Telegraph Sport’s stable of football writers have selected their best players at Euro 2020 and from that we have calculated the definitive list of the 50 brightest stars in action across Europe over the next month. Today we reveal the top of the list and remind you again of who came before them, so – from bottom to top…
50. Jude Bellingham (England)
England and Borussia Dortmund’s teenage sensation is one of the most exciting young players in world football. In his first season in Germany, following a £25m move from Birmingham City, Bellingham made 46 appearances for his club and starred in the Champions League. The 17-year-old plays with a composure and authority far beyond his years and could be crucial for England this summer.
49. Giorgio Chiellini (Italy)
One of the great defenders of the modern game. Chiellini has the experience and the defensive ability to play a key part in Italy’s Euros campaign, even though his powers are clearly diminishing. At the age of 36, and with various injury problems over the last few years, he is no longer the player he was. He is still Italy’s natural leader, though, and his brain remains as sharp as ever.
48. Alexander Isak (Sweden)
Isak, a 21-year-old striker, represents the main threat for Sweden. He scored an impressive 17 goals in La Liga last season, when he was Real Sociedad’s main attacking option. Isak is seen as one of the Spanish league’s most thrilling young players and in recent weeks he has been linked with a move to Barcelona.
Alexander Isak (in yellow) is Sweden's main goal-scoring threat at Euro 2021
Credit: JONATHAN NACKSTRAND /AFP
47. Sergio Busquets (Spain)
Eight league titles, seven Copa del Rey victories, three Champions Leagues, three Club World Cups, a World Cup and a European Championship: Busquets has quite the CV. Spain are not as formidable as they were a decade ago, and neither is Busquets, but the 32-year-old remains a supreme central midfield player for club and country.
46. Presnel Kimpembe (France)
The Paris Saint-Germain defender does not have a huge amount of experience at international level but he has become a regular for France over the past year. Kimpembe made 40 appearances for PSG last season, the most he has ever made in one campaign. With Raphael Varane alongside him at centre-back, France boast a strong backline.
45. Manuel Neuer (Germany)
One of the first names on the team sheet for Bayern Munich and Germany, even at the age of 35, and probably the best goalkeeper of the past decade. Germany are a strange side, losing to North Macedonia in March and 6-0 to Spain in November, but their record in tournament football is frightening. Neuer has been there and done it all before, playing a crucial role in their 2014 World Cup triumph, and has the quality and leadership skills to do it again.
World Cup winner Manuel Neuer is an automatic starter for club and country
Credit: CHRISTOF STACHE /AFP
44. Leonardo Bonucci (Italy)
Bonucci has made more than 100 appearances for his country and, like Chiellini, he will provide a level of experience and leadership that could be vital this summer. His form has dipped in recent months, though, with Juventus finishing a disappointing fourth in Serie A. The 34-year-old played just 35 games last season, his lowest return in more than a decade.
43. Ryan Gravenberch (Holland)
This could be a breakout tournament for the latest gifted graduate of the Ajax academy. Gravenberch is an all-action midfielder who is often compared to Paul Pogba. The 19-year-old only made his senior international debut in March but he has the physical and technical ability to make a major impact this summer. Expect some of Europe’s biggest clubs to move for him soon.
Harry Magurire suffered an ankle ligament injury late in the Premier League season against Aston Villa that caused him to miss the Europa League final
Credit: Nick Potts/POOL/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock /Shutterstock
42. Harry Maguire (England)
Manchester United and England’s most reliable defender. Maguire’s fitness problems are a major concern for Gareth Southgate because his aerial ability, reading of the game and calmness on the ball makes him crucial to England’s style of play. It says plenty about his importance for his country that he will surely start in defence even if he is not fully fit.
41. Gianluigi Donnarumma (Italy)
Long seen as one of the world’s most promising goalkeepers, it is hard to believe that Donnarumma is still only 22 years old. The 6ft 5in goalkeeper has made 25 appearances for his country and has been the first-choice at Milan for six seasons already. He is set to change clubs this summer.
40. Andy Robertson (Scotland)
Liverpool’s flying left-back is one of European football’s most dynamic and creative full-backs. A Champions League and Premier League winner, he is a charismatic and ultra-reliable (he started every league game last season) presence in the Scotland squad. Scotland’s captain and surely their most important player.
