With Italy and Turkey opening this summer’s European Championships in Rome on Friday night, all eyes from across the continent are on what promises to be an action-packed summer from across 11 individual countries.
Watching England right-back Trent Alexander-Arnold have to withdraw from The Three Lions’ squad with a late thigh injury, and Sergio Busquets returning a positive COVID-19 test on Monday morning, we certainly have an unprecedented summer ahead.
With it decided that all nations will be able to bolster their squads up to 26 players, we have some of Europe’s biggest stars on display as Portugal try to retain their crown.
Ahead of Friday’s opener at the Stadio Olimpico, we have taken a look at five stars that you should keep an eye out for.
Romelu Lukaku – Belgium
While Belgium fans might still be sweating over the fitness of Manchester City ace Kevin De Bruyne, Roberto Martinez will be relieved to see one of his other talismen is heading into the summer on a real high.
Bagging the winner as The Red Devils finished their preparations with a 1-0 win against Croatia last weekend, Romelu Lukaku has enjoyed a stellar campaign at the San Siro as he guided Inter Milan to their first Serie A crown over the past decade.
Heavily linked with what could be a record-breaking return to Stamford Bridge now the transfer window is officially open, the 28-year-old has already notched 38 goals for club and country this season and has only continued to break records under the one-time Wigan boss.
Now bagging a remarkable 49 goals in just his last 51 international appearances, Lukaku finds himself priced at 11/2 with 888sport to end the summer with the Golden Boot.
Jack Grealish – England
Although England might have failed to lay down much of a marker when they landed a pair of friendly victories against Austria and Romania last week, The Three Lions did have one standout performer.
Overcoming a long-standing shin issue at the back end of the Premier League campaign with Aston Villa, Jack Grealish finds his stock at an all-time high and could be the man to spearhead Gareth Southgate’s charge this summer.
Opening up their European adventure with a meeting against old enemy Croatia at Wembley on Sunday afternoon, the 25-year-old appears to be in direct competition with Manchester City starlet Phil Foden for a spot in Southgate’s starting XI this weekend.
Continuously linked with a potential move to the Etihad this summer, Grealish created 14 big chances for Villa in the 2020/21 campaign, despite missing a two-month spell before making his return from injury back in April.
Memphis Depay – Holland
After once again missing out on a spot out in Russia three years ago, many across Europe are excited to see Holland make their long-awaited return to the major tournament stage this summer.
Opening up their European adventure with a showdown against Ukraine on June 13th in Amsterdam, new boss Frank de Boer will undoubtedly be excited by Memphis Depay’s free-scoring run heading into the summer.
Despite opening their friendly preparations with an action-packed 2-2 draw against Scotland last week, the Lyon marksman bagged both goals against The Tartan Army in Portugal and has quickly become the most vital part of De Boer’s plans.
Inching closer to what would be a blockbuster move to Spanish giants Barcelona and the chance to once again work under former boss Ronald Koeman, the one-time Manchester United forward bagged 20 goals over in France this season and will be crucial for Holland’s charge to success.
Gianluigi Donnarumma – Italy
Signing off their preparations with a thumping 4-0 win against the Czech Republic last week, Italy have really burst their way back into a major tournament by enjoying a remarkable purple patch.
Enjoying what has been nothing short than a stunning resurge under former Manchester City boss Roberto Mancini, The Blues open this summer’s tournament on Friday night in the midst of an unbeaten run that stems all the way back to September 2018.
Already tipped as a landslide pick to nick top spot in Group A, Italy have also gained plenty of plaudits from across Europe for what has been their stunning resolve at the back.
Expected to secure a free transfer switch to French giants PSG before the end of the week, Gianluigi Donnarumma has cemented his spot as Italy’s #1 and has played a vital role in a Gli Azzurri side that have now gone over 800 minutes without picking the ball out of their own net.
Karim Benzema – France
Lifting the 2018 World Cup out in Russia with an attacking line-up spearheaded by PSG superstar Kylian Mbappe, nations from across Europe would have only been more concerned by the news that Karim Benzema has made his return to the international stage.
Ending his five-year stay in exile from Les Bleus, the Real Madrid striker was welcomed back to Didier Deschamps’ squad last month and is now expected to lead France’s charge when they open their campaign in a mouth-watering showdown against Germany on June 15th.
Although many around Paris might have been left worried to have seen Benzema limp off with a knock in the first-half of France’s friendly meeting against Bulgaria on Tuesday night, Deschamps was quick to shrug off any rumours that his star striker would miss this summer’s tournament.
Recording 30 goals for Los Blancos this season and enjoying a real Indian summer, it’s worth noting that the 33-year-old is priced at 16/1 with Betfair to claim the Golden Boot.
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