UEFA Euro 2016, B/R 200: Top 30 Forwards

Daniel Tiluk@@danieltilukFeatured ColumnistJune 8, 2016

UEFA Euro 2016, B/R 200: Top 30 Forwards

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    Forwards can be defined in several ways. One might see them as goalscoring wingers, another as footballers capable of playing winger and supporting striker, while others still might have an idea somewhere in the middle.

    Usually more flamboyant than strikers, and with fewer defensive responsibilities than central-attacking midfielders, their jobs are to score goals and create space for others to do the same—using pace, positioning and dribbling.

    Ahead of the 2016 European Championship, the world's second-most prestigious international competition—behind only the World Cup—Bleacher Report asked which of Europe's selected forwards are best.

    Germany's Marco Reus was an injury concern and will miss yet another major tournament. France weren't even able to consider Franck Ribery after his international retirement. The names of the forwards selected for Euro 2016, however, more than outshine the omissions of a few.


    Criteria were weighted for a best possible score of 100.

    The first 50 points were judged by an off-the-ball rating: This includes intelligence without possession and how players affect the opposition's defence with their movement.

    The last 50 were measured by a finishing rating: This includes first touch, composure and the ability to consistently put away chances.

    When added together, the overall score was made. In the event of a tie, we simply asked: "Who would I rather have at this competition?"

30. Martin Harnik, Austria

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    Off-the-Ball Rating: 36/50

    It was a season to forget at VfB Stuttgart. The German side had one of the worst campaigns in their top-flight history and were relegated from the Bundesliga. Perhaps a microcosm of their 2015/16 was forward Martin Harnik.

    Playing six years for Stuttgart and a productive member of their squad, last season was a nightmare for the 28-year-old. Rupturing a knee ligament, suffering muscle injuries and beset by influenza, the Austrian was limited in his playing time.

    A healthy Harnik is more than capable of using his pace and positioning to find pockets of space and create havoc. Recently, that was made impossible by things largely outside his control.

    Finishing Rating: 36/50

    Featuring 214 times for Stuttgart, Harnik has created 103 goals, scoring 68 himself. Injury, recovery and the struggles of team-mates around him, however, dented the forward's attacking impetus last season.

    In 21 games, he scored just three goals; the situations causing that production drop should not be overlooked.

    Overall Rating: 72/100

    Back to some version of health, Harnik's ability to create goals will be crucial to whatever success his country enjoys at Euro 2016.

    The Germany-born Austria international must be dangerous for space to open and their counter-attacking style to function.

29. Robbie Keane, Republic of Ireland

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    Off-the-Ball Rating: 34/50

    It's hard judging Robbie Keane, primarily because Major League Soccer's season is ongoing. Taking a hiatus from his league duties to play for the Republic of Ireland, the forward/striker is his country's captain and all-time caps leader.

    Beginning to play as a secondary striker for Los Angles Galaxy—in manager Bruce Arena's 4-3-2-1 formation—the 35-year-old is using his intelligence and experience to find passes and link with centre-forward Gyasi Zardes.

    That development could find its way into Ireland manager Martin O'Neill's tactical setup, which would be something to watch, especially with Shane Long and Jonathan Walters in the mix.

    Finishing Rating: 40/50

    One thing that's never been under examination or inquiry is Keane's ability to finish. His legs don't always get him in the same positions he managed for Tottenham Hotspur in the mid-2000s, but for an aged forward, the Irishman is a marvel.

    Sixty-seven goals in 143 Ireland caps and upwards of 300 goals in nearly two decades of professional football, Keane's history suggests a magnificent poacher and game reader.

    Overall Rating: 74/100

    Making his debut with the Republic of Ireland in 1998, Keane is probably playing his last major international tournament in France.

    How large the veteran's role is depends on the opponents and his durability, but the LA Galaxy captain seems to have a few more international games left—those minutes should translate to goals.

28. Ciro Immobile, Italy

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    Off-the-Ball Rating: 41/50

    On a rampage for Torino in 2013/14, Ciro Immobile was once Italy's top scorer. The "golden boot" winner secured a move to Borussia Dortmund, and the wheels have all but fallen off since.

    Loaned to Sevilla and then back to Torino, Immobile has failed to recapture his 22-goals-in-one-season form.

    What cannot be questioned, though, is the Italian's movement; he works to gain possession and get his club moving forward. Not the most technically gifted of attackers, the 26-year-old understands his limitations and tries to make himself an asset.

    Finishing Rating: 35/50

    Immobile cheques, though, are written for goals. When he's not scoring, all the running in the world cannot spin his valiant effort into some triumphant tale.

    Putting away chances is his profession. He has shown that ability in the past and should be given every opportunity by Borussia Dortmund to rediscover himself, but that search cannot be indefinite.

    Overall Rating: 76/100

    One of Italy manager Antonio Conte's many forward options, Immobile is a unique footballer.

    A porous goalscoring record could detract from his minutes at Euro 2016, but—if needed against a better footballing side to slow their passing from the back—pairing the BVB man with Graziano Pelle seems an interesting partnership.

27. Shane Long, Republic of Ireland

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    Off-the-Ball Rating: 39/50

    Were it not for Leicester City, Southampton might have been last season's Premier League success story. Establishing themselves for the past few years as annual European contenders, Saints qualified for the Europa League in 2015/16.

