The Four Stars Of The European Championships

John Balfe
By John Balfe
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The European Championships have reached their conclusion and, now that we have to wait a whole month before the footy is back on TV with any regularity, we thought we'd cast our minds back across the tournament and decide upon the Four Stars of the Euros, along with our friends at Four Star Pizza.

The Rising Star - Renato Sanches (Portugal)

Jose Mourinho is barely in the door at Manchester United but he may have made the biggest mistake of his Old Trafford career, however long that might be, by not ensuring that the club moved heaven and earth to secure the signature of one the biggest teenage prospects in world football, Renato Sanches. Sanches was named as the best young player in the tournament and was a fixture in the Portuguese side that won the trophy and the 18-year-old will now ply his trade in Germany for Bayern Munich next season instead of the move to Manchester which had been speculated in the press for months.

Mourinho's predecessor Louis van Gaal reportedly wasn't keen on the youngster and United ceded their place in line to Bayern Munch for Sanches - a decision which has reportedly made Mourinho furious. Sanches was a revelation in midfield for Portugal, displaying a tenacity and style well above his tender years and could go on to become a star of European football for the next 15 years.

He just won't be doing that at Old Trafford.


The Next Superstar - Antoine Griezmann (France)

Despite having the dubious honour of becoming only the second player to lose a Champions League and the European Championships in the same season (Michael Ballack is the other), Antoine Griezmann will leave this tournament with his reputation considerably increased.


Griezmann finished at the summit of the goalscoring charts having bagged six goals during the course of the tournament. The Atletico man is inching ever closer to the status ofte Messi and Ronaldo in the Spanish league and now, with his reputation considerably enhanced thanks to his exploits in the Euros, world football has a brand new superstar.

The Established Star - Gareth Bale (Wales)

It is often said that the mark of a truly world class player can be determined by how they inspire their teammates at international level and Gareth Bale is most certainly an influential figure for the Welsh side who outperformed every other country in the British Isles throughout the European Championships.

Compare Bale to, say, Wayne Rooney who wore the captain's armband for a stuttering England side who once again failed to make any sort of impact at an international tournament. Bale inspired his teammates to play outside of their ability, whereas England were devoid of any of the same sort of leadership which might have transformed the side from a collection of individuals to a functioning team.


Bale is, for the time being at least, the most expensive player in world football and his performances in France suggest that he was worth every penny. A truly world class player.


The Veteran Star - Gianluigi Buffon (Italy)


He'll be 39 at his next birthday but there is still a very convincing case to made for calling Gianluigi Buffon the world's best goalkeeper. Buffon has every quality that you would expect from a top class goalkeeper. Apart from being fundamentally solid in practically every facet of goalkeeping, Buffon is a leader of men and an irreplaceable member of the incredibly constrictive Italian defensive unit.

There was an interesting mano y mano when Italy faced Spain in the elimination stages where Buffon and David De Gea - the young pretender to the Italian's throne as the world's best goalkeeper - and it was the young Spaniard who might have done better when Italy bagged their goal, while Buffon denied a Spain header at the death.

De Gea will clearly go on to have a fantastic career at either Manchester United or elsewhere, but he has some way to go to match the sheer footballing influence which has become part and parcel of Gianluigi Buffon's game.



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