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How Euro 2020 Provided Us With The Opportunity To See The Future Generation Of Greatest Players In The World

Gianluigi Donnarumma took a step forward as if nothing had happened.

Calm and undisturbed, he exuded confidence, as if to say, ‘well, what else did you expect?’

Before the celebratory turmoil found him, the goalkeeper completed a few strides on the Wembley surface.

Marcus Rashford stuttered with his spot-kick to entice a dive, throwing the forward off as he smacked the post at the age of 22.

Following that, he saved consecutive penalties from Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka, allowing Italy to win the shootout and its first European Championship since 1968.

Yet, if you just look at Donnarumma in the aftermath, you’d be forgiven for forgetting that this was the most significant moment of his career, which he had absolutely owned, thereby cementing history.

It would also escape your notice that he is so young, especially in that position, on such a grand scale.

Perhaps Donnarummas calm came from the fact that five nights before breaking England’s hearts from 12 yards, he had foiled Spain’s Alvaro Morata to help Italy reach the final.

In fact, he’s won every single one of the five shootouts he’s participated in, with three of them being for club.

Andrea Belotti dashed over to Donnarumma, leaping onto his back and wrapping his arms over his shoulders.

Alessandro Florenzi was on the other flank of Giovanni Di Lorenzo, who was assigned to the side of the stopper.

Shortly, there would be seven players on the goalie, who would carry them all as he waved towards the Italian fans’ stand.

They eventually got the man mountain to the ground, embracing him and crying over him.

Donnarumma, a boy who grew up to be king, a suitable heir to his idol Gianluigi Buffon, allowed himself to be emotional as well.

His performances in the Euros didn’t just revolve around penalty heroics, earning him Player of the Tournament honors and a spot in the Team of the Tournament, which is all the more impressive given his tough departure from hometown club Milan.

Kevin De Bruyne of Belgium was denied by a full-length, superb diving save.

He held out a point-blank shot from Spain’s false nine Dani Olmo, and he denied Steven Zuber twice against Switzerland.

When Luis Enrique’s side were getting the better of Italy, Donnarumma’s quick distribution triggered the break for their equaliser.

He’d taken on so much responsibility and performed with such conviction, which was a common theme among the young players at the showcase.

Forget about the hot opinions and retweets about whether Saka should have been the fifth penalty kicker for England on Sunday.

What does it say when a 19-year-old is brave enough to want it and his management believes in him completely?

Saka was one of the tournament’s shining lights after being Arsenal’s greatest source of hope last season. (POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

The fact that his penalty kick was saved does not take away from his brave displays, which often inspired England’s forward intent.

Because of the finale, you can’t undo what came before, which leads us to possibly the most eye-opening contribution from a young player at a Euros: Pedri

It was like being wined and dined in the art of the pass, of silky efficiency, of perfect control over space and its manipulation with the ball, just by watching him.

Prior to the competition, Pedri had only four senior caps, but he was Spain’s smart, wondrous head in the engine room.

They made the most passes in the competition and had the highest completion percentage, with the 18-year-old as their conductor-in-chief.

Pedri completed 65 of the 66 passes he attempted in the semi-final against Italy – read that stage and opponent again – the anomaly occuring in extra time.

He was the owner of the ball.

(Getty Images) “At 18, no one has done what Pedri has done in this tournament,” Spain coach Luis Enrique stated.

“Not even Andres Iniesta has done that; it’s extraordinary, unique,” Fabio Capello said of the adolescent, who he described as a “surprise of the tournament” and “just a spectacular footballer,” adding, “I didn’t see a guy so young, so strong with personality, without fear in midfield.”

He’s incredible.

For me, Pedri is entirely different from the other players in the middle.” While Spain expected the youngster to shine, another European standout was not expected to feature much.

Mikkel Damsgaard was ecstatic to be named to Denmark’s team as a back-up playmaker before becoming the country’s centerpiece diamond.

Damsgaard would have preferred the circumstances to be drastically different – Christian Eriksen’s horrible cardiac arrest crisis leading to his selection in the XI – but in the most emotionally trying position, he coolly assumed his team’s creative obligation to honor his hero.

The 21-year-old stole the show against Belgium, was instrumental in Russia’s thrashing and Wales’ humiliation, and caused all sorts of problems for the Czech Republic in the quarter-finals.

Damsgaard’s free-kick against England in the next round was the only direct goal scored at the Euros. (POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

On 67 minutes, he came on to shift the course of the game, handing the initiative back to Gareth Southgate’s troops.

If you Google Damsgaard, you’ll find page after page of transfer news linking him to Europe’s top clubs, a modern monument to his tournament brilliance.

Recruiting teams throughout the continent focus their efforts on a younger profile of player with a high ceiling and the tools to develop into a top-tier prospect.

Two weeks ago, an elite club’s sporting director disclosed that there have never been more quality possibilities in this pool, with the fearlessness and persistence that must accompany the hard facts.

In the past, you’d mostly take a chance on a remarkable youngster because there were no solid indications that they could develop into someone special.

There is now a larger sample size of minutes, high-pressure circumstances, and tactical templates to assess them against, all of which they thrive at.

An fantastic Euros gave us and the transfer fixers the chance to see the world’s next greatest players.

It was a real pleasure for me to do so.

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