Selecting the right combination of strikers will be crucial to success for EURO 2020 Fantasy managers in UEFA’s edition of the game.
Almost everybody will have one or two of the big-ticket superstars, but which ones have the most promising fixtures and which cheaper options could free-up valuable funds to select key contributors in other positions?
With just hours to go until the tournament begins we are summarising our research in a string of articles looking at the best players to pick by position.
In partnership with UEFA, we have chosen the most promising options at three price points: premium (€9.0m or more), mid-price (€7.0m to €8.5m) and budget (€6.5m or less).
BEST PREMIUM FORWARDS
Fantasy managers instinctively understand that, when it comes to big points scores, you generally get what you pay for, which is why ahead of the tournament starting on Friday we already see heavy investment in some of the most famous star strikers in football.
Top of the popularity charts is Belgium’s Romelu Lukaku (€11.0m) who is coming into the tournament in some fearsome form. He has five goals in his last five appearances for Belgium including the strike that settled their final warmup friendly at home to Croatia. Russia’s leaky defence offers a very inviting opening prospect with first-time finalists Finland to come after a trickier away tie in Denmark.
Almost as popular as the Inter Milan spearhead is Harry Kane (€11.5m). Fresh from his latest Golden Boot-winning season in the Premier League, England’s captain is usually involved whenever his country finds the net, contributing a pair each of goals and assists in the last three competitive fixtures. Kane also has the advantage of playing all his group games, and potentially most knockout rounds, in front of home supporters at Wembley.
Paris St Germain’s World Cup winning superstar Kylian Mbappé (€12.0m) already has 17 goals for his country including one in the recent friendly win over Wales, where he also provided an assist.
He seems certain to get on the scoresheet again very soon, but does face a tough schedule with away matches in Germany and Hungary leading up to a potentially crucial qualification decider with Euro 2016 winners Portugal in Budapest. Managers looking for a surprising differential could select the top scorer from that tournament, Barcelona’s Antoine Griezmann (€11.0m), who is €1.0m cheaper than Mbappé and less than 5% owned despite conjuring up four goals and an assist in France’s last five matches.
Cristiano Ronaldo (€12.0m) is something of an elder statesman these days, with a remarkable 104 goals from 175 international appearances as Portugal begin the defence of their title. In the same tough group as France, the five-time Ballon D’Or winner tuned up for the challenge with a goal against Israel in Wednesday’s 4-0 friendly victory.
Cheaper than all of the above options is Memphis Depay (€10.0m) of the Netherlands. Manchester United supporters may take a lot of persuading to select him for one of their three precious forward berths in the game, but the 27-year-old has re-invented himself at Olympique Lyonnais and is now a prolific performer at the cutting edge of his country’s attack with five goals in his last three internationals including a late free-kick from just outside the box against Scotland.
The evergreen Robert Lewandowski (€11.5m), another popular selection in Euro 2020 fantasy teams, also deserves an honourable mention, particularly as a slate of Slovakia, Spain and Sweden is a good deal less forbidding than those facing some of the premium forward alternatives.
BEST MID-PRICE FORWARDS
Given that he scored a hat-trick against the Netherlands in a 4-2 World Cup qualification victory fewer than three months ago is not surprising that Turkey’s Burak Yilmaz (€8.0m) is among the most selected strikers in the whole game, especially at his price. He was on the scoresheet again in his country’s final warmup match in Moldova, but Italy’s wall of steel will be a formidable test in the EURO 2020 opener in Rome on Friday evening. The Lille striker is likely to have a better chance of adding to his 29 international goals against Wales and Switzerland in Baku.
Fantasy Premier League managers may be surprised to see Chelsea’s Timo Werner (€8.5m), playing for perennial title challengers Germany, priced as low as this even though he has struggled to recreate his RB Leipzig form at Stamford Bridge. The Champions League winner netted twice for his country at home to Ukraine in the Nations League in November, but his appearance at the mid-price level reflects that, although he usually takes the field in Germany’s matches, it is equally likely to be from the bench as from the start.
