UEFA Euro 2016, B/R 200: Top 30 Attacking Midfielders and Wingers

Daniel Tiluk@@danieltilukFeatured ColumnistJune 6, 2016

UEFA Euro 2016, B/R 200: Top 30 Attacking Midfielders and Wingers

0 of 30

    Getty Images

    Tasked with breaking down defences and creating chances for forwards, strikers or themselves, attacking midfielders and wingers are the individuals who pick locks.

    If central midfielders establish their team's overall balance, then central-attacking midfielders and wingers maintain their team's attacking balance and/or efficiency.

    Before the world's second-most prestigious international competition—behind only the FIFA World Cup—Bleacher Report asked which of Europe's available attacking midfielders and wingers are best.

    Spain probably have too many options—Isco, Saul Niguez and Juan Mata were surplus to the holders' requirements. France's Hatem Ben Arfa wasn't selected for Didier Deschamps' side. Denmark's Christian Eriksen and the Netherlands' Arjen Robben didn't even qualify.

    With those omissions recognised, Euro 2016's attacking quality is still immense.

    Criteria is weighted for a best possible score of 100.

    The first 50 are measured by a technique rating: this includes mental acuity, passing range/vision, touch and control.

    The last 50 points are judged by an end product rating: this includes finishing, assisting and overall attacking competence/value.

    When added together, our overall score is made. In the event of a tie, we ask, using what we hope is common sense: "Who would I rather have at this competition?"

30. Moussa Sissoko, France

1 of 30

    Catherine Ivill - AMA/Getty Images

    Technique Rating: 36/50

    The perception of Moussa Sissoko is skewed because he plays for Newcastle United. Though a component of their relegation campaign last season, the Frenchman should not be burdened with the failures of an entire sporting enterprise.

    Taking the player on his skill alone: Sissoko's inclusion in France's Euro 2016 side—while certainly curious over his former team-mate, Hatem Ben Arfa—is not outlandish.

    The 26-year-old offers something different. Didier Deschamps' job is to make sure every base is covered, and Sissoko is a powerful runner whose technique allows him to play multiple positions.

    End-Product Rating: 34/50

    Sissoko seems like Newcastle's only creative attacking threat at times; he scored just one goal in his 37 Premier League starts last season but provided eight assists. Those numbers represent roughly 20 percent of the Magpies' league goalscoring output.

    Though not necessarily emblematic of his career thus far, Sissoko's assist total was good enough for a France call-up and maybe a new team next year—one that doesn't need to escape the Football League's Championship.

    Overall Rating: 70/100

    Les Bleus' squad for Euro 2016 might be the best on paper. Their Newcastle attacking/wide midfielder may be around the bottom of Deschamps' 23-man squad, but his inclusion alone is celebration-worthy.

    Considering that depth, whether Sissoko features this summer is entirely dependent on the fitness and form of those above him.

29. Gokhan Tore, Turkey

2 of 30

    Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

    Technique Rating: 37/50

    For the longest time, Gokhan Tore has been earmarked for success. The winger bounced from Bayer Leverkusen and Chelsea's youth academies to SV Hamburg, Rubin Kazan and now Besiktas and has graced some of Europe's biggest stages in his time.

    It took his latest move to piece things together. For three seasons, Tore has been arguably Besiktas' best attacking midfielder/winger.

    One of the Turkish Super Lig's best dribblers, he seemingly has the ball pasted to his boots at times, much to the befuddlement of his opposition.

    End-Product Rating: 35/50

    Featuring 111 times for one of Istanbul's Big Three, Tore has scored 19 goals and created 28 for those around him. The 24-year-old's combination of dribbling and pace make him a productive wide option, and his club manager, Senol Gunes, uses him to great effect.

    Tore could polish his composure in dangerous areas, but the Turk has time to get things right.

    Overall Rating: 72/100

    Turkey have several impressive pieces heading into the European Championship, Tore being one.

    His ability to create space for his midfielders should open the pitch for the team's central options. If he can add some goals to his game this summer, the Turks' image as oft-mentioned, but rarely realised, dark horses could change.

28. Zlatko Junuzovic, Austria

3 of 30

    VI-Images/Getty Images

    Technique Rating: 37/50

    Werder Bremen were saved from relegation in 2015/16's dying moments. Papy Djilobodji's 88th-minute winner versus Eintracht Frankfurt was arguably the most dramatic moment from any of the top-five leagues' final matchdays.

    Austria's Zlatko Junuzovic kept his team afloat, in position to be rescued. The central-attacking midfielder and occasional left-winger is the heartbeat of his club. When he plays well, the River Islanders follow suit.

    His game is predicated on passing, expert crossing and dead-ball situations. The goal that saved his team resulted from his set-piece delivery.

    End-Product Rating: 36/50

    Head coach Viktor Skrypnyk might have thought he lost his Austrian playmaker in midseason. Junuzovic went 17 Bundesliga matches without a goal, and his scoring drought was consistent with Bremen's buried league position.

    During those 17 games, Junuzovic logged five assists. When goals returned to his game, Bremen earned 14 points from 10 fixtures—just enough for them to stay up.

    Overall Rating: 73/100

    Austria have some interesting pieces. David Alaba, Marko Arnautovic and Christian Fuchs are a decent trio, but they need the creative quality of Junuzovic to combat not having a world-class striker.

