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Thibaut Courtois, Gavi and the star names who look likely to miss Euro 2024.

Thibaut Courtois, Gavi and the star names who look likely to miss Euro 2024.

Euro 2024 is almost upon us, with the opening game now less than three months away. That’s obviously great news for the fans, but for some managers and players, it’s a concern, as time is running out for several stars to return to full fitness ahead of the tournament in Germany.

Of course, some terrific talents have already been ruled out by injury, with the dreaded ACL tear illustrating why it’s the scourge of modern footballers, while others will miss the Euros through suspension.

However, several players remain optimistic about their chances of forcing their way back into their national-team squads during the final two months of the club season, by either proving their match fitness or simply rediscovering their very best form.

EPRODITY runs through all of the big names that currently look set to miss this summer’s celebration of European football in Germany…

David Alaba (Austria)

One of three Real Madrid players to tear an ACL this season, but unlike team-mates Thibaut Courtois and Eder Militao, Alaba never had any chance of returning before the end of the campaign. Indeed, the versatile Austrian defender suffered his injury in December, in the first half of a Liga clash with Villarreal, and given the expected recovery time is eight months, Alaba won’t be fit to play any part in his country’s Euro 2024 campaign.

Domenico Berardi (Italy)

In his first game back after recovering from a meniscus injury, Domenico Berardi suffered a complete tear of the Achilles tendon of his right leg in Sassuolo’s Serie A clash with Verona on March 3. The versatile forward, who was part of the Italy squad that won Euro 2020, is not expected to return to action until next year.

Sven Botman (Netherlands)

Centre-back is arguably the Netherlands’ deepest position group, but Sven Botman would have still hoped to force his way into Ronald Koeman’s line-up before suffering an ACL injury while playing for Newcastle against Manchester City on March 16. He is now set to miss 6-9 months of action, and thus this summer’s Euros.

Thibaut Courtois (Belgium)

Absolute heartbreak for Thibaut Courtois, who was set to return to action after the international break, only to be left in tears for the second time this season after suffering a serious knee injury during a Real Madrid training session.

After tearing the ACL in his left knee in pre-season, the Belgian tore the internal meniscus in his left knee on March 19. Courtois underwent surgery the following day and is not expected to return to action until the 2024-25 campaign.

The thing is, though, the 31-year-old probably wouldn’t have played at Euro 2024 anyway. Indeed, Courtois’ relationship with national team coach Domenico Tedesco appears broken beyond repair. The pair fell out last summer, with Tedesco claiming that Courtois missed the Euro 2024 qualifier with Estonia because he was upset at not being given the captain’s armband.

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The Belgian boss claimed ahead of the March international break, “I tried everything to take him to the European Championship this summer, but the last thing I heard was that he didn’t feel ready to go. It was clear and honest on his part.” Courtois responded by effectively calling Tedesco a liar on social media with three Pinocchio emojis.

As a result, there now appears little chance of a recall for Courtois as long as Tedesco remains at the helm.

Gavi (Spain)

Barcelona reportedly blamed Spain coach Luis de la Fuente for the injury that Gavi suffered in a meaningless Euro 2024 qualifier against Georgia last November. The midfielder was one of just two players to retain their starting spot from the game against Cyprus three days previously, so the Blaugrana were furious when Gavi was forced off just 24 minutes into the match in Valladolid with “a complete tear of the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee and an associated injury to the lateral meniscus”.

De la Fuente dismissed allegations that the teenager was at risk of burnout as it was, insisting that he was “fresh” and fully fit to play. “This can happen in any situation,” he argued. “It was an accident, a misfortune. He was perfect to play.”

Whatever the truth, the Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) has reportedly decided that Gavi won’t be called up for international duty again until next year, even though he should be able to return to action in time for the start of the 2024-25 campaign.

Reece James (England)

Reece James proclaimed in a social media post at the end of February that “the comeback is coming” – it’s just a matter of when exactly. Chelsea boss Mauricio Pochettino has been unsurprisingly reluctant to put a rough date on the right-back’s return, given James’ long history of hamstring problems. However, when pressed on James’ progress during the March international break, England boss Gareth Southgate said that “we would hope he would have some games before the Euros”.

Southgate did pose a very pertinent question, though: “Could he play seven games [in a month]? His record over the last few years would suggest no. But is he a top-level player who could provide something important? No question.”

James, then, faces a race against time to convince Southgate he’s a risk worth taking, having featured just nine times in all competitions for Chelsea so far this season.

Christopher Nkunku (France)

Christopher Nkunku’s hopes of making it to Germany are fading fast. The forward, who hasn’t played for France since last June, has been plagued by fitness problems since joining Chelsea, with Nkunku picking up a knee injury in pre-season that required surgery, thus ruling him out of action for four months.

