Which breakout star will earn the biggest transfer from Euro 2020? The Denmark ace wanted by Barcelona, an Arsenal reject chased by Liverpool and a wing-back with the best individual display so far are all in contention
- Every major international tournament produces at least one breakout star
- Euro 2020 has seen several unknown quantities emerge on the big stage
- Transfer talk has already begun on some of the competition’s best performers
- Sportsmail analyses which players could win a big European move this summer
- Find out the latest Euro 2020 news including fixtures, live action and results here
In every single major international tournament, there’s the ‘breakout star’ – the unknown prodigy who makes a name for himself and earns a big transfer.
James Rodriguez was the man of the moment at the 2014 World Cup, Renato Sanches lit up Europe two years later while Benjamin Pavard was the surprise star of Russia 2018. And who could forget England’s own Wayne Rooney back in 2004?
It remains to be seen who the one player will be forever associated with Euro 2020, but there are already several emerging stars vying for that reputation – and blockbuster move.
With the knockout stages now here, Sportsmail looks at the hitherto relatively unknown players who are most likely to grab a big move after Euro 2020 ends next month.
Everyone remembered Wayne Rooney’s name after he lit up the 2004 European Championship – so who will follow in his footsteps this year and break through into the elite?
MIKKEL DAMSGAARD (Denmark)
Current club: Sampdoria
Clubs linked to: Barcelona, Juventus, Tottenham
Mikkel Damsgaard wasn’t meant to play such an important role in this Denmark squad at Euro 2020
The midfielder was only brought into the Danish starting line-up following Christian Eriksen’s cardiac arrest and shock collapse in the country’s first game of the tournament against Finland.
Mikkel Damsgaard has been linked with a shock move to Barcelona in recent weeks
Since then, Damsgaard has come in and impressed. In Denmark’s second match against Belgium, the 20-year-old was a constant threat on the counter attack and was unlucky to find the net in the first half.
The midfielder made up for that in Denmark’s final group game with Russia in emphatic fashion by scoring a wonder goal from the edge of the area in the 4-1 win which sent them through to the knockouts.
Fans of Serie A will note that Damsgaard has been impressing fans at Sampdoria last season. The 20-year-old was virtually ever present for the Italian side last term, scoring two goals and registering four assists.
Reports in Spain claim Barcelona are interested in the Danish midfielder once Euro 2020 comes to an end, but Sampdoria are reportedly keen to create a bidding war between the Catalans, Juventus and Tottenham.
The 20-year-old hit a stunning goal in Denmark’s 4-1 victory over Russia in the group stages
Sampdoria president Massimo Ferrero revealed this week he has whacked a £27m price tag on Damsgaard following his Denmark heroics, but will increase that fee if he continues to score.
Ferrero told Il Secolo XIX: ‘I’ll tell you it’s a fair price, today at least €30m. But if he scores again he will reach €40m.’
ALEXANDER ISAK (Sweden)
Current club: Real Sociedad
Clubs linked to: Arsenal, Real Madrid
Sweden striker Alexander Isak has already stolen a march in the race to become the Euro 2020 ‘breakout star’ by filling the gap left behind by Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s injury.
Sweden striker Alexander Isak (left) is proving to be a tricky customer for Euro 2020 defenders
The 21-year-old forward ran the Spain defence ragged in the opening match, despite not getting on the scoresheet, before playing a key role in Sweden’s victory over Slovakia.
Isak flicked the ball nicely to Robin Quaison, who earned a penalty from Martin Dubravka which Emil Forsberg slotted away. Throughout the clash with Slovakia, the young striker’s devastating pace and excellent close control was noted by several pundits.
Match of the Day host Gary Lineker tweeted: ‘Don’t think there’s much doubt that Alexander Isak will attract a lot of attention from clubs across Europe. Exceptional talent.’
Isak has a £59m release clause but current club Real Sociedad are looking to extend his contract so the pay-out fee increases to £76m.
Isak has frightening pace along with excellent technical ability, so has many admirers
According to Spanish news outlet AS, Real Madrid are interested in Isak’s services as back-up to Karim Benzema, and Florentino Perez feels a good relationship with his agents – who also represent Luka Modric – will help in negotiations.
Real would be joining long-term admirers Arsenal at the negotiation table. Speaking about the Arsenal links, Micah Richards said he would love to see Isak in the Premier League next season.
He told the BBC after the Slovakia game: ‘He’s got such quick feet for a big man. If there was anyone who was going to make the difference in this game, it was this man.
‘He can do it in the Premier League. I would love to see him in the Premier League, he’s been linked to Arsenal so I might have found a gem there.’
MANUEL LOCATELLI (Italy)
Current club: Sassuolo
Clubs linked to: Juventus, Arsenal, Borussia Dortmund
Italy were concerned when Marco Verratti was injured for their first two Euro 2020 group games, but Manuel Locatelli stepped up to the plate to ease the nerves.
