Connect in the back of the net

Below is the second installment of a Euro 2016 column titled “Footé in France” by O-Posts mainstay and top football writer, Adam Gray.

There is nothing quite like a major international tournament to throw into the limelight a few previously unheard of players for the biggest clubs to excitedly get their wallets out for. The World Cup plays its part but this time it’s the turn of the upcoming Euro 2016 tournament, this summer playing host to the best players on the continent.

Remember Andrei Arshavin becoming Arsenal’s £15 million record signing 5 months after being named in UEFA team of the tournament for Euro 2008, or Barcelona’s Arda Turan, then a product of Galatasaray’s youth system, scoring a couple of vital goals as Turkey made it to the semi-finals in Austria/Switzerland.

More recently there was Mario Mandzukic earning a move to Bayern Munich on the back of scoring three goals at Euro 2012. In 1996, Karel Poborsky and Patrick Berger both earned moves to England after playing in Czech Republic’s march to the final of Euro ’96.

So, who is preparing to add their names to that list of Euro-wonders and take the continent by surprise in the upcoming Euro 2016 tournament before earning a big money move to Tottenham only to fail to live up to the hype and be loaned out a season later?

We’ll take a look, ignoring the likes of Granit Xhaka and Renato Sanches who have already made expensive moves before the rest have had chance to eye them up, at six of them….


Nicolae Stanciu (Romania)

It is just three months since the 23 year old made his debut but Stanciu already has 3 goals from 4 caps. The attacking midfielder has always been regarded as a promising talent despite staying in his home country but has failed to make it into the senior squad due to the existence of Lucian Sanmartean, the Romanian ‘Zinedine Zidane’, who has operated as Romania’s creative hub for so long.

However Sanmartean is now 36 and in need of younger legs as they look to utilise the counter-attack that served them so well in a Euro 2016 qualifying campaign where they conceded just 2 goals, Anghel Iordanescu may hand Stanciu his time to shine.

Stanciu scored 14 goals for Steaua Bucharest this season and the club is preparing for his €20 million release clause to be met this summer with AC Milan having shown an interest.


Aleksandr Golovin (Russia)

Another player who has broken onto the international stage with a couple of goals, the 20 year old Golovin has 2 from 3 caps having marked his debut against Belarus last June with a fine chest and half-volley minutes after coming on as a substitute.

Golovin’s slender and rangy physique make him an imposing force and having started his career playing futsal, his excellent control and neat technique make him a big threat going forward.

Golovin played an important role in the Russia under-17 side that won the European Championships in 2013 and also in the under-19 team that finished runners-up last year. Now he is playing an important role for the senior side and is seen by some as becoming more dynamic on the pitch than captain Roman Shirokov.


Vladimir Darida (Czech Republic)

The energetic Hertha Berlin man runs, runs and runs… averaging over 12km per game in the Bundesliga this season, but he can also play, completing the most passes in his domestic side.

The 25 year old Darida covers the ground between attacking midfield and deeper, and will do the legwork for the aging captain Tomas Rosicky.

If the Czechs are to make it out of a tough Euro 2016 group, Darida will be central to it and he may convince Real Madrid to follow up their interest that was made known in March.


Victor Lindelof (Sweden)

In arguably the toughest group, Sweden’s defence will have to be on top-form and who better to have at the back than Benfica’s “Ice-man”. Lindelof is due to partner Andreas Granqvist in Erik Hamren’s team, which marks an extraordinary rise for the centre-half who was due for a loan move to Middlesbrough in January only to be thrust into Benfica’s first-team thanks to an injury to Lisandro Lopez.

He was a similarly late call-up to the Sweden under-21 side that won last summer’s European Championship and Lindelof was influential in that triumph, making the team of the tournament with a series of typically composed displays.

After three years in Benfica’s reserves he was handed a debut at the end of January and has featured regularly since, starring in his first O Classico (vs Porto) and in the Champions League against Zenit and Bayern Munich.

The 21 year old is unflappable and though he confesses that he likes to get stuck in, he is calm and assured on the ball. His potential will be truly tested by Italy, Belgium and the Republic of Ireland.


Adam Nagy (Hungary)

With Portugal, Austria and Iceland, Group F isn’t the strongest and Hungary will be targeting their way out of it.

Having Nagy on his game will go a long way to helping their cause as he is the midfielder who dictates their rhythm, shutting off opposition spaces from his position in front of the defence and using the ball smartly once he wins it back.

Like Golovin, Nagy’s background comes from Futsal having been written off as a pro-footballer at the age of 12, so the midfielder is quick-footed and able to move the ball quickly.

Now 20, the midfielder’s tactically astute displays have sparked interest from Chelsea and Liverpool after being pivotal to Ferencvaros’ Hungarian league triumph.


Arkadiusz Milik (Poland)

Robert Lewandowski hit 13 goals in qualifying and will be Poland’s main threat in France but Milik was excellent foil for the tall forward, scoring 6 goals of his own including an opener in the 2-0 win over Germany and the equaliser in the home draw with Scotland.

At just under 6ft 3 Milik can be a threat in the air but he is known for a gifted left foot that Dennis Bergkamp has hailed as “unique”. You only have to view his long, curling strike against Georgia in qualifying to find out why.

Dangerous at dropping off the front-line and into the channels, Milik scored 24 goals for Ajax this season and has been attracting interest from Arsenal, Liverpool, Sevilla and Leicester City.

If defences put all their efforts into containing Lewandowski and allow Milik room to work his left-footed magic, or even his ability in the air, then Ajax could be making a sizeable profit on the €2.8 million they got him for.


Written by Adam Gray

Follow Adam on Twitter @AdamGray1250

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