He looked sharp upon his return to action, even scoring on his Premier League debut on Christmas Eve, but was sidelined again in January, this time with a hip complaint, before hurting his hamstring the following month.

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Nkunku could make his comeback in April, but nobody is taking anything for granted and it now seem unlikely that the 26-year-old, who has never scored for his country, will be able to force his way back into the France fold in time for the Euros.

Ivan Perisic (Croatia)

Sadly, Ivan Perisic seems unlikely to add to his impressive tally of 129 international caps at Euro 2024. The Croatia legend “suffered a complex ACL injury in his right knee” during non-contact training with Tottenham in September of last year and the club ruled the versatile winger out of action for “the remainder of the season”.

Manager Ange Postecoglou also stated in January that Perisic is unlikely to play for Spurs again, given the 35-year-old’s contract expires at the end of the season.

However, Perisic claimed later that month there is an outside chance he could be in a position to return to the field of play in April

Paul Pogba (France)

Paul Pogba has been left “heartbroken” by his four-year ban for testing positive for a banned substance last August, which is entirely understandable. The midfielder insists that he never knowingly took performance-enhancing drugs (testosterone metabolites were found in his system), but should he fail to have the suspension overturned on appeal at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), the midfielder will probably never play for Juventus or his country ever again.

Pogba had been struggling with a succession of injury issues as it was and missed the 2022 World Cup in Qatar after failing to recover in time from surgery. Consequently, there were already serious doubts over whether he would ever recapture the form that made him the most expensive player in football history in 2016 when he moved from Juve to Manchester United.

Luke Shaw (England)

Luke Shaw joined up with the rest of the England squad ahead of the March friendlies against Brazil and Belgium, but his participation in Euro 2024 remains in serious doubt. The Manchester United left-back, who can also play in the centre of defence, was forced off in February’s game against Luton with a recurrence of the same muscular problem that sidelined him for three months earlier this season.

At the time, it was thought that Shaw would be out of action for the rest of the campaign, but the 28-year-old has reportedly not given up on making the flight to Germany. England boss Gareth Southgate will certainly be hoping that one of his key performers at Euro 2020 can make a quicker-than-expected recovery from his latest setback, given the Three Lions are light on quality options at left-back.

Raheem Sterling (England)

Raheem Sterling looked back to something close to the best at the start of the season, but as England manager Gareth Southgate stated only last week, the winger has “a fight on his hands” to reclaim his place in the national team. Despite 15 goal involvements for Chelsea in 2023-24, he is being completely outperformed by team-mate Cole Palmer. Indeed, Sterling has become the target of the Stamford Bridge boo boys in recent weeks.

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When one considers that Phil Foden and Bukayo Saka are nailed on for inclusion, and the fact that Anthony Gordon and Jarrod Bowen are in better form, it’s a little easier to understand Southgate’s willingness to leave one of the best performers at Euro 2020 at home this summer.

Jurrien Timber (Netherlands)

After impressing in both pre-season and the Community Shield, Jurrien Timber was dealt a devastating blow on his Premier League debut for Arsenal, with the summer signing suffering an ACL injury in the 2-1 win over Nottingham Forest last August.

Despite initial fears that the Dutch defender’s season was already over, Timber is now in line to make his comeback after the March international break. His immediate focus is obviously working his way back to full fitness, with the hope being that he can play an important part in Arsenal’s title challenge. If he does, though, there’s a chance he could be called up by Ronald Koeman for the Euros, as a fully fit Timber offers invaluable versatility to any squad.

Sandro Tonali (Italy)

After making an encouraging start to his Premier League career following his shock transfer from AC Milan to Newcastle, Sandro Tonali found himself caught up in the biggest betting scandal to hit Italian football since the 1980s. In the end, the midfielder was banned for 10 months for his involvement in illegal gambling, starting from October 27, 2023 – thus ruling him out of this summer’s Euros.

His suspension represented a major disappointment for Italy, given Tonali would have been challenging for a starting spot in Luciano Spalletti’s side, but obviously the most important aspect of this whole sorry affair is that the 23-year-old is now receiving the help he needs to get over his gambling problem.

Ben White (England)

Ben White hasn’t played for England since leaving the 2022 World Cup for “personal reasons” and his self-imposed exile appears unlikely to end any time soon. Three Lions boss Gareth Southgate tried to call the Arsenal right-back up for the March internationals against Brazil and Belgium, but was informed by Gunners sporting director Edu that the player did not want to make himself available for selection.

“For me that is a great shame,” Southgate said. “He is a player we took to the Euros, a player we took to the World Cup and I spoke to him post-Qatar because I wanted to pick him. He is not available to us and there is no issue between us at all, and I also should say there is never any issue with [coach] Steve Holland because that has been mentioned in articles and I don’t like that.

“I want that door wide open. He would be in this squad but he’s not available to us and I have to focus on who can help us.”

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