Euro 2020: THE SECRET SCOUT – Five surprise names lighting up the show


Sportsmail‘s resident scout is a top football expert who attends matches every week searching for the next star of the game.

But with the Euros in full flow, the action across the continent is throwing up a few surprise names that have taken the tournament by storm.

Here, they look at the five players that are lighting up this year’s competition. 

The European Championship is in full flow and several players are shining brightly so far

PAU TORRES Spain 

POSITION: Defender 

AGE: 24 

CLUB: Villarreal

A Europa League winner with Villarreal, this 6ft 4in centre back has stepped into Sergio Ramos’s shoes and is emerging as a big talent. Confident and composed, he is yet to be exposed.

Most teams at the Euros are playing with one striker, so Torres has coped comfortably alongside Manchester City’s Aymeric Laporte. Covering with great awareness, he has not been put under major pressure.

A left-footed defender who uses his right foot to feed his full back early, he assesses the chance of a forward pass whenever possible. A clean sheet against Sweden was a comfortable start to the tournament but a greater test came from Robert Lewandowksi in Spain’s second game. He challenged the outstanding Pole comfortably. Torres will have more difficult games but he is certainly making his mark.

Pau Torres has stepped into Sergio Ramos’s shoes and is emerging as a big talent

Pau Torres has stepped into Sergio Ramos’s shoes and is emerging as a big talent

LEONARDO SPINAZZOLA Italy 

POSITION: Defender 

AGE: 28 

CLUB: Roma

This 6ft defender has taken the long road since joining Juventus from Siena in 2012. He has emerged as a mature, athletic left back with drive and energy who adds balance to the Italy team.

Comfortable on the left as a right-footed player, he enjoys thrusting forward to overload in the middle and final third. He is effective offensively without neglecting his defensive duties.

He covers well, has aerial strength and is capable of defending inverted wingers who cut inside to meet the Italian’s stronger right foot. Going forward, he shows power and subtlety with his use of the ball. His attacking runs down the left have been a major weapon for Italy. An impressive late developer.

Italy's Leonardo Spinazzola is effective offensively without neglecting his defensive duties

Italy’s Leonardo Spinazzola is effective offensively without neglecting his defensive duties

ALEXANDER ISAK Sweden

POSITION: Forward 

AGE: 21 

CLUB: Real Sociedad

This speedy, lean striker plays in a front two and desperately needs a quality supplier. With his pace, he can race behind a high defensive line but needs a clever passer to put him through. 

Right-footed and tricky at close quarters, he has been starved of the ball. His goal tally at Sociedad is good but he has been given few chances to score at the Euros.

Outpowered too often in the air, he is very much a work in progress. Maybe that move to Borussia Dortmund in 2017 came too early. He runs the channels and is a constant threat. 

But he needs a sympathetic midfielder or a thrusting wide man to give him quality ball. It is early days but I expect to see him do well on the international scene.

It is early days for Alexander Isak but I expect to see him do well on the international scene

It is early days for Alexander Isak but I expect to see him do well on the international scene

MEMPHIS DEPAY Holland

POSITION: Forward 

AGE: 27 

CLUB: Barcelona

There is no question that the Depay of today has matured considerably since his disappointing performances at Manchester United.

His move to Lyon restored his appetite and confidence, and resulted in a move to Barcelona this summer.

A regular for Holland since 2013, he has always been a supreme scorer. I see shades of Thierry Henry in his play. Clever and pacy, he is a defender’s nightmare. He can be a bit arrogant but uses his confidence to good effect. He spins with speed into the left-sided attacking channel, from where he often cuts inside to use his more effective right foot.

He can be selfish in front of goal but his record justifies his single-mindedness. Technically good, he has physical strength, too, and Barca will hope he can be a catalyst for their improvement.

The Dutch need him now more than any other player as they go further in this tournament.

Holland star Memphis Depay is a clever and pacy attacker – a defender’s nightmare

Holland star Memphis Depay is a clever and pacy attacker – a defender’s nightmare

RENATO SANCHES Portugal

POSITION: Midfield 

AGE: 23 

CLUB: Lille

I saw this Benfica junior mesmerise Celtic defenders in a Champions League youth tie at Wycombe seven years ago. Every scout was straight on the phone to his club.

He was special and I thought £35million was a fair price for his energy, skills and breaks from midfield. Bayern Munich paid the money but, through ill-discipline on and off the field, he faltered.

He has blossomed at Lille, though. Difficult to dispossess, he has superb control and touch. He can surge past opponents and attack the final third. His downside is a lack of goals but his dazzling skills make him a crowd-pleaser. 

Renato Sanches is difficult to dispossess, has superb control and his touch is standing out

Renato Sanches is difficult to dispossess, has superb control and his touch is standing out

PS…

BILLY GILMOUR Scotland 

POSITION: Midfield 

AGE: 20 

CLUB: Chelsea

As an Under 15 player at Rangers, there was no doubting Gilmour’s exceptional ability, which led to Chelsea paying a hefty fee for him. Now 20, with only 22 senior games under his belt, he is a bright spark for Scotland.

Small but tough, he seeks the ball full of confidence and doesn’t worry if he is tightly marked or taking a buffeting. His sprightly link-up play from centre-field gives the Scots hope for the future. He needs good players around him, like at Chelsea where his vision makes him a provider of chances.

He sees passes early and can slide away from opponents with bursts of speed. He needs to get into more goalscoring positions but his assets are considerable. It will be fascinating to see how he copes with the intense competition at club level.

Billy Gilmour seeks the ball full of confidence and doesn’t worry if he is tightly marked

Billy Gilmour seeks the ball full of confidence and doesn’t worry if he is tightly marked