UEFA European Championship Top 10 Midfielders
10.) Rui Costa
Years Active: 1990 to 2008
Rui Costa represented Portugal in three UEFA European Championships. He was a good provider for other players to score goals but still scored a good number himself. At his time, the national side had a steady performance making it to the quarter finals in 1996, then the semifinals at the Euro 2000 and eventually the Euro 2004 final. On the progress to the final, he helped the Portugal team to eliminate England at the quarter finals through a remarkable strike which secured a 2-1 win.
9.) Lothar Matthaus
Years Active: 1979 to 2000
Lothar Matthaus played for Germany in four European Football Championships, winning the tournament in 1980. He was captain of the team at the Euro 1988 and he scored in the semifinal to give his team a lead, before Netherlands equalized through Ronald Koeman and snatched the victory in the final minutes by a Marco van Basten goal. His efforts were recognized as he appeared on the 1988 team of the tournament. That would be the last time Matthaus played at the tournament after an injury ruled him out of the 1992 European Championship.
8.) Luis Figo
Years Active: 1989 to 2009
Luis Figo was an exceptional winger with a successful career at club and international level. He is remembered in La Liga for being the second highest player in the number of assists, next to Lionel Messi. He played for Portugal in three European Football Championships, from 1996 to 2004.
The 2000 Ballon d’Or winner helped Portugal to the 2004 Euro final against Greece, who pulled off a shocking win. Figo failed to win any European Championship trophy with his team but he certainly led them to their best ever performance in the European competition. His efforts saw him feature in the UEFA Team of the Tournament twice, in 2000 and 2004.
7.) Michael Ballack
Years Active: 1995 to 2012
Michael Ballack was in the German squad at the 2000, 2004 and 2008 European Championships. He captained the team in the last two tournaments, helping them reach the 2008 Euro final. He scored an incredible free kick against Austria to seal a 1-0 win for Germany helping them progress to the quarter finals. Germany faired on well past Portugal in the quarter final and Turkey in the semi final before losing to Spain in the final. Despite the loss, Ballack did prove to be a world-class player and was among the best performers at the tournaments.
6.) Michel Platini
Years Active: 1972 to 1988
Michel Platini was captain of the France national team that won the European Championship in 1984. His admirable abilities in taking free kicks and scoring goals immensely helped the team win the tournament. He contributed nine goals to the 14 goals recorded by the whole team. Platini booked a spot in the final after scoring the decisive goal at the end of extra time to defeat Portugal 3-2 at the semifinal. He then scored the opener in the final against Spain as his team won 2-0 to become Champions of Europe. He was the best player of the tournament and the eventual top scorer.
5.) Andres Iniesta
Years Active: 2001 to Current
Andres Iniesta was influential during Spain’s two consecutive title wins, in Euro 2008 and Euro 2012. He is the kind of midfielder who provides quality crosses and key passes, which have proven essential in steering Spain forward in international competitions. His achievements with the senior team are a perfect follow up to his successful career with the Spain youth teams, which won European Championships in 2001 and 2002. Iniesta was at his best in 2012 where he was man of the match thrice and featured in the UEFA Team of the Tournament in both editions.
4.) Valentin Kozmich Ivanov
Country: The Soviet Union
Years Active: 1952 to 1966
Valentin Ivanov played for the Soviet Union national football team. He was a joint top scorer in the inaugural tournament in 1960 and his contribution helped the team to win the first edition of the tournament. His two goals of the tournament came in the semi final contest against Czechoslovakia which they won 3-0 to progress to the final round.
Ivanov was the first to appear on two successive teams of the tournament. He was instrumental in the following edition of the championship, helping the Soviet Union to the runners up position. He scored in the semi final of the 1964 tournament as the team beat Denmark to enter the finals a second time in a row.
3.) Andrea Pirlo
Years Active: 1995 to Current
Andrea Pirlo was the key player as Italy progressed to the final of UEFA Euro 2012. Previously, he was part of the squad to play in the 2004 and 2008 European Championships. His exceptional performance in 2012 won him three man of the match awards, same as the eventual player of the tournament Andres Iniesta of Spain. The recognition was a reward for his invaluable effort which saw Italy knock out England at the quarters and Germany at the semis. Pirlo was ultimately on the UEFA Team of the Tournament for his top-notch display.
Years Active: 1997 to Current
Xavier Hernandez is the most decorated Spanish player, having won more trophies than any other Spanish player. The central midfielder was the Player of the Tournament during UEFA Euro 2008 after his input saw Spain triumph. He helped Spain to its second European Championship title, after a draught of 24 years, through teeing up Fernando Torres to score the lone goal in the final against Germany which sealed a 1-0 win.
Xavi repeated the exceptional performance at the next tournament when Spain was the winner for a successive season. His two assists at Euro 2012 final in their 4-0 demolishing of Italy showed he was a critical part as Spain recorded the only successive UEFA Euro victory in history.
1.) Zinedine Zidane
Years Active: 1989 to 2006
Zinedine Zidane first played for France in the European Championship in 1996. He was not fully established by then but contributed largely to his team getting to the semifinals. Four years later, he was at his prime and the performance he put up saw him named the Player of the Tournament at the UEFA Euro 2000.
Zidane helped France to follow up a World Cup victory with a European Championship win in 2000. Earlier on at the Euro 2004, he savaged a win for the France team as they came from a goal down to win 2-1 over England during their opening match. He was instrumental to the team which made it to the quarter finals only to be shocked by eventual winners Greece in an entertaining knock out contest.