This June, as they do every four years, the best European footballers will don their national colours and attempt to take their countries to soccer supremacy. More, however, is at stake than simple, naked patriotism.
A great tournament, or a timely goal or two, can lift a player from obscurity into the pantheon of international superstars, thereby leading to millions and millions in extra salary and endorsements. And, when that windfall arrives, what will most of them spend it on? Cars, probably.
Beautiful, powerful, mega-expensive cars.
Antoine Griezmann – France
France last won the Euro tournament in 2000, and the nation's slim hopes of an encore rest heavily on the shoulders of this Atletico Madrid forward. As a youth, Griezman played consistently for France's international squad, before making his first appearances for the senior team in time for the 2014 World Cup. Like almost everyone, he loves fast cars. In his case, a Maserati Gran Turismo valued at a relatively modest $152,600.
Stephan Lichtsteiner – Switzerland
A favourite of Juventus supporters, Lichtsteiner is known as "Forrest Gump" or "the Swiss Express" for his energetic runs and his seemingly limitless stamina, impressive even on a field surrounded by other world-class athletes. Perhaps Lichsteiner gets his fill of speed on the pitch, because he does not opt for a sportscar, instead choosing a modest hatchback: the Fiat 500 Abarth.
Gianluigi Buffon – Italy
It's hard to believe, but Italy has not won the Euro since 1968, although the soccer-mad nation did finish runner-up in 2000 and 2012. If Buffon, who once went 974 minutes without surrendering a goal for Juventus, can be equally stingy in the net this summer, then Italy has an excellent shot of finally hoisting the trophy this century. Despite a fortune measured in the ten figures, Buffon appears to have only one car, a Jeep Grand Cherokee.
Sergio Ramos – Spain
Sergio Ramos is a living legend in Spanish footballing, and deservedly so. A member of the country's 2010 World Cup-winning squad, he also played a key role in Spain's victories in the previous two Euro Cups as well. Can the country three-peat? It will require Ramos shutting down its opponent's top strikers. As an equally valuable piece in Real Madrid's side, Ramos received a free Audi RS5 from the car maker a few years ago.
Kevin de Bruyne – Belgium
A midfielder noted for his flair and creativity, de Bruyne will need to be at his best for Belgium to have a chance at reaching the later rounds. Still young at 24, de Bruyne gained attention when he first signed with Manchester City in 2015, by spending more than half his first City paycheque (£150,000 out of £269,000) on customizing his Mercedes G63.
Jamie Vardy – England
England has never won the Euro, nor even made the final game, but this summer they boast a good-luck charm in the form of Jamie Vardy. He has overcome long odds throughout his footballing life, not least leading Leicester City to its incredible Premier League title this season. During the year, Vardy won a raise to roughly $150,000 per week, and immediately used it to purchase a Bentley Continental, which retails at just over $200,000 – or, for him, about 10 days' pay.
Mesut Ozil – Germany
At roughly $300,000 Canadian, the Ferrari 458 Speziale is certainly expensive, but if anyone on this list deserves to treat himself, it's Ozil – the sharpest tooth in the German buzzsaw that sliced through the 2014 World Cup. If Ozil can help Germany to Euro victory – a tournament they haven't won in 20 years – then who knows what special treat Ozil will give himself.
Gareth Bale – Wales
Let's just say that if Bale leads Wales to the championship, it will be the single greatest surprise in the history of sports. On the other hand, we live in a world where Leicester is the Premiership champion, so anything is possible. In the past, Bale loved peeling around in his Lamborghini Aventador Roadster, but had to give that up because he found them too hard on his hamstrings. Hopefully, therefore, his hammies will be in good shape for the tournament, and, hey, he can always go back to Lambos when he retires.
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Cristiano Ronaldo – Portugal
Few players stride the footballing world like Cristiano Ronaldo – his legacy is already golden, so just imagine how a championship would burnish that further. It's hard to see how he could get any more endorsements or grow any wealthier, as in fact, he already owns 19 cars, including a Lamborghini Aventador LP 700-4, valued at around $350,000.
