The European Championships have graced us with a number of great players. With the 2016 edition of the tournament on the horizon, we take a look at 5 players who are likely to bid farewell to international football.
Gianluigi Buffon (Italy)
The legendary goalkeeper will play his fourth European Championship, leading the injury-hit Italian side. He has won almost all the major trophies bar one – the European Championships. He reached as close as the final in the previous edition, but on an infamous night in Kiev he ended up on the losing side, conceding 4 goals to a blistering Spanish strike force.
Now nearing his forties, it’s fair to say that the Euros would be the final chapter in an extraordinary international career. Buffon has been a pivotal force in driving Juventus to yet another Seria A triumph with a total of 21 clean-sheets in 38 games, without conceding more than once in a game. The charismatic veteran is lucky to have four Juventus defenders picked in the national team, with Andrea Barzagli and Leonardo Bonucci primed to be mainstays at the back for the Azzuri.
Gianluigi Buffon: Had a better save success rate (82%) than any other goalkeeper to make 10+ Serie A apps this season
— WhoScored.com (@WhoScored) May 31, 2016
Patrice Evra (France)
Buffon’s Juve teammate Patrice Evra has been a regular on the left side of the defence for the Les Bleus. Despite being a part of the French setup since 2004, the former Manchester United defender has not always enjoyed the best of times with the national side.
He was omitted from the 2004 Euro and 2006 World Cup squads by the then head-coach Raymond Domenech. Things further intensified during the 2010 World Cup campaign when Evra led a player revolt against the man in charge, after Anelka was sent home.
Now, at 35, Evra is still France’s first priority left-back with Gael Clichy out injured and Lucas Digne failing to impress in the friendlies. Expectations would be high from Evra as this could probably be his last major international tournament.
The French defender has had a reasonably decent season with the Old Lady. He averaged 3.15 clearances per game, with an impressive pass accuracy of 86%. The 35-year-old was instrumental in Juventus’ domestic double this season. Head-coach Didier Deschamps would be hoping that Evra continues his run of form and maintain fitness as his French side hope to lift the Euro trophy in their own backyard.
— WhoScored.com (@WhoScored) May 23, 2016
Ricardo Carvalho (Portugual)
At 38 years of age, Portuguese Ricardo Carvalho is still as robust and forceful as he was ten years ago when he was plying his trade in England for Chelsea Football Club. Carvalho managed to win three league titles in England, after tasting similar success at FC Porto.
In 2011, Carvalho called it a day from international football butwas tempted to re-join the national squad after Fernando Santos was appointed the new head-coach, taking charge from Paulo Bento. The 38-year-old reacquainted himself with the Portuguese set-up and has formed an incredible partnership with Pepe at the heart of the defence.
Ricardo Carvalho is 38… he’s moving like a 28-year old. Still absolute class.
— Chelsea HQ (@Chelsea_HQ) June 2, 2016
Carvalho enjoyed a good season with Ligue 1 club AS Monaco, guiding them to a respectable 3rd place finish. He recorded a fabulous 4.1 clearances per game in 33 league appearances for the French side this season. With the expertise and leadership attributes that Carvalho brings to the table, Portugal should be confident about their chances at Euro 2016. Going strong at 38, this tournament would seemingly bring the curtain down on an illustrious international career for Ricardo Carvalho.
Tomas Rosicky (Czech Republic)
At the end of the 2015/16 season, Tomas Rosicky decided it was time to end his 10 year association with Arsenal. The Czech international struggled with fitness issues and could never reach the heights that were expected of him.
Currently aged 35, his fitness is vital if Czech Republic are to get out of a tricky group that features defending champions Spain, Croatia and Turkey. With a relatively experienced squad and the lack of blooming young talent, many have tipped Czech Republic to be an early casualty in the tournament.
— UEFA EURO 2016 (@UEFAEURO) June 5, 2016
If the 35-year-old is fit to play in France, it would be his fourth European finals appearance. He’d look to replicate his 2006 World Cup performances where he rose to the occasion in a heroic display against the United States. With fitness not on his side, we may see him bid adieu to the international circuit and probably even end his domestic career.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Sweden)
Last, but certainly not the least, is the Swedish sensation Zlatan Ibrahimovic. On the verge of completing a sensational move to Manchester United, Ibrahimovic has constantly been in the news. Even though he’s in the twilight of his career, goals have not been hard to come by for Ibrahimovic, as he had yet another glorious season with Paris St. Germain, scoring 38 league goals in 31 appearances.
Alexandre Lacazette: Only Ibrahimovic (50) has scored more goals from inside the box in the last 2 Ligue 1 seasons than @LacazetteAlex (44)
— WhoScored.com (@WhoScored) June 1, 2016
Zlatan’s international form has been equally impressive. With 62 strikes, he is Sweden’s all-time leading scorer. He is also a ten time Swedish player of the year — an extremely impressive accolade. The charismatic forward will captain the Swedish side through the virtual group of death featuring Belgium, Italy and the Republic of Ireland.
While age is only a number for the tireless attacker, one can presume that he’s entering the final few years of what has been a magnificent footballing career. Tasting success at every club he’s gone to, it’s international glory that has been missing, and maybe he could turn that around this time.