Five Rising Stars To Lookout For This European International Break
With many fans of the perception that international breaks disrupt club football, there is no doubt the international break can be exciting for players who aim to impress in their national team shirts.
We have identified five players who will hope they can transform their club form over to the international scene and put their names on the list for next year’s UEFA European Championships.
Lamine Yamal (Spain and FC Barcelona)
It is fair to say that representing your national team at the age of 16 is mostly unheard of, but for Lamine Yamal, that is not the case as he has been called up by new Spain coach Luis de la Fuente.
The La Masia graduate made his Barcelona debut towards the back end of last season and impressed in his small cameos so much that he was included in Barcelona’s pre-season tour and is now very much a fully-fledged first-team player.
Yamal’s preferred position is on the right wing where he can use his pace and trickery to run defenders ragged. That is not all he has to offer though as he works hard to help out in defence and has a wicked cross which has been a staple in Barcelona’s early season play.
This could be seen against Villarreal in last month’s 4-3 win where a wonderful cross found Gavi’s head for the opener. He then hit the upright after brilliant footwork before hitting the post which inadvertently set up Robert Lewandowski for the winner.
Fuente still prefers his team to line up in a 4-3-3 and this could give Yamal the chance to make his international debut this September in very winnable games against Georgia and Cyprus.
In this new era of Spanish football, the coach prefers his team to attack in rapid transitions and this should give the youngster the freedom on the right wing as he himself prefers to attack at speed when the defence is on their back foot.
Eberechi Eze (England and Crystal Palace)
Having won a cap as a substitute in the last international break, it is no surprise to see that he has been recalled by Gareth Southgate.
However, this time around, fans of the Three Lions are calling for the attacking midfielder to start. This is following an electric start to the season which has seen him notch a goal and two assists in the first four league games as Crystal Palace sit in a healthy seventh place.
Under Roy Hodgson, Eberechi Eze has taken up the bulk of the creative responsibility and has thrived in this role as it gives him freedom in the middle of an attacking third to work his magic.
How he would fare in the England team would be interesting though as creativity comes from a variety of different areas on the pitch so Eze would have to adapt his game to suit the superstars around him.
With Southgate an expert at bedding in new players to suit the team style, the Crystal Palace man should not worry too much as he has great chemistry with his teammates on the pitch and a personality that is sure to fit in well.
Pascal Gross (Germany and Brighton & Hove Albion)
While the other players on this list are younger up-and-coming talents, Pascal Gross is coming into this international break with zero caps at the age of 32 which makes it all the more surprising that Hansi Flick has decided to select him now.
With Germany in a bit of poor form, Flick may have selected Gross as a way of differentiating his current crop of players in the hope it can change results.
In Gross, Flick has selected a very versatile player who is comfortable playing as either a right-back, central midfielder or as an attacking midfielder. With 10 goals and 10 assists in all competitions last season, Gross may line up in midfield where his creative prowess can be utilised best.
With expert ball retention and calmness in possession, Gross may offer something different to current options as he can calm the game down. This should help Germany as recent defeats have been due to a lack of game intelligence and leadership.
With the European Championships just around the corner, Gross will be hoping he can win the first of many international caps this September.
Xavi Simons (Netherlands and RB Leipzig)
With a massive 22 goals and 12 assists in all competitions for PSV Eindhoven last year, it was only a matter of time before Xavi Simons was included in the Netherlands national team setup. He was even a late call-up for the Netherlands in last year’s World Cup.
However, this time around he will expect to be a star player for the Oranje in the European Qualifiers. With manager Ronald Koemen yet to fully decide on his midfield dynamic, he surely must find space for the electric 20-year-old attacking midfielder.
Having already managed five Bundesliga goal involvements in only three games, Simons is proving that he has the end product at the top level already in his locker.
With the squad having stagnated in recent years, it is important that the Netherlands blood in some youngsters and where better to start than the hungry, tenacious and technically gifted Simons?
It would be a huge shame if his talent was just wasted on the bench.
Nicolò Casale (Italy and Lazio)
With Roberto Mancini now out of the fold and Scudetto-winning boss Luciano Spalleitti now in as manager, there is optimism around the squad for the first time since victory at the 2020 European Championships.
Nicolò Casale is another player with zero caps to his name as of yet but his form for Lazio has been outstanding. With centre backs now a position of concern for the Azzurri, Casale could be trusted in his preferred left centre-back position.
Not created in the mould of old Italian defenders, Casale is astute in possession and very calm out of it as he lets his positioning do the work for him in defensive duels.
This should give this Italian side a very good starting point when building up from the back, and with the international retirement of Leonardo Bonucci, Italy may just have a ready-made replacement.
With Spalletti and Maurizio Sarri playing similar styles of possession-based football, Casale could be ready to step into that back line and show he deserves to be in the squad for the long term.