Euro 2020: Ronaldo, Lewandowski & co... A last hurrah for these veteran stars?

EURO 2020: Here are a few veteran stars who could be playing in their final Euro campaigns.

Portugal defender Pepe's understanding of the game and defensive solidity remain unquestionable.   -  Getty Images

The 16th edition of the European Championship will be one of a kind as the tournament will be held over 11 venues — a first in the 60-year history of the competition. France will be the team to beat as it looks to complete the double of winning the World Cup and the Euros, while Portugal will be out to retain its continental crown. Ahead of the action that begins on July 11, we take a look at a few veteran stars who could be playing in their final Euro campaigns.

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Pepe, 38, Portugal

Kepler Laveran de Lima Ferreira, best known as Pepe, continues to torment forwards despite being well into his 30s. The never-tiring defender, who at times can be overzealous and a tad aggressive, was an integral part of the Portugal squad that won the 2016 Euro Championship, and he will be eager to retain the title. A lot has changed since then – he is no longer with Real Madrid and he sports curly locks occasionally, but his understanding of the game and defensive solidity remain unquestionable.

Goran Pandev, 37, North Macedonia

Pandev made his debut for the national side as a 17-year-old, and 20 years on, he is the team’s most-capped player (117 games) and leading scorer (37 goals). He has spent the last two decades playing in Italy and won the treble with Inter Milan in 2010. The veteran striker played a crucial role in North Macedonia sealing its maiden Euro berth as he struck the winning goal against Georgia in their playoff last year. The Genoa star also scored in North Macedonia’s stunning 2-1 win over Germany in March this year.

Cristiano Ronaldo, 36, Portugal

We’re taking a bit of a gamble by naming the Portuguese superstar here. Considering his supreme levels of fitness, he might just play until he’s 40! Ronaldo, who is only seven goals shy of breaking Ali Daei’s record of 109 international goals, will lead Portugal’s title defence this year. Having scored a league-high 29 goals in Serie A, the footballing genius will have ample support in the likes of Joao Felix, Ruben Dias and Bruno Fernandes as his nation aims to get past France, Germany and Hungary in Group F.

Considering his supreme levels of fitness, Cristiano Ronaldo might just play until he’s 40!   -  AP

 

Giorgio Chiellini, 36, Italy

Italy captain Chiellini is one of only seven players who have been retained from the 2016 Euro squad. The veteran is one of the most feared centre-backs in the game and will form a lethal backline with Juventus teammate Leonard Bonucci. Chiellini has had his share of injuries – he missed over 15 games for Juve this season – but remains a trustworthy soldier at the back. His experience will be vital as the Azzurri will play in a major tournament for the first time since the quarterfinal stage ouster in 2016.

Burak Yilmaz, 35, Turkey

“King Burak” is living it up at 35. The striker netted a stunning 16 goals to lead Lille past the likes of Paris Saint-Germain to the French Ligue 1 title this season. Turkey’s all-time second-highest scorer, he will spearhead his nation’s attack this campaign. Having captained the Turkey team that took four points off world champion France in the Euro qualifiers and striking a match-winning hat-trick against the Netherlands in their Nations League game in March, he surely knows what it will take to steer his side into the knockout stages.

Luka Modric, 35, Croatia

He’s guided Croatia to a FIFA World Cup runner-up finish, he’s won the FIFA Golden Ball and the Ballon d’Or, and Modric is now out to claim his first title in the red-and-white checks. Modric has been a part of every Croatia team that has competed in major competitions since 2006 and has been named the nation’s best footballer of the year for a record nine times. The Real Madrid midfielder possesses sublime vision and skill and is widely considered one of the best medios of this generation. With Croatia placed alongside England, Scotland and the Czech Republic in Group D, Modric might just fancy his side’s chances of going all the way this time.

Croatia's Luka Modric possesses sublime vision and skill and is widely considered one of the best medios of this generation.   -  AP

 

Manuel Neuer, 35, Germany

Iconic sweeper-keeper Neuer is now only two national team appearances away from reaching the century mark. The German skipper recently went past Oliver Kahn’s record for most clean-sheets in the Bundesliga and is coming off a successful season with Bayern Munich. The towering custodian has lifted every title there is at the club level and won the 2014 FIFA World Cup as well, meaning he now has just the European title left. The 35-year-old will be a vital cog in Die Mannschaft’s charge for a fourth European crown in what will be Joachim Low’s last assignment with the team.

Olivier Giroud, 34, France

Giroud may not enjoy a lot of time on the pitch, but he sure does have a very happening trophy cabinet. After sealing the World Cup title with Les Blues in 2018, he won the Champions League with Chelsea last month. However, he has played just a little over 30 minutes of competitive football in a month. The proven goal-scorer will be keen to make a mark at what appears to be his last Euro campaign.

Olivier Giroud has played just a little over 30 minutes of competitive football in a month.   -  AP

 

Marek Hamsik, 33, Slovakia

Mohawk-wearing Hamsik has been Slovakia’s star over the last decade and it is of little surprise that he’s the country's most capped player. The former Napoli striker will lead the side as it yearns to make it past the round of 16 for the first time in its history. Hamsik, who has scored 26 goals for the nation, has not played a great deal of football over the last year but remains Slovakia’s best bet at the competition.

Robert Lewandowski, 32, Poland

Lewandowski has been the toast of the football world for two years now. A mind-numbing campaign last year saw him win the Best FIFA Men’s Player of the Year award and he went on to break Gerd Muller’s 49-year-old record of scoring the most goals in a single Bundesliga campaign as he struck 41 to lead Bayern Munich to the title this season. The 32-year-old, who is Poland’s most capped player and all-time leading scorer, will be indispensable in the White Eagles’ quest for a maiden Euro title.

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