International tournaments are, and have always been, a great opportunity for players to earn transfers. James Rodriguez is the best example of this, earning a high-profile move to Real Madrid following his performances at the 2014 World Cup. Ricardo Rodriguez is another, as he moved to AC Milan following an impressive 2016 Euro tournament with Switzerland, and there are many more examples. But who (based off of the first match day of the Euros) might be earning a move this summer? Let’s take a look.
Quick note: This list will exclude the high-profile players like Romelu Lukaku and Cristiano Ronaldo. Lukaku did have a great first match, scoring a brace against Russia, but he has already shown what he is capable of in the Serie A with Inter. And, this is not a list of the best players at round one of the Euros. This is a look at players who might have struggled for playing time at club level or don’t already play for a “top” team.
Patrik Schick, Striker, Czech Republic
Patrik Schick has been making headlines for an incredible performance against Scotland, and rightly so. Schick scored twice, with one goal coming from 54 yards out, leading Czech Republic to a 2-0 victory. This was the Czech Republic’s first victory at the tournament since Euro 2012, when they beat Poland to advance to the knockout stages (they were eliminated by Portugal).
Schick can lead Czech Republic to the knockout stages again if he keeps firing, which he has shown to be capable of. Schick started his career with Sparta Prague, but struggled for game time, playing in just ten games and scoring once. A loan to local club Bohemians Prague proved beneficial, with Schick playing 29 games and scoring eight. This earned Schick a move to Sampdoria in Italy, where he impressed.
Schick was then linked with a move to Juventus, but a failed medical brought him to Roma instead. Schick struggled in Rome, scoring just eight goals in 58 games, and was shipped out on loan to RB Leipzig in Germany. At Leipzig, Schick was considerably more comfortable and scored ten goals in 28 games, and was then purchased by Bayer Leverkusen, where he scored 13 goals in 36 games, struggling with injuries.
But Schick could be on the move again. Leverkusen struggled this season, barely managing to secure a Europa League spot on the final Bundesliga match day. If Schick can continue his form against Scotland and lead Czech Republic deep into the knockouts, Schick can get another major move to a Champions League contending team. Maybe a move to Juventus is finally in the cards.
Andriy Yarmolenko, Winger, Ukraine
Similarly to Schick, Yarmolenko is another player who made headlines because of a superb finish. Yarmolenko’s impressive strike allowed Ukraine to pull one goal back against the Dutch before Ukraine eventually tied the match, only to lose with five minutes left. However, it was an impressive result for Ukraine, who wouldn’t have been anywhere near that result without Yarmolenko’s wonder goal.
Yarmolenko’s goal proved that he is a quality player, which is good for him as he will undoubtedly be on the move this summer. Starting at Dynamo Kiev, Yarmolenko spent nine years with the senior squad, playing an astonishing 340 games with 137 goals and 90 assists. Finally in 2017, Yarmolenko moved abroad to Borussia Dortmund for $27.5 million, but played only 26 games due to injury and was sold at a loss to West Ham after just one season.
Yarmolenko unfortunately has little luck, missing almost all of his first season due to injury. The following season? More of the same, missing 13 Premier League games due to another injury. This season? Yarmolenko missed nine games at West Ham due to injury, and was demoted to West Ham’s U23 squad. He started just one Premier League game this season.
As his goal against the Netherlands shows, Yarmolenko can be a class player but injuries have held him back. Hopefully Yarmolenko can continue to impress, and ultimately his performance at the Euros will decide where he moves and where his future lies.
Tomas Vaclik, Goalkeeper, Czech Republic
The second Czech player on the list, Tomas Vaclik perhaps didn’t play the strongest shooting side in Scotland. Still, Vaclik did well to keep a clean sheet and had six saves. Goalkeeper has been a question mark position for the Czech since Petr Cech retired, but Vaclik hopes to secure the starting job and this performance should help him considerably.
Vaclik has played for three teams in the Czech Republic, but arguably played the best in Switzerland. After a move to Basel from Sparta Prague in 2014, Vaclik went on to start 169 games for Basel. After three league titles and one Swiss cup, Vaclik was on the move again. This time, Vaclik moved to Sevilla, where he has gone on to play 94 games for the club.
Unfortunately for Vaclik, he has struggled for starts amidst injuries and the emergence of Sevilla’s new starting goalkeeper, Bono. Vaclik’s contract expires this summer and has been told that it won’t be renewed. He needs to shine at the Euros to sign for a good club and keep his role as Czech Republic’s starting goalkeeper.
Goalkeepers: While he will be held responsible for at least one of the goals, Turkey’s Ugurcan Cakir impressed against Italy with six saves and proved why Tottenham and Inter Milan are rumored to be interested. Robin Olsen was able to earn a draw for Sweden, with five saves against Spain.
Defenders: Another Czech player, Tomas Kalas, was important in keeping a clean sheet against Scotland, with two tackles won and nine clearances.
Midfielders/Wingers: Robert Mak of Slovakia was a thorn in Poland’s side, with excellent footwork on the flank that lead to Slovakia’s goal, a Mak shot that was deflected in by Poland’s goalkeeper and was listed as an own goal.
Forwards: Ukraine’s Roman Yaremchuk scored the equalizer and proved to be an effective attacker, also grabbing the assist for Yarmolenko’s stunner. Meanwhile, Breel Embolo impressed against Wales with several strong shots and could have won a penalty before scoring Switzerland’s only goal.
Because of the amount of teams that are going through to the next round (16 of 24), the first round of fixtures for the Euros were hugely important. Efficient striking from Patrik Schick may have well clinched a spot in the next round for Czech Republic. The performances of Roman Yaremchuk and Andriy Yarmolenko to hold the Dutch to a slim victory will also be key, as goal differential is important.
With many players playing not just for their country but also for themselves and a potential transfer, there are many players to keep an eye on during the tournament. There is much more to this tournament than just watching the favorites and top players steamrolling other nations.
Image Courtesy of Tadeáš Bednarz, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons.
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