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Ranking the 20 best players at Euro 2020

We’ve ranked all the teams, now it’s time for the players to take center stage. As we close in on the opening kickoff at Euro 2020, here are the 20 brightest stars who will be on display across Europe over the next month.

20. Toni Kroos (Germany)

Club: Real Madrid | Age: 31 | Position: Central midfielder

Kroos won’t outmuscle or sprint past an opponent, but he’s a cool head in the midfield who boasts tight control and incredible vision. When the ball is at the Real Madrid star’s feet, the German attackers will move in anticipation of a perfect pass and, more often than not, they’ll get it.

19. Jack Grealish (England)

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Club: Aston Villa | Age: 25 | Position: Winger, attacking midfielder

Whether Grealish is a nailed-on starter is still up for debate, but Gareth Southgate would be foolish to leave out the Aston Villa playmaker. His dribbling can be unstoppable – until someone hacks him down, that is – and he finished third in the Premier League for key passes despite missing 12 matches.

18. David Alaba (Austria)

Club: Real Madrid | Age: 28 | Position: Defender, midfielder

Alaba, who will link up with Real Madrid after the tournament, mostly played at center-back during Bayern Munich’s title-winning term. With Austria, however, he’s either thrust into an all-action midfield role or operating as a left winger. The 28-year-old offers supreme composure and impeccable distribution in any role.

17. Thiago Alcantara (Spain)

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Club: Liverpool | Age: 30 | Position: Central midfielder

There’s a beauty to the unhurried, precise nature of Thiago’s work. The Liverpool midfielder tends to sit deep, surveying the patterns ahead of him, before he either uses his silky touch to wriggle free of an opponent and carry the ball upfield or break the lines with a perfectly weighted pass to an attacker.

16. Memphis Depay (Netherlands)

Club: Lyon | Age: 27 | Position: Winger, forward

Depay is widely expected to join Barcelona on a free transfer when his Lyon contract expires at the end of the month. He notched 20 goals and 12 assists over the 2020-21 Ligue 1 campaign and has firmly established himself as a leader for both club and country.

15. Thomas Muller (Germany)

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Club: Bayern Munich | Age: 31 | Position: Attacking midfielder, forward

Medal-hoarding Muller is known worldwide for his knack of drifting into space and getting on the end of simple chances, but his creativity has set him apart from his Bundesliga peers in recent years. He’s logged an incredible 39 assists over his past two seasons in Germany’s top flight.

14. Paul Pogba (France)

Club: Manchester United | Age: 28 | Position: Central midfielder

Free – relatively speaking – of the incessant criticism he faces in England, Pogba can be the best version of himself with France. And that version is pretty damn good. His blend of technique, ingenuity, and athleticism is unique and will again be crucial as Les Bleus try to capture another major title.

13. Frenkie de Jong (Netherlands)

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Club: Barcelona | Age: 24 | Position: Central midfielder

Few players galavant about the pitch with De Jong’s grace. His poise in tight spaces, particularly when being pressed in his own half, belie his youth. If the Netherlands is going to make any noise participating in its first major tournament since 2014, De Jong needs to be a central protagonist.

12. Marco Verratti (Italy)

Club: Paris Saint-Germain | Age: 28 | Position: Central midfielder

Verratti is undeniably Italy’s most talented player and among the most technically gifted midfielders of his generation. If only he could stay healthy. Currently recovering from a knee issue, he’s in a race against time to be fit for the tournament. If he’s available, the Azzurri are not-so-sneaky contenders.

11. Ruben Dias (Portugal)

Gualter Fatia / Getty Images Sport / Getty

Club: Manchester City | Age: 24 | Position: Center-back

An absolute rock at the back, Dias strolls into Euro 2020 after a trophy-laden season with Manchester City. The imposing center-back was arguably the team’s most important player, and he’ll look to carry that impenetrable aura over to the national team as Portugal aims to defend its crown.

10. Karim Benzema (France)

Club: Real Madrid | Age: 33 | Position: Striker

It’s almost comical that France can simply plug a player of Benzema’s immense quality into the lineup after just leaving him out by choice for so many years. After carrying Real Madrid for multiple seasons, his shoulders will finally get a deserved rest now that he’s surrounded by elite attackers.

