10 Star Names in Danger of Missing Euro 2016
After the draw was made in December, the Euro 2016 hype can really click into gear now that we’ve entered the actual year of the tournament, but some big names could be set to miss out.
We now know the 24 teams who will be participating in France in June and July of this year, but whether it's for fitness or tactical issues, or something else entirely, some of their most well-known players might not be there with them.
Here are 10 men who will be desperate for a phone call with some good news this summer.
Karim Benzema, France
We’ll start with the most high-profile case of a potential absentee.
Karim Benzema—the Real Madrid forward and undoubtedly France’s best player over the past few years—remains suspended from his national team following, as reported by the Daily Express, his role in an ongoing case regarding an extortion scam, a sex tape and his France international teammate Mathieu Valbeuna.
Benzema denied any wrongdoing, but having been barred from the French international fold by his country until the case is closed, his involvement for the Euro 2016 host nation has to come into question.
With 27 international goals to his name as well as impressive performances at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, there would be little doubt that France would be a much less fearsome prospect without him leading their attack.
Mathieu Valbuena, France
And even though he would appear to be the victim in this case, there also has to be a question mark over Mathieu Valbuena’s participation in the tournament in the summer, especially if Benzema is found innocent and returns to the fold.
Diminutive playmaker Valbuena played a key role in the French side at the World Cup in Brazil in 2014, but he hasn’t played for his nation since the details of this case came out.
Didier Deschamps would doubtless want to use him in a French squad which will start the tournament as one of the favourites to win it, but that decision could well come down to whether or not Valbuena feels that he can play alongside Benzema ever again.
Lukas Podolski, Germany
He’s been present for Germany at each one of their last six major tournaments, starting at Euro 2004 and ending—gloriously—at the World Cup in Brazil 18 months ago, but Lukas Podolski’s extremely limited role in that triumph and the emergence of other German talents puts his place in France at risk.
These days playing his football for Galatasaray in Turkey, Podolski seems to have been around forever yet will turn just 31 on the eve of Euro 2016, and although leaving him out would be a hugely tough call for manager Joachim Low to have to take, the sense that he has been on a downward spiral ever since leaving Arsenal is somewhat inescapable.
Adnan Januzaj, Belgium
After a somewhat underwhelming loan spell at Borussia Dortmund was cut short, Adnan Januzaj finds himself back at Manchester United and looking to break into their side for the latter half of the Premier League season.
Given their struggles in an attacking sense this season, he might be able to do just that, and the Belgian international will probably have to if he is to earn a place in his nation’s hugely talented squad for Euro 2016.
Belgium have some great players in Januzaj’s position, and after he was overlooked for the friendly matches against Italy and Spain in November, he could face an uphill struggle to win his place back.
Jack Wilshere, England
He scored two excellently taken goals in the second half of England’s 3-2 Euro 2016 win away to Slovenia in June, but outside of pre-season friendlies that remains the most recent football match that Jack Wilshere has played as his injury curse struck again.
The Arsenal midfielder has once again been forced to watch his team from the sidelines as a fractured fibula has rendered him unable to kick a ball for their entire campaign, with Arsene Wenger claiming that he won’t be seen until February at the earliest over the Christmas break, per David Hytner at the Guardian.
England boss Roy Hodgson would doubtless love to have a fit and available Wilshere at his disposal in the summer, but the threat that he will miss the finals looks to be a very real one.
Tomas Rosicky, Czech Republic
Keeping Wilshere company in the Arsenal treatment room this season has been Tomas Rosicky, the veteran midfielder who—like the Englishman—hasn’t kicked a ball for the Gunners in the 2015/16 campaign.
Still the Czech Republic captain following years of sterling service that have now yielded 100 caps, Rosicky hasn’t kicked a ball for his nation since the qualification clash with Iceland in June, and his involvement in a squad now largely made up of younger Czech-based talents has to come into question given that he looks to be nowhere near a return to the Arsenal fold any time soon.
The Czechs might take him for sentimental reasons, but they could just as easily not do.
Someone from Spain’s galaxy of stars will have to miss out on a place in the squad, and unless Isco’s fortunes improve at Real Madrid, then it could well end up being him.
The ex-Malaga man will be happy to see the back of Rafael Benitez at the Santiago Bernabeu after what became a fractious relationship between the pair this season, but he’ll now face the challenge of breaking into the side under Zinedine Zidane and looking to stay there in order to nail down his spot on the plane to France.
The likes of David Silva, Andres Iniesta, Cesc Fabregas, Santi Cazorla, Koke and Thiago Alcantara would all feel as though they are ahead of Isco in the midfield pecking order, meaning that he’s got a tough task on his hands.
Mario Balotelli, Italy
A lot of these omissions would seem to be marginal calls, but this one looks fairly clear-cut.
Mario Balotelli’s career continues to stagnate after injury has reduced him to just four appearances during his loan spell back at AC Milan from Liverpool, and he hasn’t played for Italy since being substituted at half-time in the infamous defeat to Uruguay at the 2014 World Cup.
Euro 2012 perhaps saw the best of Balotelli as he helped Italy reach the final with his memorable two-goal destruction of Germany in the last four, but it would be hugely surprisingly if we were to see the same thing again in France, or indeed ever in what is a troubled career.
Phil Jagielka, England
Everton’s Phil Jagielka is usually a trusted lieutenant of England manager Roy Hodgson, but he has been forced to the sidelines for much of this campaign and might end up paying the price in the summer.
In his absence, John Stones and Ramiro Funes Mori have struck up a good partnership for Roberto Martinez’s Blues, and most England fans would probably now state that Stones, Chris Smalling, Gary Cahill and Phil Jones represent the best four centre-backs currently available that Hodgson could take with him to Brazil.
Given that Jagielka is older than all of them, then, he could find himself edged out of the manager’s plans when the squad comes to be named, although right now he’ll just be focusing on getting his Everton place back first.
Daniel Sturridge, England
He’s not played for England since September 2014, and whilst Daniel Sturridge’s injury problems with Liverpool have become the stuff of legend, the forward has also had to sit and watch others staking claims for his international place.
With Wayne Rooney still the England captain and seemingly undroppable from Roy Hodgson’s squad, the England boss is also hugely likely to include both Harry Kane and Jamie Vardy in his summer plans after their goalscoring exploits for Tottenham and Leicester City.
In theory, that leaves just one more striking position available in the Three Lions’ squad, and unless Sturridge can overwhelmingly prove that he is physically up for the challenge of playing in what would be his second major tournament, it might not be him who fills it.