enough to join Belgium's squad for Euro 2020, despite the facial injury he sustained in the Champions League final.

De Bruyne left the field in distress during Manchester City's 1-0 defeat to Chelsea in Porto, after taking a knock to the face from Antonio Rudiger.

It was confirmed on Sunday that the 29-year-old had sustained fractures to his nose and eye socket, and that seemed to cast some doubt over his participation in Euro 2020.

De Bruyne was always scheduled to meet up with the Belgium squad later due to his exploits for City, and Martinez is hopeful his star man will have recovered in time.

However, the Belgium coach did urge a cautious approach, with De Bruyne set to be closely monitored in the coming days.

"Kevin had a different programme, he was playing in the Champions League, that meant he had to join us seven days later," Martinez told a news conference.

"At the moment that programme has changed because unfortunately in those seven days he won't be able to rest and be with the family, it's going to be a period we need to monitor and do a lot of extra tests to see what his condition is.

"When I've spoken with Kevin, it has been quite positive as well. We've been very fortunate, Kevin doesn't need surgery. If he needed surgery, I think it would have been very difficult for Kevin to be part of the Euros.

"I think we're feeling the opposite now, because of the way that he's reacted, the treatment, we're feeling confident. We'll get a clear picture over the next seven days. It's one of those situations where we wish Kevin a speedy recovery just for him, but I feel positive he will be able to join us in the near future."

Asked if De Bruyne would be fit for Belgium's first game against Russia on June 12, Martinez replied: "We don't have an answer based on any medical facts.

"We're still assessing the extent of the injury and what is needed. I feel more confident now than I did after the final, that we'd be able to work in a way that we use Kevin in a cautious way, but a healthy way and hopefully we can see him on the pitch, enjoying his football."

After their meeting with Russia, Belgium face Denmark and Finland in their other Group B fixtures. The Red Devils play Greece and Croatia in friendlies on Friday and Monday respectively.

Christian Eriksen was stunned by Antonio Conte leaving Serie A champions Inter and does not know what it means for his own future at the club.

Former Tottenham and Ajax midfielder Eriksen won over Conte to become a regular starter in the second half of the season.

He previously admitted to not understanding Conte's tactical ways, but the Dane became increasingly influential during the Scudetto-winning campaign.

Inter's success meant it was jarring to many that Conte should leave by mutual consent last week following post-season talks with club leaders. Eriksen, currently preparing for Euro 2020 with Denmark, admitted he was among those staggered by the news.

"It was a huge surprise. It is very special when you have just won a championship with the team and the squad. I read about it like everyone else did. And all of a sudden he was gone," Eriksen told TV 2 SPORT.

"I had not seen it coming at all. We knew they were going to have this conversation, but they did too after last season. It came as a real football shock, because one did not have the feeling that he wanted to leave now."

Eriksen, 29, was a popular figure at Tottenham before opting to join Inter in January 2020, with his contract in London close to its end.

He may still have Premier League admirers, and Eriksen wants to know who will replace Conte before he reaches any decision on whether Inter remains the right place for him.

Former Lazio boss Simone Inzaghi appears the front-runner for the post.

"We do not have a coach right now, so what is going to happen, I do not know either," Eriksen said.

"I have no idea if it's good or bad for me. I have not really thought about it. I really just thought that the European Championships should start now. And that's what it's about now.

"Then I have to see if we have got a coach before the European Championships are over. And then you can take it from there. Right now it's about Denmark, and then Inter will be put aside."

In a mostly deep-lying role, Eriksen was not as influential to Inter in an attacking sense as he was during his Spurs career.

During his final full Premier League season at Tottenham, the 2018-19 campaign, Eriksen averaged 0.26 goals per 90 minutes, 0.39 assists and 2.37 chances created.

He managed three goals for Inter in their title-winning effort, at 0.19 per 90 minutes, but did not make a single league assist and created an average of 1.94 chances.

Eriksen said he had Conte to thank for becoming a league champion in Italy, as Inter ended a nine-year run of Serie A triumphs by Juventus.

"We had a professional relationship," he said, looking back at his time with Conte. "I had a good relationship with him. Of course, we probably had some different ideas about how football should be played and delivered.

