Winning a major tournament like Euro 2016 requires a team to come through four weeks of tough action, and this year it will be harder than ever with a round of 16 adding another fixture to an already congested run.
It’s a team effort then, but so often individuals shine on the biggest stages of them all. That’s why the Player of the Tournament market is so intriguing; particularly as we have some key trends from previous renditions to work with.
Here’s a list of former European Championship top player winners:
- 2012 – Andres Iniesta (Spain)
- 2008 – Xavi (Spain)
- 2004 – Theo Zagorakis (Greece)
- 2000 – Zinedine Zidane (France)
- 1996 – Matthias Sammer (Germany)
So what do we learn? Well, all five of these played for the eventual winner of the tournament, which is a handy betting angle in, and the most recent four were midfielders. That is interesting, as you might assume that the top goalscorer for each tournament would take home the Player of the Tournament honours too. It’s good that the judging panel are looking beyond the obvious.
That means that we have a small but useful crib sheet from which to perm our potential candidates in this market.
Paul Pogba (10/1)
It was quite noticeable that as soon as Paul Pogba was handed the ‘orchestrater’ role in the Juventus team following the departure of Andrea Pirlo, his game improved ten-fold.
And what a 2015/16 campaign he enjoyed. Eight goals, twelve assists and selection for a number of European team of the year awards highlight just how far the former Manchester United trainee has come.
Having been named Best Young Player at the World Cup of 2014, we don’t need to question Pogba’s penchant for turning it on at a big tournament, and with France expected to go deep into Euro 2016 he is surely a prime candidate in this market.
Antoine Griezmann (14/1)
Another young French star who looks likely to put in a series of eye-catching performances is Antoine Griezmann. The Atletico Madrid ace has been in stunning form at club level this term; 33 goals and seven assists (including important strikes against Real Madrid, Barcelona and Bayern Munich) confirm the 25-year-old’s status as one of Europe’s leading stars.
He caught the eye initially at World Cup of 2014, and his ability to both score goals and create for others gives him two string to his bow that will surely capture the attention of the Player of the Tournament judges.
Thomas Muller (16/1)
Another who enjoyed a strong domestic campaign – the best possible preparation for a major tournament – is Thomas Muller.
Identical stats to Griezmann’s reveal what a season the Bayern man had, and with Germany likely to go far – they are potential finalists, after all – he has to come under consideration.
A player that has won the Golden Boot at one World Cup, was nominated for the Golden Ball at another and featured on the shortlist for the Ballon d’Or, all at the age of 26, is indicative of his relevance to this market.
Mesut Ozil (25/1)
Any player that can create countless goals at a major tournament will surely be a strong contender for Player of the Tournament – as Iniesta and Xavi have in the past – and few in Europe are better at than Ozil.
A midfielder playing for Germany, and thus ticking our two shortlisting boxes listed above, Ozil provided the joint-highest number of assists at both the World Cup of 2010 and Euro 2012, and his return of 19 goals created in 35 appearances for Arsenal this season was record-breaking.
It may be the goalscorers who make the headlines, but the assist-makers clearly catch the eye of the UEFA judging panel.
Cesc Fabregas (50/1)
Fabregas is an interesting contender because, despite having a poor domestic season with Chelsea, he has such a fine record in European Championships.
At Euro 2008 he netted once and a winning penalty against Italy, while providing three assists – including two in the semi-final – to help Spain to the first of their pair of consecutive titles.
And then at Euro 2012 he proved to be a key figure in his country’s defence of their crown, contributing two goals, two assists and another winning penalty.
With Spain enjoying a favourable draw at the tournament should they top Group D, Fabregas should have plenty of chances to catch the eye.