    This season was tough, but if Bremen's attacking midfielder can create some magic with his national team-mates, they have the potential to advance past the group stage.

27. Jakub Blaszczykowski, Poland

4 of 30

    Giuseppe Bellini/Getty Images

    Technique Rating: 36/50

    Entering the last year of his Borussia Dortmund contract last summer, Jakub Blaszczykowski was loaned to Fiorentina.

    The Italian side had lost Juan Cuadrado and Mohamed Salah from their right wing, and Blaszczykowskialso known as Kubaseemed a more-than-competent replacement.

    In many respects, he was, but his body did not allow him to flourish. Blaszczykowski did not fully showcase what kept him a member of Thomas Doll and Jurgen Klopp's BVB for eight years; he featured only 15 times in Serie A. 

    End-Product Rating: 37/50

    In that time, Kuba registered two goals and two assists.

    Those numbers might suggest an inability to produce, but if anything, they highlight how changing clubs, then suffering injures, can plague capable footballers.

    During his 197 Bundesliga appearances with Dortmund, Blaszczykowski scored 27 goals and assisted 43 times. The question isn't ability; it's availability.

    Overall Rating: 73/100

    Poland are not the most decked squad at Euro 2016. The good players they have need to show up. Their 30-year-old right-winger has the job of feeding Robert Lewandowski and tracking back defensively.

    If Blaszczykowski gets that job done, the Poles could maybe think about reaching the quarter-finals.

26. Mateo Kovacic, Croatia

5 of 30

    Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

    Technique Rating: 40/50

    Real Madrid spent £21.3 million on Mateo Kovacic last summer. They were buying the Croatia international's potential, not a finished commodity.

    The 22-year-old is a skilled technician. For a young footballer, his ability to make plays for others and find passes that open defences is noticeable. Like many youthful players, though, he needs more time on the pitch to hone his natural gifts.

    Now that Los Blancos employ him, the options around him should make whatever skills he has shine brighter.

    End-Product Rating: 34/50

    Kovacic's Real appearances and subsequent statistics don't tell the full story. Two assists and zero goals in 25 La Liga matches appears abject, but when context is added, it makes sense.

    Never a preferred starting option for Rafael Benitez or Zinedine Zidane, the Croatian started only eight league matches for his new club. It's unreasonable to expect an under-23 newcomer to pick up Spain's pace and be effective in just one season.

    Overall Rating: 74/100

    Kovacic won't be afforded time to acclimate to his national team, however. Croatia need the attacking midfielder to hit the ground running in France.

    Since he'll be playing with Ivan Rakitic and Luka Modric, Kovacic's job is to not make mistakes. At this stage, his country doesn't need him to win games single-handedly but rather keep fluidity. His time is coming, but it's not quite here.

25. Gylfi Sigurdsson, Iceland

6 of 30

    Michael Steele/Getty Images

    Technique Rating: 38/50

    More people live in the metro area of Swansea, Wales, than in the entirety of Iceland. Despite the latter's limited population, however, it always seems to produce at least one star for every generation. Forward Eidur Gudjohnsen was the last version, and Gylfi Sigurdsson is the current model.

    A set-piece wizard and excellent long-range shooter, Sigurdsson affords Swansea City, and manager Francesco Guidolin, another attacking dimension.

    Sigurdsson is a composed, technical player who has found serenity at the Liberty Stadium, but with another season like 2015/16, he might not stay there long—bigger clubs will come calling.

    End-Product Rating: 37/50

    Sigurdsson found a great running mate in Andre Ayew. The Ghanaian relieved pressure, and they both flourished as a result.

    Swansea's first-choice attacking midfielder flew well under the Premier League's radar, but he added to his impressive tally of 41 goals scored or assisted in 108 EPL games with 11 goals and two assists in 36 matches this season.

    Overall Rating: 75/100

    Sigurdsson has no choice but to shine for Iceland. His side counts on him for nearly every creative portion of their game.

    If Sigurdsson can carry it past the group stage, that in itself would be a massive achievement.

24. Lucas Vazquez, Spain

7 of 30

    Denis Doyle/Getty Images

    Technique Rating: 39/50

    Last June, RCD Espanyol signed Lucas Vazquez from Real Madrid after a season-long loan.

    Not four weeks later, arguably the world's biggest club exercised a buy-back clause, and the young winger, who was an experienced member of Real Madrid Castilla, earned a senior-team spot in the Spanish capital.

    A skilled technical dribbler and passer, Vazquez is another in the long pipeline of Spanish talent. Able to create space and send crosses—and equally dangerous on his own when making solo runs and beating men—the winger is finally starting to progress.

    End-Product Rating: 38/50

    Vazquez was responsible for 12 of Real's 110 Liga goals last season. What makes that number impressive is the time the winger was afforded to do his work.

    He started just 10 matches, playing 1,227 of an available 3,420 league minutes, but the 24-year-old appeared to be an efficient footballer in his first full season at the Santiago Bernabeu.

    Overall Rating: 77/100

    Selected for Spain over Isco, Mata and Niguez, Vazquez may feel slightly under pressure to perform. Perhaps that feeling is what manager Vicente del Bosque wants.

    Yet to make an appearance for his country at the senior level, Vazquez is an unknown commodity on the international stage, a wild card.

    After playing the role of super-sub for the newly crowned champions of Europe, he could earn the same distinction with Spain.

