5 players whose careers could take off at Euro 2020
These players could become household names this summer if they carry their club form into Euro 2020.
Alexander Isak (Real Sociedad and Sweden)
Until a knee injury ended it, Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s inclusion in the Sweden squad for Euro 2020 was due to be one of the stories of the summer.
But Sweden’s primary goal threat likely wouldn’t have come from their record goalscorer, even if a romantic return to tournament football had materialised.
Instead, the onus would have been on one of Europe’s deadliest young forwards, Alexander Isak of Real Sociedad.
Borussia Dortmund spent €9m on Isak when he was just 17 years old in January 2017, but it’s in La Liga that his game has taken off.
The forward is a true all-rounder, capable of holding the ball up, running in behind and finishing well, all vital components for a Sweden side that will rely on efficiently taking opportunities on the counter-attack during this tournament.
Of all players under 23, only Kylian Mbappe and Erling Haaland scored more goals in Europe’s top five leagues this season, while Isak became the first forward aged 21 or under to bag 17 La Liga goals since Sergio Aguero in 2008/09.
Sasa Kalajdzic (Stuttgart and Austria)
Having won immediate promotion back to the Bundesliga in 2019/20, Stuttgart needed a hero if they were to cement their place in Germany’s top tier.
Up stepped Sasa Kalajdzic, who had signed in the summer of 2019 only to suffer a torn cruciate ligament in pre-season training and make just six appearances in the promotion campaign.
The striker suffered no further ill effects and took to the Bundesliga brilliantly, netting 16 league goals as his side finished in the top half of the division.
Kalajdzic’s USP is his 6ft 7in frame. He ranked fourth for aerial duels won of all Bundesliga strikers last season and, crucially, eight of his goals came via his head.
That physical prowess has already alerted Premier League sides to the 23-year-old, and a strong Euro 2020 campaign with Austria could seal him a major move later in the summer.
He only made his international debut in October 2020, but has already scored three goals, including – you guessed it – a superb header against Scotland at Hampden Park in March.
Jonas Wind (FC Copenhagen and Denmark)
Such is Denmark’s defensive resilience – they have kept nine clean sheets in their last 12 matches, including two against England – that they have emerged as popular dark horses at Euro 2020.
But whether a side that scored just three goals in four matches at the 2018 World Cup can push for the title depends on an improvement in attack.
It’s a good job, then, that the 2020/21 campaign marked the emergence of Jonas Wind, a typical modern forward in the sense that he has the technical ability to hold the ball and link play as well as the pace to stretch high defensive lines.
Wind looks set to ease the goalscoring burden that has long been placed on the shoulders of Christian Eriksen.
The 22-year-old is the only member of this Danish squad to have scored more than seven league goals this season and the only forward to have netted more than six.
If Kasper Hjulmand picks him from the start, he can blow the opposition away.
Roman Yaremchuk (Gent and Ukraine)
Italy, Spain and Germany are among the leading nations at Euro 2020 with question marks over whether their striking options match up to their ambitions, but Ukraine join Sweden and Denmark as outsiders with forwards that they can hang their hat on.
Yaremchuk is yet another example of the modern centre-forward – a striker with the technique to drop deep and link play and the physique to run in behind.
As well as bagging 23 goals for seventh-placed Gent in the Belgian First Division A last season, the 25-year-old completed the fifth-most passes, the sixth-most key passes and registered the second-most assists of any striker in the division.
With Atalanta’s Ruslan Malinovsky, Oleksandr Zinchenko of Man City and West Ham’s Andriy Yarmolenko buzzing around him, his all-round game is vital to Ukraine’s hopes.
His composed finishing may end up grabbing the headlines, though.
Should he carry his domestic form into Euro 2020, he may follow Aleksandar Mitrovic, Victor Osimhen and Jonathan David as players who launched successful careers in Europe’s top five leagues after recent successful campaigns in Belgium.
Yusuf Yazici (Lille and Turkey)
Lille’s stunning Ligue 1 title victory does no harm to Turkey, who are reliant on their core of newly-crowned French champions taking their form into Euro 2020.
Zeki Celik will line up at right-back, while 35-year-old striker Burak Yilmaz is the biggest name of the contingent. The Turkey skipper bagged 16 goals in Ligue 1 last season and is a talisman for both club and country.
Attacking midfielder Yusuf Yazici might be going under the radar, though, despite also producing a stellar campaign in France.
He was one of just five Ligue 1 players to produce both an xG per 90 minutes of 0.4 and an xA per 90 minutes of 0.3 – the other four were Memphis Depay, Neymar, Pablo Sarabia and Islam Slimani – while he also ranked fourth for goal contributions per minute across the division.
Turkey have scored 26 goals in their last 10 matches, including three against Germany and Croatia and four against the Netherlands.
Should they continue to entertain us this summer, then Yazici is going to become a popular player.
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