Signing players partly based on their performances at a major tournament is a risky business and for clubs that have taken the plunge down the years it has produced a mixed bag of results.
In 1996, Patrik Berger impressed for Czech Republic, his clever movement helping his nation upset the odds. The winger with a silky touch and silkier hair even scored in the final.
Though hardly an unknown quantity prior to the tournament it was mainly his artful displays that persuaded Liverpool to part with over £3m for his services and ultimately, they were very glad they did. Berger remains a fan favourite to this day.
In that same team Karel Poborsky also stood out, and famously it was his brilliant lob against Portugal that prompted Sir Alex Ferguson to shell out an inflated fee for a player who had been offered to West Ham several months earlier for a fraction of the cost.
Yet it would not be fair to deem Poborsky a failure. He was okay; nothing special. Useful off the bench. Let’s put him down as a middling purchase.
As for the genuine flops though, they probably do outnumber the rest and a prized example of a player who shone bright in the Euro shop window only to be broken when he was taken out of the box is Zlatko Zahovic.
Proving that not every footballer with the initials of ‘ZZ’ is a superstar, the Slovenian midfielder bedazzled in 2000, scoring three times in the group stage and this was enough for Valencia to lure him to La Liga that summer. A year later he was kept out of the first team for his own safety as protests from supporters reached dangerous levels.
So, who is going to be the dud covered in Euro glitter this time out? Almost certainly not the five stars below who have lit up the tournament so far. If Premier League clubs aren’t closely monitoring these Bergers-in-the-making they really are missing a trick.
Manuel Locatelli (Italy)
A stand-out star in a stand-out team, the Sassuolo midfielder was already loudly bleeping on the radars of several leading clubs ahead of Euro 2020, attracted as they were to his neat passing and ability to dictate in the final third.
The 23-year-old has greatly impressed in Emilia-Romagna since joining the Serie A over-achievers in 2018 from AC Milan, but though his skill-set is varied what he doesn’t typically possess in his armoury is goals. Locatelli has scored just eight in 109 appearances in the Italian top flight.
That’s why his brace against Switzerland surprised, capping off an excellent display that has presumably added a few more million to his ever-rising valuation.
Arsenal are reportedly very interested while Manchester City are said to have previously made enquiries, but if the Gunners want to upgrade their creative department they will need to act swiftly. Juventus are firmly in pole position and a move to Turin feels more inevitable with every passing day.
Denzel Dumfries (Netherlands)
The flying Dutchman has tore into Euro 2020, elevating his reputation ten-fold with notable performances in the group stage. The 25-year-old PSV Eindhoven wing-back is surely a shoo-in to make the Team of the Tournament even given the Netherlands’ disappointing exit to the Czech Republic in the last 16.
But like Locatelli, his goal-scoring output in the competition is misleading. Dumfries struck against Ukraine and Austria, but that equaled his entire haul in the Eredivisie last term.
What he does provide however, is attacking endeavour down the right flank and plenty of energy so it makes sense that Everton presently head the queue for his signature with Seamus Coleman deep into his thirties. The Toffees should be mindful however of Bayern Munich who are weighing up entering the fray.
Mykola Matviyenko (Ukraine)
Hands up if you’re a Premier League club in need of a left-footed centre-back who can also play left-back? Okay, steady on, not all at once.
The attributes of the Shakhtar Donetsk defender are in high demand in the modern game and when they are applied so consummately – as we have seen from Matviyenko as his side otherwise flattered to deceive at the Euros – then it’s hardly a shock to see the 25-year-old being linked to a number of sides with genuine aspirations to break into Europe.
Everton, West Ham, Wolves and Leeds are reputedly all interested and with a bargain £20m price-tag attached we can expect others to join the chase.
Alexander Isak (Sweden)
Isak’s credentials to become the next Scandinavian superstar are impeccable.
Seventeen goals in La Liga last season with Real Sociedad earned the Stockholm-born striker a Young Player of the Season merit, while he has even gained the approval of Ibrahimovic who he has long – unfairly – been compared to. “I have seen him in action,” Zlatan has said. “And he is fantastic.”
A different beast to the Swedish legend, the 21-year-old’s game contains pace, trickery and an unerring eye for goal but there is also a work ethic that is admirable. Against Spain in his Euro debut Isak ran his socks off, always providing an outlet and offering some much-needed respite for a beleaguered defence.
— UEFA EURO 2020 (@EURO2020) June 18, 2021
A recently signed £60m buyout clause complicates matters as regards to any big summer move but if he continues in a similar vein in 2021/22 we can anticipate some mega-bids to be made in the not too distant future.
Mikkel Damsgaard (Denmark)
It took just a single goal against Russia for the young winger’s valuation to double to £20m but what a goal it was. With Denmark desperate for a moment of magic their highly-rated 20-year-old curled in a beauty from outside the box and progress to the last 16 was secured. As too was Damsgaard’s reputation.
Sampdoria know they have a rare jewel and won’t relinquish him lightly but as interest from Tottenham and West Ham intensifies, the feeling is that this gifted schemer could be Premier League bound before the new campaign gets underway.
Always a joy to watch, he’d be a welcome addition.