    There were several key players manager Ronald Koeman used, but forward Shane Long was particularly important to the cause. In constant motion, making himself an option for flick-ons and passes down the channels, the Irishman's performances were instrumental.

    Finishing Rating: 37/50

    Long scored three goals and assisted three in the Premier League's last six games.

    In his best season as a professional—excluding 2010/11 with Reading—the Republic of Ireland forward created 19 goals in 34 appearances. Combining with Graziano Pelle and Sadio Mane, the 29-year-old was a legitimate danger; Saints' sixth-place EPL finish was directly attributable to that form.

    Overall Rating: 76/100

    Ireland manager Martin O'Neill has a modest amount of attacking talent, but his strength should come from organisation. How they create chances from that organisation will determine the length of their Euro 2016 stay.

    A fast, powerful runner, Long's physical attributes should give the Irish an outlet. Whether he can put away his chances and create them will be his country's deciding factor.

26. Lukas Podolski, Germany

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    Off-the-Ball Rating: 35/50

    Arsenal loaned Lukas Podolski to Inter Milan in 2014/15, and in 18 games for the San Siro's blue half, the forward scored once. Being 31, many thought after his Serie A loan he was finished at football's top level.

    Galatasaray SK were willing to buy the German from the north Londoners and gave him a fresh start; he repaid the Turkish club's faith by being one of their best players in 2015/16.

    At one point in his career, Podolski had pace to burn—that's no longer the case. His sharpness has fallen, not to the point of disrepair but still a noticeable drop from what it was at Arsenal or FC Cologne.

    Finishing Rating: 42/50

    Nonetheless, Podolski's best quality has always been the ferocity his left boot holds. One of the cleanest strikers of a football—when given time and on his preferred leg—in world football, the Germany international will invariably score goals until he elects to retire.

    Sixth in the Turkish Super Lig's scoring charts last season with 13 goals in 30 fixtures, the now-veteran forward rebounded and earned a place in Joachim Low's Euro 2016 squad.

    Overall Rating: 77/100

    In German football's storied history, only Lothar Matthaus (150) and Miroslav Klose (137) have more caps than Podolski's 128. Interestingly, Klose and Podolski were born in Poland, but the attacking options are handsomely decorated for their respective decisions to join Die Mannschaft.

    Podolski will play in his seventh major tournament, and while a World Cup champion, he needs a European Championship winner's medal for his personal collection.

25. Divock Origi, Belgium

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    Off-the-Ball Rating: 41/50 

    After his 2014 World Cup performances with Belgium, Divock Origi was bought by Liverpool from Lille for £10 million, then loaned him back to the Ligue 1 side.

    Entering 2015/16, many of Anfield's faithful were sceptical about the young forward's abilities. Not exactly the prototypical centre-forward, he seems an in-betweener. Some see the possibility, others think jack of all trades, master of none.

    Out of Liverpool's first team for a while, scarcely seeing the pitch, the Belgium international started playing more frequently after the managerial change from Brendan Rodgers to Jurgen Klopp. Showing his pace and off-the-ball movement, Origi flashed signs of promise but suffered two serious setbacks. 

    Finishing Rating: 37/50 

    The first was a knee operation in January. The second, an ankle injury, was the result of a reckless challenge in the Merseyside derby from Everton centre-back Ramiro Funes Mori; it was particularly frustrating, if only because Origi was just starting to find himself.

    From his January surgery to the derby, the forward played eight league fixtures, starting four, and scored four goals. Picking up confidence in Klopp's system, the Belgian started clicking.

    Overall Rating: 78/100 

    Returning after four weeks—just in time for the Europa League final—Origi was a doubt for Euro 2016 but made Marc Wilmots' squad. There are several players ahead of him—including Romelu Lukaku and Liverpool team-mate Christian Benteke, the latter more by circumstance than merit.

    Offering his country a different option, though, the 21-year-old should feature heavily in France.

24. Simone Zaza, Italy

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    Off-the-Ball Rating: 39/50 

    Juventus have several No. 9 options. Paulo Dybala, Alvaro Morata and Mario Mandzukic were Massimiliano Allegri's trio of out-and-out strikers, but every manager needs a tactical counter, and Juve's version is Simone Zaza.

    Not particularly great at anything, the Italian forward is awkward enough at everything to befuddle defences, especially late in matches.

    Used as a substitute in 14 of his 19 Serie A appearances last season, the 24-year-old cannot usurp the established order of strikers but is more than capable of employing strength and fresh legs to create chances.

    Finishing Rating: 39/50 

    Featuring 87 times in Italy's first division, Zaza has 25 goals. Considering he comes off the bench more times than not, his record is solid.

    Quickly understanding a match's flow and then finding a route to goal is a skill not all footballers have—the young Italy international seems to have it. Though he'd much rather be starting, as would most, that particular trait can keep a striker employed for years.

    Overall Rating: 78/100 

    In Italy's 3-5-2, Graziano Pelle—the quintessential target man—requires a partner. Zaza's 6'1" frame and lack of pronounced speed doesn't make him an ideal candidate to play a secondary-striker role for his country at Euro 2016.

    If manager Antonio Conte wants to break his preferred system, however, and exploit weaknesses in his opposition, Zaza is the perfect forward to use.

