Those involved in the finals tournament across the months of June and July will do so with aspirations of lifting the trophy at the end of it, but the Best Player award is one of a few individual accolades available – history tells us that team success does help with this though.
Since 1996, UEFA has rewarded the player they believe has had the biggest impact by naming them the Player of the Tournament. It’s also an award that tends to go to those who don’t necessarily sit high in the goals or assists charts – that makes this market one with plenty of value on offer.
Who are the past winners of the Best Player of the Tournament award?
Forwards tend to be battling it out for the Golden Boot award, but history tells us that the Best Player of the Tournament accolade is one for the midfielders. Antoine Griezmann’s place at the top of this category in 2016 broke a long run of midfielders taking the prize.
2016: Antoine Griezmann [France – Striker]
2012: Andres Iniesta [Spain – Midfielder]
2008: Xavi [Spain – Midfielder]
2004: Theodoros Zagorakis [Greece – Midfielder]
2000: Zinedine Zidane [France – Midfielder]
1996: Matthias Sammer [Germany – Midfielder]
Who will win the Euro 2020 Best Player award?
That history of midfielders winning the award means it’s the best area to target. Goalscorers do get recognition, as was the case with Griezmann in 2016, but he’s the only player to have won both the Golden Boot and the Best Player awards at one tournament.
That pattern is also roughly the same for World Cups, although they do see more forwards rewarded with that Best Player title. Luka Modric and Zidane are two of the last four winners there – you rarely get a top goalscorer also being named as Best Player.
In fact, since Euro ’96 and this award’s debut on the European stage, a goalscorer has only been named as the Best Player in two of the 12 major tournaments involving European nations [Griezmann – Euro 2016; Diego Forlan – World Cup 2010].
Here’s another remarkable thing about this award. Taking those last 12 major tournaments (we’re talking Euros and World Cup since 1996), 11 of the players named Best Player saw their nation reach the final – Forlan in 2010, where Uruguay finished 4th, is the only player to do it without featuring in the last game.
I’m sure someone who has just lost in the World Cup final will look delighted as they are handed an award [the pictures very much prove this] but we could have the potential formula for Best Player success – a midfielder who will feature for a team in the final.
De Bruyne a worthy favourite?
Two players are at the top of the Best Player market – France’s Kylian Mbappe and Belgium’s KEVIN DE BRUYNE. An attacking midfielder featuring for a country expected to go far, alongside the fact he’s just one of the best players in the game, makes his 15/1 price very, very interesting.
It’s a huge price and I’m fairly certain that injury has played its part in that. De Bruyne went off with a facial injury in the Champions League final and his early involvement in Euro 2020 is questionable – there is every chance he will miss Belgium’s opening game against Russia.
It’s also a case of how much that injury will affect his performance. Limited game time alongside being way short of match fitness won’t see him in contention for the award but the flip side is that you’re getting huge odds on one of the game’s best playmakers.
So if he does return and plays at his usual level, he’ll have a great chance of winning this individual accolade. Belgium should go far and a fit De Bruyne will be central to their success this summer – he can drive them to victory.
Belgium are unlikely to face a ‘big hitter’ until the quarter-final stage where Italy becomes a possibility. Their defence remains a slight concern but they do have the talent at the other end of the pitch to guide them through tricky contests – Romelu Lukaku finishing as the top goalscorer will likely help De Bruyne’s Best Player chances.
This feels the riskier option when it shouldn’t. De Bruyne’s injury may limit his early appearances but featuring from the second game onwards shouldn’t seriously harm his chances, particularly if Belgium do end up going far in the tournament.
Kante’s price is too big
France are my selection for Euro 2020 glory. They have an incredibly talented squad with goals among their starting forward trio of Karim Benzema, Griezmann and Mbappe, while the midfield and defence also boasts some of Europe’s best players.
While Griezmann may be one who goes under the radar in the Golden Boot market because of others in this France squad, a player who looks real value to be named Player of the Tournament is N’GOLO KANTE. The midfielder enjoyed a superb second-half of the season with Chelsea.
A few bookmakers have gone 20/1 while others sit around the 14s mark – both are excellent prices. Kante was named the Man of the Match as Chelsea beat Manchester City in the Champions League final at the end of May, while he also picked up that award in both semi-final victories over Real Madrid. He is getting more recognition for his on-pitch work.
If France do go far in the tournament and reach the final, Kante looks the perfect candidate to be named Player of the Tournament. A holding midfielder with a real presence, he has all the right abilities to be at the top of judges and fans’ lists alike.
France being in the ‘Group of Death’ alongside Germany and Portugal may also help Kante’s chances of winning this award. Strong performances against other nations seen as contenders by some will be taken into account when deciding a winner at the end.
similar role to some of the previous winners, his best price of 25/1, and even the 20/1 available elsewhere, is definitely the value play in this market. That should be shorter coming off the back of a Man of the Match performance in Europe’s premier club match just weeks ago.
Pogba may also catch the eye
France’s midfield could become popular contenders in this market and PAUL POGBA’s all-round game might put him towards the top of the list. He will be a starter in this side and a couple of goals across the course of the tournament may boost his chances.
Pogba is no stranger to awards at international tournaments too. He was named in the Team of the Tournament at both the under-17s and under-19s European Championships while picking up the Golden Ball at the under-20s World Cup in 2013.
He was also named in the Europa League Team of the Season for 2020/21 and has been in numerous Team of the Year XIs. Pogba is a world class midfielder and contributed for Manchester United in the second-half of the season despite injury keeping him sidelined at times.
There is the potential for the flair moments with Pogba too. It’s the eye-catching and memorable moments that may throw him ahead of everyone else when it comes to deciding a Player of the Tournament. Glory for France will likely see him battling teammates for the award.
It’s 33/1 with a couple of bookmakers that Pogba picks up this award, while some have gone a much shorter 18/1 which puts him among the front runners. If France do reach the final, or even lift the trophy, there’s a very good chance that Pogba played a significant part in it.
Source: Tom Carnduff