With the uncertainty of the return of football across the world’s domestic leagues due to Covid-19, as well as the completion of the Champions League and Europa League, one thing that is certain is that the European Championship will not be taking place this summer.
The competition, which was set to be spread across Europe for the first time, has been postponed until summer 2021. This is unprecedented, as since the maiden European Championship in 1958 the competition has never been rearranged or cancelled.
Inevitably there will be winners and losers as a result of this. Players who were set to be ruled out of the tournament through injury will now have an unexpected chance to play. Players will be a year older, whether that means a year where the toll of football has tightened its grip, or a years more experience and valuable game time. Players whose emergence may have come a little too late for managers to take a risk on them at a major tournament now have another year to break into their national sides.
This article explores the potential winners and losers from the postponement of the Euros until summer 2021 from an England perspective.
When Kane limped off against Southampton on New Years Day most England fans hoped there was sufficient time for England’s talisman to return, find fitness and form, and be ready to lead the line at Euro 2020. However, Tottenham and Mourinho in particular, have been very cautious when talking about Kane’s injury with Mourinho suggesting Kane may not feature again in the 2019/20 season prior to the outbreak of Covid-19.
Southgate and England will be hopeful that a year to get himself fit and firing again should be ample time and that the 2018 World Cup Golden Boot winner doesn’t pick up any more injuries, with the 26 year old missing chunks of this season and the last through injury.
Similarly to Kane, Rashford picked up an injury early in 2020 which it had been suggested may have left him in a battle against time to be fit for the Euros this summer. Rashford having the time to recover is great news for England and Manchester United with the youngster leading by example at Old Trafford following the departure of Romelu Lukaku.
Rashford will still only be 23 by next summer and should he continue as he is it is expected that he will play a key role in an England shirt over the next few years.
Despite being heavily touted for a first cap all season, Southgate has yet to call Grealish up to the England squad. Grealish was the key man in driving Aston Villa to the Premier League last season and has acquitted himself remarkably well in his return to England’s top division. The fact that Villa are still in contention to stay in the league is down to Grealish’s performances and the way he influences everything good that Villa do. He can pick a pass, score a goal, but one of his biggest strengths is his ability to carry the ball up the pitch and beat a man which has allowed him to vary between a free attacking role and also a deeper role for Villa this season with ease.
His performances have understandably led to admiring glances from some of the top clubs in England and if he is to move on this summer and continue to progress it will be very difficult to ignore him any longer. One thing that Grealish must improve however is his behaviour off the field and this is something that Southgate puts a lot of emphasis on.
Aaron Wan-Bissaka has gone from strength to strength since his transfer from Crystal Palace to Manchester United last summer and is widely regarded as the best 1-on-1 defender in the league. A claim highlighted by his series of performances against potential future England teammate Raheem Sterling in the league and cup Manchester derbies this season.
One area where he must improve however is his attacking play. With his pace and power he can beat a man but seems to struggle once he reaches the final third. If he improves in this area he could become one of the world’s best full backs and push Alerxander-Arnold for the right back spot for years to come.
Unlikely to have had enough time on his side to make a realistic push for the England number 1. Jersey this summer next season will be crucial to Henderson’s development and England chances. Sheffield United are desperate to secure his services for at least one more season but with De Gea making some crucial mistakes in the last couple of seasons Manchester United may be looking to get Henderson to stay at Old Trafford next season.
Henderson will want assurances over his playing time if he is to stay at Manchester United next season and it is hard to envisage him getting that unless De Gea is sold. An interesting summer awaits the 23 year old with the decisions made potentially making or breaking his England starting chances for the Euros next summer.
Still only 19, Phil Foden is widely regarded as the heir to David Silva’s throne at the Etihad. It will be interesting to see if Guardiola puts faith in the man he has labelled as ‘the most talented’ he has ever seen, or if he decides to spend big on a David Silva replacement as many fear he will. If this does happen and Foden sees no improvement in his playing time it will be tough for him to break into Gareth Southgate’s side. However, a season of performing well for Pep’s side could be the springboard to the Under 17 World Cup winner’s senior international career.
