There can be no question that the 2015/2016 Premier League season has been one of the most surprising and dramatic in history, with Leicester’s unbelievable rags to riches story deservedly grabbing the headlines.
From avoiding relegation to the skin of their teeth last year to lifting the league trophy aloft this season is testament to football’s ability to produce the unpredictable and unexpected – something which may carry on throughout the summer.
Many Premier League stars would have hoped to relax and recharge their batteries in preparation for the season ahead with their respective clubs, but they will have to pull on their national team jersey in the hope of returning home victorious from Euro 2016.
The upcoming European Championship in France promises to be an intriguing tournament packed with some of the best players across the continent, with the increase from sixteen to twenty-four teams providing fans with even more football to enjoy.
It presents a wonderful opportunity for players to showcase their talents on a major international stage, with the potential for some to put themselves in the shop window in the hope of enjoying a big-money move to a top club another reason for players to perform when their country needs them most.
The increase in television revenue money flowing into the Premier League is enough motivation for players to attract the interest of clubs across England, but players who are already plying their trade there will hope to make a big impact for their respective country and return home from Euro 2016 with a winners medal around their neck.
Tottenham may have just missed out on the Premier League title, but Harry Kane was among a number of stand-out performers in what has been a superb season for Mauricio Pochettino’s team.
The 22-year-old has once again proved himself as one of the most clinical finishers in Europe, with Kane silencing critics who believed he may have been a one-season wonder by surpassing the twenty-goal mark in the league.
His goal-scoring achievements not only made him the fifth player in Premier League history to score 20 or more goals in consecutive season, but also the first since Alan Shearer between 1995 and 1997.
Kane also took to international football like a duck to water, scoring on his debut after just 79 seconds on the pitch as substitute against Lithuania which helped to establish himself as a regular for England.
Coral rate England among the darkhorses in the latest Euro 2016 betting odds, and while Roy Hodgson may expect his team to reach the latter stages, it may need Kane’s quality and goals upfront to make it possible.
The Tottenham hotshot is nailed-on to spearhead England’s attack in France this summer, and if he receives the quality of service that he thrives upon, then Kane could well finish the tournament as top scorer.
Many Arsenal fans have been left mystified by Mesut Ozil’s omission from the PFA Team of the Year following another creative season for the German international.
Breaking the record for chances created in a single campaign illustrates how important the 27-year-old is to Arsene Wenger’s team, and although there are still claims that Ozil lacks the consistency to be considered amongst the elite midfielders, his vision and range of passing is a joy to behold.
These qualities are highly valued by Joachim Low who sees Ozil as the integral playmaker that keeps things ticking for Germany at the business end of the pitch; it comes as no surprise to see the 2014 World Cup winner amongst the strong favourites with Coral to add this summer’s European Championship trophy to the collection.
There is enough quality across the board to suggest that Low’s team may not have it their own way in France, and while others may fancy their chances of triumphing at the Stade de France, it will take a big effort to stop Ozil and Germany if they hit top gear.
2015/2016 may have been a hugely disappointing season for Eden Hazard compared to the standards he set throughout the previous year, but the Chelsea star has more than enough quality in his locker to make a real impact for Belgium at Euro 2016.
The 2015 PFA Player of the Year has shown glimpses of what he is capable of in recent weeks, with his superb goal against Tottenham a perfect example of his precarious talent and what he can produce on the big occasion.
Hazard may be on the move in the summer, with Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain keeping a close eye on the 25-year-old; he could do his chances of a big-money move no harm by stepping up to the plate for a Belgium side of which big things are expected this summer.
A golden generation of players, including the likes of Hazard, Thibault Courtois, Vincent Kompany and Romelu Lukaku, will value Euro 2016 as an opportunity to prove they have the quality to match the hype surrounding them, and if Chelsea’s midfield maestro can rediscover the magic that made him so influential in their title-winning season, then Belgium could be the team to watch.