Euro 2020 finally kicks off this weekend, so here is a rundown of what to expect from Palace players past and present at last summer’s long-awaited tournament.
Patrick van Aanholt
Of all the players out of contract this summer, Patrick van Aanholt’s future seems the most certain. Overall, the Dutchman has had a good five seasons in South London, though he will be remembered more so for his attacking contributions than his defensive work. But, with Tyrick Mitchell proving his worth in the side and increasing popularity with the fans, as well as the academy left backs showing of real promise, losing an ageing PvA to Galatasaray will not keep many Palace fans up at night.
He may not be around for much longer, but van Aanholt is just one of four current Palace players to be featuring at the Euros. The Oranje have been blessed with a favourable group, consisting of Ukraine, Austria, and North Macedonia. Dutch teams of the past would be dancing like Alan Pardew in a Cup Final, but this Dutch team is managed by Frank de Boer. So far, the fomer Palace manager has been using PvA off the bench, which looks likely to continue as the Netherlands limp out of an unconvincing run of pre-tournament performances.
First game: Ukraine in Group C
Likely role: Twenty minutes off the bench, but always has that chance of scoring you a goal
Again, Michy most likely will not be a Palace player next season, but in both loan spells at the club, he has scored a few winners and entertained us all on social media. Recently linked with a move to Leeds United, the Belgian may go down as a player who could have been given more of a chance in red and blue, especially later in the season to give Christian Benteke some respite. Chelsea are supposedly asking £10million for the striker, which ordinarily sounds like a decent deal, but considering the number of players needed over the summer (and assuming Mateta signs permanently) it may be too much money for a player who has failed to nail down a starting role in his two loan spells.
Joining Belgium in Group B is Denmark, Finland, Russia. A favourable group, especially for FIFA’s number one ranked side, who will likely rival France for the trophy. Batshuayi has a good goal scoring record for the Red Devils, which combined with the wider attacking forces of Lukaku, Benteke, Mertens and Doku, gives Roberto Martinez great depth going forward.
First game: Russia in Group B
Likely role: offside, but a decent option off the bench
Another player who seems to be on the way out of the club, who has battled with a back injury this season and finds himself behind player of the year Vicente Guaita and new signing Jack Butland for the number one spot. In his eight seasons with Palace, Hennessey has consistently been relied upon by his country, but lately stand-in boss Rob Page has rotated between Wayne and Danny Ward. The latter has only featured a couple of times in the FA Cup this season, which his side later won of course, so it will be interesting to see who is starting between the sticks for Wales.
They may struggle to make it out of a competitive Group A, alongside Turkey, Italy and Switzerland. However, there is certainly enough quality in the squad to cause an upset in Europe again this summer. Whether or not Page prefers Hennessey’s experience behind a young defence remains to be seen, as he has never been particularly vocal in his time at Selhurst, but over the years he has been dependable for his country.
First game: Switzerland in Group B
Likely role: most likely all or nothing
The Christian Benteke love train is well and truly firing again. Big Ben ended the season on a high and was the focal point of the greatest moment of the season, but he faces tougher competition for a starting place in his national side. Lukaku has 24 goals and 11 assists in 36 games, lifting the Serie A title for Inter, meaning despite Benteke’s late form this season he has mostly remained on the bench in the build-up to Euro 2020. However, Roy Hodgson was reluctant to rest the Belgian during his hot streak of form, and with his injury issues over the past few seasons, this could be contributing to Martinez’s preference for Doku and Batshuayi as understudy to Lukaku.
Despite not being the first name on the team sheet, of all the players on this list, Palace fans will likely be most interested in how Benteke performs at the Euros, especially now he has found his form and put pen to paper for next season. Understandably, Benteke will not be first choice for Belgium but with a straightforward group and likely a lot of games to play for Belgium, we may see Benteke get a few minutes. Hopefully, he can continue his blistering form from last season all the way through the summer to next.
First game: Russia in Group B
Likely role: bench-warming his way to a winner’s medal?
The Prime Video docuseries ‘When Eagles Dare’ has refreshed many fans love for Jonny Williams, the promotion season icon is as equally popular with his country as he is in South London. Coming off the back of a quiet season with Cardiff City, Jonny is now without a club so will be looking to impress. He will likely be utilised off the bench, but it is a role that suits the former Palace academy product.
Jose Fonte, a very solid player for palace who came over from Portugal and enjoyed a solid career in England. The centre back is in good form off the back of a surprise Ligue 1 title and forms a solid defensive partnership with Ruben Dias, if Portugal can navigate the ‘group of death’, Fonte is in with a chance of returning home with another trophy for the season.
Steve Mandanda, a free transfer that looked like a coup before the season started but ended in injury and a swift return to Marseille. His pretty forgettable Palace career coupled with the minimal chance of featuring for Les Blues means he is unlikely to be on many Palace fans radar during the Euros.
Frank de Boer, how is he still in a job?
Last but by all means not least, Gareth Southgate does not seem to get mentioned by Palace fans very much considering he is a former academy product who captained the Eagles to a First Division title and now controls the national team. For a player who was an academy graduate to guide our country to Euro 2020 victory would be an enormous achievement. Although, he has given the final place in what could be England’s most talented squad for some time, to Ben White…