Euro 2012 players to watch

Window shopping

Mark Lomas selects ten players who could find themselves securing a transfer should they impress in the Euro 2012 shop window

Mark Lomas

Lille's Mathieu Debuchy could be on his way out of the Stade Metropole should he deliver for France© PA

Major international tournaments usually provoke strong feelings of trepidation among club managers. Nervously watching on, whether from a Polish or Ukrainian TV studio, or the comfort of their own sofas, bosses the continent over will join together in a universal crossing of fingers this summer. But while the chief source of stress was once fears over players’ fitness, it is now fears over players’ futures that have emerged as an even greater worry. The European Championship, like its counterparts in Africa, Asia and South America, has become one of football’s most public shop windows.

With scouts flocking to Eastern Europe in droves this June, those doing the business on the pitch - and their agents drooling over potential business off it - will be aware that a couple of good displays could secure a lucrative transfer. The theory goes that if a player can perform on a high-pressure platform like the Euros then they will definitely produce the goods on a regular basis at club level. Managers be warned, though, because for every Alan Shearer or Deco there is inevitably a Jordi Cruyff or Roman Pavlyuchenko.

Here, ESPN takes a look at the players who could find themselves moving on to pastures new with a good showing at Euro 2012.

Mathieu Debuchy (Lille, FRANCE)

With Bacary Sagna ruled out of the finals, Debuchy will almost certainly be patrolling Les Bleus’ right flank in his place next month. Boasting plenty of European experience - he has played in the Europa League or Champions League in six of his eight seasons as a pro - it may finally be time for Debuchy to end his long association with Lille. An attack-minded right-back but also defensively uncompromising, former Lille boss Claude Puel once describing him as “a player who puts his head where others wouldn't put their foot”. Newcastle, Bayern Munich, Valencia and Manchester United are among his reported suitors, with a £6.5 million price tag suggested.

James McClean (Sunderland, IRELAND)

An unheralded signing from Derry City last summer, McClean was catapulted from rising star to Sunderland’s creative fulcrum after Martin O’Neill replaced Steve Bruce as the club’s manager in December. The 23-year-old is a tricky winger, who can take players on at pace, and he has given some of the Premier League’s best defenders a torrid time this season. Club boss O’Neill has previously said that Giovanni Trapattoni “couldn't fail to be impressed” with McClean’s performances and despite only making his debut in February, the young midfielder is expected to run Aiden McGeady close for a starting berth for Ireland.

Alan Dzagoev (CSKA Moscow, RUSSIA)

Had Russia reached the 2010 World Cup, Dzaegov may well have already packed up and left his native Moscow, but the national team’s failure was certainly CSKA’s gain. In 2008, aged just 18 years and 116 days, the attacking midfielder became Russia’s youngest ever outfield player and since then he has continued to develop into a key man for club and country. Blessed with vision and guile, he also an admirable work ethic - likely honed from his humble beginnings with second-tier side Krylia Sovetov-SOK - and starred in the Champions League for CSKA in 2011-12. Having held on to him for four years, CSKA may have to accept that Dzaegov‘s future lies away from his homeland, with Chelsea and Real Madrid believed to be waiting in the wings.

Ajax have done well to keep Gregory van der Wiel as he was expected to leave after an impressive 2010 World Cup.© PA

Gregory van der Wiel (Ajax, NETHERLANDS)

Even Ajax must admit it is surprising that Van der Wiel is still at the club. Following an excellent 2010 World Cup campaign with Netherlands, the right-back was seemingly linked with every major club in Europe - including Manchester United, Real Madrid and AC Milan - but a move failed to materialise. Two successive Eredivisie titles have followed with Ajax and Van der Wiel has been integral to the recent resurgence of the Dutch giants. His marauding runs forward and excellent work-rate should make him an attractive proposition for any elite club, and with Netherlands expected to challenge for top honours at Euro 2012, Van der Wiel will have an excellent platform to showcase his abilities again. 

