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Haaland, De Jong, Courtois: The best XI of players absent from Euro 2024

Sports Mole selects a best XI of players who will not feature at Euro 2024, including Erling Haaland, Frenkie de Jong and Thibaut Courtois.

Over 600 of the continent's finest talents have descended upon Germany for Euro 2024, where 24 nations will scrap for supremacy and the right to lift the Henri Delaunay Trophy aloft over the next four weeks.

Plenty of established superstars and rising proteges hoping to put themselves at the front and centre of the shop window will be strutting their stuff at iconic venues such as the Allianz Arena and Olympiastadion, the latter of which will host the Euro 2024 final on July 14.

However, an unfortunate batch of talents will be forced to witness the action from behind a TV screen, either due to devastating injuries, cross-competition suspensions, internal conflicts with management, or simply because their nation failed to qualify.

Here, Sports Mole picks a best XI of players absent from Euro 2024, with a few honourable mentions for each position.


GOALKEEPER: Thibaut Courtois

Real Madrid's Thibaut Courtois during training on May 31, 2024© Reuters

Despite recovering from a crushing ACL problem and second knee issue in time to star for Real Madrid in Champions League success number 15 - ousting Andriy Lunin from the Blancos XI in the process - Thibaut Courtois will not be guarding the Belgium posts this time around.

Red Devils boss Domenico Tedesco ruled out the prospect of Courtois being called up just before his injury comeback, but a public spat between the pair is believed to have been the primary reason for his snub, as the Real Madrid man memorably accused Tedesco of breaching his trust over a captaincy row late last year.

Honourable mentions: Michele Di Gregorio (Italy/Monza), Robert Sanchez (Spain/Chelsea), Nick Pope (England/Newcastle United)


RIGHT-BACK: Ben White

Arsenal defender Ben White pictured in October 2023© Reuters

Sticking with the theme of players falling out with coaches - in this case allegedly - Ben White has been ostracised from the England setup ever since leaving the 2022 World Cup camp for personal reasons, which is now reported to have been the Arsenal man taking issue with a Steve Holland comment about his passion for the game.

Gareth Southgate affirmed in March that the door was still open for the in-form White to make a U-turn on his decision, but he was much more curt when announcing his Euros selection, simply stating that the defender was still unavailable as far as he was aware.

Honourable mentions: Reece James (England/Chelsea), Pedro Porro (Spain/Tottenham Hotspur), Matty Cash (Poland/Aston Villa)


CENTRE-BACKS: Mats Hummels and David Alaba

Real Madrid's David Alaba is helped off the field after sustaining an injury on December 17, 2023© Reuters

One of the unexpected stars of Borussia Dortmund's remarkable run to the 2023-24 Champions League final, Mats Hummels's remarkable European feats at the age of 35 did not extend to a Euro 2024 selection under new Germany boss Julian Nagelsmann.

The ex-Bayern Munich man admitted that his snub left a "bitter" taste in the mouth, as Nagelsmann relies upon a central pairing of Jonathan Tah and Antonio Rudiger to shut up shop in front of Manuel Neuer.

Meanwhile, Austria's David Alaba did not share a field with his former Bundesliga colleague in the Wembley Champions League final, as he is now six months into his recovery from a cruel ACL injury.

Despite Alaba's undeniable importance for both club and country, Austria enter Euro 2024 on a strikingly good stretch of form - six wins and a draw from their last seven - although they are still considered outsiders to pip either France or the Netherlands to a Group D last-16 berth.

Honourable mentions: Harry Maguire (England/Manchester United), Francesco Acerbi (Italy/Inter Milan), Giorgio Scalvini (Italy/Atalanta BC), Sven Botman (Netherlands/Newcastle United), Pau Torres (Spain/Aston Villa)


LEFT-BACK: Destiny Udogie

Tottenham Hotspur's Destiny Udogie reacts on September 30, 2023© Reuters

After England avenged their Euro 2020 final loss to Italy at Wembley during qualification for the 2024 edition, Gareth Southgate singled out Destiny Udogie's threat from an inverted position, and an international breakthrough at Euro 2024 was on the cards for the Tottenham Hotspur man.

However, a season-ending quadriceps injury extinguished his chances of helping the Azzurri defend their title, but at just 21 years of age, there are plenty more major tournaments on the horizon for the exciting defender.

