Last Five European Championship Players of the Tournament

Euro 2000 - Zinedine Zidane

At the peak of his powers during France’s triumphant Euro 2000 campaign, Zinedine Zidane’s inspired performances in Belgium and the Netherlands earned him plaudits from across the continent.

After a stuttering group stage, in which the reigning World Cup champions finished second to the Dutch, the then 28-year-old scored twice in the knockout phase, including a 117th-minute extra-time winner against Portugal in the semi-finals.

David Trezeguet’s golden goal in the final secured France’s second European Championship, making them only the second side to be European and world champions at the same time after Germany did so in the 1970s, before Spain also matched this feat a decade after France.

Zidane would leave the Turin side for Real Madrid one year later, going onto score the winner in the Champions League final during his first season in the Spanish capital. Since retiring from football, the two-time FIFA World Player of the Year has established himself as one of Europe’s best coaches, winning an unprecedented three consecutive Champions League titles with Los Blancos.

Euro 2004 – Thodoris Zagorakis

From a former Ballon d’Or winner, to a player who was without a club before Euro 2004 began. Greece captain Thodoris Zagorakis was the figurehead behind his country’s surprising triumph 17 years ago, which remains, without question, the competition's most incredible story and one of the sport's most remarkable stories.

A starter in all six of Greece’s matches, Zagorakis was an industrious defensive midfielder, who leads from the front and organised superbly. Crucial to Otto Rehhagel side’s set-up, Greece didn’t concede a single goal past the group stages.

After stunning hosts Portugal on the tournament’s opening night, the pair met again in the final with Greece huge underdogs. A Portugal side captained by Figo and spearheaded by a 19-year-old Cristiano Ronaldo couldn’t break down a resilient Greek defence.

Impressing during the tournament, Zagorakis was snapped up by Serie A club Bologna 10 days after the final and the ex-Leicester City man went onto set an all-time appearance record for his country.

Zagorakis hung up his boots in 2007 and has since taken up a career as a politician, earning election to the European Parliament in 2014.

Euro 2008 – Xavi Hernandez

Instrumental in Spain’s first international title since 1964, Xavi Hernandez was just one of many standout performers from the 2008 European Championship-winning squad and he was the man who personified, perfected, crafted and showed to the world the beauty of the tika-tika. A midfield metronome, the then 28-year-old dazzled oppositions with his incisive passing and intricate play. With an eye for goal too, Xavi scored the opener in Spain’s 3-0 semi-final victory over Russia.

Starting in all but one of Spain’s matches at the tournament, Xavi would go onto continue his success with Barcelona, developing into one of the world’s greatest ever midfielders under Pep Guardiola and the icon of a golden generation during European football's most dominant period with the Spanish.

Xavi won an astonishing 25 major honours with the club, including four Champions Leagues, before leaving Barcelona in 2015. A move to Qatari side Al Sadd followed, where he made 82 appearances for the side, winning a further four trophies.

Since impressing as a manager after taking the reigns at Al Sadd in 2019, Xavi was amongst the favourites to become the next boss at the Camp Nou until he signed a new deal in May.

Euro 2012 – Andreas Iniesta

Spain may had replaced Luis Aragonés with Vicente del Bosque following their Euro 2008 triumph, however, it didn’t stop a Spanish midfielder from winning the Player of the Tournament award at the 2012 edition.

Like Xavi, Barcelona teammate Iniesta is a symbol of the Spanish side that dominated European and world football. Having scored the winning goal at the 2010 World Cup final, the 28-year-old lighted up the pitches at Euro 2012 and within these three years, it remains incredibly questionable how he didn't take home a Ballon d'Or within these years.

Despite not scoring a goal throughout the tournament and only registering one assist, the nine-time La Liga champion was the focal point in a star-studded Spanish midfield. A complete footballer, Iniesta’s elegant approach to the game endeared him to fans across the continent.

Converting a penalty in the semi-final victory over Portugal, Iniesta was pivotal in Spain’s becoming only the second side to ever retain a European Championship title. Now 37, Iniesta is still plying his trade for J-League side, Vissel Kobe, following a move to the Japanese club in 2018.

Euro 2016 - Antoine Griezmann

The second Frenchman on this list, Antoine Griezmann is the only ever recipient of the award not to have been from the tournament’s winning side, but that didn't stop him from upping his stock as one of Europe's finest players of a generation with endless generational talent.

Picking up the Golden Boot award at the same time, the then Atletico Madrid forward netted six times at Euro 2016 and was part of a French side expected to triumph on home soil.

France made it to a final in front of their own just like at the World Cup in 1998, they entered their first international final in 10 years as firm favourites against a Portugal side propped up by an injured Ronaldo, and out of nowhere, an extra time Eder goal crushed the hopes of the host nation.

It was the second major final defeat in two months for Greizmann, who had featured in Atletico’s penalty final loss to city rivals, Real Madrid a few months prior. He would leave the Spanish capital three years later, completing a £100m move to Barcelona in 2019.

The only former winner of the Player of the Tournament award still playing international football, Griezmann will be eager to go one better than 2016 at this year’s tournament. Priced at 12/1, the now 30-year-old is amongst the favourites to make history and win the award two tournaments in a row.

By Amos Murphy


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