"But personally there was nothing to put a finger on. It was about winning and that was what we did."

Mats Hummels revealed his exile from the Germany team "felt like a personal defeat" as he vowed to make up for lost time at Euro 2020.

The 70-cap defender was ousted from the national squad after the 2018 World Cup when head coach Joachim Low decided Hummels, Thomas Muller and Jerome Boateng belonged to Germany's past.

Low said the time had come for "a new beginning", but he performed a U-turn this year when asking Hummels and Muller to return to Die Mannschaft.

Now Hummels and Muller, former Bayern Munich team-mates, could have big roles to play in what will be Low's final tournament in charge.

Germany have upcoming friendlies against Denmark and Latvia before they begin their Euro 2020 quest with a titanic group-stage clash against France on June 15 in Munich.

"I want to be fully involved on the sporting side, but also as a man," Hummels said in a news conference. "I hope that I can take the role on the pitch. As a spokesman and leader, especially when things don't go well, I want to lead the way.

"In the last six months there have been phone calls and messages about what we think about it. Ultimately, it only became concrete in the last two weeks before the squad announcement. Jogi [Low] believes that I can give the team a lot for the tournament. I want to."

Speaking about his time in the international wilderness, Hummels said: "It felt like a personal defeat, it hurt. I have always been proud to play for the national team.

"It was my goal to come back. It's an honour to play for Germany. It is a nice confirmation of the work we have done over the past few years.

"It was nice [to return], I saw many familiar faces again. I was a little nervous and excited upon my arrival and felt a certain tingling sensation. I was looking forward to the day."

No defender won more aerial challenges (129) or made more interceptions (73) than Hummels achieved for Borussia Dortmund in the 2020-21 Bundesliga, and nobody scored more than his five goals among players in his position.

He was top 10 among defenders for duels won, clean sheets, tackles, blocks and headed clearances, and Low could not continue to ignore a player with such high numbers.

Hummels won the DFB-Pokal with Dortmund too, while Muller was a driving force behind Bayern's Bundesliga success.

Of all defenders who entered 150-plus duels in the Bundesliga, only Hummels (68.77) and Borussia Monchengladbach's Matthias Ginter (68.22) – another who features in Low's 26-man squad – had a success rate of above 65 per cent.

Opta defines a duel as a "50-50 contest between two players of opposing sides".

Hungary and Portugal also feature in Germany's group, a testing start to the tournament, but Hummels predicted: "If we bring our quality to the pitch, we will prevail in the group."

He also dispelled any suggestion of possible conflict as the old guard, with their leadership qualities, return to join a squad who had been attuned to their absence.

"We won't take anything away from them; we will act together," Hummels said. "It's about having a competitive spirit in training. Muller and I bring that in, but we're not the only ones."

There is the possibility of Hummels being paired with Antonio Rudiger, a Champions League winner with Chelsea, in Germany's backline.

"We have a lot of good central defenders. Toni has shown that he can be outstanding," Hummels said. "You can even use the word 'world-class' with him."

It has been a long time coming but Euro 2020 finally gets under way on June 11.

A year later than scheduled due to the coronavirus pandemic, 24 teams will contest a tournament that will be staged in 11 cities.

Italy and Turkey do battle in the first match at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome, with the final staged at Wembley exactly a month later.

Holders Portugal face strong competition for their crown from the likes of world champions France, Belgium, England and Germany.

Stats Perform picks out some of the standout fixtures from the six groups in a European Championship that promises to be well worth the wait. 

 

Sunday June 13 - England v Croatia: Group D, Wembley (15:00 - all kick-offs shown are Central European Time)

Croatia came from behind to reach their first World Cup final with a 2-1 victory over England after extra time in Moscow three years ago.

Mario Mandzukic's goal proved to be decisive and England will be out for revenge in the first Group D contest.

The two nations have only met once at a European Championship and it was England who came out on top, Wayne Rooney scoring twice in a 4-2 group victory in Lisbon back in 2004. 

England have never won their first match at the Euros, while Croatia have not lost any of their last three opening fixtures in the tournament.

 

Tuesday June 15 - France v Germany: Group F, Allianz Arena (21:00)

Germany and France will meet for the first time in the group stage of either a European Championship or World Cup in Munich.

