Ranked! The 6 Best Players in European Championships History

Ranked! The 6 Best Players in European Championships History

Isaac Darko
updated at February 25, 2024 at 3:56 PM
  • The Euros rank among the most thrilling football tournaments ever
  • Stars like Cristiano Ronaldo and Zinedine Zidane have graced its stage
  • Here are the six best players in European Championships history

Since its inception in 1960, the UEFA European Football Championship has solidified its position as Europe's premier international tournament.

Taking place every four years and alternating with the World Cup in even-numbered years, it stands as one of the most esteemed competitions globally, second only to the World Cup.

Sports Brief has embarked on a journey through the archives to determine the greatest player in Euros history.

Best players in European Championships history

6. Michel Platini

The iconic number ten of France participated in just one European Championships throughout his career, yet he ensured it would be unforgettable.

Leading Les Bleus as captain during the 1984 tournament held in France, the ex-Juventus player netted an impressive nine goals across five games, including two hat-tricks, securing his team's inaugural major trophy. His remarkable performance has etched its place in the annals of history.

Even today, Platini stands as the all-time leading scorer in a single edition and the second-highest scorer in the championship's history.

5. Marco vs Basten

The Netherlands, renowned for producing some of football's most illustrious players, possesses just one major trophy in their history.

Marco van Basten played a pivotal role in securing that triumph by delivering a breathtaking hat-trick during Euro 1988.

From his memorable performance against England to his legendary volley in the final, culminating in his life-defining moment against the Soviet Union, the three-time Ballon d'Or recipient will always be celebrated as the individual who revived Dutch football spirits following the disappointment of the 1974 World Cup final loss to West Germany.

4. Xavi Hernandez

It's difficult to distinguish Xavi from his compatriot Andrés Iniesta, considering the close bond between the two players over their careers.

Xavi, who claimed two European Championships (2008 and 2012), earned the title of the tournament's best player in 2008.

He also made history by becoming the first player to provide an assist in consecutive Euro finals in 2012.

Renowned for his adept passing, the former Barcelona maestro played a pivotal yet understated role in orchestrating attacks from the midfield's foundation.

3. Andreas Iniesta

In the late 2000s and early 2010s, Spain left an indelible mark on an entire generation, showcasing dominance by clinching two Euros and a World Cup within four years.

Their performance was as spectacular as it was unprecedented, propelled by a team where each player seemed to outshine the next in talent. Among these luminaries, Andrés Iniesta stands out as perhaps the most exceptional.

Sharing the record for most games won at the Euros (11) with Cesc Fàbregas, the mesmerizing former Barcelona midfielder secured a spot in the tournament's team of the year in 2008 when La Roja triumphed.

Four years later, he capped off a remarkable Euro 2012 campaign, clinching the title of 'Man of the Match' three times, including in the final, and being honoured as the tournament's top player.

2. Cristiano Ronaldo

Cristiano Ronaldo's journey in the European Championships mirrors his illustrious career: laden with records. He holds the title of the competition's all-time leading scorer with 14 goals and has appeared in the most matches, totalling 25.

Additionally, he shares the record for the most tournaments played, participating in five between 2004 and 2021 alongside Iker Casillas. Ronaldo also boasts the most minutes played in the competition, tallying 2063, and was the joint top-scorer in 2012 with three goals.

Furthermore, he clinched the Golden Shoe Award in 2021 with five goals. The extent of his accomplishments seems endless.

However, none of these feats rival his crowning achievement: Portugal's triumphant victory in 2016, marking the nation's inaugural major trophy in football history.

1. Zinedine Zidane

Euro 2000 is often hailed as one of the most fiercely contested editions in the tournament's history.

From riveting clashes like England versus Portugal to Yugoslavia versus Slovenia, and culminating in the electrifying final showdown between France and Italy, the dawn of the new millennium witnessed football at its finest.

Amidst this intense competition, one player once again seized the spotlight: Zinedine Zidane. Delivering one of the most remarkable individual performances of the 21st century, Zidane propelled his star-studded French ensemble to clinch the European Championship title.

This triumph not only crowned Les Bleus as World champions but also added the prestigious title of European champions to their accolades.

Isaac Darko photo
Isaac Darko
Isaac Darko is a La Liga, Ligue 1 and Bundesliga editor at Sports Brief with a Degree in Journalism and Communications from Ghana Institute of Journalism (2010)