It’s fair to say that the summer transfer window in 2021 has been one of the quietest in a long time.
The financial effects of the past 18 months, allied to the disruption of planning caused by Euro 2020, have perhaps been the main factors, although there is still time for a big money signing or two to make their move.
On which note, it’s interesting to note that the Olympic Games football tournament is now underway in Tokyo.
The Games have been a hotbed of new talent in recent years, with a number of big names – as we know them now – first coming to prominence while representing their countries.
So here’s five players who have used the Olympics as their springboard to greater things. Could anybody follow suit in 2021?
The London Olympics of 2012 will be remembered for many reasons for those on home soil.
That was largely due to the achievements of the British athletes in front of their own fans, but one of the most outstanding performances of the whole event was served up by a little-known Brazilian named Neymar.
Aged just 20 at the time, he was still plying his trade for the Brazilian outfit Santos, and headed to the English capital after being crowned the South American Player of the Year.
With confidence in full bloom, Neymar scored three goals and created the same number as he set the football tournament alight with his incredible skills and pace.
Although Brazil would lose to Mexico in the gold medal match, it wasn’t all doom and gloom for Neymar – less than a year later, he was snapped up by Barcelona for £50 million, and before long he was linking up with Lionel Messi in a formidable forward pairing.
Angel Di Maria (Argentina)
Despite having promising youngsters by the name of Sergio Aguero and a little-known winger Lionel Messi alongside him, as well as established names such as Javier Mascherano and Juan Roman Riquelme, it was another Argentine who shone at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.
Angel Di Maria had not long joined Benfica from Rosario Central ahead of the Games, but he was still a relative unknown compared to the most illustrious names in the Argentina team.
But nobody contributed more to their cause, with Di Maria’s goals and assists – including the winner in the final against Nigeria – helping Argentina to a well-deserved goal medal.
Fast forward 13 years, and the now 33-year-old has a trophy cabinet that includes five league winners’ medals from Spain and France, as well as a Champions League gong to go with that Olympic gold.
Serge Gnabry (Germany)
Amazingly, in the season prior to the Olympics in Rio, Serge Gnabry couldn’t even break into the first team at West Brom.
But an outstanding turn at the Games for Germany soon changed how the former Arsenal youth star was perceived. Gnabry scored six times, sharing the Golden Boot trophy with his countryman Nils Petersen, and powered his nation to the silver medal.
Pretty much on the strength of those performances alone Werder Bremen were convinced that the youngster had a future in the game, and parted with £5 million for his services.
With eleven goals and countless assists, Gnabry set the Bundesliga ablaze in his one and only season with Werder, earning himself a move to champions Bayern Munich.
Loan spells at Hoffenheim followed, but once Gnabry forced his way into the Bayern starting eleven there was no turning back – in the 2019/20 season, he scored nine Champions League goals as the Germans added continental glory to their domestic success.
Still an integral figure at Bayern to this day, Gnabry remains a star for club and country – a career that may have gone completely astray but for the Olympic Games in 2016.
With the Games taking place so locally, it’s not a huge surprise that the London clubs were so well represented by their scouting teams back in 2012.
And they would have undoubtedly spotted a gem in the Brazilian, Oscar, who along with Neymar ran the show.
He provided four assists in his team’s cause and netted himself as they powered their way to the final, where they somewhat surprisingly lost to Mexico.
Nevertheless, Oscar – still largely unknown at this point and on the books of Brazilian Serie A outfit Internacional – had done enough to convince Chelsea that he was a star of the future.
He spent five years at Stamford Bridge, winning two Premier League titles and the Europa League, before making the surprise decision to seek his fortune in the Chinese Super League while in his prime.
Still only 29, Oscar is still turning out for Shanghai Port, but in the years to come you wonder if he will truly regret not trying to become one of the best players in Europe – as he appeared destined to be following the Olympics.
Gabriel Jesus (Brazil)
The young Brazilian didn’t score his first professional goal until July 2015 at the tender age of 18, and yet a year later he was starring on one of the biggest stages of them all.
Jesus enjoyed his breakthrough season on home soil prior to the Rio Games, scoring 12 times for Palmeiras as they won their first league championship in more than two decades.
But the teenager was still largely unknown outside of his native Brazil at this point, although that would all change when he took to the global stage for the Olympics in 2016.
Jesus netted against Denmark in the group phase and twice more in the semis against Honduras, and when the final against Germany went to penalties he stood up and scored from the spot.
He would become an Olympic gold medallist while still in his teens, and perhaps it’s no coincidence that a mega-millions deal to Manchester City was agreed just weeks after the end of the Games.