As captain of the mighty West Germany of the 1970s, Franz Beckenbauer was nicknamed “the Kaiser” due to his elegant style and leadership skills. Equally adept at attacking and defending, he is one of the pioneers of the modern game.
There were many great players in his country’s national side, but without Beckenbauer they wouldn’t have been half the side they were with him as leader.
A pushing, driving force on the pitch, Beckenbauer’s influence was most felt in West Germany’s Euro 1972 campaign, during which he would lead his team to victory in a masterclass of European football wizardry.
Beckenbauer also captained West Germany to the final, four years later at Euro 1976.
France’s Zinedine Zidane came to the attention of the whole world as a result of his performance during the 1998 World Cup.
Two years later at Euro 2000, a string of commanding performances prompted the UEFA to name him Player of the Tournament. Zidane finished the competition with two goals, two assists, and of course a winner’s medal to his name.
Marco van Basten
Injury cut short Marco van Basten’s career, but not before he made his mark with many wonderful displays for Holland throughout Euro 1988.
During this tournament, van Basten scored a hat-trick against England in the quarter-finals and the winner in the semis against West Germany.
The AC Milan star’s finest moment came when he scored the second in a 2-0 win against Russia with what is surely one of the best goals of all time.
Goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel played a huge part in Denmark’s unprecedented victory at Euro 1992.
When the semi-final against holders Holland went to penalties, this was the Great Dane’s chance to shine. Schmeichel saved a penalty from Marco van Basten to take Denmark into the final against West Germany.
Once in the final, Schmeichel stopped everything the world champions could throw at him. His clean sheet helped ensure that Denmark would go on to beat Germany 2-0 and win the Euros for the first time in their history.
The players on this list of European Championship stars all had something special that can’t be learned: their talent is simply innate.
Not only were all of these players at their best during the Euros, but their unique talents were the driving forces in bringing their different teams into the European Championship history books.