We’ve ranked all the teams, now it’s time for the players to take center stage. As we close in on the opening kickoff at Euro 2020, here are the 20 brightest stars who will be on display across Europe over the next month.
20. Toni Kroos (Germany)
Club: Real Madrid | Age: 31 | Position: Central midfielder
Kroos won’t outmuscle or sprint past an opponent, but he’s a cool head in the midfield who boasts tight control and incredible vision. When the ball is at the Real Madrid star’s feet, the German attackers will move in anticipation of a perfect pass and, more often than not, they’ll get it.
19. Jack Grealish (England)
Club: Aston Villa | Age: 25 | Position: Winger, attacking midfielder
Whether Grealish is a nailed-on starter is still up for debate, but Gareth Southgate would be foolish to leave out the Aston Villa playmaker. His dribbling can be unstoppable – until someone hacks him down, that is – and he finished third in the Premier League for key passes despite missing 12 matches.
18. David Alaba (Austria)
Club: Real Madrid | Age: 28 | Position: Defender, midfielder
Alaba, who will link up with Real Madrid after the tournament, mostly played at center-back during Bayern Munich’s title-winning term. With Austria, however, he’s either thrust into an all-action midfield role or operating as a left winger. The 28-year-old offers supreme composure and impeccable distribution in any role.
17. Thiago Alcantara (Spain)
Club: Liverpool | Age: 30 | Position: Central midfielder
There’s a beauty to the unhurried, precise nature of Thiago’s work. The Liverpool midfielder tends to sit deep, surveying the patterns ahead of him, before he either uses his silky touch to wriggle free of an opponent and carry the ball upfield or break the lines with a perfectly weighted pass to an attacker.
16. Memphis Depay (Netherlands)
Club: Lyon | Age: 27 | Position: Winger, forward
Depay is widely expected to join Barcelona on a free transfer when his Lyon contract expires at the end of the month. He notched 20 goals and 12 assists over the 2020-21 Ligue 1 campaign and has firmly established himself as a leader for both club and country.
15. Thomas Muller (Germany)
Club: Bayern Munich | Age: 31 | Position: Attacking midfielder, forward
Medal-hoarding Muller is known worldwide for his knack of drifting into space and getting on the end of simple chances, but his creativity has set him apart from his Bundesliga peers in recent years. He’s logged an incredible 39 assists over his past two seasons in Germany’s top flight.
14. Paul Pogba (France)
Club: Manchester United | Age: 28 | Position: Central midfielder
Free – relatively speaking – of the incessant criticism he faces in England, Pogba can be the best version of himself with France. And that version is pretty damn good. His blend of technique, ingenuity, and athleticism is unique and will again be crucial as Les Bleus try to capture another major title.
13. Frenkie de Jong (Netherlands)
Club: Barcelona | Age: 24 | Position: Central midfielder
Few players galavant about the pitch with De Jong’s grace. His poise in tight spaces, particularly when being pressed in his own half, belie his youth. If the Netherlands is going to make any noise participating in its first major tournament since 2014, De Jong needs to be a central protagonist.
12. Marco Verratti (Italy)
Club: Paris Saint-Germain | Age: 28 | Position: Central midfielder
Verratti is undeniably Italy’s most talented player and among the most technically gifted midfielders of his generation. If only he could stay healthy. Currently recovering from a knee issue, he’s in a race against time to be fit for the tournament. If he’s available, the Azzurri are not-so-sneaky contenders.
11. Ruben Dias (Portugal)
Club: Manchester City | Age: 24 | Position: Center-back
An absolute rock at the back, Dias strolls into Euro 2020 after a trophy-laden season with Manchester City. The imposing center-back was arguably the team’s most important player, and he’ll look to carry that impenetrable aura over to the national team as Portugal aims to defend its crown.
10. Karim Benzema (France)
Club: Real Madrid | Age: 33 | Position: Striker
It’s almost comical that France can simply plug a player of Benzema’s immense quality into the lineup after just leaving him out by choice for so many years. After carrying Real Madrid for multiple seasons, his shoulders will finally get a deserved rest now that he’s surrounded by elite attackers.
9. Bruno Fernandes (Portugal)
Club: Manchester United | Age: 26 | Position: Attacking midfielder
Yes, his goal tally is inflated somewhat by penalties, but that shouldn’t take anything away from Fernandes, who has thrived since joining Manchester United. The Portuguese star is a dynamic attacking midfielder who can be lethal from set pieces and has the rare gift of being able to make others around him better.
8. Joshua Kimmich (Germany)
Club: Bayern Munich | Age: 26 | Position: Right-back, central midfielder
Arguably the most versatile, well-rounded player in the world. A team of 11 Kimmichs would probably do very well in this tournament – surely he can play in goal too, right? The German midfielder is cerebral in possession, can dictate play with the ball, and can orchestrate his team in the defensive phase.
7. Romelu Lukaku (Belgium)
Club: Inter Milan | Age: 28 | Position: Striker
Lukaku has put all the pieces together since moving to Inter Milan, and the completed puzzle is one of the world’s most dominant strikers. Being quick and strong is obviously beneficial, but combining those talents with intelligent movement and a hunger to score makes the Belgian an absolute star.
6. Harry Kane (England)
Club: Tottenham Hotspur | Age: 27 | Position: Striker
Don’t look now, but England has an exhilarating collection of attacking options. If the Three Lions falter this summer, pure talent won’t be the reason. Kane remains the headliner of that group and will be relied upon both as a finisher and creator. As he continues to show, he excels in both areas.
5. Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal)
Club: Juventus | Age: 36 | Position: Forward
He’s not the same all-conquering force of his Real Madrid days, but Ronaldo showed this past season that he can still deliver in crucial moments. Portugal’s captain, inching ever closer to the men’s international scoring record, could be celebrating on multiple fronts this summer.
4. N’Golo Kante (France)
Club: Chelsea | Age: 30 | Position: Central midfielder
Kante is a one-man midfield. The football world is running out of superlatives to describe the lovable Frenchman, who goes into Euro 2020 on the back of a spectacular performance in the Champions League final. The diminutive dynamo, still at his relentless best, is an absolute colossus.
3. Robert Lewandowski (Poland)
Club: Bayern Munich | Age: 32 | Position: Striker
Fresh off a record-breaking Bundesliga season, the prolific superstar will again be the focal point of his team’s attack, this time on the international stage. Poland needs Lewandowski to find the net frequently if it’s to be a factor in the competition.
2. Kevin De Bruyne (Belgium)
Club: Manchester City | Age: 29 | Position: Attacking midfielder
So much of the emphasis in the sport is on scoring goals, and with good reason, but no playmaker is capable of taking your breath away with an incisive pass like De Bruyne. His vision on the pitch allows him to see holes before they even open. Oh, and he’s not half bad at finding the net, either.
1. Kylian Mbappe (France)
Club: Paris Saint-Germain | Age: 22 | Position: Forward
Is there anything more frightening for a defender than seeing Mbappe in full flight, striding toward you with the ball at his feet? It must be a helpless feeling. His combination of explosiveness, dribbling ability, playmaking, and finishing make him virtually unstoppable. He’s the total package. It’s unfair, really.
Honorable mentions: Phil Foden, Luka Modric, Bernardo Silva, Youri Tielemans