Top 40 players of the Euro 2012

#1: Cristiano Ronaldo, POR

Considering his sustained brilliance for Real Madrid — 84 goals and 22 assists in 67 games over the past two seasons — it’s a wonder that the world isn’t running out of adjectives to describe the Portuguese forward’s play. Whether deployed on the flanks or through the middle, exhibiting his lethal skills and swagger from set pieces or close range, Ronaldo is the best there is in the European game today. (And the richest, too; $17.06 million in reported salary, as of 2010.)

#2: Andres Iniesta, SPA

There is little more to add on Andres Iniesta that has not already been reeled out on numerous occasions during Barcelona’s recent period of dominance. The Spaniard is one of the finest midfield technicians of modern times and his abilities have been showcased at the highest levels of the game for the past five years.

It is truly a thing of beauty as they slowly dismantle their opponents’ defensive structures by playing continuous short passes in the midfield until at some point a helpless defender is dragged out of position. Then, with a gap emerging, both Xavi and Iniesta are charged with supplying the defense-splitting pass that will seize upon the fault-line they have opened up with their earlier play. The strategy has led both Barcelona and Spain to unprecedented success.

#3: Xavi, SPA

His style is cerebral and full of intent; with the ball at his feet, Xavi thinks several moves ahead of the one that starts at his instep, forever looking for space in which to thread a pass and decimate a well-organized defense. (In a 2011 interview, Xavi outlined his thought process: “Think quickly, look for space … I’m always looking.”) With Iniesta at his side and their on-field telepathy in full effect, the rampant, all-conquering Barcelona side of the late 2000s will never be forgotten.

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The schedule for Euro 2012.