23. Xherdan Shaqiri, Switzerland

8 of 30

    Matthew Ashton - AMA/Getty Images

    Technique Rating: 41/50

    Stoke City have signed some impressive names over the past few seasons, but Xherdan Shaqiri might be alongside Bojan Krkic at the top of that list.

    Manager Mark Hughes' club have taken advantage of their improved quality and transformed from a bruising Tony Pulis side to a more free-flowing, attacking style. That progression has been aided by Shaqiri's considerable quality.

    Switzerland's right-winger has tricks, pace and a progressive mind. His touch and low centre of gravity make him a nightmare for defenders—something to which most Premier League left-backs would attest.

    End-Product Rating: 37/50

    In his first English season, Shaqiri was adequate production-wise. While getting used to how the Premier League deals with tricky wingers, the 24-year-old was directly responsible for nine of Stoke City's 41 league goals.

    He had better statistical years with FC Basel and Bayern Munich, but compiling decent numbers with Stoke is infinitely more difficult.

    Overall Rating: 78/100

    Switzerland are limited offensively. Their full-back partnership of Ricardo Rodriguez and Stephan Lichtsteiner might be the best at Euro 2016, but in attack, they are lacking.

    Shaqiri and possibly Breel Embolo are the only legitimate threats. For the Swiss to advance, their Stoke talisman has to be on top of his game not just once but for the entire group stage.

22. Adam Lallana, England

9 of 30

    VI-Images/Getty Images

    Technique Rating: 43/50

    Adam Lallana is deceptive. The Liverpool midfielder seems younger than his 28 years, but that's mostly because his formative years at Southampton were hidden from the mainstream footballing community in League One and the Championship.

    During his lower-league career, the England international mastered the skill of creating space.

    Lallana will never be described as fast, but his ball skills afford him the necessary time to make plays and use his intelligence. His version of the late, great Johan Cruyff's turn is a work of art—and just one example of the moves he has in his arsenal.

    End-Product Rating: 37/50

    For the attacking positions Lallana takes, one might think he would have better numbers, especially at Liverpool. In 90 games for the Reds, the Englishman has created or finished 25 goals.

    Maybe the answer to those numbers is games played doesn't always mean games started or 90 minutes on the pitch. Lallana uses his brain to great effect; his pass might not be the documented assist but rather the pass before the pass.

    Overall Rating: 80/100

    Manager Roy Hodgson's advantage at Euro 2016 is at centre-forward. If he elects to start two strikers instead of one, that will take a spot from his midfield.

    Will the Liverpool man be a casualty of that tactical arrangement? Probably. To get the best from his squad, Hodgson will probably start Lallana on the bench and use him as a substitute capable of playing in the middle or as a makeshift wide midfielder.

21. Joao Mario, Portugal

10 of 30

    Carlos Rodrigues/Getty Images

    Technique Rating: 42/50

    Most of Portugal's attacking talent plays away from home: Cristiano Ronaldo and Andre Gomes are in Spain, Nani is in Turkey and Joao Moutinho is in France.

    Only a handful ply their trade in Portugal, and the best of that lot is Sporting Lisbon's Joao Mario. The 23-year-old right-winger has pace, control and dribbling ability.

    With Mario providing an attacking and creative outlet for his side, Sporting finished second in Liga NOS, and he was a candidate for the Portuguese first division's best player, won by Brazilian striker Jonas of S.L. Benfica.

    End-Product Rating: 39/50

    Mario created 12 goals for his team-mates last season and scored seven of his own; that combination of 19 was seven better than his 2014/15 performance.

    The Portuguese's passing and forward thinking would be enough on their own to get things done, but his skill and dribbling makes getting into dangerous positions easier.

    Overall Rating: 81/100

    It's difficult for any player to crack Portugal's starting XI, especially when looking at the side's offensive options.

    Mario might benefit from Ronaldo playing centre-forward in Fernando Santos' tactical setup, which would open a space for a winger, but he has competition.

20. Hakan Calhanoglu, Turkey

11 of 30

    Paolo Bruno/Getty Images

    Technique Rating: 43/50

    Hakan Calhanoglu was born in Germany but elected to represent Turkey internationally.

    He plies his trade with Bayer Leverkusen, though, so the Bundesliga is well-acquainted with the Turk's right boot.

    The attacking midfielder is one of the more imposing European footballers when standing over free-kicks. Calhanoglu might not be the most consistent midfielder away from set pieces, but his technique makes him a particular threat from anywhere within 35 yards of goal.

    End-Product Rating: 38/50

    Being a dead-ball specialist can sometimes relegate one's standing as an actual footballer. Though Calhanoglu is arguably Europe's best free-kick taker, that should not overshadow his usefulness elsewhere.

    His vision in the open field and his technical ability to complete necessary passes are good enough to make his role more than set-piece taker. He recorded six assists during last season's campaign and has 22 in his 93-game Bayer career.

    Overall Rating: 81/100

    Turkey have a talented side. Most areas on the pitch are covered with good-to-great players, so how far they go at Euro 2016 will depend on how those components play as a unit.

    Calhanoglu has a specific role, but he is capable of producing more than what's expected. His all-around game is crucial to Turkey's success.

19. Andre Gomes, Portugal

12 of 30

    Power Sport Images/Getty Images

    Technique Rating: 44/50

    Some can be found saying Portugal and Valencia's Andre Gomes looks like a version of Zinedine Zidane's younger self. A healthy dose of hyperbole exists in those comments, but the comparison isn't outlandish—just premature.

