It’s almost 12 months overdue, but Euro 2020 will finally be hitting TV screens this summer. The effects of the pandemic meant the international tournament was postponed by a year but will start eventually in Rome on June 11 when Italy hosts Turkey.
There will be nine host nations overall in what has been described as a “romantic” one-off event to celebrate the 60th ‘birthday’ of the tournament, culminating in the final at Wembley on July 11.
With fans gradually allowed back into stadiums around Europe over the summer, they will be given the chance to cheer on their favourite players after having been denied the chance to worship them in the flesh for well over a year – but which players will get the best reception from the travelling fans?
At a time when online abuse directed at players has never been more prevalent, teams are more vulnerable than ever but remain hugely popular and recognised figures in society. But which players competing at Euro 2020 are the most popular online, and who would be better off keeping their Twitter notifications muted?
Sportmonks’ Football Popularity Rankings has studied every tweet sent to every member of the squads of seven major nations competing at Euro 2020 to see who is the most popular in each squad and overall, as well as which managers are deemed to be under the most pressure from their fanbases.
At the end of the article an overview of the ten most popular players and the five least popular players of the seven major squads is shown. There is a lot of information hiding in our data. If you want to find that information check out our leading Football API.
The data, taken from analysing the average sentiment of each tweet posted about each player in the past 12 months along with the volume of tweets, shows that Nicolo Barella is the most popular player at Euro 2020 out of the England/Italy/Germany/Netherlands/Spain/France/Belgium squads following his role in Inter Milan’s title-winning season.
Phil Foden has been one of the breakout stars of the 2020/21 season, shining for Manchester City after breaking into the team and particularly starring in the run to the Champions League final. He scored his first goals for England in November with a double against Iceland and has seen his popularity soar since.
His rise to prominence has been so rapid that he is the most popular England player with fans on Twitter and the second most popular of all major squads. This is despite him picking up just six caps prior to the pre-tournament friendlies and only turning 21 shortly after the end of the club season.
Dean Henderson has also enjoyed a meteoric rise to become Manchester United’s first choice goalkeeper this year at the expense of David de Gea, and he has seen his popularity skyrocket as a result – to the extent where he is the third most popular player at the tournament online. However, these figures change when he is compared solely to his international teammates.
Reece James is the third player representing England in the top 10 of all popular players – again possibly due to his rapid rise to become one of Chelsea’s key players in their Champions League success and speculation surrounding his selection in the squad. Meanwhile, France has three players in the top 10 as well, cementing their position as one of the favourites for the competition among fans.
That could have been four players had Didier Deschamps opted to call Aymeric Laporte into his squad of world champions, but the Man City centre-back has instead opted to represent Spain – a decision which has proved popular with Spanish and football fans alike.
Behind Henderson, Barella and his City teammate Foden, Laporte has the most popular profile among the 180 players studied with lots of fans heading to Twitter to praise Luis Enrique for calling up the former France youth international.
Despite that popular decision, Enrique is facing an uphill battle in trying to win over Spain’s fans. The former Barcelona boss has the second lowest approval ratings on Twitter with only Frank de Boer – relatively new to the job – returning a lower overall rating.
The job as head coach of England has proved to be a poisoned chalice at many international tournaments due to the high expectations placed upon every manager to claim the hot seat since 1966, but Gareth Southgate has proved to be something of an exception since leading the Three Lions to the World Cup semi-finals in 2018.
Southgate shed the tag of unlikely star of a pizza advert/that guy who missed a penalty to become a national style icon three years ago with his waistcoats and clear-thinking on the run to the final, and remains a popular figure among fans and is the third most-popular manager of the top seven nations.
Only Roberto Mancini – who has overseen a fantastic run of results to revive the Italian side – and Deschamps are ahead of Southgate, but his popularity could soon fall away following criticism over the style of play and squad selection prior to the tournament.
Sportmonks will monitor the online sentiments around each player and each manager throughout Euro 2020 to see which managers are coming under extra pressure, which players are being backed online to make the difference, and who is attracting the ire of supporters online throughout the competition.
The Popularity ranking is reached by analysing every tweet sent about each player competing at the European Championship since the start of the qualifiers in March 2019, and ranking each squad based on the number and positive/negative sentiments in each tweet. The number of tweets for each player relating to their international team has been studied as well, to give an overall indication of how popular each player is within their fanbase.