Croatia have, without doubt, been one of the best teams to watch at Euro 2016, so I was quite looking forward to their match with Portugal, especially considering some of the talent on show. It has to be said there was an array of gifted players on both sides and in particular, a plethora of midfielders to admire. But, what are the chances of us seeing any of them on a regular basis in the Premier League?
The likes of Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic are at the peak of their powers. Modric has developed and evolved his game tremendously to become one of the finest midfielders in the game today, hugely influential for both Croatia and Real Madrid. Meanwhile, Rakitic has settled seamlessly into a fantastic Barcelona side that has collected trophies like they are pin badges. He’s added a sense of urgency to their play and made them just a touch more direct, to devastating effect. His role for Croatia is a little more advanced than at Barca, but he is still a joy to watch with either. It goes without saying that sadly, both are beyond the reach of Premier League clubs at the present time, so we will have to continue to admire them from afar.
The man anchoring the Croatia midfield however, Milan Badelj, may just be a possibility. He’s a player I recall looking good in a pretty poor Hamburger SV team, so calm and collected on the ball. It wasn’t hugely surprising he moved on from a Hamburg side that perpetually struggled and in the summer of 2014 signed for Fiorentina for around €5m. With a good sense of positioning and an eye for a pass, Badelj has impressed for Croatia at this tournament and would not look out of place in the top six of the Premier League. Tottenham have been linked recently, but that may not happen now that Victor Wanyama has signed for Spurs.
Another Croatian midfielder to catch the attention has been wide man, Ivan Perisic. His pace, flair and goals have been a highlight of the Euros and played a key role in Croatia’s strong performance in the group. He is a player who blows hot and cold, whether that be at Borussia Dortmund, Wolfsburg or current club Inter Milan, but his direct and aggressive play could be a very useful weapon for a club at the upper end of the Premier League looking to improve their firepower. Arsenal have been linked with him, being lined up as a potential replacement for Theo Walcott. At 27 years old, he could be ideal for Arsenal in that role.
Portugal also had some midfield talent on show, though theirs was more youthful and 19 year old Renato Sanches looking well beyond his tender years and demonstrating exactly why Bayern Munich spent €35m securing his services before this tournament started; a wise move indeed. His compatriot Andre Gomes has looked good in patches, but not so in others; however, his talent is evident. With great technical ability, range of passing and the ability to carve open defences, the 22 year old Valencia star is said to be on the radar of Juventus, but Chelsea and Manchester United have also been listed as interested parties.
For a time, it seemed it wasn’t a transfer window if William Carvalho wasn’t linked to a Premier League club. Arsenal and Manchester United were the strongest linked and although Arsenal have secured the services of Granit Xhaka and Carvalho signed a new contract in January that includes a hefty buy out clause, the Gunners continue to be linked. In his appearances this summer, he’s shown his imposing presence in midfield that would surely suit Premier League football.
Portugal’s surprise late extra time winner over Croatia may pave the way for transfers of a few their players who have impressed, Portugal’s move on to a quarter final tie with Poland with Premier League suitors watching as they eye potential glory.