After a long campaign both at home and abroad, it was always going to be interesting to see how some of the stars of last season’s Champions League would fair in Euro 2016. Let’s take a look at four of the biggest names in World Football.
BALE THE GO TO GUY FOR WALES
Joint top goalscorer in the competition so far (and quoted at *5.50 on the betting exchanges to win the Golden Shoe), Real Madrid star Gareth Bale is playing a big part in taking his country on an unforgettable journey at their first ever European Championships. A goal in every group game against Slovakia, England and Russia (two of them trade-mark free-kicks), the 26-year-old is basking in the limelight being offered him in France so far. So often in major tournaments, the players that are expected to impress ultimately fail but Bale has torn up that particular script firing Wales into the last 16 of the championships, finishing above England in group B. Now he has the chance to lead his country into the quarter-finals as they face Northern Ireland in Paris on Saturday.
RONALDO ANSWERS HIS CRITICS IN HUNGARY THRILLER
He’s upset the whole of Iceland, he’s missed a vital penalty and he’s thrown a reporters microphone into the river; Cristiano Ronaldo has had a mixed tournament to say the least but he answered his critics with a superb display against Hungary in Lyon on Wednesday. The Portuguese superstar scored two of his country’s three goals in a six-goal thriller, his first strike an absolute masterclass by a player still regarded by many as the best in the world. CR7 looks to be on a one-man crusade to take his country as far in the competition as he can, but three consecutive draws has left Portugal with a tricky last 16 date against Croatia on Saturday night in Lens.
IBRAHIMOVIC BIDS FAREWELL TO INTERNATIONAL FOOTBALL
Not such good news for Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who called time on his international career after his country’s elimination from Euro 2016 on Wednesday. Last season for PSG, he broke records for fun but he missed out on the Champions League once again and now his international career is over. When people look back on his career as a whole, the larger than life striker has three major trophies missing from his palmares; two of them are the World Cup and European Championship but representing Sweden was never, in reality, going to give him the opportunity to fulfil his dream. The absence of a Champions League winners medal however, will always mean he’s overlooked when it comes to talking about the great’s of the game.
POGBA FEELING THE WEIGHT OF EXPECTATION
At 23-years of age, French midfielder Paul Pogba has time on his side and having come so close to winning the Champions League in 2015 with Juventus, his future may lie at Real Madrid as he continues to dream of lifting club football’s biggest prize. His Euro 2016 campaign has been disappointing so far and he’s been upstaged by fellow countryman Dimitri Payet, who has become the darling of the French public. After being eliminated by Bayern Munich in last season’s competition, Juventus have made the Champions League their top priority for 2016-17; whether Pogba will be in their starting XI next season, looks more unlikely with every passing day.
*odds courtesy of Bet365
Steve Mitchell @barafundler