During major international football tournaments, there are different categories of players expected and scrutinized by observers and fans: very promising young players, stars and those who are about to play their last major competition.
► Pedri and Musiala: early talents
At only 18 years old, Pedri is already a starter at FC Barcelona, where Lionel Messi dubbed him. The young attacking midfielder from the Canaries caused a sensation in Catalonia with his vista, his sense of passing and his constant activity. Result: coach Luis Enrique called him for the first time in March and did not hesitate to invite him to the Euro.
“We saw a player who meets the ideal conditions to play in the middle of the field, with the foresight and the quality necessary to play both in attack and defense”, said the technician, who relies heavily on Pedri.
→ READ Euro 2021: what you need to know about the regulations of the European Football Championship
Jamal Musiala is also 18 years old. This attacking midfielder who has dual English and German nationality, played in the youth teams for England. Born to a Nigerian father and a German mother, the Bayern Munich player nevertheless opted for Germany and coach Joachim Löw retained him in his list of 26 players for the Euro.
With six goals scored in 26 Bundesliga games this season, Musiala is one of the youngest talents to have evolved in the “Rekordmeister”, who hastened to have him sign a contract until 2026. His first selection, in March against Iceland (3-0), was encouraging, also allowing Germany to permanently attach this highly coveted player.
► Ronaldo and Mbappé: the stars of the tournament
It is an understatement to say that Cristiano Ronaldo is impatiently awaiting Portugal’s first match, against Hungary on June 15 in Budapest. At the end of a largely disappointing 2020-2021 season with Juventus, “CR7” wants to set the record straight and silence those who say it is in decline.
At 36, he admittedly finished Serie A top scorer with 29 goals, but Juve finished in a disappointing 4e place in the league after a bitter elimination from the 8e Champions League final. With 103 goals in 174 selections, the five-time Ballon d’Or is however undisputed in the selection.
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All signals are green for Paris-Saint-Germain superstar Kylian Mbappé (43 caps, 17 goals). At 22, he delivered the most prolific exercise of his young and prodigious career with 41 goals in all competitions, including 27 in Ligue 1, winning the titles of top scorer and best player in the championship. The football world shudders in advance to see him associated for the first time with Karim Benzema in a triangle of fire completed by Antoine Griezmann.
► Benzema and Chiellini: the ghost and the veteran
His return surprised and attracted the football world: long dismissed because of his legal disputes, Karim Benzema was recalled to the French team for the first time since 2015.
At 33, Karim Benzema (82 caps, 27 goals) has grown in maturity and responsibilities at Real Madrid, where he is the undisputed attacking leader since the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo in 2018. His excellent season (30 goals in all competitions) ranks him among the elite of European scorers, and his ability to play is promising for the French team. It remains to be seen whether this recall will not shatter the momentum of the world champions.
→ ANALYSIS Euro 2021: Karim Benzema back, the risky bet of Didier Deschamps
His broken mouth and his firmness in the duels made many attackers nightmares and Giorgio Chiellini (107 caps, 8 goals) is still there, at 36, to terrify them. Returning from a long period of injury, the central defender has regained his place at the center of Juventus, as well as in the Italian team with which he is preparing to play his fourth Euro.
This tournament could be the last meeting of the ” Pisa tower “ with a Nazionale of which he is the captain since the international retirement of Gianluigi Buffon in 2018. It also remains to decide his future in club, since his contract with Juventus ends at the end of June.