    Tall, languid yet powerful and fast when he wants to be, Gomes uses his body to great effect and possesses that particular, peculiar glide when in possession—the tell-tale signs of a great midfielder.

    The 22-year-old, however, needs more seasoning before people start announcing him as the second coming of perhaps Europe's best-ever footballer.

    End-Product Rating: 38/50

    Gomes' game is perfectly suited to a 4-3-3, but his mangers tinkered last season.

    In a 4-2-3-1, he was pushed wide. Gomes and his technical brilliance get lost at central midfielder, where he has more defensive responsibilities, and winger, where his lack of pace hurts him against lightning-quick full-backs. And that handcuffs his natural, forward impetus.

    It is no coincidence every one of the 11 goals and assists he created last season came from a 4-3-3.

    Overall Rating: 82/100

    Fortunately for Gomes, Fernando Santos prefers a 4-3-3. And at the European Championship, the manager will have options in midfield.

    William Carvalho and Joao Moutinho would seem like automatic selections, and the last member should be Gomes. He offers something Portugal don't have in midfield, and his game isn't exactly suited to coming off the bench.

18. Ross Barkley, England

13 of 30

    Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

    Technique Rating: 42/50

    During Everton's less-than-auspicious 2015/16, two players gave great accounts of themselves. The first was Romelu Lukaku. The second was Ross Barkley.

    The Toffees' attacking-midfield star has been heralded for the past four years. In that time, bits and pieces have come together for him, but last season, the complete picture appeared.

    Barkley is a powerful driving force with possession at his feet. Always looking to create for himself and others, it is no coincidence Lukaku had his best professional season when his English team-mate did likewise.

    End-Product Rating: 40/50

    The next step for Barkley is to maintain consistency in his performances. One season of 12 goals and 12 assists isn't good enough; it's a start but cannot be the finish line. That mark of 24 goals created should be his basement.

    The 22-year-old has the talent to be a special player for years to come—once he puts the pieces together, beware. 

    Overall Rating: 82/100

    It was speculated Barkley could be cut from England's 23-man squad, but his performances last season and during training camp must have been enough to convince Roy Hodgson that keeping him on board was wise.

    If the Three Lions need a driving force from midfield, they have no better option than Barkley.

17. Ricardo Quaresma, Portugal

14 of 30


    Technique Rating: 45/50

    Are there better players in world football than Ricardo Quaresma? Sure; but more talented ones? That's a difficult sell.

    One almost gets an impression from the Portugal international that football comes so easy, he doesn't have to apply himself too much. On his game, the winger is capable of just about anything—other times, though, he's ice cold.

    A gifted crosser, Quaresma's right boot has magic inside. From the right wing, he uses his tricks and skills to create space, and he delivers wonderful crosses for his centre-forwards. If needed, his technique translates to central-attacking midfield as well.

    End-Product Rating: 38/50

    Consistency has beenand will continue beingthe 32-year-old's issue. In 393 professional matches, the Portuguese is directly responsible for 169 goals. For most players that would seem an envious figure, when factoring Quaresma's talent, though, it's just over respectability. 

    Last season, he featured 37 times for Besiktas and created 13 goals. There were moments of brilliance attached—just enough to earn a spot in Portugal's Euro 2016 squad.

    Overall Rating: 83/100

    Manager Fernando Santos had to take Quaresma, primarily because he needs players who can create goals for his forwards.

    While an occasional finisher at club level, the Besiktas winger might have to be slightly more selfless this summer when placed in attacking positions—crossing and dribbling being his chief weapons.

16. Aaron Ramsey, Wales

15 of 30

    IKIMAGES/Getty Images

    Technique Rating: 42/50

    Aaron Ramsey enjoyed his best professional campaign three seasons ago. Arsenal bought Mesut Ozil early in the 2013/14 campaign, and the German's arrival alleviated pressure on and expectation of his Welsh team-mate—who played with freedom.

    Injuries crippled Ramsey that season (he missed 14 Premier League fixtures with a thigh problem), but his quality was readily apparent for anyone paying attention. Since 2013/14, however, the midfielder and winger has curiously declined.

    Fitness issues continue to hamper his progression, but when the Welshman is healthy and playing in advantageous positions, he can be lethal—using composure and technique to shoot, pass and maintain fluidity.

    End-Product Rating: 41/50

    Ramsey had his worst output in three seasons with nine Premier League goals accounted for last season. His drop in form is probably related to the fact that Arsene Wenger insisted on playing him wide.

    In 40 games, the Frenchman started Ramsey on the right side 10 times; not including tactical switches, that seems too great a number for a player with obvious central qualities.

    It's something one often observes in football: Natural wide players can easily switch centrally; natural central players, however, usually struggle when moved wide. The 25-year-old is no different. 

    Overall Rating: 83/100

    One of Wales' three best footballers, Ramsey is the heart of his side; he, Ashley Williams and Gareth Bale carry the nation's ambitions on their shoulders.

    Williams organises the defence. Bale is there to score goals. Ramsey's task, though, is slightly more nuanced. He is charged with creating offence but also maintaining the shape of Wales' midfield.

    If he is too attacking, it creates gaps. If he is too reserved, it invites pressure and strands Bale on an island. If he gets his role correct, Wales could cause trouble. If he gets it wrong, it will be a forgettable trip.

