A fortnight has passed since Chris Coleman’s heroes saw the curtain come down on their Euro 2016 fairytale. But for several Y Dreigiau stars, that famous French summer is simply the start of a new and exciting chapter.
The magnitude of Wales’s summer accomplishments is still only just dawning, but it’s guaranteed to change the landscape of Welsh football forever. However, as the country reflects on its finest hour, some of those Euro 2016 idols will already be casting one eye towards the next stage of their respective club careers.
Here’s a look at what could be in store for some of those Welsh superstars.
A big summer on the international stage can transform a player’s future entirely. Nobody needed it in 2016 quite like Hal Robson-Kanu: the attacking star is without a club after ending a 12-year affinity with Reading and, at 27, is desperate to earn a second shot at the Premier League.
The initial disappointment of starting on the bench for the Group B opener against Slovakia soon turned to euphoria as the No.9 grabbed the winner nine minutes from time. The striker had been a little fortuitous as he appeared to score with his shin, but that won’t have diluted his pleasure.
While a slice of good luck surrounded the striker’s first goal at the finals, his second was one of sheer class. A masterful Cruyff turn and finish in the quarter-final against Belgium was beaten only by Xerdan Shaqiri’s overhead scorcher against Poland in UEFA.com’s Goal of the Tournament countdown. Perhaps more importantly, it has been the catalyst that should land the unattached striker his dream Premier League move.
Following the last eight wonder goal, Robson Kanu’s named featured prominently in gossip columns and social media for days. In the two weeks since Wales’s exit, the Football Whispers algorithm has pinpointed Hull City and Everton as potential destinations while a whole host of other clubs are eagerly monitoring the situation.
Regardless of what his next step will be, Euro 2016 has undoubtedly become the springboard for bigger and better things.
Arsenal’s talented 25-year-old was already a highly regarded Premier League player long before Wales sealed their place in Europe’s hearts. Nevertheless, Euro 2016 was a fantastic tournament for Ramsey and could open the door for even greater heights at club level.
The Welshman had been linked with a potential move to Manchester United, with Jose Mourinho wanting to sculpt the midfielder into a Frank Lampardeseque superstar. While the Football Whispers algorithm suggests that the recent arrival of Henrikh Mkhitaryan from Borussia Dortmund has killed that proposed transfer, it underlines the general feeling that Ramsey’s future lies in a more advanced role – regardless of which badge decorates his chest.
Ramsey isn’t exactly gunning for an Emirates exit, but he will want to play further up the field after spending most of last term operating from as part of a holding pair. Admittedly, Arsene Wenger’s hand was somewhat forced by injuries throughout the squad. Nevertheless, heroics in France have verified that the Welshman is most effective in the attacking third.
Even after missing the semi-final defeat through suspension, Ramsey was selected for UEFA’s Team of the Tournament. In truth, his absence only further highlighted his importance to Coleman’s side, which is why his name was one of the most commonly discussed both during and after the loss to Portugal.
Ramsey has pulled no punches over his desire to be an attacking midfielder. Whether he stays at Arsenal or not, this summer’s showing can only aid his cause.
For Gareth Bale, things could scarcely be better: aside from playing an instrumental role in his country’s run to the last four, the 26-year-old is loving life at the world’s biggest club and is still (at least for the time being) football’s most expensive signing ever.
On the back of this summer’s exploits, however, the Welshman is in line for a new contract at the Bernabeu as Real Madrid look to seal his services for life. Soft murmurs of unhappiness and a potential return to England with Manchester United have surfaced at several stages during his three years in the Spanish capital, but those now seem a distant memory. Bale is now very much at home amongst the biggest stars in football.
With 31-year-old teammate Cristiano Ronaldo surely approaching a downward curve at some stage in the not too distant future, Bale’s new contract could be the start of ushering in a new era where he is considered the headline attraction.
Having won the Champions League just a fortnight before the tournament, Bale was hardly relying on a big performance this summer to cement his place as one of the world’s best. Still, his role in the Welsh fairytale has certainly done no harm.
And Bale could soon be joined in Spain by compatriot Joe Allen, who could be subject to a bid from Sevilla after a string of energetic and mature displays for Wales in France earned him a place alongside Ramsey in the UEFA Team of the Tournament.
It would be a little ironic if Allen’s last appearance for Liverpool turns out to be a late cameo in the Europa League final loss to the Spaniards in May. However, the Football Whispers algorithm has detected Premier League rivals Stoke City as a more viable destination for the 26-year-old midfielder, with a transfer index rating of 4.9 suggesting that he could be signed by compatriot Mark Hughes within a matter of days.
This had been preceded by talk of a move to the Bundesliga outfit Borussia Monchengladbach. Those rumours have gone quiet over the past few days, but head coach will want midfield reinforcements as he looks to replace the departed duo of Granit Xhaka and Havard Nordtveit.
For one reason or another, it appears that Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp isn’t keen on giving Allen the game time he’ll want next season. It’s now been a full fortnight since the Welsh dream ended but the Welshman’s name continues to gain column inches. One way or the other, the Anfield departures door beckons.
Despite racking up over 70 international appearances for his country, Chris Gunter’s club career has never really hit the heights that were forecast during his early days at Cardiff City. Following a solid showing in France this summer, that could all be about to change.
A move to Tottenham in 2007 came a little prematurely for the spirited right-back while his one Premier League campaign with Reading ended with the disappointment of relegation too. But after another three seasons in the Championship, Gunter should be approaching his peak years. If his performances at Euro 2016 are any sort of barometer, he’d be more than capable of playing in the top flight.
That’s seemingly an opinion shared by Swansea boss Francesco Guidolin, who is reportedly weighing up a summer bid for the Reading full-back. The 26-year-old has been on the Welsh club’s radar for some time, and this summer’s displays will have only further enhanced their verdict regarding the defender’s ability to handle the step up in quality.
Gunter has been a dependable Championship player, but he might not be one much longer. His name was regularly touted with a dream move back to the Premier League during Euro 2016 – a stark contrast to the almost non-existent speculation surrounding England’s flops, as shown by our graphic detailing player transfer mentions throughout the tournament.
Before September 1st, there’s a good chance that Gunter’s dream move will become a reality.