Many Premier League observers were delighted to see that former FPL favourite Teemu Pukki (€7.0m) will be returning to the top flight after Norwich City’s highly successful Championship campaign. Over the summer he will be transferring his talismanic status to his country as they prepare for their first ever major tournament appearance in a nation where ice hockey is still the dominant sport. As an absolutely certain starter (provided he is fully recovered from recent ankle troubles), penalty-taker and absolute lynchpin of his side’s attack he offers very good value at €7.0m, especially in the second group game in Russia where the hosts always seem to contrive a way to concede.
Russia have their own striking totem in the hugely imposing shape of Artem Dzyuba (€8.5m). Going forward the Russian team is lively and inventive and every move either ends with a powerful header or surprisingly deft touch from Dzyuba or finds its way through him in and around the area. Russia were outclassed by Belgium both home and away in Euro 2020 qualifying, but scored on both occasions, so by the time Russia visit Denmark in the final group game the 6ft 6in Zenit St Petersburg man may already have found the net more than once in his home stadium.
Beyond these options, other players available at this price point are generally clear second, or backup, strikers for their countries and their likely impact depends enormously on tactics and last-minute selection choices.
28-year-old Wout Weghorst (€7.0m) of Wolfsburg chose a great moment to open his account for his country against Georgia on Sunday evening, starting alongside Memphis Depay for the second game in a row. It looks as if he owns that role for now, but he is facing a strong challenge from PSV Eindhoven’s Donyell Malen (€6.0m) who replaced him after 66 minutes of that game.
England will need to be wary of the speed of Milan’s Ante Rebic (€7.0m), likely to be starting wide on the left for Croatia at Wembley on Sunday afternoon. He has played the Three Lions both in the Nations League and the fateful 2018 World Cup semi-final, but is yet to score or assist against them. Rebic has struggled a lot with various injuries this season and is more likely to feed the scorer than find the net himself.
Alexander Isak (€8.0m) started up front for Sweden in their 3-1 win over Armenia last Saturday, but, by his own admission, “didn’t get the best out of myself”. The 21-year-old Real Sociedad prodigy showed great creativity around goal, but somehow failed to find the target from a couple of very presentable chances. He is seen by many as a key part of this squad’s future, but was replaced by Markus Berg (€8.5m) with a quarter of the match remaining and the veteran found the net within minutes. Isak is certain to get game time in the tournament, but he could begin Sweden’s opener in Bilbao against Spain on the bench. Isak has only scored once for his country in his last eight appearances, but games against Slovakia and Poland may give him the chance to properly announce himself on the international stage.
BEST BUDGET FORWARDS
Down at 6.5m and below the options, as you would expect, are a lot more speculative. But there is still good value to be found for those willing to take a risk.
Gerard Moreno (€6.5m) has had a great season with Europa League winners Villareal, but, despite his current EURO 2020 Fantasy ownership of 11%, he seems unlikely to start for his country unless players are lost to the COVID outbreak that has hit the squad.
Hungary’s wide attacker Roland Varga (€5.0m) has very few minutes in recent internationals, but looks set to start up front in the enforced absence through injury of young star Dominik Szoboszlai. If he does, he may also take over corner and free-kick duties as both Hungary’s primary specialists are missing.
Che Adams (€6.5m) of Southampton, who recently joined the Scotland set-up after playing some youth football for England, already has two goals and an assist in his four appearances. However, if manager Steve Clarke decides to go with only one up front in their home ties with the Czech Republic and Croatia or the Wembley showdown with England, Lyndon Dykes (€6.5m) of Queen’s Park Rangers looks the more likely to be chosen to lead the line for a team that seems to have found a rhythm and an identity just in time to enjoy raucous home backing at their first major finals this century.
Wales fans were frustrated that Cardiff City target man Kieffer Moore (€6.5m) was not a starter in their final home friendly against a tough Albania side, but his introduction after the break noticeably gave the team a focal point that allowed the likes of Gareth Bale and Harry Wilson to work around him. Italy await in Rome in the final group game, but Switzerland and Turkey offer the chance for Moore to add to his five goals in 17 international appearances before then.