By KS Leong
Euro 2012 began with 16 countries and 368 footballers represented by 24 national leagues from around the world.
England's Premier League boasts the most players in Poland and Ukraine, providing 74 of their stars, just a little over 20 per cent of the entire field. Germany's Bundesliga was second with 48 players (13%) whilst Spain's La Liga (9%) and the Italian Serie A (8%) followed with 32 and 31 footballers respectively. The leagues in Russia, Ukraine and Greece supplied their fair share of superstars, but it didn't stop there as representation spread all the way from Cyprus and Israel to faraway Saudi Arabia and the United States.
But which of the top leagues in Europe have produced the best-performing players at the European Championship so far?
At the end of the group stage, we analysed our Goal.com ratings index to find the top performing leagues at the Euros. Only players who featured in at least 40 per cent of theit national team's matches in Poland and Ukraine from the 10 most represented leagues (domestic championships with at least 10 players at Euro 2012) are taken into consideration.
|THE TOP 10 LEAGUES
|RANK||LEAGUE||RATINGS||NO. OF PLAYERS*
La Liga unsurprisingly leads the charts thanks to the home-based Spanish players who, even though they have yet to kick into top gear, have been reliably solid. Andres Iniesta is La Roja and Euro 2012's top man so far, with the likes of Xavi, Cesc Fabregas, Xabi Alonso, Iker Casillas, Gerard Pique and Sergio Busquets all averaging three stars or more. The league's rating is further boosted by Real Madrid's star-studded overseas contingent. Mesut Ozil, Sami Khedira, Pepe, Fabio Coentrao and Cristiano Ronaldo all boast impressive numbers, which is more than enough to boost the league's figures and make up for the two lowest-rated players in La Liga, Joris Mathijsen and Adil Rami.
The Portuguese Primeira Liga comes a close and surprise second. Only nine out of 368 footballers at Euro 2012 play in Portugal and, of those, only four have featured in at least 40% of their national team's matches. This low ratio is the main reason why they league has soared towards the top of the standings. Joao Moutinho, Rui Patricio, Joao Pereira and Nelson Oliveira are the quartet in question, and together they averaged a rating of 2.83, a score that is undamaged by players from other teams who may have floundered at the Euros.
Germany have the most players in the top 20 of Goal.com's Ratings Index. Bastian Schweinsteiger joins Iniesta as the tournament's highest-rated player so far after the group stage, leading out Mats Hummels, Philipp Lahm, Mario Gomez, Ozil, Khedira et al. But the number of stars who disappointed from the Netherlands, Greece and Poland brought down the Bundesliga's average score. The two best-ranked non-Germans in the league are Franck Ribery and Petr Jiracek.
Italy have yet to convince so far in Poland and Ukraine, picking up only one win in the group phase, and that is evident in their ratings, with a majority of their players plying their trade in Serie A. Andrea Pirlo is the highest-ranked Italian in the index, and he is joined by AC Milan and Sweden striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Daniele De Rossi, Antonio Cassano, Miguel Veloso and Simon Kjaer are the only other players in Serie A to have averaged three stars or more in the Player Ratings, but the low marks from Wesley Sneijder, Mark van Bommel and Philippe Mexes decreased the overall tally.
Following close behind is the Ukrainian and Russian Premier Leagues. Unlike the smaller teams in the competition, these two nations' final 23 squads are made up almost entirely from their own domestic leagues, which is a testament to the strength of their local championships. Retiring Andriy Shevchenko was the star for Ukraine while emerging sensation Alan Dzagoev was Russia's standout performer.
The English Premier League may be the most represented league at Euro 2012, but the players in it who dazzle audiences week in, week out have been hugely disappointing. All 23 of Roy Hodgson's England squad feature in the Premier League, and all have struggled to light up the tournament. Their ratings have been dragged down further by the majority of Ireland's squad who play in the English top flight, and Giovanni Trapattoni's side have the worst average rating of any nation at the Euros. Other big names such as Robin van Persie, Mario Balotelli and Petr Cech have all flopped, but surprisingly, it's Arsenal's forgotten man Nicklas Bendtner who is the highest-rated Premier League player.
France and Netherlands boast an array of world-class superstars from Ribery and Samir Nasri to Sneijder and Van Persie. But the cream of the crop from their national sides all play abroad, leaving them with players from teams who have failed to perform. In fact, Ligue 1 and Eredivisie's best players at the Euros are both goalkeepers: Evian's Stephan Andersen of Denmark and PSV's Przemyslaw Tyton from Poland.
The Greek Superleague rounds off the top 10. Having scraped through Group A, Fernando Santos' men have one of the lowest average ratings of all the teams still in the competition. Vasilis Torosidis has been their best player so far, while Sweden's Olof Mellberg is the only non-Greek at Euro 2012 to ply his trade in the Superleague.