UEFA Euro 2020’s group stages offered a brief glimpse of some very intriguing talents.
The extravaganza of international European football is about to enter the business end of things. Some very good teams and players have been unlucky in being unable to make the round of 16 clashes which have so far provided us with much entertainment and drama.
Tournament football like this is always an interesting opportunity for fans and viewers alike to be to introduced to new faces and talents. Euro 2020 was no different.
The group stages offered some enthralling games, excellent defensive performances and end-to-end goalmouth action.
FTF looks at five players who have enhanced their transfer value ahead of this summer transfer window.
Now in his third season in the Bundesliga, Roland Sallai has become a more central figure in Christian Streich’s team.
The Hungarian is versatile and well-capable of starting out wide or up front as a striker. Both of those roles he has performed for SC Freiburg this season.
According to figures from Statsbomb via Football Reference, Sallai accumulated a non-penalty expected goals tally of 6.1. The actual goal tally of 7 from open-play wasn’t too far off from those numbers.
This suggests that the Hungarian has not grossly over-performed, and has converted his chances for the most part. Here’s a brief look at his shot map for the season –
Whilst this may not be an overly exciting figure for an attacker, there is more to Sallai’s skillset than goals.
Sallai’s movement from out to in causes opposition fullbacks many problems. On top of that, his direct style of running is another facet of his play that defences have to keep an eye out for.
Against teams that play a high-line, Sallai is able to exploit space in behind with his darting runs. He is well capable of holding width and waiting for a target man to enter the box or carry the ball towards the opposition goal himself.
At Euro 2020, alongside the experienced Ádám Szalai, Sallai was crucial for Hungary to progress the ball upfield and threaten their opponents.
Crucial for Hungary
Even though their journey at Euro 2020 ended only at the group stages, the Hungarians can leave with their heads held high.
For Sallai, he ended his group stages with two assists for two very important goals.
Firstly, a cross from the right close to the touchline, to find the head of Szalai who gave Hungary the lead against Germany. A brilliant diving header from the captain himself and an equally brilliant cross to find him, from Sallai.
The second assist was once again for an opener. Against France. it was an important flick-on into the path of Attila Fiola, Hungary’s left wing-back who calmly finished past Hugo Lloris. Pandemonium in Budapest.
Some of his numbers from Euro 2020 have been excellent.
According to data from The Analyst, Sallai had the most shot-ending carries of any Hungary player at the tournament(5). He also had the most involvements in shot-ending sequences(10), further underlining his importance to the team’s offense.
His versatility to play across the front line makes him a very useful asset for any team in the Bundesliga and beyond. At 24, he is starting to enter his peak years and if he carries his Euros form into the 21/22 Bundesliga season, the suitors may soon come asking after him.
Currently priced at £11.70m according to Transfermarkt, he certainly presents himself as a bargain to be had.
Sallai’s team-mate in the Hungary camp, Attila Szalai is our next pick. Earlier this year in January, the Hungarian made the jump from Apollon Limassol to Fenerbahce. He hasn’t looked back since.
The imposing central defender has been hugely impressive at the back for the Yellow Canaries in his half-a-season spell. And already, there are suitors lined up for him from across Europe’s top five leagues.
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But in reality, Szalai’s step-up has been in the making for a long time.
The transition of playing from a back three to a regular back two is a daunting task for most defenders, at any level. However, Szalai has dealt with the switch very well. At Fenerbahce, he’s tasked with progressing the ball from the back and is comfortable playing on the front foot.
The 23-year-old has been called the Hungarian Van Dijk in the past. And though he may not quite be at the level of the Liverpool center-half, there are certainly some notable similarities.
Szalai uses his long-range of passing to add verticality to his team’s ball progression. He is also comfortable at switching the play from left to the right channel when given the opportunity.
Left-footed center-backs are something of a delicacy at the moment. Which makes Szalai all the more desirable as a defender.
Szalai’s numbers underline his strength in ball progression and winning his defensive duels as well.
Although he doesn’t engage in as many defensive duels as his positional peers, Szalai still stands out nicely.
Another underrated aspect of his skillset is his recovery pace. Szalai is usually able to recover the ball even if a runner gets past him at the first time of asking. We saw this on multiple occasions at Euro 2020.
Ball progression a big strength of Szalai’s
As suggested earlier, one of the big weapons in Szalai’s arsenal is ball progression. When compared to other U23 CBs in the league, the Hungarian stands out once again.
Attempting about 11 progressive passes with nearly 78% accuracy per90, Szalai’s left foot can work wonders.
It is therefore no wonder that his valuation has risen quite a bit. Nearly doubling now in June(£6.30m) as compared to March when his valuation on Transfermarkt was £3.33m.
Any teams looking to bring in will likely be asked to pay a sizeable fee as his current contracts lasts up to 2021.
Clubs from the Premier League including Aston Villa and West Ham United are reportedly keeping an eye on Szalai who may not be around in Turkey much longer after all. His displays at Euro 2020 have only further strengthened the motivation of teams willing to sign him.
Finland’s Glen Kamara enjoyed a highly successful year with Rangers in the Scottish Premiership. Under the stewardship of Liverpool legend Steven Gerrard, the club returned to the top of the league and won the Premiership in 20/21.