23. Jonathan Walters, Republic of Ireland

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    Off-the-Ball Rating: 39/50 

    Jonathan Walters has been overshadowed by Stoke City's recent revival. Not the brutish side of Tony Pulis, playing long balls and happy to grind out results, manager Mark Hughes' Potters are a more cultured, continental-style squad.

    One might think that freezes the 32-year-old out, but he fits into the system well.

    A diligent, grafting attacker, who is capable of quick thinking and clever passages of play, Walters isn't at the Stoke City of four seasons ago, but one can assume he enjoys his current freedom.

    Finishing Rating: 39/50

    Given his limited number of chances before Hughes arrived, Walters' total of 39 goals in 207 appearances in the Premier League is fairly impressive.

    Once the likes of Marko Arnautovic and Bojan Krkic arrived, being an automatic starter was no longer an option, but the veteran is a needed piece.

    Overall Rating: 78/100 

    Walters was the Republic of Ireland's saviour; scoring five goals in European qualifying—including a brace in the second leg of their play-off vs. Bosnia and Herzegovina—they wouldn't be in France without the Stoke City man's heroics.

    Grouped with Belgium, Italy and Sweden, Walters must continue his goalscoring exploits, lest his country fall short. That's not to place all the pressure on him; getting past the group stage will test every member of Ireland's 23-man squad. 

22. Eder, Italy

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    Off-the-Ball Rating: 40/50 

    Bouncing around Italy for the better part of a decade, Eder found solace with Sampdoria.

    Playing at left wing, right wing, centre-forward and secondary striker, the 29-year-old's experience, forethought and athletic ability made him an influential player in the first half of their 2015/16 campaign.

    Competent at nearly every attacking position, his versatility was enough to be named in Italy's Euro 2016 squad.

    Finishing Rating: 39/50 

    Starting the season with a bang, Eder scored nine goals in last season's opening 11 Serie A fixtures.

    Those performances got him an Inter Milan loan. The Brazilian-born Italy international struggled at the San Siro, though, scoring just once in 15 games.

    Choosing to take the season's first half with Sampdoria into account—and not so much desperate displays with Inter—Eder should be relatively confident heading into the summer tournament.  

    Overall Rating: 79/100 

    Projecting Italy's starting XI at Euro 2016, there are better forward options for the Azzurri, but manager Conte will probably start the antithesis of Pelle as his partner. Eder is the perfect foil to his mammoth team-mate.

    Italy's more talented wide options could have to wait their turn.

21. Breel Embolo, Switzerland

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    Off-the-Ball Rating: 41/50 

    FC Basel's Breel Embolo is earmarked for greatness. One of the youngest players at Euro 2016, the 19-year-old forward could be the competition's break-out star. 

    At club level, the young attacker is still learning to play his position. The natural gifts of pace and strength are readily visible in his game but don't quite have the seasoning to make them effective for 90 minutes on a weekly basis.

    When his blend of pace and power are clicking, though, the teenager is a handful.

    Finishing Rating: 38/50 

    Despite his age, in Swiss domestic competitions, Embolo has shown a proclivity for scoring. Playing 66 matches in the Swiss Cup and Raiffeisen Super League, the forward has scored 27 goals—assisting 19 more.

    Earning his first senior cap last March, in 10 games, including three starts, the Cameroon-born Switzerland international has one goal for his adopted country and four assists.

    Overall Rating: 79/100 

    Switzerland's striking options are rather limited. It's possible Embolo could start on the left wing, accommodating Xherdan Shaqiri on the right. If there isn't enough attacking thrust provided by centre-forwards, though, the teen could move centrally—at the tip of the Swiss' proverbial spear.

    A coveted prospect across Europe, Embolo could earn himself—and FC Basel—an expensive transfer this summer with a great tournament for Switzerland.

20. Marko Arnautovic, Austria

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    Off-the-Ball Rating: 39/50 

    Stoke City house some impressive talent nowadays: Krkic, Shaqiri, Ibrahim Afellay and Giannelli Imbula are a few examples. Forward Arnautovic is not the Potters' best player, but an argument could be made the 27-year-old is manager Hughes' most important.

    When he plays well, his team usually follows suit.

    Arnautovic sees frequent possession and is charged with creating, and though his off-the-ball movement isn't exactly refined, his positioning is normally solid. Not one to constantly make runs in behind defences, his movement consists of finding pockets of space, turning and locating either shooting opportunities or a team-mate.

    Finishing Rating: 41/50 

    Standing 6'4", the Austrian forward is a unit. Not always the brutish player his frame or aura suggests, Arnautovic is more skilled than given credit for.

    In 33 league starts for Stoke City last season, he scored 11 goals and assisted on six more. It was his best offensive season since 2008/09 for the Eredivisie's FC Twente, and there wasn't a better time for him to find form, considering his summer duties.

    Overall Rating: 80/100 

    Austria are limited up front. Arnautovic is an obvious target for offensive production in the final third; the forward will be more than necessary come his side's Euro 2016 kick-off versus Hungary.

    The likes of David Alaba, Christian Fuchs and Marc Janko must play to their potential and beyond for Austria to advance past the group stages—and Arnautovic should benefit from that push.

