Madrid pair offer Boot value
Jose Mourinho's moral standing might have deteriorated in his two years in charge at Real Madrid but the Portuguese does a lot of good work that goes unnoticed and we're backing two of his main men to shine for their respective countries at Euro 2012.
Enhancing the career prospects of multi-millionaire international footballers can hardly be classed as charity work but there's evidence to suggest that time spent under the Special One can lead to a maturing process that turns rough diamonds into more accomplished individuals.
Take Wesley Sneijder in 2010, for example. The Dutchman was always a player of great potential but he was truly irresistible in Mourinho's second season at Inter. That summer, he was the star of the show for Holland, scheming his way to the World Cup final and picking up the Silver Ball from FIFA. Sadly, he's been a shadow of the player over the past 12 months.
Then there was Joe Cole in 2006. The former Chelsea midfielder was subjected to some tough love upon Mourinho's arrival at Stamford Bridge but his all-round game came on in leaps and bounds the following season and he would be the star turn in England's otherwise lacklustre run to the quarter-finals at the World Cup in Germany. Sadly, he too was unable to sustain those standards beyond Mourinho's departure.
Whatever Mourinho's secret, fatigue never appears to be an issue because those two examples suggest good form in the domestic season can carry over to the international stage and, assuming the secret is scalable, it's not stretching the imagination too much to suggest that Cristiano Ronaldo can have a major impact at Euro 2012.
Back Cristiano Ronaldo to be top goalscorer at 14/1
The Portugal No.7 hasn't always stood out on the international stage but he looks much happier under his old Sporting Lisbon team-mate Paulo Bento than he ever did under Carlos Queiroz, scoring seven goals in eight qualifying matches. With that in mind, we'll take some of the 14/1 available on Cristiano Ronaldo to be top goalscorer.
Meanwhile, it's much the same story with Karim Benzema. Our feature on high power distance points towards France needing a talisman in order to progress beyond the group stage and the Real Madrid No.9 has to be the one to step up if Les Bleus are to avoid another painful summer.
Benzema was inexplicably left out of the squad that went to South Africa two years ago, so he's not tarnished by association with those events and it puts him in a great position to pick up the mantle and become the new Michel Platini or Zinedine Zidane - the player that France look to for a flash of genius in a moment of adversity. Curiously, coach Laurent Blanc has also handed him the sacred No.10 jersey.
Whether Benzema has the required mental strength for such a role is a moot point but he certainly has the technical ability and predatory instincts to excel on this kind of stage and his time under Mourinho will have done his education no harm at all. The former Lyon man bagged 32 goals this season, breaking the record for a Frenchman in Spanish football and the 16/1 on Karim Benzema to be top goalscorer is also worth a nibble. It promises to be a career-defining tournament for the 24-year-old.
Back Karim Benzema to be top goalscorer at 16/1
Meanwhile, we've already presented our case for Germany to win Euro 2012 and we also see some value in backing Bastian Schweinsteiger to be player of the tournament at 20/1.
The Bayern Munich man is the main driving force behind Joachim Low's vibrant team and will be desperate to make amends for his Champions League heartache against Chelsea last month. Schweinsteiger was responsible for the crucial penalty miss in the shoot-out but we shouldn't doubt he has the mental strength to bounce back from that painful experience. Indeed, it could prove to be a powerful motivational tool in moments of tension.
And that partially explains why we favour Schweinsteiger's star to rise above that of his more cultured colleague Mesut Ozil. The Real Madrid man might fit the bill by association with Mourinho but he's a relative newcomer to the international fold and we don't expect his guile to shine continuously.
Schweini, by contrast, is one of three elder statesmen in the German ranks - by which we mean over 25! - who heralded an exciting new dawn under Jurgen Klinsmann when Germany hosted the World Cup in 2006 and now this tournament takes on a make-or-break significance in terms of his personal legacy.
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