Five to watch at Euro 2012
Even the most optimistic – deluded even – of England fans would have to admit that Uefa Euro 2012™ does not look like a winnable tournament for its depleted, makeshift team. That said, I would argue that the next three weeks will provide proof that English football can dominate Europe at club level for the immediate future.
That proof will not be provided by the English players on show in Poland and Ukraine. On the contrary, many of the country’s finest talents will not even be in action. Rather, this tournament will showcase an array of European players who are either already in the Barclays Premier League or about to join it soon.
The continent’s economic woes have conspired to make England attractive once more to European talent. Add to that the apparent willingness of Manchester United and Chelsea to spend big in their pursuit of champions Manchester City and it looks as if we are in for a bumper crop of signings ahead of season 2012/13.
Chelsea won the Champions League in a year in which the English clubs were supposed to be at their lowest ebb for more than a decade. Imagine if the clubs I listed above, along with Arsenal, substantially boost their playing strength this summer... we can expect serious English representation in the later knockout stages of next season’s premier European club competition.
So, which of the Euro 2012 players are likely to support my theory? Well, obviously there are almost 70 Premier League players on show in the tournament and we can expect the likes of Luka Modric, Rafael van der Vaart, Yohan Cabaye, Hatem Ben Arfa, Luis Nani, David Silva, Samir Nasri, Juan Mata, Fernando Torres and Robin van Persie to remind us (and other English clubs) of their worth. However, it is the potential Premier League stars that are of greater interest to me.
Some, like Germany’s Mario Gotze, have been on the radar for some time now. The Bundesliga title winner with Borussia Dortmund is still only 19 and even if he is not guaranteed a starting place in Jogi Low’s team, he is already a prime target for top English clubs. Expect a lot of transfer buzz about Denmark’s Christian Eriksen too but don’t necessarily expect to see the 20-year-old Ajax talent to be heading for England. He, like Gotze, is a supremely-skilled attacking midfielder but he may find his way to a Continental rather than English giant, having won the Netherlands’ top-flight title two seasons in a row.
My five players to watch at Euro 2012 feature four who have a genuine chance of making a move to England.
Poland’s Robert Lewandoski heads the list. He is another product of a strong Bundesliga, having scored 22 goals for Dortmund last season en route to the title. Powerful, able to hold the ball up as well as score, he is improving all the time and has the look of a player suited to the English game.
Another striker who looks to be well-equipped for life in the Premier League is France’s Olivier Giroud. The Montpellier man has been linked with Arsenal and also QPR and while he may not start ahead of Karim Benzema, he looks likely to be tracked by several scouts over the next month.
Manchester United are said to be tracking a number of players at the tournament, among them Spain’s left-back Jordi Alba. Valencia converted the 22-year-old from a winger into a left-back and may just have created a natural replacement for Patrice Evra. So highly-coveted is Alba, however, that Barcelona may win the race for his signature.
United’s scouts are said to have been paying particular attention to PSV’s powerful midfielder Kevin Strootman, a player whose assets range from a combative tackling game to decent passing and the ability to play box-to-box in the manner of Roy Keane. That’s quite a write-up for a player who probably still has to depose Nigel de Jong in the Dutch midfield. Let’s just see how he goes.
Lastly, let’s look at another player who may be more likely to head for the continent rather than England, should he decide to leave CSKA Moscow. Look out for the creative flair of Russia’s Alan Dzagoev in Group A action as the 21-year-old is always on the ball when playing for CSKA and presumably will be the main man for the Russians as he aims to provide the ammunition for Pavel Pogrebnyak.
So, there you have it. A handful of players I have selected based on club form. International football may prove me wrong but don’t be surprised if one or more make it to England come August and support my theory that Euro 2012’s greatest legacy may well be its impact on English clubs in the Champions League.