19. Kingsley Coman, France

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    Off-the-Ball Rating: 46/50 

    In three seasons, Kingsley Coman has played for the French champions, Italian champions and German champions. Spells at Paris Saint-Germain, Juventus and now Bayern Munich illustrate what many have thought for the past five years: The winger/forward is one to watch.

    Last season, the France international featured heavily for head coach Pep Guardiola. Playing 35 matches in all competitions, and starting 27, Coman was seemingly one of the Spanish manager's top projects. 

    With electric energy and straight-line speed, the teenager is a threat based on his natural quickness alone. He makes runs, tests the limits of offside and creates a general nuisance for opposing full-backs—and must be a nightmare to mark for 90 minutes.

    Finishing Rating: 35/50 

    During his time in Ligue 1, Serie A and the Bundesliga, Coman has been developing into an all-round attacker. His pace is useful, but without the correct guidance and temperament, he might as well be running wind sprints.

    He's created 21 goals in 61 senior appearances. The potential is there; Coman's next step is to put away chances with regularity.

    Overall Rating: 81/100 

    The youngest member of Didier Deschamps' France side, the 19-year-old winger/forward is an exceptional talent. He isn't ready to start—or carry his country to a finals appearance—but coming off the bench and making a difference is certainly possibly, if not necessary, at Euro 2016.

    If Coman has the naivety of youth, Les Bleus could use it to their advantage this summer.

18. Raheem Sterling, England

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    Off-the-Ball Rating: 45/50 

    Raheem Sterling was bought for £49 million last summer. An amazing amount of money for any club to spend, Manchester City decided the forward was worth being the most expensive English footballer in history and offered Liverpool a king's ransom.

    In need of seasoning, Sterling netted such a high price tag more for his potential and nationality than on-pitch results, and 2015/16 confirmed that. The 21-year-old, albeit learning a new squad, seemed overwhelmed at times by the moment. Touches of brilliance shone through, and he displayed the talent many have seen for years.

    What sets the Jamaican-born Englishman apart from most forwards, wingers and strikers is his lightning pace. It must be game planned for and contained as best one can. Sterling uses his movement to get into dangerous areas. In time, he will marry his natural gifts with the coolness of experience.

    Finishing Rating: 36/50 

    In 176 senior appearances for Liverpool and Manchester City, Sterling has scored 34 times and assisted on 35 goals. Former Reds manager Rodgers attempted to play him in multiple positions—including centre-forward—but his best position looked to be wide forward.

    How incoming manager Guardiola sees the young Englishman is unknown. Is he technical enough to play wide and clinical enough to be a forward in the Spanish manager's system?

    They seem like things he can improve upon, but whether he does is entirely dependent on work ethic.

    Overall Rating: 81/100 

    How Sterling fits into England's attack is also a predicament.

    Harry Kane, Daniel Sturridge, Jamie Vardy, Marcus Rashford and Wayne Rooney would all take the centre-forward position away from Sterling. And likely to play a 4-4-2 diamond, national boss Roy Hodgson might not have an exclusive wide role to give the Manchester City man.

    A super-sub role looks to be Sterling's fate—running at tired defences and attempting to cause general havoc.

17. Yannick Ferreira Carrasco, Belgium

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    Off-the-Ball Rating: 44/50 

    When Yannick Ferreira Carrasco was substituted on during the 2016 Champions League final, he changed the match; his 79th-minute equaliser was the culmination of a brilliant Atletico Madrid move. Too bad his club wasn't able to see off Real Madrid, as they lost to their local rivals on penalties. 

    Carrasco's play was why Diego Simeone signed the former AS Monaco man for nearly £13 million last summer. A tricky, quick winger with forward-like qualities, the 22-year-old is the kind of player Atleti require to provide a different look.

    When their defensive style isn't working, or they fall behind, Carrasco's speed and directness provide a terrific counter punch.

    Finishing Rating: 38/50 

    In 146 appearances, the Belgian attacker is directly responsible for 54 goals, scoring 25 of those himself.

    It should not be suggested Carrasco is some wonderful goalscoring forward whose primary function is finding the net. Maybe he will develop into a more goal-hungry threat, but for now, being in attacking positions and playing mistake-free football is his job.

    Overall Rating: 82/100 

    From top to bottom, Belgium might have the best attacking depth at Euro 2016. Carrasco is on the outside looking in but should get chances to perform and impress during the group stages.

    Depending on the opposition, minutes will be provided; what the Atletico man does with that allotment will determine how frequently he features.

16. Antonio Candreva, Italy

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    Off-the-Ball Rating: 43/50 

    As an attacking player, the line between outright selfishness and justified selfishness isn't so much thin as understood. Some players cannot grasp the concept and seem greedy, while others walk that line perfectly and are rewarded for their understanding.

    Antonio Candreva gets that balance.

    A diligent worker with the technical and physical skills to worry defences and link play, the Italian is a wonderful player for both club and country. He possesses the footballing nous to make positive runs and the ability to maintain his team's shape, which make him a managerial favourite.

    Finishing Rating: 40/50 

    After signing in January 2012 for free, the 29-year-old has become an integral part of Lazio's side.

    In each of the past three seasons, Candreva has scored in double digits. His tally of 12 goals in the 2013/14 season bested the entirety of his career before, and his 31 assists since then show why the Rome native is crucial to his current club.

