After an exhilarating group stage round, EURO 2020 has finally reached the business end of proceedings, with the round of 16 getting under way. 8 teams have been eliminated in this unprecedented 24 team tournament, and some blockbuster knockout matches have been set up.
Let's take a look at the top 10 players who are favourites to win the Golden Ball award at his tournament based on their current form, group stage performance and the road ahead
10. Mason Mount - England (Chelsea)
One of the most complete young midfielders around, Mount’s tenacity, work rate and vision sets him apart. His desire to work his socks off makes him every manager’s favourite go-to player, as has been the case with Lampard, Tuchel and even Southgate. His versatility is another huge asset that guarantees him a starting role in the team. He can play as a number 6, an 8, a 10 or even on either wing.
Mason Mount has one of the strongest mentalities among young footballers currently, with his desire to win and fight for his team widely praised. In the two matches he played, he was England’s most creative player, with several chances created. However, he had to miss the 3rd game as he was asked to isolate due to Covid precautions. He would slot straight back in to the side against Germany, and is expected to play a huge role for England ahead.
9. Giorgino Wijnaldum - Netherlands (Liverpool/PSG)
During the group stages, the now-former Liverpool midfielder showed his all-around ability, scoring three goals for the Netherlands. His dynamism in the park was crucial for the Dutch as they breezed through the group stage.
During the tournament, he was able to confirm his future with PSG and has demonstrated to the French fans the characteristics that Liverpool and his Dutch side have benefited from in previous years. A freed midfielder who shields the ball like few others in a defensive role and uses his speed to push himself into goalscoring positions.
Another indicator of Wijnaldum's worth was the off-the-field struggle for his signature between Barcelona and PSG, which PSG won. His efforts at the Euros thus far have offered more confidence for the Parisians while causing some anguish for the Catalans.
8. Luka Modric – Croatia (Real Madrid)
The phrase "form is temporary, but class is permanent" is one of the most overused in sports, but it absolutely applies to Modric, who carried a below-par Croatia into the last 16.
Modric ran the show for Croatia in midfield and scored a beautiful goal against Scotland to send his team through. His celebration at the end of the game told everything about the incredible hunger to succeed, even after turning 35.
The maestro who won the Ballon D’or as well as the FIFA World Cup Player of the Year in 2018 after his inspirational performances led Croatia to the final, is showing his peak form again, and despite the rest of the team struggling, they know they can count on him to succeed.
7. Manuel Locatelli – Italy (Sassuolo)
Manuel Locatelli's status has risen during the tournament, with his brace against Switzerland catapulting him to prominence. Premier League clubs are interested in the 23-year-old midfielder, although Juventus are the frontrunners. It's simple to see why Locatelli is so popular at so many places.
Locatelli, a Sassuolo midfielder, only started Italy's first two Group A games owing to the injury to Marco Verratti, but he was one of the standout players in the Azzurri's magnificent displays against Turkey and Switzerland.
The dynamism of the 23-year-old in the centre of the pitch was demonstrated by how he began and finished the play that gave Italy the lead in the 3-0 thrashing of Switzerland, sealing a knockout berth for Roberto Mancini's thrilling team.
6. Paul Pogba – France (Manchester United)
The 2018 World Cup winners haven’t had the best tournament so far, with just 1 win in 3 games. However, they still topped the Group of Death and a big reason for that was the sublime form of their creator-in-chief Paul Pogba.
Paul Pogba has been on the watch for Kylian Mbappé and Karim Benzema's runs in France's games, and he was eventually rewarded in France's 2-2 tie with Portugal, when he set up Benzema to score France's second goal. Pogba has been consistent in his three appearances in the group of death. He was instrumental in France's World Cup victory in 2018, and he will be crucial if they are to go all the way.
5. Robin Gosens – Germany (Atalanta)
Germany almost avoided a repeat of their 2018 World Cup disaster by making it to the final 16, although their qualifying was largely down to Robin Gosens' outstanding performance against Portugal.
The left-back for Italian club Atalanta was once a police officer hopeful. Gosens got his big break in Serie A in 2017 and hasn't looked back since, gaining his Germany debut last September despite never having played in the Bundesliga.
The move to a 3-4-3 formation by Joachim Loew has brought out the best in the 26-year-old. He stormed down Portugal's right wing and was involved in all four goals, scoring the fourth to cap off what was perhaps Germany's finest performance since winning the World Cup in 2014.
4. Kai Havertz - Germany (Chelsea FC)
Widely regarded as German Football’s Golden Boy, Havertz answered all his critics with a sublime winning goal in the UCL final, and he is expected to lead Germany’s charge at EURO 2020 as well. At the age of just 21 he is already considered a Chelsea legend and his all-round capabilities set him apart. At 6”3, he is surprisingly agile and technically superb, playing with an effortless style compared to that of Roger Federer in tennis.
Havertz has already scored twice, and has played a key role in 3 other goals for Germany as they qualified for the round of 16 with an underwhelming performance overall. He has been their most consistent attacker, and their biggest threat up front. He is one of the favourites for the Young Player Of The Year award as well.
3. Jorginho – Italy (Chelsea)
After playing a pivotal role for Chelsea in their Champions League win over Manchester City, Jorginho is back to being Italy’s anchor in a studded midfield. He has recorded the highest touches, highest tackles, highest interceptions as well as the highest number of passes forward out of all players at the tournament.
He has been one of the biggest reasons behind Italy’s domination at this tournament, and might even be nominated for the Ballon D’or later this year. He has reinvented the regista role, and is a shoe-in for the player of the tournament award.
2. Gianluigi Donnarumma - Italy (AC Milan/PSG)
Donnarumma, the heir apparent to Gianluigi Buffon, is 6'5" tall and is as commanding as his name. The Italian goalkeeper, who is only 22 years old, recently led AC Milan to a second-place finish in Serie A while keeping 14 clean sheets. Despite his height, Donnarumma is rather comfortable with the ball at his feet when he isn't making huge saves or snuffing out crosses. He has already earned a big transfer to PSG, and will be a hot contender to win the Golden Gloves award for an Italian team that hasn’t conceded a single goal in 13 matches.
Italy are the only side in the tournament that haven’t conceded a single goal so far, and is the leader of the Golden Gloves race as well. Donnarumma has now kept 9 consecutive clean sheets, and is simply uneatable in goal.
1. Cristiano Ronaldo – Portugal (Real Madrid)
One of the greatest players to ever play this sport, Cristiano Ronaldo is a true marvel of nature. Despite turning 36, he is showing no signs of slowing down anytime soon, as he leads the Golden Ball race with 5 goals to his name already.
Although the Portuguese skipper scored three penalties among his five goals, his desire in front of goal was unrivalled. His presence elevated Portugal on many occasions during the group stage, and his constant menace made opponents nervous.
Ronaldo also broke the record for the most EURO goals in history, while is the current highest scorer of Serie A as well. He is the favourite to win the Golden Ball award.
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