Joachim Low, who will end his reign as Germany head coach after the tournament, has suffered four defeats at the hands of France during his tenure, winning two and also drawing twice. 

Antoine Griezmann scored both goals in a 2-0 semi-final victory for Les Bleus over Germany in the 2016 Euros.

The world champions are unbeaten in five games against Germany (W3 D2), with the last win for Low's side coming when Mats Hummels scored the only goal in a 2014 World Cup quarter-final in Rio de Janeiro.

 

Friday June 18 - England v Scotland: Group D, Wembley (21:00)

England and Scotland will come to a standstill when the fierce rivals do battle in their second group game.

Scotland face Czech Republic before a highly-charged clash with their neighbours from south of the border 25 years after they met at Wembley in a dramatic Euro 96 group match.

Paul Gascoigne scored a stunning solo goal in a 2-0 victory for Terry Venables' side on that occasion, England's mercurial midfielder leaving Scotland shattered soon after Gary McAllister's penalty was saved by David Seaman.

England are unbeaten in the past four games against their fellow Brits, but needed a stoppage-time goal from Harry Kane to salvage a 2-2 draw the last time they met at Hampden Park in a World Cup qualifier four years ago.

 

Saturday June 19 - Portugal v Germany: Group F, Allianz Arena (18:00)

Germany will have home advantage in all three of their group games and they may have to be at their very best to beat Portugal in Munich.

Cristiano Ronaldo will get yet another opportunity to show he is the man for the big occasion. The Portugal captain has scored nine goals in 21 European Championship games, also providing five assists in the tournament.

History does not bode well for the defending champions, though, as Germany have beaten them four times in a row since Sergio Conceicao scored a hat-trick in a 3-0 win at Euro 2000.

Portugal may be haunted by the return of Thomas Muller, who helped himself to a treble when they last met in a 4-0 rout for Low's side at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

 

Wednesday June 23 - Portugal v France: Group F, Puskas Arena (21:00)

It will come as no surprise that the final match to catch the eye in the group stage is what could be a crucial tussle in Budapest.

While Germany face Hungary in Munich, France and Portugal will lock horns on the last day of group games.

Les Bleus had won all three competitive games against Portugal before they suffered the agony of a defeat in the 2016 European Championship final, which was settled by substitute Eder in extra time.

France have won 18 out of 25 meetings between the two nations, with N'Golo Kante scoring in a 1-0 victory in their last encounter in the Nations League just over six months ago.

Roberto Mancini dropped Moise Kean from his Euro 2020 plans as the Italy head coach trimmed his finals squad to 28 - with two more players poised to be culled.

Ahead of UEFA's deadline of midnight on June 1, Mancini thinned out the large pool of players he selected on May 17 for the international friendly against San Marino.

Italy won that match 7-0 on Friday, and Mancini has been assessing his squad over the last week, with a view to finding the right players for the upcoming tournament.

He settled on 21-year-old striker Kean as one who would miss out, also releasing Cagliari goalkeeper Alessio Cragno, Fiorentina left-back Cristiano Biraghi, Lazio's versatile right-sided player Manuel Lazzari, Fiorentina midfielder Gaetano Castrovilli, Freiburg forward Vincenzo Grifo and Sassuolo frontman Giacomo Raspadori.

Kean loses his place despite scoring 19 goals in 45 games in the season just ended, including two for Everton and 17 in 41 appearances for Paris Saint-Germain, whom he joined on loan in October.

"The choice to reach 26 on the squad list is the most difficult thing for me," Mancini said on Rai 3 on Sunday.

He said the cuts so far had caused him plenty of unease.

"And even more so for the other two I will have to exclude for the final list," Mancini said. "Everyone deserved to be there."

Mancini, who recently signed a contract keeping with the Azzurri until 2026, knows Italy may not be widely considered in the top bracket of likely champions.

"There are national teams who on paper are ahead of us, like France, Portugal, Belgium and England," said the former Inter boss. "But I believe that Italy must go and try to get to the end."

Italy will open their Group A campaign against Turkey in Rome on June 11 before facing Switzerland (June 16) and Wales (June 20).