39. Paul Pogba (France)
A World Cup winner who can decide games on his own with his skill and power. His strange Manchester United career has not provided the trophies he would have expected, but there is no questioning the ability — especially when he represents his country. At the age of 28, Pogba should be at his peak. If he hits top form this summer, he could be one of the tournament’s leading players.
38. Thomas Müller (Germany)
Recalled to the Germany team for the first time since 2018, Muller comes into the tournament as one of the most productive players in Europe’s major leagues. Playing alongside the brilliant Robert Lewandowski at Bayern Munich, Müller scored 13 goals and registered 19 assists last season. He is a player who brings the best out of those around him.
37. Kai Havertz (Germany)
The standout young talent of German football, Havertz should be full of confidence after scoring the winning goal in the Champions League final. It was not an easy first season in English football for Havertz but he finished strongly. In the right position, and the right system, he could be devastating.
Havertz ended tough first season at Chelsea on a high with Champions League triumph
Credit: GETTY IMAGES
36. Caglar Soyuncu (Turkey)
Leicester City’s progressive and brave central defender is one of the faces of an exciting Turkey team. Turkey are the dark horses this summer and Soyuncu, 25, is one of their leaders. Having grown into such an important player for Leicester, it is no surprise that Soyuncu is a major part of Turkey’s impressive defensive structure.
35. Ciro Immobile (Italy)
The Italy striker’s record for his country is hardly sensational but it is a different story at club level. At Lazio he has routinely been one of Europe’s deadliest finishers, scoring a total of 150 goals in 219 appearances since joining the club in 2016. If the 31-year-old can replicate his club form on the international stage, Italy could go far.
- Euro 2020 teams, player lists and rankings – our definitive guide to the 24 countries
34. Memphis Depay (Holland)
A return of 20 goals in 37 league appearances for Lyon last season was a fine indication of Depay’s quality. He famously struggled at Manchester United but the forward has since matured and developed into Holland’s most dangerous attacker. In the last few years his goalscoring record for his country has been exceptional. He also registered 12 assists for Lyon last season, showing he is far more than just a finisher.
Depay is Holland's most dangerous attacker
33. Joao Felix (Portugal)
Felix was signed by Atletico Madrid for £113 million when he was just 19, which speaks volumes of his talent. The forward helped Atletico to the La Liga title last season, scoring 10 goals in 40 appearances in all competitions, and will have plenty of attacking support in a Portugal side packed with exciting players. Felix may not be an automatic starter (such is the quality of Portugal’s squad) but he will still make his presence felt.
32. Matthijs de Ligt (Holland)
De Ligt was the leader of the Ajax team that reached the Champions League semi-final in 2019 and he is now one of the rocks upon which the Dutch side is built. The 21-year-old will be an even more important figure due to the absence of the injured Virgil van Dijk, while his experience of playing for Juventus should prepare him well for the tournament.
31. Lorenzo Insigne (Italy)
Insigne has enjoyed a superb campaign in Italy, scoring 19 goals in 35 league appearances for Napoli. His goalscoring record for his country has been disappointing in recent years but there is no questioning whether the diminutive forward (who stands at just 5ft 4in tall) has the ability to create and score at the highest level.
30. Kyle Walker (England)
Surely the finest right-back in European football. Walker has gone from strength to strength under Pep Guardiola’s management. He could play on the right side of a back three, where his recovery pace is such a useful asset, or bomb forward from his usual starting position in the back four.
29. Antoine Griezmann (France)
Griezmann has rarely produced his best football since joining Barcelona in 2019 but he is still a major threat for club and country. He scored 20 goals last season and will be the chief creative outlet in a scintillating France attack that also contains Kylian Mbappe and the reinstated Karim Benzema.
28. Gerard Moreno (Spain)
What a season it was for Moreno, who struck 30 goals for Villarreal and helped them to defeat Manchester United in the Europa League final. The 29-year-old is a late bloomer but has a decent scoring rate for his country. He does not look or move like a superstar striker but his stats speak for themselves.
27. Koke (Spain)
The Atletico Madrid midfielder has not always been a regular for Spain but there can be no questioning the quality of his performances for his club this season. Koke featured in all but one of Atletico’s league matches as he captained the side to La Liga glory. At 29, he offers experience and a winning mentality.