    Overall Rating: 83/100 

    Italy's Euro 2016 setup is dependent on the mood of manager Conte. His first option would be a 3-5-2, but if that's not working, or not working the way he wants, his secondary choices will be key.

    Candreva is one such option, either as a wing-back, winger or forward.

    Italy's parity affords their manager selection problems in the event change is required; Conte must figure how each piece fits into each scenario—starting, one would think, with Lazio's main man.

15. Ivan Perisic, Croatia

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    Off-the-Ball Rating: 42/50 

    Signing with Inter Milan from VfL Wolfsburg last August, Ivan Perisic's first season in Italy went well, all things considered. There was some worry the Croatian—playing for his fourth team in six seasonwould struggle fitting into head coach Roberto Mancini's side, but the 27-year-old was more than adept.

    Capable of playing multiple positions, namely left wing, right wing, central-attacking midfield and centre-forward, Perisic is an all-purpose attacking threat with an eye for goal.

    The Croat's speed and timed runs make him challenging to mark; Mancini needed that kind of player in his first team.

    Finishing Rating: 42/50 

    Featuring 37 times for Inter Milan in 2015/16, Perisic created 15 goals, scoring nine himself.

    In his 298 professional appearances, the forward option is more likely to score than assist for his team-mates, putting away 85 chances and providing 55. Either way, his total of 140 combined is an impressive tally for a player frequently swapping loyalties.

    Overall Rating: 84/100 

    Croatia's midfield is an amazing collection of world-class talent. Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic are two of Earth's best central midfielders. Having control of the pitch is great but only if forward players are making runs and providing options.

    Perisic being intelligent offensively—playing off striker Mario Mandzukic—will be key for manager Ante Cacic.

14. Nani, Portugal

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    Off-the-Ball Rating: 44/50 

    Leaving Manchester United for good last summer, Nani must have breathed a sigh of relief.

    His minutes were cut, former Red Devils manager Louis van Gaal clearly wasn't a fan, and thankfully his season on loan with Sporting Lisbon went well enough for Turkey's Fenerbahce to come calling.

    Deployed at left wing, right wing and secondary striker in 2015/16, the Portugal international looked a reborn man in Istanbul—netting 12 goals and creating 13 more in all competitions. The movement and energy many knew him for was back, albeit in bursts but better occasionally than never.

    Finishing Rating: 40/50 

    In 380 professional appearances, Nani has 74 goals and 104 assists.

    Sporting Lisbon, Manchester United and Fenerbahce have all benefited from the Portuguese's pace and trickery. His country has done likewise. Though he plays second fiddle to Cristiano Ronaldo, Nani has created 40 goals in 94 caps.

    His issue—as with most forwards/wingers—is dependability. Most games he can be counted on, but others he can go invisible.

    Overall Rating: 84/100 

    For manager Fernando Santos' side to achieve anything at Euro 2016, it will depend on the people surrounding Ronaldo—not necessarily the superstar himself.

    Players like Nani, Joao Moutinho and Andre Gomes must reduce the load on their talisman. If they contribute, Portugal can go deep into the tournament.

13. Andre Schurrle, Germany

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    Off-the-Ball Rating: 42/50 

    Andre Schurrle must have thought moving from Chelsea to VfL Wolfsburg was wise. The Germany international was usually a substitute for manager Jose Mourinho's side and felt moving back to his home country would improve his career.

    Well, not quite. Schurrle—while playing more matches—struggled to find himself. He was not as sharp as he was at Bayer Leverkusen or Chelsea; assimilating into Dieter Hecking's Wolfsburg was burdensome.

    In the last two-and-half-months of 2015/16, though, the 25-year-old improved his movement and anticipation. Possibly over his thigh problems, and once again comfortable with German football, his timing before Euro 2016 was impeccable.

    Finishing Rating: 44/50 

    In 10 weeks, spanning 10 league matches, Schurrle scored eight goals—playing left wing, right wing and centre-forward. Possibly the best form of his career, the young attacker was in desperate need of that confidence boost.

    Scoring 70 goals in his eight professional seasons, the German is no stranger to the penalty box, but his issue has always been consistency. Schurrle has never played three consecutive senior seasons with the same club; for his own development, that needs to change.

    Overall Rating: 86/100 

    Germany have goalscorers and goal creators; what they don't have is a world-class striker. Mario Gomez, while useful, isn't exactly setting the world alight. Schurrle and Thomas Muller are the danger men for Die Mannschaft.

    Without Schurrle performing, too much pressure is placed on Muller to score—that could backfire on Germany the deeper they progress.

12. Dries Mertens, Belgium

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    Off-the-Ball Rating: 43/50 

    Dries Mertens is a man of small stature but huge importance for his club and country. The 5'6" forward, winger and occasional central-attacking midfielder is a necessary component for a winning side.

    One of the best non-starters in Serie A, the Belgium international was Napoli's super-sub. A quick, direct footballer, Mertens' pace, balance and creative runs make him an ideal player for managers to throw on when defenders are fatigued.

    Finishing Rating: 44/50 

    Using his natural qualities, the 29-year-old invariably gets into attacking positions, and his goalscoring record suggests a competent finisher. 