Honourable mentions: Lucas Hernandez (France/Paris Saint-Germain), Alejandro Balde (Spain/Barcelona), Ben Chilwell (England/Chelsea)


DEFENSIVE MIDFIELD: Frenkie De Jong and Gavi

Barcelona's Frenkie de Jong receives medical attention after sustaining an injury on April 21, 2024© Reuters

Netherlands boss Ronald Koeman took a huge swipe at former club Barcelona when confirming Frenkie de Jong's withdrawal due to an ankle injury earlier this month, hitting out at the Blaugrana for taking a risk with the midfielder's fitness.

De Jong had already sustained two ankle injuries in 2023-24 before he was deemed ready to start April's El Clasico with Real Madrid, but he suffered an immediate recurrence, and Koeman claimed that the national team are not "paying the price" for Barca's decision.

The former Ajax starlet is one of two celebrated Barca midfielders absent from this summer's Championships alongside Gavi, who also joined the long list of ACL victims with the injury he sustained on Spain duty back in November.

Even though it has been nearly eight months since the former Kopa Trophy winner suffered his rupture, he is still on the long road to recovery, and Spain's immediate fears that the 19-year-old could miss Euro 2024 did in fact come to fruition.

Honourable mentions: Leon Goretzka (Germany/Bayern Munich), Teun Koopmeiners (Netherlands/Atalanta BC), Manuel Locatelli (Italy/Juventus), Sandro Tonali (Italy/Newcastle), Marcos Llorente (Spain/Atletico Madrid)


RIGHT MIDFIELD: Michael Olise

Crystal Palace's Michael Olise during the warm up before the match on April 21, 2024© Reuters

Still yet to be capped by any nation at international level, Crystal Palace wing wizard Michael Olise has more than earned his stars in the Premier League and represented France at last year's Under-21 Euros, although his campaign was curtailed by a hamstring problem.

One year later, all of Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea are said to be battling for the £60m-rated attacker, who can play for any of England, France, Algeria or Nigeria at senior level, and while he will watch the Euros from his own sofa, he has been included in France's provisional Olympic Games squad.

Honourable mentions: Dejan Kulusevski (Sweden/Tottenham), Moussa Diaby (France/Aston Villa), Serge Gnabry (Germany/Bayern)


ATTACKING MIDFIELD: Martin Odegaard

Arsenal's Martin Odegaard reacts on April 14, 2024© Reuters

More on another Norwegian superstar later, but Arsenal's creator-in-chief Martin Odegaard will not be gracing Euro 2024 with his playmaking excellence, as his nation could only muster a third-placed qualifying finish and did not have a Nations League playoff safety net.

As a result, the Norwegians' exile from major tournaments has now hit 24 years since their only Euros appearance to date at the 2000 tournament, although many Gooners will be happy to see their ever-present captain enjoy a proper rest this summer.

Honourable mentions: James Maddison (England/Tottenham), Christopher Nkunku (France/Chelsea), Marco Reus (Germany/Borussia Dortmund)



LEFT MIDFIELD: Marcus Rashford

Manchester United's Marcus Rashford reacts after sustaining an injury on March 3, 2024© Reuters

While reigniting his stuttering Manchester United career in the 2022-23 season, Marcus Rashford had seemingly revived his national team adventure at the same time, although the England international regressed in 2024 and also came under fire for an unsanctioned trip to Dublin.

Despite being one of the Three Lions' household names and boasting plentiful major tournament experience, Rashford's underwhelming form last season meant that Southgate could not justify his inclusion over other attackers who did manage to set their respective leagues alight.

Honourable mentions: Jack Grealish (England/Manchester City), Raheem Sterling (England/Chelsea), Karim Adeyemi (Germany/Borussia Dortmund)


CENTRE-FORWARD: Erling Haaland

Manchester City's Erling Haaland celebrates with the trophy after winning the Premier League on May 19, 2024© Reuters

Those chasing the Euro 2024 Golden Boot could have been forgiven for breathing a sigh of relief at Norway's failure to qualify, which means that Man City's towering talisman Erling Haaland will not be making nets bulge in Germany.

The 23-year-old was arguably a victim of his own 2022-23 greatness last season, but he still finished atop the Premier League scoring charts with ease, and his absence could see a fascinating fight for the Golden Boot emerge between Harry Kane, Kylian Mbappe and - whisper it quietly - Cristiano Ronaldo.

Honourable mentions: Alexander Isak (Sweden/Newcastle), Viktor Gyokeres (Sweden/Sporting Lisbon), Alexander Sorloth (Norway/Real Sociedad), Ciro Immobile (Italy/Lazio)


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