The greatest European Championship XI of all time


It’s here! It’s finally here! Euro 2020 is here and it’s only about 365 days late, but we don’t care because it’s here!

International football fever is sweeping the nation as we all desperately try to convince ourselves football is finally coming home, despite knowing deep down that we’re going to be left in floods of tears as we ponder what could have been.

If you want a break from watching constant re-runs of England’s numerous European Championship penalty shootout defeats, why not indulge yourself in our greatest combined Euro XI of all-time…

Lev Yashin won the 1960 European Championship with the Soviet Union

Lev Yashin won the 1960 European Championship with the Soviet Union / Central Press/Getty Images

Lev Yashin is widely considered as the best goalkeeper to ever grace our beautiful game, and the Soviet Union shot-stopper was twice named in the European Championship Team of the Tournament.

Yashin was instrumental in his side’s victory at the 1960 edition of the competition, before coming desperately close to repeating the feat just four years later as the Soviet Union were beaten 2-1 in the final by Spain.

Philipp Lahm at Euro 2008

Philipp Lahm at Euro 2008 / FABRICE COFFRINI/Getty Images

One of the very few entrants on our list not to have been crowned a European Championship winner.

Philipp Lahm was a mainstay in the Germany defence for the best past of a decade, representing his side at three European Championships.

The former Bayern Munich man came desperately close to getting his hands on the trophy in 2008 as his side were beaten by Spain in the final, yet his lack of a winners’ medal doesn’t mean he was any less brilliant at the tournaments he competed in.

Laurent Blanc was part of France's triumphant Euro 2000 squad

Laurent Blanc was part of France’s triumphant Euro 2000 squad / Phil Cole/Getty Images

To many people of a certain age, Laurent Blanc will always be the haphazard centre-back who made Manchester United’s defence look a shambles, and so it’s easy to forget that prior to his Premier League stay he was a mountain of a defender.

The Frenchman was named in the Team of the Tournament at three consecutive European Championships between 1992 and 2000 and his performances in the latter of the three events had a huge hand in France securing their second Euro triumph.

Franz Beckenbauer won the 1972 European Championship with West Germany

Franz Beckenbauer won the 1972 European Championship with West Germany / Alessandro Sabattini/Getty Images

It’s just impossible to name an all-time XI without having this man at centre-back.

Franz Beckenbauer was part of the all-conquering Germany team that held the title of European champions and world champions in the early 70s.

Der Kaiser could play at centre-back or in central-midfield but regardless of where he played he would always be utterly dominant. Plus, if it wasn’t for a certain Panenka penalty he’d have defended his county’s European crown in 1976.

Again, impossible to name an all-time XI without having him in the side.

Like Lahm, Paolo Maldini somehow never managed to win the European Championship, with David Trezeguet’s golden goal denying Italy in the final of Euro 2000 (if you’ve no idea what the golden goal rule is we implore you to read up on it – very weird stuff).

Maldini was just effortlessly superb, patrolling the left-hand side of Italy’s backline while also providing an attacking outlet.

Lothar Matthaus appeared in his fourth European Championship at Euro 2000

Lothar Matthaus appeared in his fourth European Championship at Euro 2000 / Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

An absolute beast of a footballer.

There wasn’t much Lothar Matthaus couldn’t do. He had the engine to play box-to-box, he could dribble past players, he could pass – he genuinely was just an all-round maestro.

At the tender age of 19 he was crowned winner of the 1980 European Championship and 20 years on he was still on the international scene having been named in Germany’s Euro 2000 squad.

A truly remarkable footballer.

Zinedine Zidane lit up Euro 2000

Zinedine Zidane lit up Euro 2000 / Claudio Villa/Getty Images

We don’t use the word ‘genius’ lightly but it’s never been more applicable than when describing Zinedine Zidane.

For any of you who didn’t witness him in his prime, it’s almost impossible to explain how effortless he made the game look. The Frenchman had arguably the greatest first touch in footballing history and the way he’d glide past players was like it deserved classical music in the background.

Zidane was part of the famous France side that won the 1998 World Cup and then triumphed at Euro 2000.

Ruud Gullit celebrates with Gerald Vanenburg

Ruud Gullit celebrates with Gerald Vanenburg / Getty Images/Getty Images

Ruud Gullit was another player who played in just about every position on the pitch during his illustrious career, so we’ve shoehorned him into central-midfield.

In the late 80s the Dutchman was in his prime and his performances at Euro 88 will go down in football history.

His partnership with Marco van Basten was absolutely lethal and despite the fact he played much further forward than central-midfield during the tournament, we couldn’t not include him.

Michel Platini holds the trophy aloft at Euro 84

Michel Platini holds the trophy aloft at Euro 84 / Alessandro Sabattini/Getty Images

Every name on this XI has appeared in at least two European Championship Team of the Tournaments – except this man’s.

Michel Platini was given the honour just once, but when we tell you about his performances at Euro 84 you’ll understand why he’s got a spot in our team.

The France captain led his side to their first major tournament win after bagging an astonishing nine goals in five games, including two hat-tricks while the other three strikes were all winning goals.

The rest of the team mustered just five goals between them in the whole competition!

You don’t even have to like football to know about that goal.

Van Basten notched the Golden Boot at Euro 88 as the Netherlands were crowned European champions. The former Milan striker grabbed himself a hat-trick against England as well as scoring in the semi-final and the final of the competition.

He would go on to be crowned the Ballon d’Or winner later that year – the first of three awards – for his stunning performances.

But forget all that – just look at that goal.

The only player in our XI still playing to this day.

Cristiano Ronaldo may have left the field in tears after picking up an early injury in the Euro 2016 final, but he was soon shedding tears of joy as Portugal were crowned winners of the competition thanks to Eder’s extra-time strike.

Ronaldo is preparing to play in his fifth European Championship and astonishingly he’s been named in the Team of the Tournament in all but one of his previous four appearances.

Love him or hate him, he’s definitely one of the all-time greats.

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