Always regarded as a hard-working striker with talent who didn’t quite have the killer touch in front of goal, Calvert-Lewin’s improvement under Carlo Ancelotti has been remarkable. For most of his career he has played as a lone striker or come off the bench but under Everton’s new manager he has more often than not found himself supported by Richarlison in a simple 4-4-2 formation. He has 13 league goals to his name in the league this season, eight since Ancelotti’s arrival in December, which is already by far his most prolific as a senior player.
The postponement of the Euros gives him a chance to really gain Southgate’s attention and Southgate’s record of bringing England under-21 players into the senior side bodes well for the Everton man. Another year under Ancelotti’s tutelage could see even further improvement in 23 year old Calvert-Lewin’s game.
Danny Ings has been the shining light for a struggling Southampton side this season and has surpassed his record Premier League goal tally already. He is displaying the form that persuaded Liverpool to sign him from Burnley after just one season in the Premier League in 2015 and has done remarkably well to recover from two very serious knee injuries. He has attributed his form this season to feeling settled and happy on the south coast and is relishing being the main man again. With Kane and Rashford both struggling with injury this season Ings seemed very likely to add to his one England cap and perhaps bettering that by really pushing for a starting spot.
His form had settled down slightly before Covid-19 halted play although he still boasts one of the highest shot conversion rates in Europe this season. Due to his aforementioned injuries, he does seem to struggle with more than one game in a week which would be a concern at a major tournament where fixtures come thick and fast. However, Ings has repeatedly expressed how desperate he is not to be part of the notorious ‘one-cap club’ with England, having made his only previous appearance in 2015, and if he can maintain his performance levels next season then he will give himself every chance of featuring in Euro 2021.
Pickford has seemingly struggled since his heroics in England’s run to the 2018 Wold Cup semi-final. His Everton form has been inconsistent at best, with the late mistake that gifted Origi the winner in the Merseyside derby last season a particularly notable error.
He may have scraped the number 1. jersey had the Euros been this summer due to the trust he has earned from Southgate and the lack of time another ‘keeper had to dislodge him. However, with the likes of Dean Henderson and Nick Pope given another season to secure a starting spot, it may be that Pickford’s stint as England’s goalkeeper is coming to an end. It should also be said, though, that Pickford will have another season to improve his consistency and with his distribution being a valuable asset he is sure to not give up his England spot without a fight.
Kieran Trippier is enjoying a decent start to life in Spain with Atlético Madrid and has spoken glowingly about the defensive lessons Diego Simeone has taught him. Trippier’s delivery was a major threat for England at the 2018 World Cup and he will be hoping he will have earned another tournament under Southgate, however a slight lack of pace and the emergence of Alexander-Arnold and Wan-Bissaka may see the former Tottenham man phased out of the squad.
Kyle Walker is also a threat to the right back position although he has seemingly fallen out of favour with Southgate in the last 12 months. Walker’s performances as a centre back in England’s back three in the 2018 World Cup may see him get the nod due to his versatility.
While there is no denying James Maddison’s talent, if Grealish and Foden are to profit from the postponement of the Euros until next year, then it may be at Maddison’s expense. His 6 goals and 3 assists in 28 Premier League games is not a bad return, but it could be argued that, as the main playmaker at Leicester, and with Jamie Vardy to supply, a player of Maddison’s ability should be contributing more. He also has a slight tendency to go missing when his side are up against it and, while it is difficult for a playmaker to be as effective with less of the ball, Grealish seems to thrive in carrying the ball and driving his side forward when his side are struggling. It will be interesting to see if either moves elsewhere this summer, with both constantly linked to Manchester United, and how their games develop as a result.
Callum Wilson has been given chances in the England squad by Southgate since the World Cup and is generally seen as the current fourth striker in the squad. He has scored one goal in four England appearances, coming in Wayne Rooney’s final England game, a 3-0 win against USA at Wembley.
Wilson’s form had taken a downward turn for Bournemouth prior to the season being halted by Covid-19 and he went from September 28th 2019 until 21st January 2020 without finding the net in the league for Bournemouth. He does tend to score goals in patches and if he’s in form going into a tournament he could be a real asset, however Southgate may be tempted to go for someone more consistent in front of goal. His reputation may also be tarnished slightly if his Bournemouth side do end up getting relegated this season, although there will be no shortage of clubs looking to sign him if he feels the need to move.