Opportunity knocks for Euro 2016 MVP contenders
The player of the tournament award was first introduced at the 1996 European Championships. Matthias Sammer was the inaugural winner as Germany were crowned champions of Europe. The pattern has been repeated ever since with the winning player always representing the triumphant team. Zinedine Zidane and France in 2000, Theodoros Zagorakis and Greece in 2004, while Xavi and Andrés Iniesta were selected as the best performing players as Spain clinched back to back titles in 2008 and 2012.
This trend pretty much rules out the likes of Eden Hazard and the aforementioned Iniesta but star players will be going head to head in the semi-finals and whoever comes out on top may put themselves bang in the frame for the coveted award as well as the small matter of a place in the Euro 2016 final.
Gareth Bale vs Cristiano Ronaldo
First up, sees Portugal taking on Wales in what has been dubbed the battle of the Galacticos and Oulala have compared the triple Ballon d’or winner with the world’s most expensive footballer.
Ronaldo has the edge on his team-mate in a number of key areas, despite having a somewhat indifferent championship by his own high standards, although, it should be pointed out that there wasn’t too much to choose between the two of them in the recent La Liga campaign with both players closely-matched on a game by game statistical comparison.
Bale, however, does have three goals to his name in France, one more than Ronaldo and if he comes out on top in this battle, he might just do enough to secure Wales a spot in the Euro 2016 final.
Dimitri Payet vs Mesut Özil
Fantasy Premier League managers will be very familiar with two players who go up against each other in the second semi-final. Mesut Özil just fell short of Thierry Henry’s Premier League assists record after looking an absolute shoe-in to better the Frenchman’s tally. The Arsenal midfielder’s form tailed off a bit in the second half of the season but he still notched up 6 goals and 19 assists, while Dimitri Payet scored 9 times from 29 appearances, recording 12 assists in the process.
Payet has the edge at Euro 2016 so far, with the German schemer having blotted his copybook by missing a regular time penalty against Slovakia, as well as his spot-kick in arguably the most enthralling penalty shootout of all time.
The race for the MVP crown is not just between these four, though. Antoine Griezmann is also a major contender and very much in the running for the Golden Boot award, while Aaron Ramsey has had a fine tournament and can count himself unfortunate to miss out on the biggest night in the history of Welsh football. Ashley Williams has also been immense at the back for Wales, while Manuel Neuer reminded everyone of why he is recognised as the best goalkeeper in the world in that shootout against the Azzurri.
However, the Big 4 are box-office material, so if one of them can light up the semi-final and the final, he may well end up walking off with that prestigious award!