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Who should win the Euro 2016 Best Player prize?

Top 8 players who deserve the UEFA Euro 2016 Best Player award

July 8, 2016 By Michelle Bonsu
As Euro 2016 prepares to come to an end this Sunday, we take a look at which players have really shone for their national sides throughout this tournament.

First there were 24. And now, only two remain. On Sunday, France and Portugal will vie for the coveted Euro title. For Les Bleus, it's been a long time waiting - 16 years since their last win and 32 since when they won it on home soil. For Portugal, it's a shot at redemption for the team and star man Cristiano Ronaldo after losing the 2004 final to Greece.

There will be more than one prize handed out on Sunday, however, as we will find out who not just will clinch the coveted Golden Boot, but also the much-desired Player of the Tournament award.

So, without further ado, here are some players who can make a real claim to succeed Spain's Andres Iniesta - who won this prize back in 2012 - as the best player at this summer's tournament.

1. Antoine Griezmann

Despite a slow start, Antoine Griezmann has rebounded - and simply can't stop scoring. So far, the former Real Sociedad man has six goals, and will be surely looking for more in Sunday's final. The only other player to have scored more at a single tournament was none other than French legend Michel Platini, who netted nine during Euro 1984.

He may have endured disappointment during the Champions League final with Atletico Madrid, but Griezmann is still in contention to win at least one major team title this year. Furthermore, the Golden Boot is his. Unless if Cristiano Ronaldo, Olivier Giroud, or Dimitri Payet manage to do what no player has ever done - to score a hat-trick during a Euro finals.

Griezmann's six goals puts him only behind Michel Platini for the most netted in one Euro tournament

Griezmann has not just scored a bunch of goals - he has been the difference for Les Bleus. His brace against Ireland saved France's blushes in the round of 16. And he arguably scored the most vital two goals of his international career to finally end France's long-standing hoodoo against Germany to book their spot in the finals.

But he's not just about scoring - he is more than happy to chip in with some assists, too. In total, Griezmann has been directly involved in eight (six goals, two assists) out of France's 13 goals at Euro 2016. Seems like he's a surefire winner of the MVP of this tournament, right?

Think again. Griezmann is facing some serious competition, and here are some of the other players hoping to deny him the chance to win the Golden Shoe and the Player of the Tournament prizes.

2. Cristiano Ronaldo

It goes without saying that Cristiano Ronaldo still continues to divide opinion. However, even his most ardent critic will have to admit that despite not being at his very best for some of the games, Portugal's all-time top goalscorer has still made a massive impact for his side so far at Euro 2016.

CR7 made history as the first player to score at four European competitions with his brace against Hungary. It was that same brace that helped get Portugal into the knockout rounds after a poor start to their group stage campaign. He was also directly involved in the game-winning goal to dispatch Croatia after a frustrating round of 16 tie. Against Poland, he led by example to convert Portugal's first spot-kick to seal their spot in the semi-finals.

Selfish? Perhaps not - Cristiano Ronaldo has been directly involved in six goals for Portugal - and half have been via assist. He's also set one record and can break another one this Sunday

And in the clash against his Real Madrid teammate Gareth Bale and Wales, he was directly involved in both goals for Portugal to set up a clash with France this Sunday. So far, the 31-year-old has scored three goals - including a powerful header during the semi-finals tie with Wales - and contributed with three assists. Only Aaron Ramsey and Eden Hazard have bettered this, with four for Wales and Belgium respectively. 

By the way, Cristiano Ronaldo is also tied with Platini for the most Euro goals (9), and you can bet he will have that in mind as he hopes to earn his frustrating wait for a trophy with Portugal.

3. Gareth Bale

Speaking of CR7's club teammate Gareth Bale, the world's most expensive football player was excellent for Wales in France. Although the Dragons were one of five debutants at this tournament, it certainly did not deter Chris Coleman's side as they made an impressive run to the semi-finals.

Bale, naturally, was a huge part of that success. During the group stages, he scored three goals, two of which were via direct free-kicks. And his first goal - a fantastic free-kick against Slovakia - set two records.

The first is the most obvious - Wales's first ever goal at a European tournament. The second, however, is even more unique: Bale is the first ever British player to score a goal from a free-kick at this competition. For those confused about this or about to say, "Well, no, it was Eric Dier" - Dier's awesome goal took place in England's tie with Russia. That game kicked off three hours later after the Wales-Slovakia tie started.

Bale was in good form as he helped Wales surpass expectations and make a run to the semi-finals

During the knockout rounds, he was a lot more subdued as he was unable to find the back of the net. Nonetheless, his contributions - which also included one assist - cannot be disputed. The question is, will it be enough to pip others to this award? And he does have some serious competition - including from one of his own teammates.

4. Aaron Ramsey

Bale may have been the star for Wales, but Aaron Ramsey was the man who really made things tick. The Arsenal man contributed to five goals for the Dragons, and his four assists make him the joint-top provider along with Hazard. He also created 15 chances for his teammates in the five games he featured in.