Italy 28-man squad, to be reduced by two for Euro 2020:

Gianluigi Donnarumma (Milan), Alex Meret (Napoli), Salvatore Sirigu (Torino); Francesco Acerbi (Lazio), Alessandro Bastoni (Inter), Leonardo Bonucci (Juventus), Giorgio Chiellini (Juventus), Giovanni Di Lorenzo (Napoli), Emerson Palmieri (Chelsea), Alessandro Florenzi (Paris Saint-Germain), Gianluca Mancini (Roma), Leonardo Spinazzola (Roma), Rafael Toloi (Atalanta); Nicolo Barella (Inter), Bryan Cristante (Roma), Jorginho (Chelsea), Manuel Locatelli (Sassuolo), Lorenzo Pellegrini (Roma), Matteo Pessina (Atalanta), Stefano Sensi (Inter), Marco Verratti (Paris Saint-Germain); Andrea Belotti (Torino), Domenico Berardi (Sassuolo), Federico Bernardeschi (Juventus), Federico Chiesa (Juventus), Ciro Immobile (Lazio), Lorenzo Insigne (Napoli), Matteo Politano (Napoli).

Gareth Bale wants to inspire another famous Wales tournament odyssey at Euro 2020 before he returns to the Real Madrid ranks next season.

The €100million man played a leading role as Wales reached the semi-finals of the last European Championship in 2016.

Widely unfancied before that tournament, Wales were only denied a place in the final by eventual champions Portugal as Cristiano Ronaldo got one over his then Madrid team-mate Bale.

Now Wales go again on the big stage, with Bale coming off a strong finish to the season on loan at Tottenham.

He finished the campaign with 16 goals and three assists in 34 games, starting just 19 of those matches but showing enough flickers of his best form to suggest there is more to come from the 31-year-old. He far exceeded his expected goals (xG) score of 11.07 and converted 11 of 15 goal opportunities defined by Opta as 'big chances' (73.3 per cent).

Reminded of Wales' stellar run five years ago, Bale said: "We'd love to replicate it, but we're realistic. We know it's a different tournament, playing different teams. We also have a very different team to what we did have.

"So it's going to be difficult going into it against these top nations, but we're confident in our own ability and what we can do on the pitch, and we'll be doing everything we can on and off the pitch to try and make as much a success of it as we can."

Bale became a fringe figure at Madrid under Zinedine Zidane's leadership, but with the Frenchman having left Los Blancos, there is the chance of a fresh start in LaLiga for the winger. The flag he held up bearing the slogan 'Wales. Golf. Madrid. In that order', when Wales qualified for this tournament, caused uproar in Spain, yet a fit Bale could still be an asset to Zidane's successor.

His first season back at Madrid after Euro 2016 proved underwhelming, with Bale hit by injuries and managing just nine goals in 27 games, failing to exceed his expected goals (xG) mark of 9.32, having done so in two of his previous three campaigns at the Santiago Bernabeu.

A significantly better campaign followed – 21 goals from an xG of 15.82, including a double off the bench against Liverpool in the 2018 Champions League final – but Bale was drifting away from being a regular starter.

He will captain Wales in the upcoming finals, with their opening game coming against Switzerland on June 12 in Baku.

Wales then face Turkey, also in Baku, before heading to Rome to tackle Italy.

After a tremendous quarter-final victory over Belgium at Euro 2016, there will be optimism in the Welsh ranks that something special can be achieved again.

This time, unlike in France in 2016, Wales will have to cope without the songs and the support of their fans in the group stage.

The UK government is advising against all but essential travel to Azerbaijan and Italy.

Bale believes the players will have a good idea of the atmosphere back home in Wales, which would be particularly fervent if the team find a winning knack again.

"I think with everything in terms of the media and even speaking to your friends on Whatsapp, you'll get a gist of what's going on back home," Bale said, speaking as Wales finalised their 26-man squad for the tournament.

"We know we'll be supported in large numbers back in Wales and we'll be trying to do everyone proud."

Switzerland stepped up preparations for Euro 2020 by coming from behind to beat the United States 2-1 in St Gallen.

Vladimir Petkovic's men were 1-0 down in just over four and a half minutes as Sebastian Lletget captialised on Switzerland's failure to clear their lines.

