The sports world has been rocked as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, and it was only sensible for UEFA to postpone Euro 2020 for 12 months in the wake of its spread across the globe.
International competition isn’t the brightest of plans in a world of social distancing, but there are players who may not be as upset that this summer’s blockbuster could become ‘Euro 2021’ instead.
It’s a tournament that comes once every four years, and while the reasons for the delay are dire, that doesn’t make it unacceptable for some to feel more positive about their chances in 12 months.
Injuries, lacking form and simply being under-ripe are some of the main—albeit selfish—reasons these players might prefer Europe’s main event takes place a year from now. Here's a look at 15 players that stand to benefit, should they make the most of their opportunities in the coming year.
15. Florian Thauvin
An unheralded member of France’s 2019 World Cup-winning squad given he played just one minute in the tournament, Florian Thauvin has been a victim of circumstance on the international stage.
Reborn at Marseille since returning to the club in 2016 following a failed stint at Newcastle United, Thauvin’s chance of making Euro 2020 looked extremely slim considering his ankle troubles this season.
That being said, he boasts some of the best close control in Europe, not to mention a penchant for the incredible when he fancies:
Thauvin will be 28 when the European Championships finally happen, and depending on his club future at the end of this season, Deschamps could benefit from another weapon worth adding to his riches.
14. Memphis Depay
Memphis Depay had scored 14 goals and recorded two assists in 18 games this term prior to rupturing an anterior cruciate ligament in December.
The Lyon attacker had evolved to become particularly potent in Netherlands colours, scoring or assisting in 20 of his last 26 international appearances, with an impressive statline of 16 goals and 15 assists.
13. Joe Allen
Few players are as crucial to the Welsh cause as Joe Allen, and the Stoke City anchor could regain his place in the squad to have a critical impact on their Euro 2020 hopes.
Midfield looks like probably the most shallow area in Ryan Giggs’ squad, and there’s no understating what value 53-cap Allen—who suffered a ruptured achilles in March—could add next summer.
12. Phil Foden
A David Silva-sized void looks ready-made for Phil Foden to step into next season, and it’s possible the latter is known as a Manchester City regular by the time ‘Euro 2021’ rolls around.
Pep Guardiola has held 19-year-old Foden back from consistent minutes, leading to just three Premier League starts this season before matches were halted earlier this month. When given minutes, the youngster has dazzled, clearly showing he's prepared to step into a larger role in the coming year.
Foden is still yet to make his senior England bow, but the Euro 2020 postponement gives him extra time to earn his way into Southgate’s plans.
11. Eden Hazard
Belgium’s most valuable player hasn’t looked like his old self since joining Real Madrid in a deal worth up to $169.5 million (€150 million) last summer, with much of 2019-20 a write-off for Eden Hazard.
What was supposed to be a dream run-up to Euro 2020 has been disrupted by four separate injuries each averaging almost two months on the sidelines.
Hazard, 29, was expected to be out until May or June following foot surgery in early March, and he now stands a better chance of being ‘happy’ ahead of the tournament, via Football Daily:
He and Real as a collective are hoping for a smoother run next term, while Belgium boss Roberto Martinez will keep fingers crossed his talisman is in prime condition ahead of what could be one of the last chances for this Belgium golden generation to clinch major silverware.
10. Nicolo Zaniolo
The signs suggest Roberto Mancini is a member of the Nicolo Zaniolo fan club, and the Italy chief was likely as disappointed as any following his ACL injury in January.
It’s typical the AS Roma gem scored two goals and grabbed one assist—including his first international goal—in his most recent outing for Italy (a 9-1 hammering of Armenia):
Surely greater tasks are to come, but his first 90-minute display for his country helped illustrate his obvious promise:
Attacking midfielder Zaniolo showed all the grace of a generational player prior to his injury, and his presence with a touch more experience could be transformational for Italy’s prospects.
9. Hannes Wolf
Hannes Wolf sits as a rare example of transfer business not going to plan at RB Leipzig, having struggled to make much of an impact in his maiden season under Julian Nagelsmann.
The 20-year-old broke his leg at the Under-21 European Championships in June 2019, and there were reports of a dispute with Nagelsmann after he failed to figure prominently upon his return:
The right opportunity could see Wolf—who scored 11 goals and recorded 12 assists for Red Bull Salzburg last term—thrive and give Austria a flash new asset in attacking midfield.
8. Harry Kane
There’s no disputing who will lead England’s line when all options are fit, not least because Gareth Southgate promoted Harry Kane to captain in time for the 2018 World Cup.
The Tottenham Hotspur talisman tore his left hamstring in January, and while there’s every indication he could have recovered in time for Euro 2020, he stands a better chance of being at his best for 2021.
