Are you having withdrawal from “the beautiful game”? Do you miss your favorite team going up 1-0 only to inevitably concede towards the end of the game? Well, lucky for you, the 2020 Euros will be commencing on Friday afternoon. Originally supposed to be played last summer, the 2020 Euros were moved to the year of 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
With the 2020 tournament now taking place in the year of 2021, many professional footballers will once again not have any time off in the summer. Last year at this time, players were finishing the end of the 2019-20 season as part of ‘project restart’. This season, it’s the Euros. And in the winter of 2022, the World Cup will begin. This three-year stretch is truly daunting and will certainly have serious implications over the health of the players involved.
Taking a look at Tottenham Hotspur, there may not have been a player in all of club football that played more minutes this past season than Pierre-Emile Højbjerg. One of the only outfield players who played every minute of the 2020-21 Premier League season, Højbjerg also competed in nearly all of Tottenham’s domestic and European tournament games. As he will seemingly start in midfield for Denmark in the Euros and in next year’s World Cup, it will truly be a test unlike any other in his young career.
Yesterday, news broke that Spurs seemingly found their new manager in Paulo Fonseca. The news definitely ruffled some feathers, but the reality is that Spurs had brought in Fabio Paratici to be the Director of Football, which gave him license to oversee everything on the footballing side of the club. From being linked to the likes of Antonio Conte and Mauricio Pochettino, Fonseca may be seen as somewhat of a downgrade. However, this manager was the choice of Paratici. Whether or not it will be the right appointment is up in the air, but Spurs seem to be committed to giving Paratici the keys to this side of the club and that is evident by his choice of manager.
Now with a coach and an individual in charge of this department of the club, the duo of Fonseca and Paratici will have to get to work right away. With the Euros starting tomorrow, it provides a great opportunity to oversee some talent and ideas that could be added and implemented into the team.
In the Euros, there will be many players who break out and make a name for themselves. Away from their individual clubs, players will have the ability to express themselves in different roles and in a variety of formations. Let’s take a look at a few players Spurs should be monitoring closely in the next couple of weeks.
Mikkel Damsgaard, LW/CAM/CM, Denmark
A 20-year-old Dane who came to Sampdoria with big expectations in 2020, Damsgaard was overall a bit underwhelming in his debut season in Italy. Still, Damsgaard has serious ability, possessing a knack for flair and the ability to operate in a variety of different positions. Spurs have been linked with him before and he fits in the profile of a young and attacking-filled background that should attract the north London outfit.
Sampdoria has had a ton of success in the past few years at uncovering serious talent as cheaper costs. In fact, prior to his time at Juventus, Paratici spent time as Sampdoria’s Head of Scouting underneath CEO Giuseppe Marotta. The duo moved to Juventus thereafter in similar roles.
While Damsgaard came over to Sampdoria after Paratici left the club, he is a creative player who gives a club somewhat of a unique chess piece. He can play out wide and he has the ability to play as a number eight or a number ten. There are some shades of Christian Eriksen here.
Dominik Livaković, GK, Croatia
Does the name ring a bell? If it does, it is because Livaković is the starting keeper for none other than infamous Dinamo Zagreb. Looking back at that Europa League game in March, Spurs really needed just one away goal to put the tie away. While there were a bevy of chances missed by Spurs, Livaković was extremely impressive.
Regardless of whether Hugo Lloris stays with the club this summer, Spurs should seriously consider bringing in a quality backup option. Joe Hart was brought in under José Mourinho in large part due to him filling the homegrown player criteria as well as having a winning background. However, Hart looked off the pace when he was called upon in net for Spurs.
At 26 years old, Livaković will likely be Croatia’s first-choice keeper with veteran Danijel Subašić no longer in the squad. Livaković quietly was one of the better keepers in the European competitions last season. He is extremely athletic, displays good instincts and did so behind a back-line that did not have the talent to match up against many of the clubs they encountered in Europe. With Croatia, playing with much better talent, Livaković will surely gain some more attention.
