The accolade every player wants to receive – top honours at a major tournament. This acknowledgement was first nominated back at Euro ’96 when Germany won the trophy with Matthias Sammer claiming the award.
Unsurprisingly in all five tournaments a player from winning nations has scooped the prize. The Roll Of Honour includes the aforementioned Matthias Sammer, Zinedine Zidane, Theodoros Zagorakis, Xavi and Andreas Iniesta.
Who will be joining them on that list?
All five winners so far have been midfielders and you’d expect that trend to continue.
Having charted a path of how I think the Euro’s will take shape you’re best looking at players representing England, France, Germany and Spain – they are my semi-finalists.
Everything I’ve wrote about this tournament so far links to Spain, so that is the place to start. The first player I’m putting up for the award started to come good at the end of the club season despite his side massively underachieving.
Cesc Fàbregas is the man in question and he’ll look to play a pivotal part in Spain’s defence of their crown. Vincente Del Bosque will be hoping Fàbregas steps up to fill the void left by Xavi and if the 29 year old obliges then a big tournament could be in the offing.
In both 2008 and 2012 European Championships he was named in the Team of the Tournament having scooped a winners medal and that might be the case this time – but he can add this to his list of honours.
The Chelsea midfielder has been instrumental in Spain’s recent friendlies having scored and picked up a couple of assists. He’s versatile in terms of playing in a midfield three or five, which Del Bosque has tried both of late.
With Spain liking to keep possession and having faster transitions then this could be the way to go. With the majority of focus surrounding Andreas Iniesta and the likelihood of it being his last tournament, Fàbregas has gone under the radar. With how the market is priced up then at 50/1 this could turn out to be a cracking bet.
Another at a huge price is Austria’s David Alaba. I put them up, as a bit of an underdog team in the preview and if they justify that theory then the Bayern Munich player will be influential in their success.
At international level he sits in a holding midfield role alongside Julian Baumgartlinger where they control the engine room. They dictate the play without doing anything too flashy – they’ll leave that to the overlapping full-backs and players with creativity like Marko Arnautovic and Martin Harnik.
For his country the 23 year old has chipped in with 11 goals from 46 matches. He takes penalties, so is likely to get on the score sheet in a couple of games throughout the competition. He was the nation’s second top scorer during qualifying with four goals and could be called the heartbeat of the side.
At 66/1 then he is definitely worth a small stakes play considering the influence he’ll have leading his nation.
Best of the Rest
Paul Pogba is the favourite to claim this prize after he was named Young Player of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. The 23 year old is expected to grace the big stage with his skills and high levels of audacity. He’ll be in confident mood after coming out of a successful club campaign at Juventus where he scored eight goals and assisted 12 others.
Didier Deschamps has employed the 4-3-3 in recent friendlies with Pogba playing alongside two fellow defensive midfielders. Of those three it will be the Juventus man given more of a free role to showboat and create chances but will he handle the pressure of being the star man in front of a home crowd?
This is the market that would make more appeal for Antoine Griezmann due to the reasoning put in the Top Scorer preview. He’ll play out on the wing of a three-man attack and is more likely to be providing the ammunition for his teammates, whilst Dimitri Payet looks another interesting player on paper. He’ll pop up with a couple of stunning free-kicks no doubt but will that be enough to get the nod?
For England then Dele Alli is the one I’d be tempted to back. However I wouldn’t be rushing to back anyone in a Three Lions shirt, as we know they can flop at tournaments plus with the squad Roy Hodgson has picked he has left himself a selection headache. What he tried against Portugal didn’t work, so it will be back to the drawing board. If he implements a formation that involves Alli in behind Spurs teammate Harry Kane and Jamie Vardy then we could be an attacking proposition that suits the players that he has at his disposal.
The other issue with England is where does captain Wayne Rooney fit into all of it? We know he is very capable on his day and he proved that in the FA Cup Final yet he fails to replicate that as much on the big international stage.
Cristiano Ronaldo has obvious claims being one of the best players in the world and being the focal point of the Portugal squad. For me they won’t get far enough for him to influence the result of this trophy. Again it is a similar theory behind why no Belgian will win this title because I feel they’ll be the ones that flatter to deceive and could be underachievers.
Many people are touting Croatia as an underdog nation. Mario Mandžukić will be chipping in with the goals, so you have to look at the engine room of their squad, which contains both Luka Modrić and Ivan Rakitić. Depending on how far they get either of that midfield pairing could be overpriced.
Advice: Cesc Fàbregas (50/1)
David Alaba (66/1)