Koke captained Atletico to the La Liga title
26. David Alaba (Austria)
After 13 years at Bayern Munich, Alaba joined Real Madrid at the end of last season. His longevity and success in Germany, and Real’s interest in signing him, serves as the ultimate proof of his class. He is the standout player for Austria, capable of playing as a centre-back, left-back, central midfielder or as a winger.
25. Pau Torres (Spain)
Torres, a Villarreal academy graduate, has developed into one of Europe’s most sought-after defenders. A string of leading clubs are keen on signing the centre-back, who played a pivotal role in his side’s Europa League triumph under Unai Emery. He is relatively new to the international scene but he looks more than capable of playing at the top of the game.
Euro 2021 TEAM GUIDE
24. Jack Grealish (England)
There are few players more thrilling to watch than Grealish, who is so pleasing on the eye with his inventive dribbling and passing. The Aston Villa captain is able to play the game at his own pace, and his ability to retain possession could be vital for a country that has historically struggled to control games at international tournaments.
An in-form Jack Grealish could be vital to England's tournament hopes
23. Leon Goretzka (Germany)
An all-action powerhouse in the heart of Germany’s midfield. Goretzka is capable of winning the ball back and uses it well. His sudden transformation into a muscled-up beefcake helped Bayern to win the Champions League in 2020, although injury problems mean he might not be at his best in the first few games of the Euros.
22. Gareth Bale (Wales)
Bale is the undisputed star of this Wales team, as he has been for years, and his recent form at Tottenham Hotspur suggests he is more than ready to lay waste to opposition defences this summer. Bale, who loves nothing more than playing for his country, scored six goals in his final seven appearances of the season at Tottenham.
21. Marco Verratti (Italy)
A midfield schemer who seems to always be one step ahead of the rest of the players on the pitch. His eye for a pass, and his ability to execute those passes, make him the central figure of an Italy team that could go all the way. Verratti should be at the peak of his powers, although a recent injury could prevent him from being in top shape.
20. Frenkie de Jong (Holland)
The golden boy of Dutch football. De Jong is an artist on the pitch, showing bravery on the ball to create space and then passing with intelligence. If the 24 year-old can take control of games, slowing the tempo down and then speeding it up at will, then Holland could be a fearsome opponent. Watch out for his “scanning” ability — De Jong is always checking over his shoulder to see what’s coming, so he almost never gets caught on the ball.
19. Ilkay Gundogan (Germany)
Gundogan was one of the best players in Europe this season, scoring an impressive 17 goals in 46 games for Manchester City and arguably doing more than any other player to drive them to the Premier League title. He will look to knit together the German attack and play the killer passes to their speedy forwards.
18. Joshua Kimmich (Germany)
Kimmich is ultra-competitive and ultra-dependable, whether he is playing at right-back or in central midfield. The 26-year-old is without question one of the world’s best defensive midfield players, and he is the man who sets the standards within the Germany team. An authoritative leader with a combative spirit, as well as the obvious technical skill.
17. Mason Mount (England)
It is hard to believe that Mount’s inclusion in the England team caused so many grumbles at the start of last season. No one is questioning the Chelsea midfielder now, as his game has reached new heights since the arrival of Thomas Tuchel at Stamford Bridge. A Champions League-winning attacking midfielder with a superb defensive attitude.
Mason Mount has experienced a significant boost since Thomas Tuchel's arrival at Chelsea
16. Bruno Fernandes (Portugal)
Fernandes almost single-handedly changed Manchester United’s collective mentality following his arrival from Sporting Lisbon in January 2020. He produced a sensational return of 28 goals and 18 assists last season, confirming his status as one of the most effective attacking players in the European game.
15. Youri Tielemans (Belgium)
Tielemans is the complete midfielder, capable of creating goals, scoring goals and stopping them with his defensive awareness in midfield. The 24 year-old will look to provide the service that allows Belgium’s array of attacking players to thrive. Tactically astute and technically superb, Tielemans can do it all.
14. Raphael Varane (France)
Perhaps the most physically impressive defender in world football. You cannot outrun Varane, nor can you outmuscle him. The Real Madrid centre-half is a world-class operator, more than happy to deal with long balls or with scurrying strikers who want to dribble past him. He is the leader of the French defence.
13. Toni Kroos (Germany)
Kroos has been one of the world’s top midfielders for years, and that remains the case now. Germany are an unpredictable side, meaning that Kroos might not have the platform he needs to dictate matches, but there is no doubting the passing ability and vision. A multiple Champions League winner and a world champion in 2014.