    Mertens scored five goals in 33 league appearances; not too impressive numbers until you factor the Belgian was a substitute 27 of those 33 times.

    In the Europa League, he started five games for head coach Maurizio Sarri and scored five goals.

    Overall Rating: 87/100 

    Depending on Belgium's tactical arrangement, Mertens could start for his country at Euro 2016. He, Kevin De Bruyne and Eden Hazard could easily become three behind Lukaku, but that would detract from the potency of manager Marc Wilmots' bench.

    Not starting Mertens—who showed his prowess as a substitute for Napoli—gives Belgium more flexibility in central midfield. Furthermore, his pace in late-game situations would cause defenders more problems.

11. Stephan El Shaarawy, Italy

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    Off-the-Ball Rating: 43/50 

    Playing winger and centre-forward for AS Monaco during his 24-match loan from AC Milan last season, Stephan El Shaarawy was almost invisible. One wonders if it was getting to the point where the Italian international wasn't confident he would find himself again.

    To their credit, Milan recognised the player was flopping in France and found an option at AS Roma.

    Loaned to Italy's capital with a buying option, El Shaarawy curiously rebounded. As if something from a Robert Louis Stevenson novel, the Italian was a different footballer in Serie A—using his pace, vision and skill to great effect.

    Finishing Rating: 44/50 

    Scoring zero goals during his Ligue 1 adventure, the 23-year-old returned to Italy's first division and scored eight goals in 16 appearances for Roma. Many thought the form he displayed for Milan in 2012/13 had evaporated, but apparently it hadn't.

    One cannot discount what was witnessed in Monaco—those images are fresh and remain intact—but if El Shaarawy is back, that's a game changer for Italy and whichever professional club get their hands on him next.

    Overall Rating: 87/100 

    Manager Conte's creative options aren't that great. For Italy to progress at Euro 2016, they need every capable hand on deck. El Shaarawy, known as "The Pharaoh" due to his Egyptian heritage, might be the spark plug the Azzurri require to score goals.

    The Italians are usually great at keeping clean sheets—having an unpredictable wild card like El Shaarawy on song would go some distance in their under-the-radar ambitions.

10. Wayne Rooney, England

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    Off-the-Ball Rating: 42/50 

    Wayne Rooney as a lone striker doesn't work.

    It might have a few seasons ago, but the 30-year-old has reached a moment in his career when change isn't possible. The England captain always plays his best with a partner—be that Carlos Tevez, Dimitar Berbatov or Robin van Persie—and is more secondary striker than central-attacking midfielder or striker.

    In that setup, Rooney can play off his target man, link play and use his footballing intelligence to better effect.

    Finishing Rating: 45/50 

    Swapping positions and injuries have slowed the Manchester United forward's production in the goalscoring department. Five goals from breaking Sir Bobby Charlton's all-time club record—and becoming England's best-ever goalscorer—Rooney is a proven offensive weapon.

    Whether he's able to turn that form on—assuming it still exists—is a question for both Red Devils manager Mourinho and Three Lions manager Hodgson to figure out.

    Overall Rating: 87/100 

    Based on his career, Rooney has enough clout to start for his country at Euro 2016. Based on the last season, he might serve his country better off the bench.

    Being deployed behind two strikers as a central-attacking midfielder requires Rooney to sacrifice his own offensive game to create for others. To be effective, he needs a system willing to work for him—not the other way around.

9. Andriy Yarmolenko, Ukraine

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    Off-the-Ball Rating: 43/50 

    One of Europe's more promising goalscoring forwards/wingers, Andriy Yarmolenko is obscured by playing in the Ukrainian Premier League.

    The only time people get to see him on the pitch—unless they watch Ukraine's first division—is during the Champions League. He won't have the trouble of exposure at Euro 2016.

    The 26-year-old isn't a track star, but his movement to find space and get himself in positions to score is skillful. 

    Finishing Rating: 45/50 

    A strong, dynamic left-footed winger, Dynamo's talisman has the potential to flourish outside his home country but has yet to move. Gifted in possession, with a striker's finish and a winger's ambition, Yarmolenko has a magnificent scoring record—especially for someone deployed on the right flank.

    He has 24 goals in 58 Ukraine caps and 126 goals for Dynamo Kiev in 322 appearances with 84 assists. He's adept at finding the net—and doing so without too much help.

    Overall Rating: 88/100 

    His country's best attacking player since Andriy Shevchenko—also of Dynamo Kyiv lore—Yarmolenko leaving Ukraine to establish himself elsewhere would appear like an ideal career choice; Euro 2016 seems the perfect showcase for his talent.

    There isn't much pressure on Ukraine to perform well this summer as a collective, but their star man should have enough for his other 22 team-mates.

8. Michy Batshuayi, Belgium

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    Off-the-Ball Rating: 43/50 

    There isn't much to be happy about for Olympique de Marseille supporters. The past few seasons have been a horrible regression from the all-conquering French side of yesteryears gone by, but if there is any flicker of hope for Les Olympiens' fans, it's forward Michy Batshuayi.

    Bought from Standard Liege in 2014 for £4.5 million, the 22-year-old has transformed into his side's best player—only Lassana Diarra and Steve Mandanda could dispute the claim. Not weighed down by those around him, his performances and sublime skill dragged his club to 13th in Ligue 1.

