After the return of fans to football and the change in atmosphere and familiarity that it brings, the pandemonium and the sense of making up for lost time, Euro 2020 is over. It could have been England’s crowning moment, an end to the bitter anguish we love to spin as brilliant real-life drama and romance; a chance to celebrate something real. In a way, it was.
This summer felt like something else, different from all those years of hurt, with a team of loveable, relatable and culturally diverse superstars on and off the pitch completely unburdened by the previously anchoring of history. But history bit back with a sour repeat with a penalty shootout loss in Sunday’s Euro 2020 final against Italy.
While Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka will have their names join the list of others who have experienced the pain of missing from 12 yards in that setting, including their manager Gareth Southgate, they are not likely to become intrinsically linked to that failure like those who have gone before.
Saka is just 19, while Sancho is on the verge of a move to join Rashford, who has already secured a humanitarian legacy for his activism in lobbying the government over child poverty, at Manchester United from Borussia Dortmund this summer. All three will achieve great things in their careers and few before them have ever had a bigger chance of doing so in an England shirt.
But life moves on. For football fans, there will be no break. For the clubs, there hasn’t been one away from the pitches and training grounds. In boardrooms everywhere, calls have been made, meetings taken and plans formulated over transfers in the background while Euro 2020 played out.
Major international tournaments can distort the market in terms of pacing and value for money. With so many top players in action, Sancho being chief among them, deals can be slowed. That is the reason he has not yet been officially unveiled at Old Trafford but the Red Devils have been vindicated in their patience from the start, having knocked around £20million off the reported price after waiting a year.
The true test of mettle comes for others and their plans now that the dust will settle on Euro 2020. Buying directly off the back of performances is an incredibly dangerous game, which more often than not exposes a lack of longer-term planning. Of course, there is a difference between signing a genuine target off the back of an impressive tournament and a reactive move based on a few weeks of good form.
Most of Manchester United’s negotiations for Sancho had been done going into the summer because that saga had been going on for so long. They were almost immune to a price hike because of the deal’s context and the fact that, quietly, Sancho himself was believed to be pushing for it to happen for a while.
In the case of Mikkel Damsgaard, who is a prime example of the type of player who could quite easily get a big move after helping Denmark to the semi finals, it is a little different. He scored an impressive free-kick below the Wembley arch in defeat to England but gave Southgate’s side their first real scare of the tournament and their first conceded goal. Damsgaard’s success was much like his nation’s, born out of a traumatic event which could have become the Euros’ own legacy.
When Christian Eriksen collapsed on the pitch against Finland in their opening group game, everyone held their breath. There were obvious fears for his life but as he gradually recovered, Denmark rose, after losing their first two matches, to show quality and strength in equal measure. Damsgaard, a highly-rated playmaker and already seen as the heir to Eriksen’s throne before the action kicked off, took his place and his chance; he ran with it.
Sampdoria must be rubbing their hands together. His name has been linked with every top club in Europe over the past week and that will only double his value. He is the kind of player any elite side should be keeping an eye on, having looked composed on the biggest stage and clearly having talent. However, speculation over him in early June was nothing to write home about and history tells us that signing him purely off the back of Euro 2020 will not end well.
Transfers should never simply be trendy. Real Madrid have regularly attempted to jump on the post-tournament bandwagon, precisely because they factor media attention and marketing strategies into their signings. It worked with Ronaldo in 2002 after his incredible injury comeback and redemption for four years earlier with Brazil but James Rodriguez, Player of the Tournament for Colombia in 2014, never lived up to the hype or truly justified his price tag beyond a few fleeting moments of magic.
There are plenty of new stars now ready to cement themselves as after Euro 2020 and many have played for Denmark. Damsgaard is only 21 and will undoubtedly have been on the radar of some because of his performances in Serie A but the last thing he needs is for a club to hype him up when he isn’t ready.
The best deals are well thought out, organised and prepared and that shouldn’t change simply because a media spotlight begins to shine after Euro 2020. The summer festival of football will fade into the background and only the most proactive will be ready for what comes next.
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