Profile of a past winner
First things first, who’s won it in the past?
Last time out it was Antoine Griezmann, who was the tournament’s top scorer with six goals as France ended up as runners-up. Spain’s ‘golden twins’ Xavi (2008) and Andres Iniesta (2012) won it as Spain conquered back-to-back tournaments and before that it was inspirational skipper Theo Zagorakis who got it as Greece shocked everyone to win it back in 2004.
In 2000 it was the one and only Zinedine Zidane as France won with that dramatic golden goal back in 2000 against Italy in the final and the time before (1996) it was Matthias Sammer as his German team lifted the trophy at Wembley.
So only Griezmann wasn’t on the winning side as far as the getting the award goes and only Sammer (playing as a sweeper at the time) wasn’t a midfielder or attacker.
Two Frenchmen to avoid
I always find the easiest way to navigate a market like his one is to eliminate a few favourites off the bat.
Griezmann is 14/1 for a repeat but that’s not a good price as third favourite. 25 goals in 62 games for club and country this season isn’t a bad effort but despite being just 30, he looks a little past his best and may already have lost a yard of pace. He may not even play that much with Kylian Mbappe first-choice, Karim Benzema back in the frame after a five-year absence and Didier Deschamps favourite Olivier Giroud also certain to feature.
Mbappe is a very different matter as 7/1 favourite. Playing for the second-favourites is a big advantage as we’ve seen already and he’s obviously an attacker, an important part of the profile.
And this is a man coming off the back of a season where he helped himself to 40 goals in just 51 games for PSG and France, an outstanding effort. In good physical shape, certain to start every match and with a strong showing at the last major tournament, he ticks just about every box.
A little research suggests that at 22 he may be a little on the young side compared to previous winners but that’s not the ain issue: it’s price. Despite all that I’ve just mentioned, 7/1 is a little on the short side.
We need to talk about Kevin
At 9/1 you can back arguably the classiest and most graceful attacking midfielder in the world: Kevin de Bruyne.
He’s probably just about the closest we’ve had to Zizou since the great man retired so in terms of position and style is very much in line with past winners.
But there are two good reasons we have to avoid him. The first is that he’s been injured a lot and it’s hard to speculate if he’ll be a bit rusty for having missed so much football or fresh and better for it from having spent so much time on the sidelines.
The other problem is Belgium. They were probably at their peak at the last Euros and may have missed their chance. Eden Hazard is coming off a poor season and those centre-backs aren’t getting any younger so I’m not sure this Belgian side have it in them to make the final, which history suggests is a requirement to be Player of the Tournament.
Why Fernandes and Kane get the nod
He’s the skipper for the pre-tournament favourites, certain to start every game and is coming off an excellent season on a personal level, given he played for a struggling Spurs side. We give you Harry Kane.
He scored 23 goals for the season in the Premier League to end as top scorer and added a further 14 assists; he scored 35 goals in total this season for club and country. Those extra assists are part of his progress from goalscorer to all-round brilliant attacking player and that may be important in catching the eye of the judges.
And this man is no stranger to big performances at major tournaments: he was top scorer at the last World Cup with six. At 14/1 there’s plenty to like about Kane.
At an even bigger 20/1 you can go with another player who had an outstanding Premier League season: Bruno Fernandes. 18 goals and 14 assists this time round suggest that he’s one of the all-time Premier League bargains and Portugal are well aware of his importance to them.
He may not get the goals he usually gets because Cristiano Ronaldo (a 14/1 chance, by the way) will have a monopoly over penalties and most free-kicks but he could still play a big role, even if it’s more as creator than scorer. Xavi and Iniesta didn’t score many when they won it, so goals aren’t the be-all and end-all.
Portugal look a bit underrated to me as 9/1 seventh favourites. I’d have them at least shorter than Germany and Italy. This is a considerably better group of players than the one who won it back in 2016 so don’t let that price on Portugal put you off.