15. Yevhen Konoplyanka, Ukraine

16 of 30

    PATRIK STOLLARZ/Getty Images

    Technique Rating: 43/50

    In his first season away from the Ukrainian Premier League's Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk, Yevhen Konoplyanka was an instrumental component in Sevilla's domestic and European successes.

    Signed as a free agent, he wasn't a gamble for the Spanish side; his reputation was immense, and for no transfer fee, they couldn't really miss.

    Known for trickery, pace and a penchant for the speculator, Konoplyanka was a major coup for Sevilla. He experienced some growing pains but looked exactly like the man they thought they signed last July.

    End-Product Rating: 40/50

    Excluding those at Barcelona, Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid, Konoplyanka has the talent to be the best at his position in Spain. 

    Sevilla could become reliant on Konoplyanka—who was deployed primarily at left wing but also appeared on the right flank for Unai Emery—to spark their attack. His contribution of 17 goals and assists in all competitions seems a start.

    Overall Rating: 83/100

    Ukraine have two star men; Konoplyanka and Andriy Yarmolenko have the weight of a nation on them. The latter has the responsibility to score goals, while the former creates them.

    If the rest of the squad can keep clean sheets, they could make some noise this summer—but it's a long shot either way.

14. Dele Alli, England

17 of 30

    Catherine Ivill - AMA/Getty Images

    Technique Rating: 42/50

    If the category existed, Leicester City's Riyad Mahrez, Jamie Vardy or N'Golo Kante would have taken the plaudits for most surprising Premier League footballer of 2015/16, with Tottenham Hotspur's Dele Alli a close fourth.

    Though earmarked for a great career at MK Dons, last season was not his projected time for blooming. The young Englishman, however, had different ideas.

    Given chances by manager Mauricio Pochettino, Alli shone for his new club and was named Professional Footballers' Association Young Player of the Year and included in the PFA Team of the Year.

    The 20-year-old possesses a great first touch and vision. He has room for improvement, but if this is his floor, Alli will be a massive problem for the next dozen years.

    End-Product Rating: 42/50

    Hungry and clinical centre-forward Harry Kane took many of Alli's scoring chances, but the young attacking midfielder held his own, logging 10 goals and 11 assists last season.

    A virtual rookie who had to learn the ropes of top-flight football and the European obligations that come with it, Alli is an impressive prospect.

    Overall Rating: 84/100

    The youngster has likely earned enough clout to start for England this summer.

    Kane, Danny Rose and Eric Dier could easily start alongside their fellow Spurs midfielder, making Roy Hodgson's task slightly easier.

13. Lorenzo Insigne, Italy

18 of 30

    Maurizio Lagana/Getty Images

    Technique Rating: 44/50

    Lorenzo Insigne finally put a great Serie A season together.

    Napoli—and a few managers—had been waiting on the diminutive Italian to turn his potential into actual production, and 2015/16 was his coming-out party.

    An exciting footballer with magnificent pace, control and dribbling skills, every defence in Italy's first division fear the 25-year-old's creative abilities.

    End-Product Rating: 41/50

    Perhaps lost in the opulent brilliance of Gonzalo Higuain's historic campaign, Insigne was an impressive member of Napoli's second-place finish and automatic UEFA Champions League qualification spot. He scored 12 goals and assisted 10 others in Serie A.

    Consistently performing from game to game separates the good from great; consistency from season to season, though, separates the great from world class. Insigne has next year to work on that distinction.

    Overall Rating: 85/100

    Italy's midfield crisis may affect Insigne's usefulness and positioning under manager Antonio Conte.

    Marco Verratti and Claudio Marchisio were ruled out through injury, Andrea Pirlo and Sebastian Giovinco were healthy scratches and, making matters worse, Thiago Motta will carry a knock into the tournament.

    Might those circumstances entail a formation change, and if so, how will a winger like Insigne factor? Answers in due time.

12. Joao Moutinho, Portugal

19 of 30

    Jean Catuffe/Getty Images

    Technique Rating: 45/50

    After signing with AS Monaco for £21.5 million three years ago following a career in Portugal split between Sporting Lisbon and FC Porto, Moutinho has been one of Ligue 1's best midfielders.

    The 29-year-old is consistent because his game is not predicated on pace, power or rampant athletic ability—things that whither with age. Moutinho's value comes through touch, passing vision and overall generalship of his team's midfield.

    Monaco's midfielder is one of the only remaining pieces from the club's failed European takeover. While not the UCL challengers they had once hoped to be, they are annual qualifiers, and the Principality's team are indebted to the Portugal international.

    End-Product Rating: 41/50

    In 487 professional matches, Moutinho has created or scored 125 goals from either central or attacking midfield.

    In Euro 2012, he was one of his country's shining lights. Four years later, Moutinho still shows that quality for Monaco; it explains why his total of 82 international caps will only grow.

    Overall Rating: 86/100

    Portugal have talented individuals, but do they have a team? On paper, their squad is one of Euro 2016's best, confidence in their collective, however, is tempered.

    One of his country's elite, Moutinho's role in central midfield will be to unify the different departments; if he plays well, Portugal have no choice but to follow suit.

