Winners and Losers
The postponement of Euro 2020 is another of the many disappointing sporting consequences to Coronavirus. The first edition of the tournament to be held across multiple countries has been pushed back to 2021 and the news has left fans and players alike saddened to miss out on a potentially glorious summer of football, with memories of World Cup 2018 still glowing in their mind.
For some players, 2021 could be a bridge too far. A year on from now, they may have passed the peak of their careers and could potentially be replaced by a younger, more promising player. However, not everyone will be crestfallen. Players ruled out through injury for this summer will be fighting fit and youth prospects with an extra year of development could be ready for the international stage.
Harry Kane and his hamstring
Harry Kane limping off, clutching his hamstring on New Year’s Day came as a sorry sight to England fans. The potential of a spell on the side-lines until April would have left England’s captain in a race to find fitness heading into the tournament. It is not hard to imagine a scenario in which Kane turns up half-baked, leading to an underwhelming performance for a key player in England’s side.
Now the prospects look much more optimistic. One year down the line, barring any further setback, Kane will be coming into the tournament fresh and fit, ready to lead England in a tournament the country has reason to be optimistic for. Furthermore, an extended recovery during lockdown may well be what his troubling hamstring needs. It will certainly do it better than being milked for ninety minutes a week in a Tottenham side managed by Jose Mourinho, a manager not particularly known for his ability to manage player’s fitness.
It would’ve been a big surprise if Foden had even made Gareth Southgate’s 23-man squad for this current year. The nineteen-year-old has only started in three premier league games in this current campaign, currently sitting below Jack Grealish and James Maddison in the pecking order for a call-up to the England team.
The potential difference a year could make for Foden is huge. With David Silva due to leave Manchester in the summer, Foden is already touted as a ready-made replacement. Pep Guardiola has declared Foden as the most talented player he has ever managed and with a year starting for a Premier League contender, he could be ready to show it on the international stage.
Nicolo Zaniolo and the rest of Italy’s young midfield
Another player who seemed destined to miss out through injury was Roma’s Nicolo Zaniolo. One of the Azzurri’s most promising prospects was ruled out for the rest of the season in January after rupturing his cruciate ligament. Euro 2021 will now come at the perfect time for the young playmaker, giving him enough time to recover but also develop further in his young footballing career.
Nicolo Barella and Sandro Tonali, who could start alongside Zaniolo come 2021, will have also had an extra year to improve. Currently aged 23 and 19 respectively, an extra year could push them much further along in their development. Italy manager Roberto Mancini may well be thanking his lucky stars at the postponement.
The five-time Ballon D’or winner has shown impressive adaptability moving into the latter stages of his career, changing his game from explosivity to a less physically demanding one focused purely on scoring goals. However, this doesn’t change that Ronaldo will be thirty-six come the start of the rearranged tournament.
For the first time, questions have cropped up around his fitness. The Portuguese captain reacted angrily after being substituted against AC Milan in November, with manager Maurizio Sarri citing fitness worries as the explanation. Despite Ronaldo’s outstanding fitness regime, I’m sure that even he will be disappointed he has to wait an extra year for the tournament.
After many recent blunders in the Premier League, it seemed like the only reason Jordan Pickford would be starting for England is the lack of international experience for any alternatives. Both Nick Pope and Dean Henderson have had brilliant seasons for Burnley and Sheffield United respectively, but have only one competitive senior international appearance between them.
Now with an extra year to prepare, it looks likely that at least one of them will get a starting role for England in whatever international matches come before the tournament. The positive for Pickford is that now he has plenty of time to put the mistakes in the past and find some form ahead of the re-scheduled competition.
Tottenham’s Belgian centre-backs
Belgium will be one of the teams that will be mightily disappointed by the postponement of the tournament. The majority of their golden generation is moving into their thirties, centre-backs Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen will be 32 and 34 respectively come the start of the 2021 championship. As each year passes, the pairing looks less imperious and more comical, with mistakes plaguing their recent campaigns. With younger centre-backs Dedryck Boyata and Jason Denayer waiting in the wings, both Alderweireld and Vertonghen need to find form and may have to leave North London to do so.