9. Bruno Fernandes (Portugal)

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Club: Manchester United | Age: 26 | Position: Attacking midfielder

Yes, his goal tally is inflated somewhat by penalties, but that shouldn’t take anything away from Fernandes, who has thrived since joining Manchester United. The Portuguese star is a dynamic attacking midfielder who can be lethal from set pieces and has the rare gift of being able to make others around him better.

8. Joshua Kimmich (Germany)

Club: Bayern Munich | Age: 26 | Position: Right-back, central midfielder

Arguably the most versatile, well-rounded player in the world. A team of 11 Kimmichs would probably do very well in this tournament – surely he can play in goal too, right? The German midfielder is cerebral in possession, can dictate play with the ball, and can orchestrate his team in the defensive phase.

7. Romelu Lukaku (Belgium)

Sylvain Lefevre / Getty Images Sport / Getty

Club: Inter Milan | Age: 28 | Position: Striker

Lukaku has put all the pieces together since moving to Inter Milan, and the completed puzzle is one of the world’s most dominant strikers. Being quick and strong is obviously beneficial, but combining those talents with intelligent movement and a hunger to score makes the Belgian an absolute star.

6. Harry Kane (England)

Club: Tottenham Hotspur | Age: 27 | Position: Striker

Don’t look now, but England has an exhilarating collection of attacking options. If the Three Lions falter this summer, pure talent won’t be the reason. Kane remains the headliner of that group and will be relied upon both as a finisher and creator. As he continues to show, he excels in both areas.

5. Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal)

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Club: Juventus | Age: 36 | Position: Forward

He’s not the same all-conquering force of his Real Madrid days, but Ronaldo showed this past season that he can still deliver in crucial moments. Portugal’s captain, inching ever closer to the men’s international scoring record, could be celebrating on multiple fronts this summer.

4. N’Golo Kante (France)

Club: Chelsea | Age: 30 | Position: Central midfielder

Kante is a one-man midfield. The football world is running out of superlatives to describe the lovable Frenchman, who goes into Euro 2020 on the back of a spectacular performance in the Champions League final. The diminutive dynamo, still at his relentless best, is an absolute colossus.

3. Robert Lewandowski (Poland)

NurPhoto / NurPhoto / Getty

Club: Bayern Munich | Age: 32 | Position: Striker

Fresh off a record-breaking Bundesliga season, the prolific superstar will again be the focal point of his team’s attack, this time on the international stage. Poland needs Lewandowski to find the net frequently if it’s to be a factor in the competition.

2. Kevin De Bruyne (Belgium)

Club: Manchester City | Age: 29 | Position: Attacking midfielder

So much of the emphasis in the sport is on scoring goals, and with good reason, but no playmaker is capable of taking your breath away with an incisive pass like De Bruyne. His vision on the pitch allows him to see holes before they even open. Oh, and he’s not half bad at finding the net, either.

1. Kylian Mbappe (France)

FRANCK FIFE / AFP / Getty

Club: Paris Saint-Germain | Age: 22 | Position: Forward

Is there anything more frightening for a defender than seeing Mbappe in full flight, striding toward you with the ball at his feet? It must be a helpless feeling. His combination of explosiveness, dribbling ability, playmaking, and finishing make him virtually unstoppable. He’s the total package. It’s unfair, really.

Honorable mentions: Phil Foden, Luka Modric, Bernardo Silva, Youri Tielemans

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Ligue 1

Emiliano Sala flight organizer convicted of endangering safety of aircraft

The man who organized the fatal flight of footballer Emiliano Sala was convicted Thursday.

Businessman David Henderson was found guilty of endangering the safety of an aircraft at a trial at Cardiff Crown Court, according to BBC News.

The 67-year-old will be sentenced Nov. 12. He previously pleaded guilty to a charge of trying to organize a flight without permission or authorization.

Sala and pilot David Ibbotson died when the single-engine Piper Malibu they were traveling in crashed into the English Channel in January 2019.

The Argentine forward was flying to Wales to link up with his new club, Cardiff City, and complete his £15-million transfer from French side Nantes – the city from which the flight departed.

LOIC VENANCE / AFP / Getty

The jury took seven-and-a-half hours to make its decision.