His close-range strike made it five goals in his last six USA games for Lletget, but the visitors' joy was short-lived as Ricardo Rodriguez levelled in the 10th minute.

Rodriguez found the net with a deflected drive from the edge of the area following Silvan Widmer's right-wing cross, but the left-back then followed his goal by spurning a gilt-edged chance to complete the turnaround.

The Torino left-back sent a penalty wide of the right-hand post after Sergino Dest was ruled to have handled in the area in the 41st minute.

Rodriguez's blushes were spared after another defensive error from Barcelona player Dest presented substitute Steven Zuber with a simple 63rd-minute chance that did not go begging.

Switzerland, who have won five straight matches, host Liechtenstein on Thursday in their final warm-up game before beginning their Group A campaign against Wales in Baku on June 12.

Karim Benzema lauded the qualities of Zinedine Zidane as a coach and a man after his decision to leave the top job at Real Madrid for a second time.

It was announced on Thursday that Zidane would depart the hot seat at the Santiago Bernabeu after a season in which Madrid failed to win a trophy.

However, Zidane did lead them to the LaLiga title in 2019-20 and Benzema, speaking while on international duty after his surprise recall for France, was full of praise for the 48-year-old.

"He's a very great coach, on a human level, he's the perfect man," he said.

"With me, he's magnificent. I'm disappointed that he is leaving Real, but that's how it is. Life goes on."

Madrid ended the last campaign with an 18-game unbeaten streak (W13 D5) in LaLiga – the longest current undefeated run of any team in the competition, and their best such spell without a loss within the same league campaign since March 2014 under Carlo Ancelotti (W15 D3).

Benzema was involved in 32 goals in LaLiga this season (23 goals and nine assists), representing his best tally in a single campaign in the league after surpassing the 2015-16 term (31 – 24 goals and seven assists).

That form put him back in Didier Deschamps' plans ahead of France's Euro 2020 campaign, which begins against Germany on June 15.

Benzema had been frozen out by Deschamps since 2015 after becoming embroiled in a blackmail scandal involving international team-mate Mathieu Valbuena.

The 33-year-old has denied the claims and is due to stand trial on the charge of complicity in attempted blackmail in October.

He is now ready and raring to go once again on the international stage, where he is particularly looking forward to teaming up with Kylian Mbappe.

Asked how the Paris Saint-Germain striker stacks up against the world's best, Benzema said: "I don't like to compare, but he's a young player, a phenomenon.

"I was able to train with him, we play in one touch, there is movement, he puts a lot of speed, he is skilful. He's a very, very good player. "

Benzema won the most recent of his 81 caps for France against Armenia in October 2015, scoring twice in that 4-0 friendly victory to take his Les Bleus goal tally to 27.

Granit Xhaka is "proud" to hear of interest from new Roma coach Jose Mourinho, but the Arsenal midfielder insists his focus is solely on Euro 2020.

Former Tottenham manager Mourinho was appointed as Paulo Fonseca's replacement at Roma shortly after he was dismissed by Spurs in April, with his contract starting ahead of the 2021-22 campaign.

Yet speculation is already rife that Xhaka, Arsenal's former club captain, is one of Mourinho's priority transfer targets.

Xhaka has spent five seasons at Arsenal since joining from Bundesliga club Borussia Monchengladbach, though the Switzerland international has not always been a popular figure with the club's fanbase.

Nevertheless, he has featured consistently in the first team under Arsene Wenger, Unai Emery and Mikel Arteta, and the 28-year-old – who played more minutes in all competitions last season than any other Arsenal outfield player – still has two years left to run on his contract.

Xhaka is already with the Switzerland squad as they prepare for Euro 2020, and pressed on his future, he told Swiss-German publication Blick: "Of course I read the rumours too. But now I'm one hundred per cent focused on the national team. 

"That's more important than Arsenal or rumours right now. I still have a two-year contract in London, and at Arsenal they know what they have got in me. When the time comes and we can, and may have to talk about a transfer, I'll be there."

Asked to comment on what Mourinho's reported interest means to him, Xhaka added: "Honestly, I didn't hear what Mourinho said, but that makes you proud. 