11. Julian Draxler, Germany

20 of 30

    Catherine Ivill - AMA/Getty Images

    Technique Rating: 45/50

    Julian Draxler was essentially VfL Wolfsburg's answer to Kevin De Bruyne's departure. Records books will show the Germans made £55 million on the Belgian's Manchester City transfer, but in reality, they made £28 million after spending £27 million on Schalke 04's Draxler.

    Though different players in terms of build, strength and pace, Draxler and De Bruyne are similar in their sublime technique. Their touch, control and velvet-like manner in possession are terrific for their respective sides.

    The 22-year-old still needs seasoning to reach the limit of his potential, but he's got a decade to figure that out.

    End-Product Rating: 42/50

    Draxler's move to a new squad must have been a jolt to his system. In 31 appearances for Dieter Hecking's side, the young German scored eight goals and created eight.

    Not exactly De Bruyne's computer-game numbers from 2014/15, but a modest start to what should be a promising career.

    Overall Rating: 87/100

    Marco Reus would likely have featured heavily for Germany this summer, but his injury woes and manager Joachim Low's subsequent worries kept the Borussia Dortmund star off Die Mannschaft's 23-man squad.

    The man who stands to benefit most from Reus' misfortune is Draxler. His minutes will be dispersed across Germany's abundance of attacking options, but the midfielder/winger is sure to receive the majority of them.

10. Arda Turan, Turkey

21 of 30

    David Ramos/Getty Images

    Technique Rating: 44/50

    Being the fourth-best midfielder when your manager prefers a 4-3-3 isn't great—even at Barcelona—but that's Arda Turan's life. Central midfielders Sergio Busquets and Ivan Rakitic are Luis Enrique's preferred pair, and forward-thinking Andres Iniesta plays a virtual free role for Barca.

    Known for his touch, dribbling, passing and crossing, Turan played as an attacking midfielder when members of the preferred trio were out or needed rest.

    Possessing enough quality to be an attacking or wide midfielder, the 29-year-old is an all-round player. He should be more than a Barca squad member in upcoming seasons, but that will require endeavour on his part.

    End-Product Rating: 44/50

    After coming from Atletico Madrid during their transfer ban last summer, the Turk had to wait six months for his Barcelona debut, but he played in 18 league matches—starting half and substituting half. 

    Though Turan is able to play in wide areas, Enrique's 4-3-3 setup wasn't flexible enough; Diego Simeone's 4-4-2 would have been exceptionally more friendly.

    Overall Rating: 88/100

    Despite his inability to break into Barcelona's midfield, Turan is one of the Europe's best midfield operators. Turkey need their country's best player at his peak for Euro 2016.

    Where he wants to play is where he will feature, and having him on the pitch in an authoritative capacity should inspire confidence.

9. Thiago Alcantara, Spain

22 of 30

    Boris Streubel/Getty Images

    Technique Rating: 47/50

    A footballer's ability to play multiple positions is usually predicated on their technical skill. Different areas require different characteristics, but to play them well requires a baseline of supreme quality. Thiago Alcantara has the requisite quality in spades.

    The Italian-born Spain international can be found anywhere in Bayern Munich or Spain's midfield trio, but if asked, his preferred position is central-attacking midfielder.

    Using his blend of ball retention, dribbling, skill and vision, Thiago would get the most out of his abilities in the No. 10 role. Incoming Bayern Munich manager Carlo Ancelotti could make that formation change.

    End-Product Rating: 42/50

    Thiago's interchangeability is invaluable. He can be used in both central midfield and further forward as an attacking or wide midfielder. The 25-year-old might be slightly wasted in deeper positions, but his managers cannot afford not to play him, so he fills in there at times.

    As a consequence, and since his club frequently plays a 4-3-3 or 4-1-4-1, Thiago is hardly seen at central-attacking midfielder—but this summer might be different.

    Overall Rating: 89/100

    Without Isco, Niguez and Juan Mata, Spain need more from their attacking midfielders, and Thiago looks more than qualified to fill the role.

    Sergio Busquets, Andres Iniesta and Cesc Fabregas appear to be manager Vicente del Bosque's holding options, so Thiago, who's competing with David Silva, just might get to play his preferred—and best—position in France.

8. Mario Gotze, Germany

23 of 30

    Boris Streubel/Getty Images

    Technique Rating: 48/50

    Manager Pep Guardiola was supposed to extract the best from Mario Gotze. Instead, the 2014 World Cup winner might be the player in the Bayern Munich locker room happiest to hear about the Spaniard's departure to Manchester City.

    Known for his control, first touch, dribbling and passing, Gotze was shut down by injures and the bench last season. He missed 20 Bundesliga fixtures, playing 90 minutes just seven times, and never quite found his footing—but Euro 2016 seems like a fantastic opportunity to catch a groove.

    Gotze needs something positive before Carlo Ancelotti graces the Allianz Arena; his technical skill is of no use on the bench or the physiotherapist's table.

    End-Product Rating: 43/50

    Judging the young German on stats alone can muddy the proverbial waters. Being healthy and being fit enough to play are two different things. It seems Gotze is normally fit to play but not the player he would be if closer to 100 percent.

    Add that he plays for a club with copious attacking options, and there is no need to rush the 24-year-old above his many talented and world-class team-mates.

    That said, when playing to his level—and with the confidence of his manager—the attacker is a gilded piece.

    Overall Rating: 91/100

    Without Marco Reus and Ilkay Gundogan, Germany desperately require a complement to Ozil in central-attacking midfield. Gotze appears to be an ideal candidate.

