Major international tournaments usually see some players emerge who go on to earn themselves a big move with their performances. But basing your summer transfer business on a few good games can be dangerous — as Manchester United’s move for Czech star Karel Poborsky after Euro ’96 or Real Madrid’s signing of Colombia midfielder James Rodriguez for €75 million after the 2014 World Cup shows.
Euro 2020 has seen plenty of talent on show, but which in-form players could be considered a safe signing for clubs this summer?
Mikkel Damsgaard, Winger, (Sampdoria, Denmark)
To those who haven’t been watching Serie A very closely, Damsgaard might be relatively unknown. But the technically gifted midfielder has been scouted by plenty of top European clubs following an excellent debut season in Italy. Good on the ball, quick and nimble, comfortable with both feet and able to score from distance — as proven with that spectacular free kick for Denmark in the semifinal against England — Damsgaard often makes things happen in the final third with incisive dribbles or a creative pass.
Though mostly fielded in a wide left role by Claudio Ranieri at Sampdoria, Damsgaard, 21, is also at home playing as an attack-minded “No. 8” in central midfield. Sampdoria president Massimo Ferrero has reiterated that Damsgaard will not be leaving the club this summer, though that might change if offers come in around €30m.
Alexander Isak, Striker, (Real Sociedad, Sweden)
Despite not getting on the scoresheet at the tournament, the centre-forward showed a mature all-round game that has been less evident at club level for Real Sociedad. Mainly a goal poacher (he has scored 33 goals in 89 games over the past two seasons) who likes to play on the shoulder of the defenders in La Liga, for Sweden he tracked back, dribbled well on the counterattack and displayed an effective hold-up game.
Having broken through as a 16-year-old at AIK, where he then earned a move to Dortmund in 2017, Isak has long been on the radar of top European clubs. Though he struggled to assert himself in the Bundesliga, his new-found ability to impose himself on big games will surely attract attention again. Isak, 21, penned a new five-year deal with Sociedad right after Sweden’s tournament exit, while also reportedly raising his release clause from €70m to €90m.
Patrik Schick, Striker, (Bayer Leverkusen, Czech Republic)
For years, scouts have been waiting for this immensely talented centre-forward to kick on to the next level. After the early promise he showed in breaking through as a teenager at Sampdoria in 2016, Schick had an unconvincing spell of eight goals in 58 games following a €14m transfer to Roma. He got back on track in the Bundesliga with a loan to RB Leipzig that eventually earned him a €26.5m move to Bayer Leverkusen in September 2020.
At Euro 2020, Schick showed why he’s so highly rated for his finishing skills. Against Scotland he opened his account for Czech Republic with a brilliant header (while being marked by two opponents), before he went on to score a candidate for Goal of the Tournament with an effort from the halfway line. He bagged another against Croatia and in the knockout rounds his opportunistic goal helped to dump out Netherlands. Denmark proved too good in the quarterfinals, but he still volleyed in a consolation, courtesy of his weaker foot, to level Cristiano Ronaldo on five goals in the Golden Boot standings (though Ronaldo’s assist would see him win it).
He is pretty much the complete centre-forward and could be in contention for the Bundesliga top scorer title if his form continues next season. Who would bet against Schick, 25, to eventually replace Robert Lewandowski at Bayern Munich?
Joakim Maehle, Wing-Back, (Atalanta, Denmark)
One of the revelations of the tournament, the Danish wing-back has proved why Atalanta paid €12m to sign him from Genk in January and why several other top clubs from Italy, France and Germany are clearly regretting that they didn’t try harder to land him themselves.
Maehle had already outgrown the Belgian league after three-and-a-half seasons of ever-improving displays. While previously attracting most praise for his solid all-round game, it was his two fine goals, progressive ball carrying, one-on-one skills and ability to deliver a delightful cross — all from an unusual left wing-back position — that got people talking during Denmark’s amazing run to the semifinals. He faces stiff competition at Atalanta for both wing-back slots — with Hans Hateboer and Robin Gosens impressing — but despite interest from several top sides, it’ll take a fee in the region of €50m for the Italians to consider letting him go.
Dani Olmo (RB Leipzig, Spain)
In a Spain side that relies more on individual brilliance in attack than the previous collective-driven units, Olmo, 23, was the country’s most persistent threat this summer. Not only did he provide two excellent crosses in their epic extra-time win against Croatia, he was key as a “false 9” before the introduction of Alvaro Morata in their penalty shootout defeat against Italy in the semifinal. With his change of pace, direct running — on and off the ball — and an almost-excessive eagerness to shoot from in and around the penalty area, it was hard to stop Olmo through legitimate means.
As a Barcelona youth graduate, his skill on the ball is never in doubt. He showed admirable spirit to move to Croatian side Dinamo Zagreb aged 16 to kickstart his career. Now, after a €30m move to Leipzig in 2020, he is starting to show just what a fine player he is. The consistency and sharpness of his performances for Spain — playing on either side of the attack or as a roaming striker — provides further proof that he’s up for even greater challenges and, with a reported €75m release clause in his contract, he is likely to be heavily scouted by the elite European clubs.
Renato Sanches, Central Midfield, (Lille, Portugal)
Sanches has spent the past few years in the wilderness trying to rediscover the form that won him an €80m move to Bayern Munich from Benfica after his stellar performances for Portugal at Euro 2016, aged 18. The Golden Boy award winner five years ago, he has struggled to hit those heights again, and even went on loan to Swansea in 2017-18, but has now found a new lease of life at Lille.
Playing a role in Lille’s surprising Ligue 1 title win this season, Sanches has grown into a more patient and measured central midfielder. Now often deployed in a deeper role than in his early days, Sanches impressed at Euro 2020 with his vision, composure on the ball and line-splitting passes — while he was still able to set off on a few trademark attacking runs from midfield. Only 23 years old, top clubs would be safe in the knowledge that with his class, experience (yes, experience) and intelligence, Sanches belongs on the biggest stage in European football.
Xaver Schlager, Defensive Midfield, (Wolfsburg, Austria)
Schlager, 23, was one of the best players in a bright Austria side that just failed to make it past Italy in the round of 16. Full of confidence after an impressive season with Wolfsburg, Schlager tackled, recovered the ball and distributed it in a simple, composed manner.
While most of the pre-tournament talk had been directed toward creative midfielder Marcel Sabitzer, the defensive midfield pairing of Schlager and Konrad Laimer was impressive in its own right. Both pressed, hassled opponents and made things tough in the central areas, even against a wonderful Italian midfield. It was their efforts in midfield that allowed the Austria forwards to perform their pressing duties high up the pitch, and Schlager’s profile has risen considerably as clubs look for a solid anchorman to build around.
Roman Yaremchuk, Striker, (Gent, Ukraine)
Following a season of 23 goals in 43 games in Belgian football, the 6-foot-3 centre-forward was one of the players most scouts wanted to see during Euro 2020. He impressed with a couple of well-taken goals and a respectable showing throughout. Very much in the same vein as at club level, Yaremchuk, 25, displayed his clever off-the-ball movement and physical strength, as well as the ability to finish from a variety of positions.
Add to that a stunning right-footed shot, a fine hold-up game and decent pace, and Yaremchuk could emerge as a credible candidate for a club in a top European league this summer, with West Ham repeatedly linked with him.
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