The historic title victory was earned due to fantastic seasons from many of the players, one of whom was Kamara.
The all-action Finnish international was a key cog in their first ever appearance at a major tournament.
Not only was Kamara a busy presence in the middle of the park with his defensive work. He was also contributing to Finland’s attack.
According to data from The Analyst, Kamara was involved in 10 shot-ending sequences. Which is the most amongst the Finnish players at Euro 2020.
Active at both ends
This just goes on to show that he was involved at both ends of the pitch. In helping the team recover the ball in the middle of the park and then also help them create meaningful chances.
Further, he also made 14 ball-recoveries. Though his defensive numbers may not be the best reflection on his talents after a handful of games.
At Rangers, Kamara’s numbers are not only a positive in a defensive sense, he is also a high volume ball progressor.
As evidenced by the graph above, Kamara is able to progress the ball with his runs as well as his passing. Attempting about 10 progressive passes per90 with a success rate of 85%.
Alongside the experienced Steven Davis at Rangers, Kamara has done exceptionally well. Improving on a number of facets of his over-all play, which has contributed to a good season for him.
The Finnish international’s performances in midfield have seen his stock rise in the past year. Everton and West Ham are reportedly interested in the Rangers midfielder and may have to pay upwards of £20million.
Steven Gerrard’s resolve to keep his star midfielder may yet be tested this summer.
North Macedonia’s appearance at Euro 2020 may not have yielded any points, but it was a historic achievement nonetheless. Given that Euro 2020 is their first appearance at a major tournament, this is only a glimpse of things to come from this young side.
Goran Pandev’s international retirement was an emotional moment for North Macedonian supporters and neutrals alike. However, Igor Angelovski and his staff can rest assured about the future with the likes of Enis Bardhi around.
Now 25, Bardhi is close to entering his peak years as a player. Coming into Euro 2020, he was sidelined due to testing positive for COVID. However, he was able to return in time to make the starting XI.
In a season that has seen his game time and output affected by injuries, Bardhi’s display at the Euros was vital for North Macedonia, to say the least.
Playing in an advanced midfield role behind Eljif Elmas and Pandev, Bardhi excelled. The Levante man is very skilled on the ball and has technical quality in his passing of the highest order.
North Macedonia’s creative spark
Playing in-between opposition lines and picking passes to unlock defenses, is what Bardhi is best at. His versatility allows him to operate as an advanced playmaker, a deep-lying playmaker, or even play out wide. He is comfortably adept at playing any of the three roles.
Bardhi’s numbers at Euro 2020 were positive as well. According to data from The Analyst, he had the most chances created(3) alongside Pandev and Aleksandar Trajkovski. He also made the second most ball recoveries(17) in the team, just behind Stefan Ristovski.
Although his season at Levante was affected by injuries, his numbers still make for a good reading.
Bardhi’s creative prowess reflects in his numbers for shot-creating actions per90(2.73). Given his lesser number of minutes played as compared to his positional peers, this is notable.
At Levante, he is tasked with starting out wide and then playing more centrally. Occupying the half-spaces and looking to progress the ball into dangerous areas. His numbers for Levante tell the story themselves.
Averaging about 4.5 progressive passes per90 and 5.5 progressive carries with the ball, it is clear where Bardhi’s strengths lie. He is one of the best in the league at what he does.
Reports emerging from Spanish media suggest that Levante may look to sell Bardhi if an offer comes in.
A move away from Levante may bode well for him as he enters his peak years. A season free of injuries will most definitely see him excel once again.
Russia’s Euro 2020 was not as memorable as their exploits on home soil in 2018. One of the most youngest squads at the tournament with an average age of 27.5, this is a team still very much at its infancy.
There are players in the team who will look to lead the way into the future and one of those, is Igor Diveev.
The 21-year-old defender has become a regular for CSKA Moscow at club level. This has helped him a gain sufficient experience at the senior-level to step in and perform for Stanislas Cherchesov and co.
Although he wasn’t a starter against Belgium in the opening game, Diveev shone against Finland. His crucial contributions in defense helped Russia complete a 1-0 victory over Finland.
Against Denmark, things fell apart quickly for the team as a whole and they failed to secure the third place spot in the group. His numbers for the Euros make for a good reading as well.
As per data from The Analyst, he made the third most ball recoveries of any Russia player(17) at the tournament. He also ranked third in the squad for tackles won and interceptions(6), just behind Roman Zobin and Magomed Ozdoev.
The young Diveev is part of a new and upcoming generation of upcoming Russian players. Better days will come for them.
For CSKA Moscow though, Diveev has been excellent. His numbers for the 20/21 season compared to his positional peers in his age-group speak reflect positively on the 21-year old.
Diveev is a proactive defender in his own defensive half and his impressive physique helps him win most defensive duels and intercept key passes.
He also ranks 2nd for duels won% in the league, engaging in about 16 duels per90.
Another effective part of his skill-set is his ability to progress the ball from the back. With a success rate of about 72%, Diveev’s numbers for progressive passes are worth talking about as well.
Another year in the Russian Premier League may bode well for him, as he is still only 21. However, there is reported interest in him from Italy which may present itself as an exciting opportunity for him. Wherever he ends up going, he is certain to excel.
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