"Everyone knows Mourinho, knows what he has achieved. Mourinho knows how to win titles. You can now see what work I have done over the past few years."

WHAT COULD XHAKA BRING TO ROMA?

Xhaka scored one goal in 2020-21, providing two assists and creating 20 chances in total, with all of those opportunities coming in open play.

Roma would also benefit from Xhaka's consistent availability. Of Arsenal midfielders, only Bukayo Saka (46) made more appearances than Xhaka in all competitions.

Bryan Cristante (48), Lorenzo Pellegrini, Gonzalo Villar (both 47) and Henrikh Mkhitaryan (46) ranked ahead of Xhaka for appearances in terms of Roma midfielders, but the Swiss started more games than any of them (42).

Xhaka's passing accuracy of 89.89 per cent ranks him third out of Roma and Arsenal midfielders to play at least 10 times across all competitions, with only Mohamed Elneny (92.08) and Martin Odegaard (90.38) bettering his success rate.

It is Xhaka's defensive work that perhaps goes under the radar, especially with his tendency to lunge in recklessly, a trait that has seen him receive three straight red cards in his Arsenal career, but he is far clear in the recoveries rankings, having regained possession 281 times in 2020-21, with Cristante (235) Roma's best player in that regard.

Only Mkhitaryan (75) went in for more tackles than Xhaka (74), though his tackle success rate was down at 50 per cent, lower than 10 other Arsenal or Roma midfielders who have played at least 10 times last term.

Manchester City star Kevin De Bruyne has revealed he suffered a broken nose and a fracture around his eye socket in the clash with Antonio Rudiger that ended his Champions League final outing prematurely. 

The City playmaker collided with Chelsea defender Rudiger in the 56th minute, at which point Pep Guardiola's side had already conceded what proved to be the decisive goal from Kai Havertz in Porto.

De Bruyne's injury led to a lengthy delay as the Belgian received treatment on the field before he was substituted, the 29-year-old clearly in distress.

On Sunday, he tweeted to confirm the details of his injury, though it remains unclear if it will impact on his ability to feature for his country at Euro 2020.

"Hi guys just got back from the hospital. My diagnosis is Acute nose bone fracture and left orbital fracture," he wrote. 

"I feel okay now. Still disappointed about yesterday obviously but we will be back."

Belgium are scheduled to begin their Euros campaign against Russia in St Petersburg on June 12.

Memphis Depay hopes Barcelona keep faith with Ronald Koeman as president Joan Laporta scours for a superior alternative.

It appeared certain, until recent developments, that Depay and former Netherlands boss Koeman would be reunited at Barcelona in the coming weeks, but now it is unclear whether either will start the season with the Catalan giants.

Depay has looked destined to arrive as a free agent after deciding to leave Lyon, while Koeman was chasing a LaLiga and Copa del Rey double until Barcelona's league form deserted them in the closing weeks of the season.

Now Laporta is assessing whether there is a better coaching option available to Barcelona for the new campaign, at the same time as keeping Koeman on in the event he cannot find a more accomplished boss. Reports have even suggested Laporta would like to bring Pep Guardiola back to the club, which on the face of it looks highly unlikely.

Depay says his own prospects of a move to Barcelona do not hinge on Koeman being the man in charge.

"I don't think that matters if a club like Barcelona is interested," said Depay. "It's a fantastic club, but there are more great clubs.

"Regardless of where I go, I would like it if Koeman stays there. For himself anyway."

Laporta indicated on Friday that Barcelona would begin to announce new signings over the coming week, and Depay confirmed in his interview with Dutch broadcaster NOS that "interest is there".

He is with the Netherlands squad that is preparing for Euro 2020, having qualified under the guidance of Koeman before he was tempted away by Barcelona last August.

Frank de Boer now holds Koeman's old job and Depay promised to have "100 per cent focus" on national team duties, with a June 2 warm-up game against Scotland coming up.

Depay scored 22 goals in 40 games across all competitions for Lyon in the season just ended, at an average of one goal every 141.5 minutes, his second best rate since joining the French club in January 2017 from Manchester United.

