Manchester City are the world’s best-represented club at this year’s postponed European Championships with a whopping 15 players taking part across the competition’s 24 squads. With so much to play for, the stakes for some of these stars are especially high heading into the summer’s headlining football tournament. Here are the players who will have the most on the line heading into Euro 2020, and what success and failure would mean before they reunite in Manchester for next season.
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Rúben Dias: CB, Portugal
After an incredible first season in which he was named the FWA Footballer of the Year, Dias heads into the Euros with the expectations of being the world’s best defender. With the likes of Sergio Ramos and Virgil Van Dijk missing the tournament through injury, Dias is widely expected to be the best player in any backline this summer, and will be expected to lead Portugal in their quest to defend their 2016 crown. Although his Ballon D’Or hopes were likely crushed in City’s Champions League Final defeat, winning the Euros would be another massive piece of silverware in the 24-year old’s cabinet.
Aymeric Laporte: CB, Spain
Laporte, following his allegiance switch from France to Spain, has immediately been thrown into the fire. Without Ramos, who has been the captain and La Roja‘s all-time most capped player, Laporte just made his Spain debut this past weekend but will be expected to lead the backline for a national side that always has incredibly high expectations. With replacement captain Sergio Busquets also set to miss at least the start of the tournament with COVID-19, he will lose the team’s next most experienced voice in front of the backline, but this could actually lead to more familiarity as Manchester City’s Rodri will likely replace him. Luis Enrique has also made some controversial selections at the back, leaving out the likes of Nacho Fernández and Mario Hermoso in favor of Diego Llorente and Eric García. Although this Spain team is littered with questions, the expectations are the same: silverware. This team’s golden generation captured European titles in 2008 and 2012, with a first-ever World Cup title sandwiched in between in 2010, and Laporte will be the man now expected to continue the legacy and redeem Spain’s embarrassing 2018 exit at the hands of Russia.
Phil Foden: LW, England
England’s expectations have not been higher for some time, and many of those rest upon the shoulders of City’s hometown hero, Phil Foden. After an incredible campaign that saw him win the PFA Young Player of the Year Award, Foden is widely expected to be among the first names on Gareth Southgate’s team sheet as England look to build on the unanticipated success of their 2018 semi-final run in Russia. Fellow Citizens John Stones, Raheem Sterling, and Kyle Walker should also be involved, and all of them could play major roles, but much of the focus will be on Foden. As England’s young talent has begun to turn into some of the world’s best players, with Foden at the epicenter of this revolution, the expectations have grown with it: England are full-fledged favorites to contend to win this competition, and anything less will carry the sting of failure.
Kevin De Bruyne: CAM, Belgium
Despite all of the pressure previously discussed on City’s other stars, I believe Kevin De Bruyne will bear the most weight in this summer’s tournament. Belgium’s golden generation under Roberto Martinez has yielded success, including a semi-final run in Russia, but has yet to capture any silverware. With De Bruyne still at the peak of his powers, having captured the PFA Player of the Year Award for the second straight season, the Red Devils likely will have only these Euros and the next World Cup before their star talent begins to seriously decline. With De Bruyne, Eden Hazard, Thibaut Courtois, Romelu Lukaku, Youri Tielemans, and Yannick Carrasco, this team is talented enough to go head-to-head with favorites France and Portugal. Belgium is not a historical footballing power, and for years, this generation has been viewed as their chance to really make their mark on the international scene and establish themselves, as Spain did a decade ago. Although his injury scare in the Champions League Final put his summer in doubt, he is expected to return after Belgium’s first group match. From then on, De Bruyne is fully expected to lead their charge, be the tournament’s best player, and lift the trophy. If he succeeds, it will be arguably the greatest accomplishment of his footballing career. If he fails, the clock will continue to tick on Belgium’s trophy-winning window.