    Supposing the past two-and-a-half months were enough time to get back, Joachim Low shouldn't hesitate with his would-be superstar.

7. Marek Hamsik, Slovakia

24 of 30

    Giuseppe Bellini/Getty Images

    Technique Rating: 45/50

    Captain of his club and vice-captain of his country, Marek Hamsik is a recognised leader in every situation. The 28-year-old makes his Napoli and Slovakia sides tick by playing as a central midfielder, attacking midfielder, winger or secondary striker.

    In the context of the national team, Hamsik is used as an attacking midfielder for manager Jan Kozak.

    His forward thrust and offensive spark are needed closer to the opposition's goal given the limited number of world-class options at Slovakia's disposal.

    End-Product Rating: 46/50

    2015/16 marked just the second time in 10 seasons Hamsik didn't score at least 10 goals in a campaign.

    It's not surprising his numbers were down, though. He played with the goal machine that was Gonzalo Higuain (38 in all competitions) and a much-improved Lorenzo Insigne.

    Napoli's captain still managed 11 league assists—enough for joint-third place in Italy's first division. Those 11 helpers raised his total of Serie A assists to 78 in 320 matches.

    Overall Rating: 91/100

    For his country, Hamsik is the beginning and end. Other players have responsibilities, like captain Martin Skrtel, for example, but the attacking midfielder is their primary threat.

    Without him performing at his best, and maybe a little bit better, their French adventure will be short lived.

6. David Silva, Spain

25 of 30

    Stephen Pond/Getty Images

    Technique Rating: 47/50

    If injuries were eliminated from Silva's record and he had played all the matches he's missed due to muscle, ankle or knee issues, there would be little debate if his name were bandied about as the world's best central-attacking midfielder.

    But injuries have been an integral part of Silva's career path, though they should not outshine the brilliance Manchester City's best creative operator can conjure from almost nothing.

    His first touch and control are immaculate, though they only start his process of finding team-mates with perfectly weighted passes. When Silva shines, his teams do the same.

    End-Product Rating: 46/50

    Silva missed 14 games this season and wasn't able to reach the top of England's assists table, but the Spain international's 11 helpers were a fantastic haul. He's assisted on 90 goals in his 261-game Manchester City career and might be one of the more underrated stars in the Premier League.

    His vision and passing can be jaw-dropping at times. One might think Sergio Aguero and others are the men who make Silva look great with their finishing and off-the-ball movement, but the Spanish string-puller provides the key to their success.

    Overall Rating: 93/100

    Now an experienced member of Vicente del Bosque's international side, Silva's role might not be as a starter but just to be ready off the bench.

    Unlocking defences is Spain's key to retaining the title of European champions, and their 30-year-old is more than adroit in that area.

5. Koke, Spain

26 of 30

    PAU BARRENA/Getty Images

    Technique Rating: 47/50

    Clubs with the tactical resolve of Atletico Madrid require players like Koke in attacking positions—ones willing to sacrifice their forward talent for the betterment of their team's shape and balance.

    Maybe 70 percent of the time, the Spanish midfielder has to follow manager Diego Simeone's orders, but he's also needed to relieve pressure and create scoring opportunities the other 30 percent of the time.

    Koke has vision, passing, touch and every other hallmark of a great attacking or wide midfielder. In a team with aggressive, diligent, consolidate-first footballers, the 24-year-old and his offensive class makes everything work at the Vicente Calderon Stadium.

    End-Product Rating: 47/50

    As his team's offensive spark plug, Koke was third in La Liga with 14 assists. Only Barcelona's Lionel Messi (16) and Luis Suarez (16) notched more—and they play in an offensive side Atleti couldn't dream of being.

    As such, Koke was responsible (both scoring and assisting) for some 30 percent of his team's total offensive output last season.

    Overall Rating: 94/100

    That won't have to be the case in France.

    Spain had cause to leave several world-class stars at home; their attacking stables are complete with superb talent from Europe's top leagues. All Koke needs is consistency when he plays.

4. Dimitri Payet, France

27 of 30

    Sam Bagnall - AMA/Getty Images

    Technique Rating: 48/50

    Dimitri Payet's rise at West Ham United last season was unforeseen in the Premier League landscape, but maybe if we had been paying more attention it wouldn't have been.

    The Frenchman ran rampant with Olympique de Marseille in 2014/15, but due to their financial hardships, Payet was sold, leaving the club alongside Andre Ayew, Andre-Pierre Gignac and Giannelli Imbula. 

    West Ham swooped and bought the Player of the Year candidate for £10.7 million, finding the face of their move to London's Olympic Stadium this summer.

    "Class" is the best word to describe Payet. From his passing and control to his tricks and flicks, he is a dynamic component for manager Slaven Bilic.

    End-Product Rating: 47/50

    Payet is a threat from just about anywhere. His distance shooting is spectacular, and he has the skill to get around defenders.

    His best quality might be taking free-kicks. Not to call out Juninho Pernambucano, but there aren't many better dead-ball strikers than Payet. He scored four goals directly from free-kicks last season—including a physics-defying effort versus Crystal Palace—and is a legitimate threat from up to 40 yards. 

    Overall Rating: 95/100

    Based on last season's performances, there is no reason Payet shouldn't start for his country this summer.

