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European Championship: Player of the Tournament Winners

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European Championship: Player of the Tournament Winners

The European Championships await this summer and with these tournaments, you can certainly expect the unexpected.

This tournament brings together the best countries from Europe to determine who stands head and shoulders as the king of the continent.

The European Championships have provided football with some brilliant stories every four years. In 1992, Denmark achieved greatness by overcoming Germany to win their only European Championship and then 12 years later Greece were the shock winners by overcoming hosts Portugal in the final.

Italy are the current holders of the competition after beating England in the final in the last tournament. Germany and Spain hold the record for the most titles in this competition with three apiece.

Michel Platini holds the record for the greatest number of goals in a single tournament with nine – which he achieved in 1984 aiding France in securing their first title.

Spain currently holds the record for the most representatives of the Player of the Tournament award. The award was officially presented in 1996, so we look back at the winners and their contributions towards their team’s success.

European Championships 1996: Matthias Sammer

One of two Balon d’Or winners on this list, Matthias Sammer had a wonderful two years from a player perspective from 1995-1997.

Sammer during this time, was plying his trade for Borussia Dortmund and in those two years, he won the Bundesliga, the Champions League, Balon d’Or as well as European Footballer of the Year.

The former Borussia Dortmund defender was part of the Germany side that finished runners-up to Denmark four years previous and during the summer of 1996, he was pivotal in the team’s triumph and subsequent third European Championship.

Primarily playing as a defender, Sammer scored the opening goal in Germany’s second group game against Russia. Sammer then followed it up by scoring in the quarter-final against Croatia and was subsequently named the Player of the Tournament after Germany beat the Czech Republic in the final.

That was Sammer’s final international tournament as a player.

European Championships 2000: Zinedine Zidane

The second of the two Balon d’Or winners on this list is Real Madrid legend Zinedine Zidane. The Frenchman had already shone on the world stage two years previous as France were crowned World Champions.

Coming into Euro 2000, Les Blues were seeking to become the first team since West Germany in 1974 to be reigning world and European Champions. The France team at that stage was full of stars including David Trezeguet, Patrick Viera, Lilian Thuram and of course Zinedine Zidane.

Zidane shone throughout the tournament but didn’t score until the quarter-final stage. Zizou scored a wonderful free-kick against Spain in the last eight, before scoring the golden goal in the semi-final stage against Portugal to send France into the final.

France would achieve their goal of reigning World and European Champions. Zidane’s performances earned huge praise with an extract on UEFA’s website claiming, “Zidane dominated a major championship in a way no individual had managed since Diego Maradona in 1986”.

European Championships 2004: Theodoros Zagorakis

The European Championships in 2004 provided international football with one of the biggest shocks of all time. What seemed destined for a more routine winner from one of the more elite countries in the tournament, Greece emerged as unlikely winners.

The feat was considered even more impressive considering, Greece had only two tournament appearances before this, in which they only picked up from one point. Greece would open their campaign in 2004 with a win over Portugal and would end the tournament in the same manner.

Zagorakis who at that stage was 34 years old and the captain of the Greece side that made history. His performances as captain were inspiring as he showed great leadership when needed and guided his national side to victory.

The midfielder scored the decisive goal in the quarter-final against the favourites France as well as featuring in every single game including the final.

European Championships 2008: Xavi

The first of the two Spanish representatives on this list is Xavi. From 2008 to 2012, Spanish Football was the dominant force in club and international capacity. The national side won two European Championships and a World Cup in between.

Barcelona were the basis of the national team’s success and style of play at the time, as Spanish Football ushered in a whole new era of playing which is used in today’s game.

Xavi was pivotal to that Spain side of 2008 alongside his Barcelona teammate Andres Iniesta. The Spaniard’s performances contributed to the national team’s first trophy since 1964 and helped usher in the era of dominance.

Xavi’s vision and awareness across the pitch guided Spain into the latter stages and he was on hand to score the opening goal in the semi-final against Russia. Xavi then provided the assist for Fernando Torres in the final against Germany.

European Championships 2012: Andres Iniesta

Xavi’s fellow compatriot Andres Iniesta was just as important for that Spain team for those four years, forming one of the best partnerships in club and international football.

Andres Iniesta had already become a hero for Spain two years previous, by scoring the winning goal in the World Cup Final against the Netherlands in extra time. Spain was under pressure to continue that sustained success although they entered Euro 2012 as the overwhelming favourites.

Iniesta was awarded the Player of the Match award in three separate games for Spain during the tournament and was also selected for the award in the final against Italy where Spain won 4-0.

Iniesta became the only Spanish player to win the Player of the Match award in three consecutive international tournaments.

European Championships 2016: Antoine Griezmann

Antoine Griezmann is the only player to feature on this list to yet have won the European Championships with his country. Griezmann on a team basis had quite an unfortunate 2016.

The Frenchman finished as a runner-up with his club Atletico Madrid in the UEFA Champions League in which Griezmann hit the bar from the penalty spot during the game. Griezmann then finished runner-up for his country that same year in their home tournament as Portugal won the European Championships.

In terms of individual accolades, Griezmann was one of the best players in world football that year. Griezmann won La Liga Best Player as well as finishing third in the Balon d’Or.

In the European Championships that summer, Griezmann was in terrific form as he scored six goals and contributed two assists. His contributions won him the Golden Boot as well as the Player of the Tournament.

His tally of six goals at the tournament was second only to the nine goals by compatriot Michel Platini at UEFA Euro 1984.

European Championships 2020: Gianluigi Donnarumma

Gianluigi Donnarumma became the first goalkeeper to win the Player of the Tournament award at the most recent European Championships.

Donnarumma was highly coveted as one of the world’s most promising talents and the apparent heir to long-standing goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon. The current Paris Saint Germain player joined the French side from AC Milan on a free transfer after some stellar performances for the Azzurri in 2021.

Donnarumma finished the tournament with three clean sheets, making nine saves and conceding only four goals the entire tournament. His crowning moment undoubtedly came in the final where he saved two penalties to hand Italy the European Championship against England.

Our pick for the award this summer.

Our pick to capture the award in the summer is Jude Bellingham. This does require England to have a good tournament and progress far, but Jude Bellingham has all the ability to do so.

The Real Madrid midfielder has developed a huge sense of maturity since his debut tournament in Qatar, two years ago. Bellingham performed well as England was knocked out by France in the World Cup.

Two years on and Bellingham is now one of the best players in the world for his position and for Gareth Southgate to have any success his chances may fall on the Birmingham-born midfielder.

Jude Bellingham has 28 goal contributions across La Liga and Champions League this season – 28 in 32 games to be précised.

Early odds place Jude Bellingham at 12/1.