5 players whose careers took off at Euro 2020
From Italy's flying full-back to Spain's next great metronomic midfielder, these players became household names during the tournament.
Leonardo Spinazzola (Italy)
Spinazzola’s class was not in doubt coming into this competition after two fine seasons for Roma, but he leaves it with household status across Europe confirmed.
Such was the mark that he put on Euro 2020 that his tournament-ending achilles injury, which will also keep him out for much of next season, prompted an outpouring of sympathy and disappointment from fans from across the continent.
The left-back established himself as a favourite on the first night, romping up and down the left-hand side and registering an assist as Italy hammered Turkey 3-0.
The first impression is the deepest, but it is a compliment to his consistency that a defence featuring Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini has suddenly looked fallible in his absence.
Joakim Maehle (Denmark)
Denmark were popular dark horses before the tournament begun, but that was because of Kasper Schmeichel in goal, Simon Kjaer and Andreas Christensen at the back, Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and Christian Eriksen in midfield, and Martin Braithwaite in attack.
Though several of those players impressed, and Eriksen was sadly denied the chance to do so, it is arguably two relative unknowns who have the most credit in the bank after their run to the semi-finals.
Mikkel Damsgaard capped his impressive tournament by scoring the only direct free-kick of the competition against England in the semis, and he is unlucky not to make this list, but Joakim Maehle has been revelatory.
Though he struggled against Bukayo Saka and Raheem Sterling, the right-footed Maehle has been playing on his wrong side and has lit up the Euros by cutting inside and scoring twice, as well as producing a special assist for Kasper Dolberg against Czech Republic in the last eight.
Barcelona may be self-combusting as a football club, but – assuming they don’t do something wild – they have at least produced a midfield player that they can probably rely on for the next 15 years.
Pedri was already starring at club level before this competition, but his performances throughout – culminating in a virtuoso performance against Italy in the semi-finals – have ensured that he will be listed among the best midfielders in the world for years to come.
The 18-year-old has all the hallmarks of the great La Masia midfield products that have gone before him, with his metronomic passing, in terms of both accuracy and penetration, particularly reminiscent of Xavi.
No midfielder has completed more passes at Euro 2020 than Pedri, who failed to mislay a single one in that clash against Italy at Wembley.
Kalvin Phillips (England)
Most England fans would have chosen to field Jude Bellingham, or even Jack Grealish or Phil Foden, alongside Declan Rice and Mason Mount in midfield before this tournament began.
Now, such is the impact that Phillips has made, that it’s impossible to imagine him not playing a central role for the Three Lions for years to come.
The fear was that a Phillips and Rice combination was too negative, but the Leeds man has shown his versatility, darting forward to support the attack regularly and snapping at the heels of the opposition when they have possession in their own third.
A standout display, featuring an assist for Raheem Sterling’s winner, against Croatia was the springboard for the Yorkshire Pirlo, but his fitness and football intelligence means he has had as much of a say at the end of the tournament as he did at the beginning.
Emil Forsberg (Sweden)
Sweden probably deserved more from this tournament.
Their last-16 exit to Ukraine can largely be attributed to a debatable red card and the inevitable fatigue that it caused as extra time went on, yet they are probably a better team than Andriy Shevchenko’s side, and Forsberg is one of the reasons why.
The RB Leipzig midfielder is hardly an unknown quantity, having racked up over 200 appearances in six seasons for the German side, but nobody could have anticipated the impact that he had in front of goal.
The 29-year-old had nine goals from 58 caps heading into the Euros, but ranked fourth for shots per game and netted four times despite the Swedes’ premature exit.
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