A major tournament can be the perfect opportunity for a footballer to put himself in the shop window, and we’ve seen this at the European Championships on many an occasion.
However, for every Andrey Arshavin or Roman Pavlyuchenko, players who gave English clubs at least one good season after impressing during the qualifiers and/or the finals themselves, there’s someone who fails to deliver on that tournament form.
We’ve picked out five examples, from different tournaments, beginning with a famous case from Euro 1996.
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Poborsky scored one of the standout goals of Euro 96, scooping the ball over Portugal goalkeeper Vitor Baia in a ridiculous display of improvisation.
The Czech star had an accomplished career, too, playing his part for his country eight years later and spending a few good years in Portugal and Italy.
However, in 1996, his first move outside the Czech Republic saw him rock up at Manchester United, and he might have had a decent crack at becoming a success there… if only there wasn’t an emerging talent named of David Beckham.
Picture Homer Simpson going up against Daryl Strawberry in the power plant’s softball team: another time, or even another top club, and Poborsky could easily have thrived in England.
Jonson’s goal for Sweden against Denmark helped eliminate Italy from Euro 2004 during the group stage, prompting Norwich City to sign him up.
However, that would prove to be one more than he scored in an entire Premier League season for the Canaries.
“He had an exceptional Euro 2004 and will add quality to what we’ve already got,” said manager Nigel Worthington.
Well, one of those things was true. Norwich went down with 33 points, having their fate in their hands going into the final game of the season but losing 6-0 to Fulham.
— Martyn Bishop (@MartynBCFC) April 11, 2015
Bolton’s decision to sign Smolarek was based as much on his form in Euro 2008 qualifying as the tournament itself. Only two players bested his nine goals in qualifying, but the Pole was injured shortly before the Austria and Switzerland edition of the Euros and drew a blank in his three appearances.
Smolarek also scored no goals in his first three Bolton games after joining on a season-long loan. Then none in his next three. Then one in the three after that – progress! – though it was a consolation in a cup game. Then back to none in his last four.
Amazingly, Bolton decided not to make the move permanent at the end of the season.
Things didn’t work out for Diarra at Liverpool, but a run of games in a decent French side at Euro 2012 was enough to convince West Ham manager Sam Allardyce that the earlier failure was just a wrong place, wrong time situation.
Diarra played three times for France at the Euros. It took him until January to reach that mark for his new club after a seven-figure move from Marseille.
He left West Ham after 14 appearances in two years, the most notable of which came as one of the ‘senior’ players in a youthful side which lost 5-0 to Nottingham Forest in the FA Cup.
His final act was to earn a yellow card in the second leg of a League Cup semi-final against Manchester City, when his team already trailed 8-0 on aggregate. Credit to him for caring enough to do something booking-worthy at that stage.
Everton couldn’t really claim not to know what they were getting with Ashley Williams in 2016, seeing as he had been in the Premier League for several years by then, but that makes the £9m deal even less excusable.
Williams was already on the wane by then, and – while he was part of the Wales squad which reached the semi-finals of Euro 2016 – plenty of Welsh fans will argue they largely did so despite him.
Seeing as Ashley Williams is trending, here's footage of his time at Everton. pic.twitter.com/2wlFEmGpKo
— NSNO.co.uk – Everton website (@nsno) May 20, 2020
We’re not going to hold anything against the centre-back for making the move to a top-half side, but there’s a reason Toffees fans don’t remember his spell – which ended with a red card at Burnley – with any real fondness.
At least he carried on his Swansea tradition of inexplicably scoring against Arsenal and almost no one else, so there is that.