12. Phil Foden (England)
A remarkable season for Foden has made him one the most exciting players at this tournament. If he can replicate his Manchester City form in an England shirt, then Gareth Southgate’s side will have a chance of unlocking any defence. Vision, speed, finishing, passing, skill, work-rate: Foden has everything you could want from an attacking midfielder. The key will be finding a system that brings the best out of him.
Phil Foden has had a remarkable season for Manchester City
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11. Eden Hazard (Belgium)
Two enormously disappointing seasons at Real Madrid have caused Hazard’s star to fall, although he remains a formidable prospect when fit. If the 30-year-old can get up to speed in time, he could easily emerge as the tournament’s standout player. The former Chelsea star will be desperate to prove he is not past his best.
10. Karim Benzema (France)
Back in the national squad after a controversial six-year absence, Benzema will be eager to make up for lost time. In the last three seasons he has scored 30, 27 and 30 goals, underlining his status as one of the world’s deadliest finishers. If he can form a strong connection with Kylian Mbappe, France might be impossible to stop.
9. Romelu Lukaku (Belgium)
After a difficult spell at Manchester United, Lukaku has found his best form in Italy. A return of 64 goals in 95 games for Inter Milan is proof of his goalscoring ability, and he has never struggled to score in a Belgium shirt. It would be no surprise if he ends the Euros as the tournament’s top goalscorer.
8. Luka Modric (Croatia)
Modric, even at 35, is a key man for Croatia
Credit: KENZO TRIBOUILLARD/Belga/AFP via Getty Image
Modric is now 35, so time is running out to enjoy his artful brand of midfield scheming. He will not be able to cover ground like he used to, but Modric’s game has always been based on brainpower rather than legpower. He remains the key man for his country.
7. Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal)
How strange it is to see Ronaldo this far down a list of top players, but time catches up with us all eventually. There is no doubt that Ronaldo (now 36) is slowing down, although his finishing remains as deadly as ever. He scored 36 goals in 44 appearances for Juventus this season and has more than 103 goals for his country.
6. Ruben Dias (Portugal)
The leading player in English football this season, and surely the best defender in world football right now. Dias provides power, assurance and passing ability from the heart of the defence, where his leadership skills bring out the best in his team-mates. Just ask the resurgent John Stones, who was a man transformed after he was united with Dias at Manchester City.
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5. Harry Kane (England)
Kane is not only the best goalscorer in the English game, but the best creator too. England will have to hope he is not distracted by the discussions over his club future, as they will need him to be in top form if they are to progress deep into the competition. Clinical with either foot, deadly from the spot and dangerous in the air: the complete striker.
4. Robert Lewandowski (Poland)
Europe’s most devastating goalscorer. Only a few weeks have passed since Lewandowski broke Gerd Müller-s 49-year record of Bundesliga goals in a single campaign. The 32 year-old struck 41 goals in the league season, and seven more in other competitions. The previous season, he scored a ridiculous 55 goals in 47 games for his club. Replicating that form on the international stage is a different challenge, though.
3. Kylian Mbappe (France)
Mbappe has already won the World Cup with France
Credit: CHRISTOPHE PETIT TESSON/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock
He is not the world’s best player yet, but Mbappe is surely on his way there. Having already won the World Cup, victory this summer would confirm the France striker as one of the all-time greats — and he is still only 22. How do you stop him? Perhaps the only solution is to simply hope he has an off-day.
2. N’Golo Kante (France)
To call Kante a “defensive midfielder” would be to miss the point entirely. Kante does not just stop opposition moves — he also starts his own. Wherever there’s danger, Kante appears to snuff it out. Wherever there’s opportunity, Kante appears to seize upon the chance. His tireless running makes life so much easier for all of his team-mates, and he has perhaps been the best player in world football so far in 2021.
1. Kevin De Bruyne (Belgium)
Comfortably the leading creative player going into this tournament, although there are concerns that his facial fractures might prevent him from hitting top form. De Bruyne’s combination of dynamism and vision makes him the Premier League’s most watchable player. The 29 year-old can create a goal out of nothing, with a pass or a dribble, and this could be the tournament where he proves himself to be the world’s best player.
Who is on your list of best players at Euro 2020? Tell us in the comments section below