Saša Kalajdžić, ST, Austria
The tallest player in the Bundesliga this past season, Kalajdžić became a household name once Stuttgart came back up and exceeded expectations by finishing ninth in the league. At 6’7” without the most powerful build, Kalajdžić looks a bit awkward out there, but he has a knack for finding space in defenses and is comfortable using both of his feet. Think “Austrian Peter Crouch.”
Due to this height, Kalajdžić is extremely comfortable in the air. He is also a good passer of the ball. He will certainly need to add more weight to improve his physical presence, but Kalajdžić has a lot of intangibles that, if he continues to round out other areas in his game, could warrant a bigger club to come in for him.
Merih Demiral, CB, Turkey
Demiral will be linked with Spurs all summer due to Paratici being close to the Turkish international during their time together at Juventus. The Turks will be a popular dark-horse choice to make a run in this year’s Euros. Perhaps one of the main reasons for that is their centerback partnership of Demiral and Leicester’s Çağlar Söyüncü.
At 23 years old, Demiral is an imposing presence at 6’3”, 190 pounds. Unfortunately, an ACL injury kept Demiral from playing in a consistent role over the past two seasons in Turin and there has been chatter that perhaps a transfer away would be wise for both parties. Tottenham will surely address the centerback position this summer and Demiral makes a ton of sense. He has played in a back three as well as a back-four and has the athleticism to venture forward and play in a high-line.
Dejan Kulusevski, RW/CM, Sweden
Another Juventus option, Kulusevski has become one of the more well-known attacking forwards in Italy over the past couple of seasons. When Atalanta had loaned Kulusevski to Parma, it gave him the ability to get a consistent stretch of games and the Swedish international took full advantage of it.
Similar to Damsgaard above, Kulusevki can also play a few different roles. Not only is he tall and strong, but Kulusevski is extremely quick. He is a quality passer of the ball and has serious potential to continue to grow and develop at just 21 years of age.
A short time ago, Spurs had so much capital invested in wingers. However, with the future of Gareth Bale up in the air, Erik Lamela and Lucas Moura possibly leaving the club, Spurs could benefit by addressing this position to give a consistent threat across the pitch from Son Heung-min. Still young and improving, Kulusevski fits the profile. Add in the history with Paratici and a move for the Swede makes too much sense for Spurs.
Additional players to watch:
- Marcel Sabitzer, CAM/CM, Austria: A player who has been linked with Spurs for quite some time, Sabitzer has just one more year on his deal. That said and with coach Julian Nagelsmann moving to Bayern Munich, Sabitzer should be available and he could be had at a cheaper cost.
- Adam Hložek, ST, Czech Republic: For the FIFA 21 players here, Hložek is certainly a popular name for those that like to bolster a lesser-known squad with youth wonderkids. In a Czech side with some talent, Hložek could become a name to watch in the Euros. Sparta Prague is excellent at developing talent and Hložek is the next big thing out of their foundation.
- Kacper Kozłowski, CM, Poland: At 17 years of age, the inclusion of Kozłowski in the Polish squad points to this player being ready for big things. Despite his age, he plays with excellent technique. He is a natural number eight who displays box-to-box attributes.
- Alexander Isak, ST, Sweden: Many seem to be bullish on Isak, comparing him to fellow compatriot Zlatan Ibrahimović. That comparison may not be fair, but Isak has a powerful frame at 6’4” at just 21 years of age. Sweden’s improvement as a European side has gone a bit under the radar in recent seasons and Isak should be able to make a splash as the main number nine in this side.
- Orkun Kökçü, CM, Turkey: If you are noticing a theme, yes I have high aspirations for Turkey in this tournament. The talent is all over the place and it seems that many are not receiving the attention they deserve. Fellow compatriot and midfielder Cengiz Ünder has received most of the attention in the middle of the pitch, but Feyenoord’s Kökçü is on the cusp of stardom. At just 20 years of age, he was one of the best players in the Eredivisie this past season. An energetic midfielder who projects best up the pitch, Kökçü will surely gain more attention this Euros.