With the tournament now just ten days from kick-off, Azimo’s pan-European team have been picking their fantasy all-star line-up, from Busquets to Bale.
1. Manuel Neuer
Germany’s superstar sweeper-keeper is in a class of his own between the posts and won the Golden Glove award at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil (as well as a winners’ medal to take home). He’s 30 years old now, but he’s not showing any signs of slowing down – he’s just agreed to a new five-year contract with Bayern Munich.
Bayern Munich star Alaba has youth on his side. At the age of just 23, he’s already made 42 appearances for his country and is seen as one of the top three left backs in the world. Former Bayern manager Ottmar Hitzfeld called him ‘a gift from the heavens’. High praise indeed, but he’s got the lot – skill, speed, height and a devastating left foot.
Arsenal stalwart Koscielny is a defensive star for club and country. Now 30, he’s played more than 200 times for the Gunners since arriving from Lorient in 2010 and has notched up 23 appearances for Les Bleus. France are firm favourites for the Euro 2016 title, so Koscielny could well be lifting the cup on home soil this summer.
Some guys have all the luck, especially when they play for the fanciest football team on the planet. Not only is Barcelona-born Piqué one of the finest defenders in the world, with a World Cup winners’ medal to prove it, he also gets to run out for his beloved Barca every week and go home every evening with stunning Colombian songstress Shakira.
Dogged Juventus defender Chiellini is usually as solid as a stick of Italian rock, but he’s had a nightmare season with injuries and has only just hobbled back into action after serious ligament trouble. Italian fans will be praying that he finds his form again quickly as he’ll be key to any Azzurri hopes of winning Euro 2016.
Hailed by many armchair football experts as the finest midfield maestro in the world today, the 27-year-old Busquets is the level-headed balance that keeps Barcelona’s creative kids ticking. His ease on the ball makes it feel like he was born to play for Barca. In many ways, he was – he’s the son of former club goalie Carles Busquets.
The Juventus midfield maestro may change his hairstyle more often than his shirt, but under all those crazy cuts there’s no denying he’s one of the finest footballers of his generation and clubs across Europe are digging out their chequebooks. He’s knocked in five goals for France during his career so far and has just helped Juve lift a fifth successive Serie A title.
The Barcelona captain and genius midfielder has been at the Camp Nou for nearly 20 years, having made his way up through the club’s youth academy. He’s played more than 100 times for Spain and scored the winning goal in the 2010 World Cup Final. No surprise, then, that he’s notched up a few Facebook likes along the way – more than 26 million of them so far.
There’s nothing too fancy about Bayern and Germany goal machine Thomas Müller. The 2014 World Cup winner freely admits he’s more about efficiency than fancy skills. But somehow he seems to put the ball in the back of the net a lot, an awful lot – 31 times in 70 caps for Germany, and 31 times in just 44 starts for Bayern this season.
The last time Wales qualified for a major tournament was back in 1958, when they reached the last eight – only to go out to a single goal from a young lad called Pelé. Fast forward six decades and this time the Welsh have their own genius to inspire them – Real Madrid’s Gareth Bale. He’s also the most expensive player in the world, not bad for the lad from Cardiff.
Ronaldo, Bale’s striking partner at Real Madrid, is Portugal’s equivalent of Brand Beckham and he’s even got his own museum (more trophy gallery, actually) dedicated to him on his home island of Madeira. He’s probably earned it, though – he’s the all-time leading goalscorer for club and country.
Robert Lewandowski, Poland
Harry Kane, England
Ivan Rakitic, Croatia