Stars of the European Championship
The 2020 European Championship is casting its shadow. We take a look at which players have what it takes to become the stars of the continental championships.
Serge Gnabry (Germany)
German coach Jogi Löw is busy equipping his team for the 2020 European Championships with talented and fast-as-an-arrow offensive players. One of these young guns is Serge Gnabry. The 24-year-old already plays a significant role in attack at his club Bayern Munich and is also becoming increasingly important in the DFB squad. At 16, Gnabry took an unusual step: He moved from his hometown club VfB Stuttgart to FC Arsenal in London. There he made his first professional appearances in 2012. However, the English side failed to exploit the winger's enormous potential. He therefore returned to Germany in the summer of 2016 and initially joined Werder Bremen. Only a year later, FC Bayern Munich bought him, but loaned him to TSG Hoffenheim for half a year. Since the summer of 2018, he has been part of the record-breaking champions' squad and scored an impressive 13 goals in 42 competitive matches in his first season. In the current 2019/2020 season, he already surpassed this number of goals in mid-February 2020. In the national team, Gnabry was on the pitch in 13 games until the end of 2019 and scored just as many goals. Never before has a German international scored ten goals as quickly as Gnabry, who needed just eleven matches to do so.
Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal)
Anyone who doesn't know Cristiano Ronaldo must have been living on a desert island for the past 15 years. Hardly any other soccer player stands for athleticism and spectacle as much as the 35-year-old Portuguese. At 18, he left Sporting Lisbon for Manchester United, where he made his breakthrough. Ronaldo played a key role in three English championships and one Champions League victory. In the summer of 2009, he moved to Real Madrid for 94 million euros, becoming the most expensive footballer of all time at the time. Between 2009 and 2018, Ronaldo played 438 competitive games for Real, scoring 450 goals - an average of more than one goal per game. With this almost unbelievable rate, the exceptional player helped his club to four Champions League titles and two Spanish championship titles. Ronaldo himself has won the Ballon d'Or as the world's best soccer player five times. And he also celebrated a title with the national team when the Portuguese won the Euro 2016. Since the summer of 2018, Ronaldo has been chasing goals for Juventus Turin and won the championship with the Italians in just his first season. Euro 2020 will be Ronaldo's fifth European Championship, by the way.
Kylian Mbappé (France)
More than a few experts are predicting a great career for Kylian Mbappé. After all, the 21-year-old is already a world champion, as well as a three-time French champion. Mbappé played his first game as a professional in December 2015 for AS Monaco. At the time, the Frenchman was about to turn 17, making him the youngest player ever to play for Monaco. When he scored his first goal in February 2016, he also became the youngest goalscorer in Monaco history. For Monaco, Mbappé scored a total of 27 goals in 60 competitive matches, and he also celebrated the championship with the club in the summer of 2017. A few weeks later, he moved to Paris Saint-Germain. In order to outsmart UEFA's Financial Fair Play, Mbappé was initially loaned out by the capitals for one year, and it was not until the summer of 2018 that PSG paid 160 million euros for the striker. This makes him the second most expensive footballer of all time after his Parisian teammate Neymar. Mbappé has also been extremely successful in the capital, winning the championship in 2018 and 2019. He also became the best scorer in the French league in 2019 with 33 goals. With the national team, Mbappé won the 2018 World Cup and was named the best young player of the tournament.
Kevin De Bruyne (Belgium)
In a Belgian national team teeming with outstanding players, Kevin De Bruyne once again stands out. This is largely due to the 28-year-old's elegant style of play and great vision. To date, he holds the record for the most assists in a single season in the Bundesliga. In the 2014/2015 season, he successfully set up his teammates' goals a total of 21 times in the VfL Wolfsburg jersey. De Bruyne's professional career began in 2008 with KRC Genk in his native Belgium. From there, he moved to Chelsea FC in England in 2012, but was immediately loaned out to Werder Bremen. With the northern Germans, he scored ten goals in 34 competitive games and provided just as many assists. Because he was rarely used after his return to Chelsea, he left for Wolfsburg in January 2014. With the Lower Saxons, he celebrated victory in the DFB Cup in the summer of 2015. Manchester City then bought him for 75 million euros, making him the most expensive player ever to leave the Bundesliga. In his second attempt in England, De Bruyne won the championship with ManCity in 2018 and 2019. The playmaker also played a key role in the Belgian national team's third-place finish at the 2018 World Cup.