Sebastian Giovinco (Parma, ITALY)

“Whatever happens, Giovinco will be playing for a big team next season.” That may sound like textbook agent speak, but the Italy striker’s representative could well be a busy man over the next couple of months. A fine campaign brought 15 Serie A goals for the diminutive seconda punta (second-striker), and Parma would have been nine points and three league positions worse off without him. At just 5' 4", Giovinco’s low centre of gravity allows him to glide across the turf and his dribbling and speed on the counter could be valuable weapons for the Azzurri, though he may be restricted to making an impression when coming off the bench. While his agent has been working hard to talk up interest from Barcelona and Manchester City, a return to Italian champions Juventus - who still own 50% of his rights - appears more likely.

Miguel Veloso (Genoa, PORTUGAL)

A few eyebrows were raised when, amid reported attention from more illustrious European names, Veloso left Sporting Lisbon for Genoa after the 2010 World Cup. A sub-standard first season ensued but he returned to his industrious best in 2011-12 and was one of the few Rossublu players to emerge with any credit after a disastrous campaign that saw the club narrowly avoid relegation. Veloso’s versatility is a major asset but, while he has previously performed admirably at left-back, his preferred role is as a defensive midfielder. Tough-tackling but also boasting a great eye for a pass and pinpoint set-piece delivery, the Portuguese has been linked with a potential switch to both Inter Milan and Juve, though the latter would depend on Arturo Vidal departing to Real Madrid.

Robert Lewandowski (Borussia Dortmund, POLAND)

The co-hosts’ hopes of progress at Euro 2012 will likely depend on the ability of Lewandowski to replicate his excellent goalscoring form for Dortmund. The powerful forward’s tally of 22 Bundesliga goals helped his side win the German title, and he also bagged a match-winning hat-trick against Bayern Munich to secure a domestic double. Though Dortmund have publicly stated that they will not be selling him, Lewandowski has openly admitted that he is pondering his future at the club and a strong showing in front of partisan crowds at the Euros would likely see some big names come knocking. At 23, his best years are surely still ahead of him, with chief admirers Manchester United and Bayern hoping those years are not at the Westfalenstadion.

Rasmus Elm (AZ, SWEDEN)

An enterprising player who loves to have a pop from distance, Elm’s performances for AZ this season have already had the likes of Liverpool and Newcastle on red alert. The midfield dynamo has scored 30 goals in three years in the Eredivisie, while his delivery from dead-ball situations would be a useful weapon for any team in Europe. Elm has emerged as a regular starter for Sweden in the past couple of years and is doing his best to live up to the hype caused by former national team manager Lars Lagerback claiming he was the best talent to emerge from the country since Zlatan Ibrahimovic when he first moved to AZ.

Michael Krohn-Dehli has been flying under the radar in Denmark for the past four years.© Getty Images

Michael Krohn-Dehli (Brondby, DENMARK)

You may have heard about a Danish Ajax academy graduate who is expected to make a big impression at the Euros. But while Christian Eriksen is prominently predicted to take a major step in what will likely be a glittering career this summer, Brondby midfielder Krohn-Dehli will be looking to earn himself a final crack at the big time. One of the Danes’ best players as they reached the finals, he scored a fine individual effort against Portugal in the last qualifying match to help secure top spot in the group. He has been flying under the continental radar in his homeland since leaving Ajax in 2008 having failed to make the first-team grade and, at 28, will be desperate to capitalise on a rare opportunity to boost his reputation on the European stage. Predominantly right-footed but usually utilised on the left-wing for the Danes, Krohn-Dehli’s jinking runs will help provide the ammunition for Nicklas Bendtner and with Germany, Netherlands and Portugal the group opponents, a move to one of those nations’ more illustrious leagues may beckon.

Andre Schurrle (Bayer Leverkusen, GERMANY)

It’s been a rather frustrating season for Andre Schurrle. The hype machine went into overdrive when Bayer Leverkusen signed this bright young thing from Mainz last summer but he has struggled to settle in his new surrounds and faced some heavy criticism after scoring only one goal in his opening nine league games. However, Schurrle’s raw talent has not disappeared and he began to sparkle again towards the end of the campaign, bursting into life with four goals in his final six games following Robin Dutt’s sacking by Leverkusen. Likely to be used as an impact sub at the Euros along with Mario Gotze but his mesmeric dribbling could lead to some eye-catching cameos and subsequently convince Chelsea - already strongly tipped to make a £15 million offer - to launch an official bid.

© ESPN

To comment, you must be a registered user. Please Sign In or Register