Henderson, who was on holiday in France at the time of the flight, asked Ibbotson to fly the plane. However, Ibbotson did not hold a commercial pilot’s license, which is required to fly at night, and the 59-year-old’s qualifications to fly the single-engine Piper Malibu had expired months before the trip. The Piper Malibu’s owner had also told Henderson not to let Ibbotson fly the plane again because the pilot had committed airspace infringements.

A carbon monoxide leak occurred during the flight, an August 2019 report from the Air Accidents Investigation Branch revealed. The plane crashed after Ibbotson’s attempt to pull it up caused the aircraft to break up in midair.

The jury was told that Henderson texted multiple people moments after the plane crashed, telling them to stay silent about the matter out of fear they would “open a can of worms.”

The prosecutor described Henderson as “reckless or negligent” for prioritizing his business interests over the safety of travelers.

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Ligue 1

Emiliano Sala flight organizer convicted of endangering safety of aircraft

The man who organized the fatal flight of footballer Emiliano Sala was convicted Thursday.

Businessman David Henderson was found guilty of endangering the safety of an aircraft at a trial at Cardiff Crown Court, according to BBC News.

The 67-year-old will be sentenced Nov. 12. He previously pleaded guilty to a charge of trying to organize a flight without permission or authorization.

Sala and pilot David Ibbotson died when the single-engine Piper Malibu they were traveling in crashed into the English Channel in January 2019.

The Argentine forward was flying to Wales to link up with his new club, Cardiff City, and complete his £15-million transfer from French side Nantes – the city from which the flight departed.

LOIC VENANCE / AFP / Getty

The jury took seven-and-a-half hours to make its decision.

Henderson, who was on holiday in France at the time of the flight, asked Ibbotson to fly the plane. However, Ibbotson did not hold a commercial pilot’s license, which is required to fly at night, and the 59-year-old’s qualifications to fly the single-engine Piper Malibu had expired months before the trip. The Piper Malibu’s owner had also told Henderson not to let Ibbotson fly the plane again because the pilot had committed airspace infringements.

A carbon monoxide leak occurred during the flight, an August 2019 report from the Air Accidents Investigation Branch revealed. The plane crashed after Ibbotson’s attempt to pull it up caused the aircraft to break up in midair.

The jury was told that Henderson texted multiple people moments after the plane crashed, telling them to stay silent about the matter out of fear they would “open a can of worms.”

The prosecutor described Henderson as “reckless or negligent” for prioritizing his business interests over the safety of travelers.

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Ligue 1

Switzerland shocks France, reaches quarters after penalty shootout

Switzerland is through to the quarterfinals of Euro 2020 after beating World Cup champion France 5-4 on penalties following an all-time classic encounter in the competition.

Kylian Mbappe stepped up for Les Bleus’ fifth spot-kick but saw his effort saved by Yann Sommer, meaning France will miss the final eight of a major tournament for the first time since 2010.

The 120 minutes that preceded the shootout ended 3-3 after the two teams combined for 38 shots on goal in a match of numerous twists and turns.

The Swiss led against Didier Deschamps’ reshuffled yet disorganized team at halftime through Haris Seferovic’s header. The underdogs had chances to double that advantage but spurned all of them, including a Ricardo Rodriguez spot-kick that was pushed away by Hugo Lloris.

Karim Benzema flipped the tie in France’s favor with a quickfire double in the four or so minutes that followed that penalty save. Soon after, Paul Pogba bent in a sublime effort from distance. The match was getting away from Switzerland and France was purring.

FRANCK FIFE / AFP / Getty

But, in keeping with a thrilling day of Euro 2020 action, there were more surprises. Seferovic headed in another goal and substitute Mario Gavranovic neatly skipped beside Presnel Kimpembe before firing a 90th-minute equalizer. France’s Kingsley Coman hit the crossbar in the dying seconds of normal time.

Pogba picked out Mbappe with a measured pass for the best chance during extra time, but the forward wastefully smashed his shot into the side-netting. Olivier Giroud, who replaced Benzema, also had a header well saved by Sommer.

A high-quality series of penalties followed until Sommer palmed away Mbappe’s effort from 12 yards. The Paris Saint-Germain superstar finished his campaign with 14 shots (excluding his effort in the shootout) without scoring a single goal.

Switzerland will take on Spain in the quarterfinals on Friday.

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