Harry Kane (England)
At just 24 years old, Harry Kane led the England national team onto the pitch at the 2018 World Cup. That says a lot about the striker's impressive achievements. The London native joined Tottenham Hotspur at the age of eleven and still plays for the club today. He made a splash there as a youth, but was loaned out to Leyton Orient in early 2011. He made his professional debut for the third division club in January 2011. After a few more loan spells, Kane only found his feet at Tottenham from the summer of 2014 and secured a place in the regular squad. His remarkable haul of 31 goals in 51 competitive games marked the striker's breakthrough in the 2014/2015 season. He finished the 2015/2016 season with 25 goals, making him the top scorer. In the 2016/2017 season, Kane had as many as 29 goals to his name, defending his title as the Premier League's top scorer. In the 2017 calendar year, the Englishman scored 56 goals, which is more than the top scorers Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo in Europe. The 26-year-old also regularly demonstrates his scoring prowess in the national team. By the end of 2019, he had scored 32 goals in 45 international matches and won the Golden Boot as top scorer at the 2018 World Cup with six goals.
Leroy Sané (Germany)
Together with Serge Gnabry and Timo Werner, Leroy Sané forms the dynamic offensive trio of the German national team. Sané was born with a talent for soccer, as his father Souleymane was a Senegalese international. Leroy Sané joined FC Schalke 04 in 2005 at the age of nine and made his professional debut for the Knappen in April 2014. He scored his first goal in December 2014, and Sané played 57 competitive games for Schalke, scoring 13 goals, before moving to Manchester City in the summer of 2016. The transfer earned FC Schalke €50 million and made Sané the most expensive German player of all time. With Manchester, Sané won the English championship in 2018 and 2018. However, despite impressive performances at the club, he was surprisingly not nominated for the 2018 World Cup. As a result, it took until November 2018 for him to score his first international goal. In the summer of 2019, Sané was under discussion as a potential new signing for FC Bayern. However, a serious injury put a spanner in the works of the transfer, which was already considered a certainty. In the meantime, the 24-year-old is fit again and is about to make his comeback.
Robert Lewandoski (Poland)
For years, Robert Lewandowski has been FC Bayern's goal guarantee personified. The 31-year-old has topped the goalscoring charts a total of four times at the end of a season and now ranks third in the Bundesliga's all-time scoring list. In the summer of 2010, Lewandowski moved from his native Poland to Borussia Dortmund. There he was initially used as a wild card and in this role scored eight goals in 33 league games in his first season. He thus played a certain part in Dortmund's championship. In the 2011/2012 season, Lewandowski became a regular, scoring 22 goals and once again making an important contribution to BVB's second championship title in a row. In total, Lewandowski scored 103 times in 187 competitive games for Dortmund. The four goals he scored in the Champions League semifinal against Real Madrid in April 2013 are particularly unforgettable. In the summer of 2014, Lewandowski left for FC Bayern Munich, where he also proved his scoring prowess. In September 2015, he was substituted against VfL Wolfsburg and scored five goals in nine minutes. In the Polish national team, Lewandowski is the all-time top scorer with 61 goals (as of the end of 2019).
Marco Verratti (Italy)
Because of the stars Neymar and Kylian Mbappé, it is often a bit lost that there are other offensive stars at Paris Saint-Germain. One of them is the Italian Marco Verratti. The 27-year-old has been playing in the French capital since the summer of 2012. Before that, he only played for Delfino Pescara 1936 and made the jump from the third to the first Italian league with the club from 2009 to 2012. However, before he could be used in Serie A, PSG bought him for 13 million euros. Verratti joined the Italian national team in August 2012 and scored his first goal for them in February 2013. In Paris, he celebrated six championships and three cup victories from 2013 to 2019. The playmaker shines above all with eye-catching dribblings, a tight ball control and a good overview. In addition, he can shoot with both feet.
Memphis Depay (Netherlands)
Dutch soccer regularly produces highly talented players. One of them is 26-year-old Memphis Depay. The left winger's first professional club was PSV Eindhoven, where he played 124 competitive games between 2011 and 2015. During that time, he scored 50 goals and set up 29 others. With PSV, Depay won the Dutch Cup in 2012 and the championship in 2015. In the summer of 2015, he finally went to Manchester United. He won the FA Cup and the Community Shield with the English side in 2016 and the Europa League in 2017. However, because he did not make it into the starting eleven at Man United, he moved to Olympique Lyon in January 2017. There, he is one of the absolute top performers and scored 43 goals in 134 competitive games until the end of 2019. Depay is currently suffering from a torn cruciate ligament and it is not clear whether the Dutchman will be fit again for the 2020 European Championship.
Cengiz Ünder (Turkey)
One of the best Turkish players at the moment is Cengiz Ünder. The 22-year-old already attracted attention as a young kicker at Altinordu Izmir. He made his professional debut there in September 2014. When he expressed his willingness to transfer in the summer of 2016, Istanbul Basaksehir won the bid. He became a key player for the capital and played for the Turkish national team for the first time in November 2016. At Basaksehir, Ünder was active for only one season and left for AS Roma in the summer of 2017 for 13.4 million euros. The offensive all-rounder is also one of the most important players in the Italian squad. With a goal in the Champions League in February 2018, he is the youngest Turkish footballer ever to score in the European premier league.
Because of the above-mentioned players alone, we can look forward to a fantastic European Championship in 2020.