He massively exceeded his expected goals (xG) tally of 12.38 and also had 12 assists, down on his 2017-18 best of 17 for the club but still immensely useful. Of all players from Ligue 1, only Paris Saint-Germain's Angel Di Maria beat that assists total, setting up 15 goals.

For those reasons, it is easy to see why Koeman would want him, but if a contract is not inked then any incoming Barcelona coach may take a different view.

Only Lionel Messi (38) beat Depay's goals haul in 2020-21 among current Barca players, and only Jordi Alba (13) had more assists.

Going into the Euros, Depay stands to be prominent for the Dutch, who last won the European Championship in 1988, when Ruud Gullit and Marco van Basten, along with the likes of Koeman, made them a devastating side.

Koeman more recently lifted the gloom surrounding the national team, after they shockingly failed to qualify for Euro 2016 and the 2018 World Cup.

"You see, as has already been shown in the past, that the Netherlands can go a long way. We want to do that again," Depay said. "I think this team can do a lot.

"We are finally back and everyone is super happy about that. But now it is time to show why we are there."

Sevilla defender Jules Kounde admitted he could leave the LaLiga side in the off-season amid links with Manchester United.

Kounde has emerged as one of the most sought-after centre-backs in the transfer market after countryman Dayot Upamecano joined Bayern Munich and Ibrahima Konate agreed to swap RB Leipzig for Liverpool.

United have long been linked with a move for Kounde, who helped Sevilla to a fourth-placed finish in LaLiga this term, as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's Premier League giants reportedly eye a new partner for Harry Maguire.

The 22-year-old France international – also a reported target for the likes of Real Madrid, Chelsea and Arsenal – said he wants to win trophies.

"Regarding my future, I may change this summer," Kounde told reporters as France prepare for Wednesday's international friendly against Wales, ahead of the upcoming Euro 2020.

"Nothing is for sure yet, I did not take a final decision.

"Obviously, my goal is to play one day in one of the greatest clubs to keep improving and to win trophies.

"Starting every year the season knowing that the goal is to win this or this trophy. I may move but for now, it is not the case."

United already boast captain Maguire – the most expensive defender in history – Victor Lindelof and Eric Bailly in defence, while Axel Tuanzebe has struggled for regular game time.

When comparing Kounde to Maguire, Lindelof and Bailly across domestic league action in 2020-21, the former ranks first in passing accuracy (90.11 per cent) and clean sheets (15).

Kounde is only second to Maguire in tackles (27 to 29), tackle success (55.6 to 58.6 per cent), interceptions (40 to 60), clearances (100 to 122), recoveries (100 to 122), duel success (60.7 to 65.7 per cent) and aerials won (102 to 135).

Italy started their preparations for Euro 2020 with an emphatic 7-0 friendly win over San Marino at the Sardegna Arena on Friday. 

Despite a slow start, Roberto Mancini's side went in at the interval two goals up courtesy of strikes from Federico Bernardeschi – the Juventus man's sixth international goal – and Gian Marco Ferrari.  

Matteo Politano and Matteo Pessina added braces after the break, while Andrea Belotti was also on target as Italy brushed aside their neighbours with the minimum of fuss.

The result marked the Azzurri's seventh consecutive win without conceding a goal. 

Italy struggled in the early stages against their less illustrious opponents, with only Gianluca Mancini and Bernardeschi registering efforts on target inside the opening half hour. 

They went ahead after 31 minutes, however, when Bernardeschi's low strike from 20 yards proved too powerful for San Marino goalkeeper Elia Benedettini. 

Sassuolo defender Ferrari, who scored on his only other appearance for Italy against San Marino in 2017, doubled their advantage three minutes later, volleying home after Benedettini had failed to clear a corner. 

Half-time substitute Politano wasted little time making his mark on the game, sliding in his third international goal in the 49th minute after a mix-up in the San Marino defence. 

Belotti added a fourth after 67 minutes, the Torino striker latching onto Bernardeschi's pass and firing past Benedettini from eight yards. 

Pessina stroked home a fifth in the 75th minute after Gaetano Castrovilli had struck the post from outside the penalty area, while Politano added his second two minutes later with a fine volley from 12 yards.

Atalanta midfielder Pessina then rounded off the scoring four minutes from full-time with a poked finish from a tight angle.

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