Manuel Locatelli stepped up for Italy when Marco Verratti was struggling with injury
The 23-year-old was named in Roberto Mancini’s starting line-up for the opening matches with Turkey and Switzerland, with the Azzurri coming out 3-0 winners in both ties.
The second game against Switzerland saw Locatelli shine in an Italy shirt for the first time, scoring two expert goals on the break which saw Italy fans compare him to Marco Tardelli with his strike and goal celebration.
The midfielder has just come off the back of a promising season with Sassuolo – who finished eighth in Serie A under Roberto de Zerbi – and his Euro 2020 displays so far have confirmed he is ready for a jump up this summer.
The 23-year-old midfielder scored twice in the 3-0 group stage victory over Switzerland
Juventus are currently the frontrunners for Locatelli and are boosted by the fact that recently-appointed head coach Max Allegri has worked with the player before.
Allegri was the AC Milan manager when Locatelli first started training with the Rossoneri first-team and reports claim the Old Lady are prepared to offer £26m plus teenage defender Radu Dragusin for the midfielder’s services.
But reports in Italy claim Borussia Dortmund and Arsenal have made formal offers to Sassuolo for Locatelli, so this has the potential to be a good transfer saga.
ROBIN GOSENS (Germany)
Current club: Atalanta
Clubs linked to: Barcelona, Inter, Juventus, Chelsea
Germany looked like they could crash out of the group stages when they lost their first Euro 2020 match to France, but Robin Gosens came to the rescue.
Robin Gosens has put in one of the best individual performances at the tournament so far
The left wing-back put in an inspired performance against Portugal in matchday two, playing a part in all four goals during the 4-1 victory, getting on the scoresheet himself and even having a second goal disallowed for offside by VAR.
The 26-year-old’s display was one of the standout performances in the tournament so far, which would have certainly caught several onlooking club sides’ eyes.
Gosens was strongly linked with a move to Chelsea last summer but a move never materialised and the wing-back chose to stay at Atalanta, who had just qualified for the Champions League once again.
The left-sided defender was involved in all four goals in Germany’s 4-2 victory over Portugal
But the German international has come on leaps and bounds since then and is now his national side’s first-choice option on the left-hand side of defence.
According to several reports in Italy, Gosens has been valued between £35m and £40m by his club side, which has alerted the likes of Barcelona, Inter Milan and Juventus.
ATTILA SZALAI (Hungary)
Current club: Fenerbahce
Clubs linked to: Aston Villa, Leicester, West Ham
Hungary so nearly caused one of the biggest upsets in European Championship history by qualifying out of the Group of Death featuring France, Portugal and Germany, only to fall agonisingly short in the final minutes.
Centre-back Attila Szalai impressed in a resolute effort from Hungary in the Group of Death
One of the key attributes of Marco Rossi’s side was their defensive solidity, which kept the all-star attacks at bay for a considerable amount of time. Hungary denied Portugal for 84 minutes before claiming respectable draws with the other two teams.
At the heart of the defence was Attila Szalai, who at 23 years old looks like a real prospect for the future.
The Fenerbahce defender was linked with moves to the Premier League, notably Aston Villa, Leicester City and West Ham, even before the European Championship began, so his group stage displays would have raised interest even further.
The 23-year-old (right) stood firm when put up against world-class attackers in the group
Of course, that means the market price for Szalai will increase as well, with Fenerbahce president Ali Koc claiming talk of a £17m price tag is out of the question.
Koc told Turkish media outlet Hurriyet: ‘For Attila, under €20m [£17m] should not even be talked about.’
DONYELL MALEN (Netherlands)
Current club: PSV Eindhoven
Clubs linked to: Arsenal, Liverpool
Dutch striker Donyell Malen burst onto the scene in Holland’s final group match with North Macedonia, playing a crucial role in two of the goals scored by Frank de Boer’s side.
Donyell Malen (left) impressed during Holland’s 3-0 victory over North Macedonia last week
The 22-year-old was a constant thorn in the Macedonian defence all afternoon, showing multiple turns of pace to launch devastating counter attacks.
He launched the breakaway and put on the assist for Memphis Depay’s opener before showing cute technique to play in the Holland striker, which led to Gini Wijnaldum’s second goal.
On top of that, Malen scored 27 goals and registered 10 assists for PSV last season to make him one of the top young forwards in Europe.
The 22-year-old forward came into the tournament having just scored 27 goals for PSV
The striker was let go by Arsenal at a young age and the Gunners have been linked with a move with a reunion with the Dutch forward.
But reports in Germany claim Liverpool are keen on bringing in Malen as an attacking option next season, with the Reds sporting director Michael Edwards looking to begin talks with PSV.
It remains to be seen whether his glaring miss when through one-on-one with the goalkeeper in the last-16 defeat by the Czech Republic puts off any of those suitors, however.
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