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Euro 2024: Mbappe, Bellingham, Kane, Foden, Kroos – our Golden Ball predictions

Who are the names in the frame for the coveted Player of the Tournament accolade at Euro 2024.

England's Harry Kane

Whenever a major tournament rolls around plenty is said about who’s going to win it, and who’s going to be the leading scorer, which makes the race for Player of the Tournament at Euro 2024 a potential gold mine.

Only once in the seven European Championships in which the award has been presented has the winner of the Golden Ball also won the Golden Boot – that was Antoine Griezmann in 2016.

Coincidentally the Frenchman was also the only player to have claimed the title despite having not having won the tournament – France lost the final in extra time against Portugal.

The fact that despite all this information, the odds for this prize follow those for the Golden Boot very closely might mean there is value to be found here.

Let’s take a look at the names in the frame, shall we?

Kylian Mbappe (France)

Yes, him. The face of football.

Mbappe has scored 12 goals across two World Cups as Les Bleus lifted the trophy in Russia 2018 and then were edged out in the Qatar Final 2022, despite his hat-trick in the final.

However the 25-year-old failed to score at all as France picked up five points from their three group games at Euro 2020 before being dumped out in the Round of 16 on penalties by Switzerland.

France are narrowly behind England in the battle for favouritism with the bookmakers to lift the trophy in Berlin’s Olympiastadion on July 14 – Bastille Day.

You have to think if they make it to the latter stages then much will depend on Mbappe. The fact that Griezmann, now 33 and, let’s be frank, rather on the wane eight years after his star showing on home soil is the second favourite Frenchman in the running for the major individual awards to land the big prize at 22/1+ tells a story. The fact Ousmane Dembele and Olivier Giroud are next best at north of 50/1 tells another.

 

Jude Bellingham (England)

Wouldn’t this be something? He’s only 20 but the pride of Stourbridge has already amassed 29 England caps, the first of which came as a 17-year-old in November 2020.

He became England’s youngest ever player in a major tournament in England’s Euro 2020 opener against Croatia the following summer, making three appearances off the bench as England ultimately lost in the final.

He was a mainstay in the side by the time Qatar 2022 rolled around and opened the scoring in England’s group stage win over Iran with his first international goal. He has actually only scored twice since that, in friendlies against Scotland and Belgium, and England fans will be hoping he can recreate the form he showed in his debut season with Real Madrid when he returns to Germany, where he enjoyed success with Dortmund.

Bellingham scored 19 goals and assisted six more in in La Liga and 23 in total in his maiden season in Spain after scoring four and adding five assists in the Champions League, which was the most in the competition this season.

While many of his goal involvements came before Christmas, Bellingham did finish the season on a high, setting up the clinching second goal in the Champions League final.

He wears Zinedine Zidane’s number at Real Madrid and if England can go all the way then he looks a strong contender to repeat Zizou’s feat of 2000 and claim the Golden Ball.

Harry Kane (England)

The England captain, England’s leading scorer, England’s talisman. If Kane is on top of his game then there’s a good chance England will be too.

Along with Mbappe another hoping to become just the second man to complete the Golden Ball and Boot double.

Unlike France, England do share their goals around a bit more, with the likes of Phil Foden, Jude Bellingham and Bukayo Saka all respected names in the betting for top-scorer and all perfectly capable of having that one stellar day, a hat-trick here or there, which tends to separate the Golden Boot winners from the pack.

Kane will of course be on penalties (try and stop him) though he has seen spot-kicks saved at the last two major tournaments.

When it comes to the Euros he scored four at Euro 2020 but only had five shots in total during England’s ill-fated 2016 campaign where he was subbed at half-time against Wales and ended up taking corners.

He’ll want to banish the bad memories of both of those campaign, in different ways, by repeating his form for Bayern Munich back in his now familiar surroundings of Germany.

He scored 36 goals in 32 Bundesliga games, eight more in the Champions League and had 12 assists for the season too as he showcased his play-making skills which have improved year-on-year.

Famously he has still never won a team trophy but he added this season’s European Golden Shoe to his World Cup 2018 Golden Boot. Can he complete the international set with some more gold this summer?

