sport news Lukaku, Saka, and the 'new Haaland': The winners and losers from the ... trends now
Another action-packed international break has wrapped up and players now turn their attentions back to their domestic duties.
But there has been a lot to learn during this first batch of Euro 2024 qualifiers and international friendlies, and clubs and fans alike will have been keeping an eye on how their players have fared.
Some will have offered their clubs – and any potential suitors – reasons to invest in their talents, such as Scott McTominay in his explosive display for Scotland, and Romelu Lukaku, who might finally be rediscovering his form after a turbulent 2022-23 season.
Others, however, will be shuffling back to their clubs and looking to regroup after a less than successful spell away.
Here, Sportsmail looks at the winners and losers from the last fortnight.
Mykhailo Mudryk (L) and Bukayo Saka (R) return to their clubs after wildly contrasting breaks
Denmark's 20-year-old striker Rasmus Hojlund burst onto the international scene with a bang
The Belgian striker's travails this season have been well-documented. Rather than rediscovering the form that got him signed to Chelsea – but then promptly disappeared – with a loan move back to Inter Milan, Lukaku has found himself in a familiar pattern.
After picking up a hamstring injury shortly after completing the move, he struggled to find fitness ahead of Serie A's winter break. He failed to impress in Belgium's limp World Cup showing in Qatar and in January, spent another stint on the sidelines.
His club appearances have been scattered amidst roiling debate over where he will play next season, undesired by both the parent club that made him their record signing less than two years ago, and the loan side where his return was supposed to feel like a homecoming.
Inter Milan loanee Romelu Lukaku has not had a consistent run of form this season in Serie A
In light of this, it's all the more gratifying that the 29-year-old has found international form worthy of attracting positive attention. He thoroughly upstaged Serie A rival Zlatan Ibrahimovic's landmark appearance for Sweden by scoring a hat-trick in Stockholm, and scored after nine minutes in Belgium's savaging of Germany.
In a Belgian side that looked rejuvenated under new coach Domenico Tedesco, the former United man was an important piece of the puzzle. Should he be able to bring this form home to Milan after the break, the thought of next season could be a little brighter.
McTominay has failed to find his natural role in Erik ten Hag's Manchester United side, and is pushed to the sidelines with greater and greater frequency under his manager. A move in the summer to Newcastle, who believe the 26-year-old has a vital role to play at St James' Park next season, is a possibility.
Off the back of his international form, you can understand why a club with their ambition is determined not to let the player slip through their fingers.
The United man came on in the 67th minute against Cyprus and got to work. His immediate contributions electrified a Scotland side that although in the lead, had become increasingly frustrated by their deep-lying visitors.
His first and second goals came within six minutes of one another, and deep into added time, the midfielder was hunting a third. His performance against Spain over the full 90 was no less comprehensive.
The Scotland international has built upon the faith manager Steve Clarke has placed in him as a frequent starter in his side, and in securing both goals in their 2-0 victory against Spain he wrote himself into the history books.
Scott McTominay was in fine international form for Scotland as the hero of their Spain victory
McTominay scored his first three goals of Scotland's qualifying campaign in just 38 minutes
Is Saka the best right winger in the world? Sportsmail's Chris Sutton thinks so, and made his case by praising the Arsenal star-boy's thoughtfulness and ability to marry reading the game well with impressive strength. North London legend Tony Adams went one further, calling the forward the best player in the world, full stop.
Saka's talent for not only creating chances but finishing them off with an enviable sharpness has not only spurred Arsenal's title tilt, but made it nigh-on impossible to imagine Gareth Southgate's side without him.
Saka is one of the jewels in Gareth Southgate's England side, as demonstrated against Ukraine
His goal against Ukraine, coming moments after his contribution to Harry Kane's own tally, was a blue-chip reminder of his quality and value in an England side forever encouraged to play off the leash.
Only 14 months after his penalty heartbreak in the Euro 2020 final against Italy, Saka has shown an admirable confidence and mental strength in an England jersey. Combined with his developed sense of ruthlessness in front of goal, the player has become undroppable for big matches.
The announcement of any player as a 'new Erling Haaland' should raise an eyebrow as well as prompt a budding fear in the hearts of rival teams. But should a player score a hattrick when handed their first start for the national team, some hyperbole can be forgiven.
Hojlund has been causing headaches for Serie A defenders this season at Atalanta, with the 20-year-old having notched up seven goals in 23 appearances, with only 14 of those seeing him named to the starting line-up.
Whilst the 20-year-old has ceded the lion's share of the transfer rumours to Napoli striker Victor Oshimen, news that United has been looking closely at the Danish international's performances will come as no surprise after this international break.
The player shot to the top of the scoring ranks following Denmark's qualifying matches against Finland and Kazakhstan, where his two goals became the bright spot in his nation's historic loss to the former Soviet Republic, and put him ahead of established marksmen such as Cristiano Ronaldo and Lukaku.
The former Sturm Graz player missed out on taking part in Denmark's tepid World Cup campaign in December, but despite his rawness, Hojlund seems destined to become a regular national team fixture.
Atalanta's Hojlund has been dubbed the 'new Haaland' in the absence of the 'old' one – the City man was unable to start for Norway due to a groin injury
Still riding high off their World Cup win, it's an enviable time to be an Argentina fan – or, for that matter, a player. The team have spent the international break being lauded for their spectacular achievement in Qatar, attending tribute ceremonies or parties, and supplementing the rest of their time with barnstorming international wins.
Messi broke historic ground in both appearances for the Albiceleste, scoring his 800th career goal in the team's 2-0 win against Panama, before netting his 100th for his country in the side's 7-0 rout of island nation Curacao.
The Argentina team have been celebrating non-stop since winning the World Cup in Qatar
Messi scored his 100th goal for the Albiceleste as part of a hattrick against Curacao
Whilst neither opponent would have necessarily troubled the world champions, Argentina's friendly wins have allowed for an extension of celebrations. The World Cup trophy has been paraded in front of fans in the grounds