    Continuing to learn his trade, Batshuayi will improve his movement and timing with more seasoning. His current level, though, is exceptional for a U23 footballer.

    Finishing Rating: 45/50 

    An accomplished finisher with splendid touch and the technical prowess to match, Batshuayi and his on-the-ball ability kept Marseille from a possible relegation scrap.

    He scored 23 goals in 50 appearances last season with 10 assists, and the Belgium international was clinical when he got chances. He doesn't play with Dimitri Payet or Pierre-Andre Gignac any longer, so Batshuayi's offensive game stands alone.

    Overall Rating: 88/100 

    How Belgium's strong striking core affects Batshuayi's usefulness and positioning for manager Wilmots is something to monitor at Euro 2016.

    Lukaku and Benteke seem the more traditional striking options, while Origi, Ferreira Carrasco and the Marseille forward can play more in-between roles. Getting that balance correct could be the difference between a premature exit and deep tournament run.

7. Nolito, Spain

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    Off-the-Ball Rating: 45/50 

    Not every player on Barcelona's books can establish himself as a first-team option; many are forced to find greener grass elsewhere. Nolito played three seasons in Barca's hierarchy before leaving Catalonia for SL Benfica to get more playing time.

    After returning permanently to Spain in 2013, the 29-year-old signed for Celta Vigo and has shone. For three seasons, the forward/winger has been his club's best player. Before he arrived, Celta Vigo finished 16th in La Liga; since, the Galicians have finished ninth, eighth and sixth. 

    His movement attracts the attention of defences, opening space for others, which leads to scoring chances and goals.

    Finishing Rating: 44/50 

    When given opportunities to score, Nolito is clinical. He's featured 100 times for Celta in La Liga, and the Spain international has scored 39 goals.

    For a club without the overt attacking talent others enjoy, he is a known threat and must play every league match with the opposition trying to shut him down. To score more than once every three league matches is an amazing record.

    Overall Rating: 89/100 

    Spain have left several world-recognised attacking options at home his summer, and players like Nolito have been given confidence by manager Vicente del Bosque to become their country's offensive engines.

    Whether the Celta man starts remains to be seen. In his eight Spain caps, the forward has scored four goals; he's done everything in his power to leave a great impression.

6. Anthony Martial, France

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    Off-the-Ball Rating: 45/50 

    Manchester United's signing of Anthony Martial for an upfront fee of £36 million—which could rise to £58 million—from AS Monaco was almost comical.

    There were rumblings of "can you believe the money in football?" and "that's way too much money for a teenager" in the immediate aftermath. While that's still a shocking amount, Martial's 2015/16 campaign was splendid.

    A young footballer with much to polish, he shows incredible off-the-ball movement. The timing of his runs makes him a terror to mark with one defender. That combination of speed and intelligence opens space everywhere.

    Finishing Rating: 46/50 

    More impressive than Martial's movement is his composure. For Monaco, he played 70 matches and scored 15 goals—there were signs of a natural, albeit young, finisher. He netted 17 goals in 49 appearances during his debut Manchester United campaign, which was unexpected but more than welcome.

    By most accounts, the 20-year-old was the Red Devils' best attacking player. Without his efforts up front—and David De Gea's heroics between the goalposts—they would have gotten nowhere near the Premier League's fifth position.

    Overall Rating: 91/100 

    Martial earned his first cap in September and might not have factored for Deschamps' side last summer, but his superb showings probably have him in Les Bleus' starting XI.

    He has yet to score a senior goal for his country, but there would be no better time for his first international tally than on Europe's biggest stage—in his virtual backyard, no less.

5. Pedro, Spain

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    Off-the-Ball Rating: 47/50 

    A member of Barcelona for eight seasons, winning 20 trophies, Pedro has seen and experienced just about everything club football has to offer. He left the safe confines of the Camp Nou for Chelsea's Stamford Bridge last summer; an almost-relegation scrap wasn't what the Spaniard was looking for—but he got it.

    Pedro thought he was joining the English champions, but he picked the worst season to link with Chelsea since the mid-1990s; they finished 10th in the Premier League. This summer is an opportunity for the forward to get his mind right and maybe win silverware—a palate cleanser.

    Pedro, more goalscoring winger than striker, has a game predicated on passing and movement in the attacking third.

    Finishing Rating: 46/50 

    Pedro is clinical. Many of his Barcelona features came as a substitute—which probably led him to seek perceived greener grass—but in 321 appearances for the Catalan giants, he scored 99 goals.

    His first season at Chelsea was a struggle. He competed once more with Oscar for places in the west Londoners' starting XI, but when he did start and play well, injury setbacks would invariably follow. He scored seven times in 29 Premier League fixtures. His English learning curve was apparent, but he should improve with continuity and fitness.

    Overall Rating: 93/100 

    Since Spain is without a world-class striker at Euro 2016, it's incumbent upon Pedro and his attacking team-mates to conjure goals.

    If the Chelsea forward can find the back of the net, Spain should have success in France.

4. Antoine Griezmann, France

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    Off-the-Ball Rating: 47/50 

    It's interesting what's happened with the 4-4-2 formation. It seemingly went away for a few years—after being everywhere for so long—but has made a resurgence. One of the best employers of the system is Atletico Madrid manager Simeone, and maybe the greatest benefactor is Antoine Griezmann.

