Defender Joe Rodon has played every minute of every group stage match for Cymru at EURO 2020, and his performances have been integral to Rob Page's side qualifying for the knock-out stages of the tournament.
Like a number of players in this Cymru squad, opportunities for Rodon at club level were limited towards the end of the season, but the 23-year old has embraced the chance to show Tottenham Hotspur what a sound investment they made when he completed his move from boyhood club Swansea City last October.
“I think every player would obviously like to play more minutes,” said Rodon prior to the tournament. “I've got a long way to go, a lot of work to do, but I'm excited about what the future holds. I know what I want to do to help this group. We're all one team and we all have one goal. I feel like we're a tight group here. We've got a good mixture of senior players and youngsters so there's a good balance.
“I always knew that jumping from Swansea to Tottenham was a big step and I knew it was going to be a difficult first year. Going into an environment with top players was always going to be a difficult step. I think I've learnt so much from it and that's only going to benefit me going forward into next season and the season after that.”
Having come through the youth ranks at Swansea City, Rodon enjoyed success with the U23 team and made his senior debut under Graham Potter in 2018 on his return from a loan spell at Cheltenham Town. Rodon would make over 50 appearances for the Swans before Spurs made the decision to invest in his obvious talent and potential.
It was back in November 2020 that Gareth Bale handed over the captains armband to Rodon during the UEFA Nations League victory over Finland. Bale played alongside Rodon for Tottenham Hotspur and Cymru last season, and was highly-complimentary in his praise for the central defender when asked about his potential earlier this month.
“He has come on leaps and bounds this season,” said Bale. “He has got better and better and looks like a real strong defender. He will be one of the top defenders in the Premier League in years to come. This is another step in the right direction for him and something he wants to test himself with. I'm sure he will do fantastically for us.”
A member of the 'Welsh mafia' at Spurs, Rodon can expect to gain a lot more Premier League experience next season as he makes his mark on the international stage this summer. “Having Ben [Davies] and Gareth [Bale] at Tottenham was always going to make it easier for me to settle in,” Rodon added. “The other players there have also been very welcoming, and we've had some laughs.”
Rodon showed his leadership qualities against Switzerland, Turkey and Italy during the group stages, and had to be at his defensive best in Rome as Cymru were forced back by a dominant Italian team. The towering figure put in a superb individual display to restrict Roberto Mancini's side from capitalising on the number of crosses they were able to deliver into the Cymru penalty area with his aerial presence.
“I think Joe Rodon's been fantastic,” said former Cymru striker and EURO 2016 hero Sam Vokes to Sky Sports News earlier this week. “His performances, how strong he's been, he looks like he's making a name for himself, especially for Wales. Some of the blocks, putting his body on the line, he's really impressed for me at the back.”
Connor Roberts and goalkeeper Danny Ward are the only other players along with Rodon to play every minute of the three group games. Only making his senior international debut in September 2019 in the 2-1 win over Azerbaijan in Cardiff, Rodon now has 17 caps to his name, and has clearly established himself as a key figure in this Cymru defence after progressing through the intermediate ranks. His performances at EURO 2020 already seem set to make this a defining summer in Rodon's career, with an exciting and successful future ahead.