Dani Olmo, Spain's shy Euro 2024 Golden Boot leader and €60m summer transfer target (2024)

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In the build-up to Spain’s European Championship semi-final against France, all eyes were on Dani Olmo.

The versatile RB Leipzig attacking midfielder put in a starring performance against Germany in the quarter-finals — scoring the opening goal and providing the winning assist for Mikel Merino. Olmo, 26, knew he would be starting as Spain’s No 10 last night after Pedri’s tournament-ending knee injury in that game.

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To lighten the mood, a Spanish football federation employee tried to crack a joke with the usually understated Olmo during the week.

“Mate, you have to use all this momentum to promote yourself a little bit!” they said.

“Do you think so?” he replied. “You might be right. But I don’t really know how to do this.”

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The anecdote sums up Olmo — a shy character who bursts into life on the pitch and who has become one of the deadliest attacking midfielders at this summer’s Euros.

That much was clear from another outstanding performance in the semi-finals. Olmo scored Spain’s second of the night in the 25th minute — it would prove to be the winner — and is joint-top of the Euro 2024 scoring charts with three goals, alongside Cody Gakpo, Georges Mikautadze, Jamal Musiala and Ivan Schranz, with only Gakpo still in the tournament. He has two assists on top of that, which would be enough to give him the Golden Boot at present (Gakpo has one assist).

Olmo’s goal also made him the first Spanish player to score in three consecutive knockout games at a major tournament and last night was the only one of three he started. As tough a blow as losing Pedri for the tournament was for Spain coach Luis de la Fuente, he was fortunate in that the squad doesn’t have a better backup player in any other position.

GO DEEPEREuro 2024 top goalscorers: Olmo leads the race for Golden Boot

“With Pedri, we probably have better passing in the final third and ball retention,” fellow midfielder Rodri said before the France game. “And with Dani, we might have more presence in the box. He reads the game between the lines and the spaces in there so well. We are lucky to have a team with such versatile profiles.”

Last night’s semi-final in Munich will rightly be remembered in time as the Lamine Yamal Game, but Olmo’s move for the winner shouldn’t be overlooked. He controlled a ball that seemed out of reach, faked his way past midfielder Aurelien Tchouameni and produced a deft touch that put him in the perfect spot to send a shot into the bottom corner of Mike Maignan’s net — via a deflection off France defender Jules Kounde as he tried to clear it.

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His father Miquel, a former semi-professional footballer and later a lower-division manager in Spain, was in the stands wearing an ‘Olmo, 10’ shirt and enjoying his son’s performance. “He taught me how to read games,” Dani has said. “He would tell me I had to look more at what was happening in a game and how to improve.”

It seems clear this will be one of the biggest summers of Olmo’s life.

Dani Olmo, Spain's shy Euro 2024 Golden Boot leader and €60m summer transfer target (2)

Olmo scores the winning goal in the 25th minute (Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

He expects to leave Leipzig by the end of this transfer window after reaching something close to a gentleman’s agreement with the German Bundesliga club last summer. He has a €60million (£50.7m, $64.9m) release clause in his contract, which is set to expire on July 15 — the day after Sunday’s final against England or the Netherlands in Berlin — and will have no shortage of suitors given his adaptability across the front line.

Olmo signed his latest Leipzig extension last summer, following what his camp calls a show of respect to the club. They had just sold three key players in Josko Gvardiol to Manchester City, Christopher Nkunku to Chelsea and Dominik Szoboszlai to Liverpool, bringing in around €220million. But losing another highly-rated player would have been a blow, so they asked Olmo to stay another year.

The friendly circ*mstances in which Olmo’s extension was agreed make the player’s representation think Leipzig won’t present too many problems if offers in the region of that €60million figure arrive after next Monday. All parties say it is difficult to see a full transfer being negotiated and concluded before then, but Olmo expects his loyalty and respect towards Leipzig to be rewarded.

Dani Olmo, Spain's shy Euro 2024 Golden Boot leader and €60m summer transfer target (3)

Olmo has been a key player for RB Leipzig (Jan Woitas/picture alliance via Getty Images)

Olmo took an unusual path to the top. Born in the Catalan city of Terrassa, also the birthplace of Barcelona and Spain legend Xavi, he was developed at Barca’s renowned La Masia academy. But, in 2014, having just turned 16, he took the bold step of leaving to join Dinamo Zagreb in Croatia.

Barcelona were used to their biggest talents heading off to Premier League clubs, or even Bundesliga ones who made attractive offers. But a big prospect such as Olmo going to Croatia had not been seen before or since.

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“They offered me a very exciting project,” Olmo said of his Zagreb move, discussing that move last week. “They showed me the examples of Luka Modric, Mateo Kovacic and Marcelo Brozovic — players that had made their way to the top from their academy.

“Dinamo were working the academy really well. The first team had been in the Champions League and the Europa League. It could be the perfect stepping-stone and me and my family decided to go.”

In less than a year and a half, he was playing for Dinamo’s first team.

Come the winter window of the 2019-20 season, Leipzig paid around €30million to sign him and offered him a platform to reach the European elite, but there was still something missing.

Last summer, Olmo’s camp enlisted the help of a PR company to help him do what he struggles with most: selling himself off the pitch.

Sources close to the player — who, like all those cited in this article, asked to remain anonymous to protect relationships — say he felt overlooked playing in the Bundesliga, a competition which is not among the most followed back in Spain, and suggest he had to do more to stand out with the national team. His PR work is now being overseen by the same company which does so for Lionel Messi, Ousmane Dembele and Lisandro Martinez.

Inserting the €60million release clause, with the idea of finding a new challenge sooner rather than later, was part of Olmo’s strategy.

Multiple reports have linked him with a return to Barcelona, but as much as he is highly rated by their sporting director Deco, the club’s tricky financial situation and current emphasis on other roles within the squad mean there is serious doubt as to whether they would re-sign him.

Bayern Munich and Liverpool are other clubs reportedly interested, although sources from both sides have kept themselves away from any deal being discussed.

According to sources close to the situation, it is unlikely any move is finalised by the end of this week when Olmo’s official clause will be close to expiring, but he showed against France how determined he is to establish himself as a world-class player.

GO DEEPERPerfection, by Lamine Yamal

(Top photo: Franck Fife/AFP via Getty Images)

Dani Olmo, Spain's shy Euro 2024 Golden Boot leader and €60m summer transfer target (5)Dani Olmo, Spain's shy Euro 2024 Golden Boot leader and €60m summer transfer target (6)

Pol joined The Athletic in 2021, initially moving to Manchester to assist us with our Manchester City, Manchester United and Spanish reporting. Since 2015 he has been an English football correspondent for multiple Spanish media, such as Diario Sport and RAC1 radio station. He has also worked for The Times. In 2019, he co-wrote the book Pep’s City: The Making of a Superteam. He will now move back to Spain, covering FC Barcelona for The Athletic. Follow Pol on Twitter @polballus

Dani Olmo, Spain's shy Euro 2024 Golden Boot leader and €60m summer transfer target (2024)

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