    Using his pace and anticipation as a secondary striker, the France international linked with Fernando Torres last season to great effect.

    After stumbling at the last hurdles in both La Liga and the Champions League, Atleti might regret their lack of attacking thrust in certain areas, but Griezmann can take little fault for any silverware shortcomings.

    Finishing Rating: 48/50 

    Able to play as a centre-forward, wide forward, winger or central-attacking midfielder, the 25-year-old has the versatility, pace and clinical nature required for any league and every competition.

    He scored 22 of Atletico Madrid's 63 goals in La Liga and added seven assists; the forward was directly linked to more than 46 percent of his club's league scoring. For a side the size of Atletico to be dependent on one man so heavily shows either a problem in their setup or the immense quality of their star.

    Most would take the latter option.

    Overall Rating: 95/100 

    Griezmann has played for France at almost every competitive level and seems to be—alongside Paul Pogba and Raphael Varane—the future of Les Bleus.

    One of the favourites for Euro 2016's golden boot, Griezmann and his goals—in conjunction with the play of centre-forward Olivier Giroud and manager Deschamps' makeshift defence—will dictate how high the hosts fly.

3. Gareth Bale, Wales

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    Off-the-Ball Rating: 49/50 

    Tasked with living up to an £85.3 million transfer fee, Gareth Bale in his first three seasons at Real Madrid has been relatively successful. He's yet to win La Liga, but his two Champions League winners' medals should ease any tension.

    When compared to his performances with Tottenham Hotspur, Bale has grown by some distance—despite the burdens of learning a new country, language, footballing style and having the "world's most expensive footballer" label slapped on his forehead.

    He makes incisive runs, uses his electric pace and ever-improving decision-making and has every tool a forward/winger requires.

    Finishing Rating: 48/50 

    Having featured 81 times in La Liga, Bale is directly responsible for more than 24 percent of Real Madrid's offensive output since his arrival three summers ago, scoring or assisting on 80 of the club's 332 league goals. His clinical left boot and aerial prowess are a deadly combination.

    If any criticism could be levelled at Bale, it's aimed at his own body. He's missed 24 games for Madrid through injury, and that has cut into his development.

    Overall Rating: 97/100 

    While Bale's Iberian Peninsula experiment has proven fruitful, playing for his country is another story altogether.

    Wales are overly dependent on their star man, and their game suffers as a result.

    After debuting as a 16-year-old, Bale has never played in a major international tournament—Euro 2016 being his first chance. If they reach the semi-finals, Bale should be knighted on the spot.

2. Thomas Muller, Germany

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    Off-the-Ball Rating: 49/50 

    Thomas Muller might be Bayern Munich's most important footballer. There are several candidates for that distinction—as there would at one of Europe's top three clubs—but the Germany international is a vital component in their current construction. 

    Invariably pitted against packed defences, the 26-year-old shows spectacular movement without possession.

    He always provides his midfielders with an option, and his penetrative runs are usually what his team needs to score goals.

    Finishing Rating: 50/50 

    When found in dangerous positions, the Bayern Munich man is cold-blooded. As a forward, his job is finishing whatever chances arrive around the 18-yard box, and for the most part, he does.

    In his 424 senior matches for club and country, Muller has scored 184 goals and assisted on 144. Last season, he logged 32 goals in 49 appearances for the four-time defending Bundesliga champions.

    Overall Rating: 99/100 

    Miroslav Klose is the German national side's all-time leading scorer with 71 goals. Muller has around a decade of international football left, should he want to represent his country that long.

    On 32 goals, he would need to average around four international goals per year to catch Klose—a tough ask but certainly doable.

    Germany, though 2014 World Cup champions, seem to be flying under the radar. France are hosts and boast a magnificent side—the pressure's on them. Muller and his team-mates can win the trophy by being solid and clinical.

1. Cristiano Ronaldo, Portugal

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    Off-the-Ball Rating: 50/50 

    In the conversation for Earth's best footballer, Cristiano Ronaldo has every honour one could earn at club football, both for his team and personally.

    He's a gifted goalscorer with tricks and flair for days, but the component that sets the 31-year-old apart is his movement. His intelligent runs and ways of creating space are just as important as his ability to put away chances, and Ronaldo is a master of that particular art.

    His game will translate at Euro 2016, but movement alone cannot win Portugal the competition.

    Finishing Rating: 50/50 

    Ronaldo's country requires goals; if there is anything Portugal's captain can do, it's score.

    Last season, he tallied 51 goals in all competitions. In his career, he's scored 482 goals in 641 appearances. For both Manchester United and Real Madrid, Ronaldo has been otherworldly.

    The forward exudes pace, technique, placement and composure, and he has the statistics and trophies to defend his status as an all-time great.

    Overall Rating: 100/100 

    Being one of the game's best-ever players doesn't count for much internationally, though.

    The Real Madrid superstar is dependent on the talent around him to facilitate European success. Placing that responsibility in others' hands seems a tall order for Ronaldo, but it's a test of his character and leadership.

    If something's too heavy, you ask for help—lest you break your back. Portugal are Ronaldo's help—or, at least, that's the plan.

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

    Stats and transfer fees via WhoScored.comTransfermarkt and Soccerbase unless noted otherwise.

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