Kane, 26, has scored 32 goals in 45 appearances for the Three Lions, and he’ll look forward to a better run-up next year following a tumultuous 2019-20 campaign under two bosses at Spurs.
7. Niklas Süle
There’s a good chance Niklas Süle could have proved his fitness in time for Euro 2020 at its original date, but having 15 months to recover from a serious knee injury sounds far better than three.
The 24-year-old had affirmed his place as the in-form centre-back for Bayern Munich and Germany prior to injury in October, a 6’5” colossus who gives his country precious steel in defence.
Joachim Low has used Süle extensively since the disastrous 2018 World Cup campaign. He has a fine opportunity to build much better momentum heading into next year’s tournament, all the more so if he and Lucas Hernandez can stay fit.
6. Dayot Upamecano
RB Leipzig’s supreme scouting is perhaps best represented in the soaring success of Dayot Upamecano, a 21-year-old purchased in January 2017 for €10 million but who now looks worth almost 10 times that amount.
His age makes him a promising talent, but France under-21 star Upamecano is yet to earn his senior bow and will need time to acclimate once he makes that inevitable step up.
Aymeric Laporte (Manchester City) and Lucas Hernandez (Bayern Munich) deserve honorable mentions after injury-ravaged campaigns, each with the power to boost France’s options significantly.
5. Myron Boadu
The Netherlands are blessed to be ushering through such a talented generation, and AZ Alkmaar attacker Myron Boadu can be at the forefront of that if all goes to plan.
The 19-year-old has already suffered two long-term injuries that kept him sidelined for more than 450 days combined, per Transfermarkt. Boadu has shown admirable grit to come back this season with 20 goals and 13 assists in 39 games before play was suspended.
The Amsterdam native scored on his senior Netherlands debut against Estonia in November—his only senior cap to date—becoming the first player born in the 21st century to net for his country.
Young though he may be, Boadu may stake a claim on a starting place in Ronald Koeman’s attack alongside more senior members.
4. David Brooks
Wales gem David Brooks needs on-field minutes as badly as any included on this list. The Bournemouth midfielder hasn’t played since April 2019 after a breakout campaign with the Cherries was cut short by successive ankle injuries.
Former Wales striker Nathan Blake said the youngster was in the form where he could “maybe join a Chelsea or an Arsenal” prior to his injury, a sign of the respect he commanded despite his age, via BBC Sport.
The winger—now 22 and with 12 caps to his name—could bring some welcome style to a Wales side that needs as much as it can get, relieving some pressure from talisman Gareth Bale. He's on the cusp of returning to training, which should give him plenty of time to get his playing legs under him and improve even further.
3. Leroy Sane
Leroy Sane’s potential is no secret to any football admirer, and Germany could have one of Europe’s best prospects back at his best in a postponed Euro 2020 lineup.
The Manchester City winger has been linked with a move from the Etihad Stadium and may be on Bayern Munich’s books by the time ‘Euro 2021’ arrives. However, Football Espana cited a report by Bild that suggested Real Madrid and Barcelona are also interested, any of whom could help the player reach the peaks of his powers.
The rumours are befitting of a player so special when fully fit, and this season’s absence following a knee injury will go down as one to forget. It's been some time since any of us have seen football action, but Sané's slick highlights feel like years ago in comparison. His impressive work illustrates why he could compete for the tournament's best XI.
2. Marco Asensio
There’s little telling how different Real Madrid’s 2019-20 campaign might have been had Marco Asensio not torn his anterior cruciate ligament in pre-season, ending his 2019-20 before it had even begun.
Concerns are inevitable in regards to whether the 24-year-old—who has 22 caps for Spain—will come back as the same player after of such a long lay-off, but there’s a lot to be said for the character built in such adversity. The winger has taken to Instagram in recent weeks to show solidarity in the age of quarantine, which also surely acted as reassurance of his progress to Real Madrid and Spain fans alike.
What Asensio lacks in consistency he makes up for in game-changing ability, a trait that could make him invaluable for Spain if able to recapture his best for the national team.
1. Houssem Aouar
As if France’s current symphony of talent wasn’t a magnificent enough composition, Houssem Aouar is waiting in the wings ready to step into the midfield rotation when it suits Didier Deschamps.
RMC Sport reported in September that Aouar would have been called up as injury replacement for Pogba were he not injured himself:
The 21-year-old has already made 133 senior appearances for Lyon and was enjoying a productive season before the pause, including a career high of nine goals in his 37 games. Anyone doubting his ability to improve the France squad should brush up on their Ligue Un highlights – and watch the youngster closely when the French league returns.