The UEFA 2020 European Championship concluded with several big names performing as expected. There were also some lesser-known names who made an impression. With the event taking place around Europe to commemorate UEFA's 60th anniversary, fans in a variety of countries and cities will get the opportunity to watch superstars up close and personal. Now that the UEFA Euro 2020 tournament is done, we can get down to the essential business of debating who the best players have been up to this point.
Some of these stars are just starting out, while others are nearing the conclusion of their careers. That is extremely difficult to achieve, especially in the expanded 24-team format, given Europe's abundance of top players and national teams. Given what we saw in the just-finished tournament, here is one perfect eleven that most people would accept.
Goalkeeper: Yann Sommer (Switzerland)
“Sommer hält! Sommer hält!” exclaims the narrator. — Since that late night in Bucharest, emotional Swiss commentary of Sommer's shootout heroics against France has been heard countless times throughout the world. Sommer has saved 19 of the 79 penalties he has faced since making his professional club debut in 2007. He pulled out the party trick once more on the day he became Switzerland's all-time leading goalie. He made 21 saves in the tournament, which is averaged to 4.2 saves per match. He was the best goalkeeper in the tournament with Kasper Schmeichel being a close second.
Right-back: Kyle Walker (England)
Kyle Walker was nothing short of incredible in the tournament. He was faultless throughout the tournament and fully deserves to be in the best XI. Rather unusually, Euros 2020 was more about fullbacks than the forwards. With England in an abundance of right-backs, Walker stepped up for the Three Lions big time and was the best right-back of the tournament.
Centre-back: John Stones (England)
Stones was a major member of the Three Lions group that reached the World Cup semi-finals in Russia three years ago, but his play dipped at Manchester City, and he lost his international spot as a result. On the other hand, Stones is back at the top of his game after England's incredible Euro 2016 campaign. Stones formed one of the strongest defences in the competition, keeping six clean sheets alongside colleague Kyle Walker and Manchester United duo Harry Maguire and Luke Shaw.
Centre-back: Giorgio Chiellini (Italy)
Before each match, Italy's players form a line, clutch each other's shoulders, and scream "siam pronti alla morte" into the sky above them. And it will have had a different resonance for Giorgio Chiellini during this tournament. Although the next World Cup is only 18 months away, Chiellini will be 37 in August and 38 by the time it takes place in Qatar. His time will come. Chiellini has been ready to die every time he has played for the Azzurri. He has been one of the top defenders in the tournament and has been instrumental in Italy's recent success.
Left-back: Leonardo Spinazzola (Italy)
Another Italian on our list, Spinazzola has been the best left-back in the tournament alongside Luke Shaw. Spinazzola is a one-of-a-kind player who can play on either foot and has the uncanny ability to trick his opponent with a shimmy and a shoulder drop. Because of his ambidextrous nature, it's tough to tell whether he'll finally cut in on his 'preferred' right foot or scorch you down the outside and whip another cross into the box. However, against Belgium, he was stretchered off and missed the rest of the tournament. He had two assists and was named Man of the Match twice.
Defensive Midfielder: Sergio Busquets (Spain)
The adaptability and liveliness of their attack-bent players, strikers with velcro-touches who pinched the goals, midfield tricksters who conceptualised the strikes, and pacy flanks-men launching attacks, was naturally centred on Euro 2020. However, Spain's holding midfielder, Sergio Busquets, holds the key to victory. His team would control the game in his tempo-controlling, ball-shielding, space-encroaching efficiency, even if he didn't appear on the scoresheets or assist charts. He is the gear itself, not the gear-shifter. He performed admirably in the tournament that just ended.
Midfielder: Marco Verratti (Italy)
Verratti was the engine behind Italy’s brilliant performances throughout the tournament. Verratti, who has recently battled injuries, put forth the kind of performance that many expected from him at Euro 2020. The 28-year-old put on a great show, demonstrating control both on and off the ball. Whether it was through his possession or his pushing, he controlled the game.
Midfielder: Pedri (Spain)
The Barcelona midfielder has undoubtedly caught the attention at the tournament, and he put in another outstanding effort in the semi-final against Azzurri. The 18-year-old made history by becoming the youngest player in tournament history to start a semifinal match. He completed all 55 of his pass attempts in regular time. Pedri has had a breakout year at Barcelona, earning regular minutes and being selected to compete in the Olympics later this year. Luis Enrique, his head coach, even likened him favourably to Andreas Iniesta, which is one of the best praises a young Spaniard can receive.
Right-winger: Raheem Sterling (England)
Sterling's performances in this tournament have demolished any notion that he is anything other than one of England's best and most reliable players. After all, the penalty he won in the semi-final was the deciding factor. England qualified for their first major event final in 55 years thanks to that penalty. For many, though, that was a simulation, but for English fans, it was a ray of optimism. The 26-year-old has scored goals for the Three Lions against Croatia, the Czech Republic, and Germany before re-emerging as a dangerous threat in the quarter-final win over Ukraine, masterfully assisting Harry Kane for the opener in Rome.
Striker: Patrik Schick (Czech Republic)
The striker from the Czech Republic had a fantastic European Championships, scoring five goals in five games. Schick's spectacular goal from halfway in the 2-0 triumph over Scotland at Hampden Park will go down as one of the tournament's most memorable moments, but it was no fluke. The Bayer Leverkusen striker slid home to complete a resounding last-16 victory over the Netherlands' 10-man squad, advancing to the next round of the competition. In the Czech Republic's 1-2 loss against Denmark in the Quarter-finals, he added another goal.
Left-winger: Lorenzo Insigne (Italy)
The 30-year-old Napoli captain has been one of the tournament's biggest stars and has played a major role in Italy's incredible run. Against Belgium, the small winger shrugged off a tackle and slammed home a beautiful curler from outside the area. It turned out to be the turning point of the quarter-final. This was his second goal in as many games, the first being against Turkey in Italy's first match. The winger and his national team have made an incredible return.