Ramsey's role within the squad couldn't have been made any more apparent during Wales's semi-finals clash against Portugal. With him suspended, their midfield was sorely lacking the creative verve they desperately needed - and Bale was lacking the support he required to be at his best. Still, will that be enough to beat some of the other players on this list?

Ramsey is another Wales player who had an excellent tournament during the Dragons' European debut in France

Not likely. But four assists certainly is nothing to scoff at. And speaking of midfielders...

5. Toni Kroos

Toni Kroos has arguably been one of the strongest midfielders at this tournament. No, he hasn't racked up numerous goals. He certainly does not lead the assists charts, with only one contributed during Germany's Euro campaign.

However, what the Real Madrid man does provide is stability. He was instrumental in helping die Mannschaft keep possession and keeping things ticking offensively from the middle of the pitch. Furthermore, he successfully completed a whopping 93 per cent of his passes (608 out of 653). That is the highest completion rate out of any player who has made at least 100 passes and featured in at least five matches.

Kroos control: He may not be flashy, but the Real Madrid midfielder kept things moving along for Germany

So, zero goals, one assist. Kroos, unfortunately, does not stack up well against others like Ramsey, who were joint-top for assists, nor come anywhere near the players competing for the top-scorer prize. Does Kroos have a chance?

On paper, some may say no. But here's an interesting stat: Andres Iniesta, who won it in 2012, had one assist and zero goals. However, Spain did go on to win the trophy, whilst Germany lost to France for the first time since 1958 in the semi's this past weekend. It will be interesting to see if that failure will effectively rule out Kroos for this coveted prize.

6. Dimitri Payet

Simply put, Dimitri Payet has been a revelation at this tournament. The 29-year-old West Ham man quickly developed a reputation for scoring late - and sealing wins for France as he netted in Les Bleus' first two matches against Romania and Albania.

Payet has been one of the biggest revelations at Euro 2016 - will the West Ham man be decisive against Portugal in the final?

So far, he's grabbed three goals plus two assists, meaning that he has contributed to over one-third of France's total so far. Having to his total during France's 5-2 rout of Iceland, Payet, who did not score in Thursday's tie with Germany, will be eager to add more to his tally this Sunday.

7. Jérôme Boateng

Ok, his handball against Italy still will confound people. But it really didn't matter in the end as Germany went on to beat the Azzurri on spot-kicks. And even the best players in the world are prone to moments of madness here and there.

Jerome Boateng arguably was one of the best defenders at Euro 2016. The powerful center back, who had struggled with injury before the tournament, did not waste time to show why he is so highly regarded. Were it not for his goal-line clearance, die Mannschaft would have conceded a shock goal to Ukraine - and that would have changed the outcome of the tie.

Boateng's good defensive showings made life very comfortable in general for Manuel Neuer at Euro 2016

Unfortunately, Boateng was unable to prevent his side from losing to France in the semi-finals and had to leave the match due to another injury. Nonetheless, his stats are quite impressive, with over 86 per cent of his passes being successful, and had it not been for his strong performances in the center of defense, Neuer would have been a lot busier earlier on in the competition.

8. Laurent Koscielny

France came into Euro 2016 suffering a defensive crisis, but Laurent Koscielny has more than stepped up and delivered. Keeping reigning World Cup champions Germany quiet  is never an easy feat. In fact, France, who had not beaten them since 1958, had never managed to keep a clean sheet against die Mannschaft.

That is, until this past weekend. Hugo Lloris was also excellent in between the posts, but a goalkeeper can't do it all without a strong showing from his defenders. So far, Koscielny has completed over 90 per cent of his passes, and made 43 clearances. Even more impressive is the fact that he has played well over 500 minutes (522 to be exact) and has committed just one foul (whilst suffering six)

Koscielny will need to have another big game as France chase their third Euro title this Sunday

Honorable mention: Leonardo Bonucci

"But wait, Italy didn't make it to the semi-finals", some may say. Well, no. They did not. Nonetheless, Antonio Conte's side more than surpassed expectations by beating Belgium and Spain en route to the quarter-finals.

Juventus fans are already aware of the class of defender Leonardo Bonucci. This summer, those who don't follow Serie A were also given a chance to watch him in action. His pass to set up Emanuele Giaccherini for Italy's opener against Belgium had viewers describing it as "Pirlo-esque" and completed over 83 per cent of his passes.  Furthermore, he made several key blocks and clearances to keep numerous star attackers - including Hazard, Romelu Lukaku, Alvaro Morata, and Zlatan Ibrahimovic all from scoring against Gianluigi Buffon.

Bonucci played a vital role in Italy boasting one of the meanest defenses at Euro 2016 and helped Buffon to make sure that Azzurri only conceded two goals (not counting during the spot-kick shootout)

So, what do you think of these picks? Are any of your choices on this list?

Or is your pick featured as any of ther other players in one of these three lists? Would you choose a forward? A midfielder? Or a defender?

- Top 7 forwards at Euro 2016

- Top 8 midfielders at Euro 2016

- Top 5 defenders at Euro 2016

Or would you pick totally different selections entirely?

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