 

Phil Foden (England)

We’re edging into the realms of longer shots here – Foden comes in at roughly double the odds of Golden Ball favourite Kylian Mbappe – however the Premier League’s Player of the Season has shown he is more than capable of shining on the big stage.

Having turned 24 at the end of May, Foden has already amassed 34 caps for England, though with only four goals.

He bagged 19 in the Premier League alone this season and 27 in 53 matches overall, with another 12 assists to boot.

Quite how he will be utilised by Gareth Southgate remains up for debate – will he be forced out wide on the left to accommodate others? Will England play two or three players in support of Harry Kane? Horses for courses, says the smart money. It’s Southgate after all. Don’t expect him to be too gung-ho. We’ll find out on Sunday evening when their group stage campaign begins against Serbia.

If Foden is capable of establishing himself in Southgate’s XI then he has shown time and again he can be a match-winner, can score multiple goals in a game and is capable of unlocking defences for teammates too. Definitely worthy of consideration at 14/1 or so.

Toni Kroos (Germany)

Now then. Bear with me. As we said, it’s not all about goals and the biggest names.

Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma won the Player of the Tournament at Euro 2020, Germany defender Matthias Sammer won it at Euro 96 and Leicester midfielder Theo Zagorakis did likewise when his Greece side won Euro 2004.

Kroos is entering the final five weeks of his football career, potentially less, depending on how the host nation do.

He actually retired from international football after Die Mannschaft’s dismal showing and early exit to England at Euro 2020, saying he wanted to spend more time with his family and winning things with Real Madrid.

The 34-year-old was temped back into the fray by Julian Nagelsmann after he took over last year and though the 2014 World Cup winner announced his retirement last month, he proceeded to bow out of club football by lifting his record-equalling sixth Champions League at Wembley earlier this month.

Yes Germany have hope for the future in the form of Florian Wirtz and Jamal Musiala, yes they have the experience of Ilkay Gundogan, Manuel Neuer, Joshua Kimmich and Antonio Rudiger, but Kroos will likely bow out as Germany’s best player.

He’s not going to score six goals in the tournament, you’d think, but he could well assist that many with his sublime delivery and if Germany are able to ride the home support to the latter stages then a 16-1 punt on the Kroos for player of the tournament would look highly respectable.

 

Best of the rest

Every winner of this award bar one has played for the nation which lifted the trophy and therefore if you don’t think a team can get go the distance, at least to the final, then you might have to think again. This is where the likes of goalscorers like Alvaro Morata, Rasmus Hojlund, Robert Lewandowski and Memphis Depay probably fall away.

If you think Portugal have a good chance to make it the last four, at least, then you’d be right, but it also brings in the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo (20/1) and Bruno Fernandes (33/1) into the equation (wonder who’ll get the penalties). If Belgium are your fancy then Kevin De Bruyne at a best-priced 22/1 while Rodri is sure to shine if Spain do make it deep, making his 33/1 eye-catching.

Ilkay Gundogan at 50/1 seems very good value in a home tournament while how about Luka Modric at 66/1 – he’s not played as much as he’d want this season and might have a point to prove. Croatia might not be the force they once were but the Real Madrid man did win the Golden Ball and the Ballon d’Or in 2018, of course.

 

Prediction

Don’t be afraid to look down the list when picking your candidate here. The pre-tournament favourite has not won player of the tournament since Zinedine Zidane in 2000, though Xavi and Iniesta were hardly outsiders in 2008 and 2012.

If France or England do make the final then it will be hard to look past the players who fired them there, which presumably would be Mbappe and Kane, however the history of these awards at tournaments tends to reward the influence of midfielders on their sides.

With that in mind, and an eye on value, as 8/1 just seems too short to back Jude Bellingham with much confidence, it’s hard to argue against anyone opting for a punt on Toni Kroos at 16/1, Bruno Fernandes at 33/1 or Ilkay Gundogan at 50/1.

Picture of Alex Hoad

Alex Hoad

Alex has more than 15 years' experience in sports journalism and has reported on multiple Olympics, World Cups and European Championships in additional to Champions League, Europa League and domestic football.

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