    Manager Didier Deschamps' 4-3-3 could detract from the West Ham man's usefulness, though. Especially considering their deteriorating centre-back situation, there might be cause for France to play more defensively.

    Can Payet play wide—which would allow Paul Pogba, Blaise Matuidi or N'Golo Kante to run the midfield and protect their back four? It's one of the major questions for the hosts.

3. Eden Hazard, Belgium

28 of 30

    Pete Norton/Getty Images

    Technique Rating: 49/50

    Were the competition Euro 2015, then Eden Hazard would have topped these rankings. Last summer, he was fresh off his Premier League-winning campaign and PFA/FWA Player of the Year honours. Were Euro 2016 held in January, Hazard might have fallen into double-digit numbers.

    Luckily for Belgium, though, the Chelsea man was reborn over the last month of the 2015/16 campaign; dormant for eight-plus months, the 25-year-old finally woke up.

    Maybe injuries hid that electric player from a season prior, but the Hazard Chelsea supporters witnessed in the last handful of matchdays was equal parts maddening and relieving—they were angry he hadn't shown up to save their season but happy he wasn't gone forever.

    End-Product Rating: 48/50

    Hazard has obvious technical and physical skill. His combination of pace, control and balance make him a nightmare for opponents to mark; combine that with his footballing brain, and he is one of the world's best talents.

    If forced to make spectacular individual efforts, he has the requisite talent to pull just about anything out of his proverbial hat; but if given the option between selfish and selfless, the Belgian is the rare prodigy who elects for the latter. A healthy greed has always been the last component of Hazard's progression.

    He showed something like progress at the end of the season.

    Overall Rating: 97/100

    Hazard's form will dictate how far Belgium go at Euro 2016; Kevin De Bruyne and Co. cannot carry their country's massive expectations without his considerable talent.

    Named captain after centre-back Vincent Kompany was ruled out with an injury, Hazard won't just be tasked with creating goals—he also must become a leader. That should be an interesting experiment for manager Marc Wilmots.

2. Mesut Ozil, Germany

29 of 30

    Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

    Technique Rating: 49/50

    One of Europe's best technical footballers, Mesut Ozil is a central-attacking midfield maestro. Intelligent movement, vision, weight of pass, on-ball decision-making and the confidence to blend them together make the 27-year-old a massive handful for any defence.

    To accommodate others, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger sometimes plays Ozil in wide areas, but that stifles the German's ability to locate space and create offence. 

    Finding players for the No. 10 role is usually simple, but with possession and the entire pitch at his disposal, Ozil dictates play more than almost anyone else; both the southpaw's club and country benefit from his cultured left boot.

    End-Product Rating: 49/50

    In 2014/15, Cesc Fabregas logged 13 assists in the season's first half and finished with 19. In 2015/16, Ozil started with 16 in the season's first half and finished with 19. It appears Thierry Henry's Premier League record of 20 assists in 2002/03 is one too strong.

    Ozil created or scored 25 league goals last season—only Leicester City's Riyad Mahrez (28) contributed more from midfield—but disappeared in the second half and was a large part of Arsenal's failed title bid.

    Generally speaking, however, Ozil has been one of the world's best central-attacking midfielders for the better part of a decade. His only demerit is inconsistent finishing, but that's not really his department.

    Overall Rating: 98/100

    Germany are desperate for a world-class striker. Forwards Thomas Muller and Lukas Podolski can play that role but aren't recognised strikers.

    Ozil's part in conducting the attacking midfield will be key for the 2014 World Cup champions as they try to score enough goals to win the tournament.

1. Kevin De Bruyne, Belgium

30 of 30

    Matthew Ashton - AMA/Getty Images

    Technique Rating: 49/50

    Last season's biggest transfer, Kevin De Bruyne was under pressure to perform after moving from VfL Wolfsburg to Manchester City and the Belgium international justified the Citizens' £55 million outlay with a fantastic 2015/16—only injuries held him back.

    De Bruyne was the Bundesliga's best footballer in 2014/15 and was named Germany's 2015 Footballer of the Year. His challenge was taking his Wolfsburg quality and applying it to the more aggressive, physical Premier League.

    Having previous—though limited—experience with Chelsea, the central-attacking midfielder and infrequent winger didn't need much time to adjust. It seems his touch, passing range and ball striking would work on the moon.

    End-Product Rating: 49/50

    In 41 appearances last season for Manchester City, De Bruyne created 30 goals for manager Manuel Pellegrini. Incoming boss Pep Guardiola is likely to build his side around De Bruyne and should use that boundless quality to great effect.

    The 24-year-old superstar has played 269 professional matches and is directly responsible for 161 goals. He could add more scoring to his game, but he cannot be harshly admonished for applying his vision and technical prowess to get others involved.

    Overall Rating: 98/100

    De Bruyne is below Eden Hazard in Belgium's perceived hierarchy—it seems to figure that way for the next few years—but this doesn't diminish his role. For the past two seasons, De Bruyne has been his country's best and most consistent footballer.

    If Belgium are to get anywhere near the semi-finals at Euro 2016, they cannot afford both their superstars going absent. On evidence, KDB is more reliable.

    ICYMI: UEFA Euro 2016, B/R 200: Top 30 Central Midfielders

    *Stats and transfer fees via WhoScored.comTransferMarkt and Soccerbase unless noted otherwise.


The latest in the sports world, emailed daily.