Robert Lewandowski – Poland
Back in September 2015, Lewandowski shocked the footballing world by scoring five goals in nine minutes for Bayern Munich. Unfortunately, for Poland to win this thing, he's going to repeat that feat pretty much every game. Even should the long odds prove too much to overcome, he'll be able to console himself with an absolutely gorgeous sports car: his Ferrari F12 Berlinetta.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic – Sweden
Often ranked as "one of" today's best soccer players, the tall Swede is in a class of his own when it comes to interviews. Nobody but nobody is so dependable for memorable quotes, whether he's happy, angry or just in a playful mood. What's more, Ibrahimovic has a history of equally memorable cars, including a Porsche 918 Spyder and a Lamborghini Gallardo – but, as a good and loyal Swede, he also makes sure to drive a Volvo – a C30 TS to be precise. But chances are you'll catch him in a different Volvo – such as the V90 – in the carmaker's "Made By Sweden" campaign.
Thomas Müller – Germany
Germany's hopes of tournament success will ride heavily on the foot of Thomas Müller, just as they did in the 2014 World Cup. There, he scored the tournament's first hat trick on his way to a total of five goals, which also happened to include Germany's 2,000th goal ever (for the sake of any Brazilian fans reading, I won't mention in which specific game that landmark occurred). Fortunately, being German, Müller has a rich choice of domestic automobiles to choose from: and he chose the Audi Q5.
Petr Čech – Czech Republic
After a decade at Chelsea, Cech suffered an acrimonious split with the club last summer, moving to rival side Arsenal for a four-year contract. Fortunately, he can cry all the way to the bank while driving his Audi R8. As for the tournament, the Czech Republic reached the semifinals back in 2004, with a young Cech in net, at the dawn of his international career. Imagine how nice it would be to bookend his career with a similarly stellar performance.
Robbie Keane – Republic of Ireland
As a member of the LA Galaxy, Keane is one of the rare top-flight MLS players participating in this tournament. While playing in England, Keane's choice of car was a luscious Porsche 991 GT3. Keane made his international debut for Ireland back in the late 90s, while still a teenager, helping the country win the under-18 Euro cup. Ireland is one of those countries that other countries hate to play: They're always dangerous, and you can never count them out.
Wayne Rooney – England
Wayne Rooney is one of the greatest strikers of all time, and if you say any differently, he'll headbutt you in the face. As the captain of the England team, the pressure is on him to deliver a stellar tournament, or else face the teeth of the notoriously vicious British press. His choice of car shows his is a true three-lion heart: a Range Rover. (Yes, I know the brand is now owned by Tata, but you know what I mean. It's still assembled in England at least.) And this one is tuned by Overfinch – which makes it even more brutal.
David Silva – Spain
A stalwart of Manchester City's impressive attack, Silva also played a key role on Spain's string of international championships: the 2008 and 2012 Euro tournaments, and the 2010 World Cup. In fact, unexpectedly, Silva actually scores at a higher rate in international fixtures, against presumably tougher defenses, than he does in the domestic game, making him well-deserving of his beautiful Bentley Continental.
Ashley Williams – Wales
For Wales to defeat tough opponents, it will take team captain Williams to shut down their best strikers. No easy task. Yet for nearly a decade Williams has done exactly that for Swansea City, helping the side win promotion to the Premier League a few years ago – the first Welsh club to join an otherwise exclusively English group. Heck, the accomplishment even led someone to make a movie about the team. Now, if Wales were to win the Euro, it would probably be a trilogy. Off the field, Williams drives a Mercedes E63 AMG.
Bastian Schweinsteiger – Germany
This tournament will mark midfielder Schweinsteiger's first major appearance as captain of the German team, and the pressure's on. After their domination at the 2014 World Cup, much is expected of Germany, and if the team falters, he'll be front and centre for the blame. Domestically, he was a long-time member of Bayern Munich, and appropriately drove an Audi A8, as that car maker is a major sponsor of the club.
Jérôme Boateng – Germany
It's only fitting that this towering defender, the backbone of both Bayern Munich and Germany, drives an equally powerful and imposing car: A Mercedes-Benz G Class, customized with a Hamann Spyridon body. When Boateng is feeling a little looser, he can slip into a Bentley, another one of his cars.
Eden Hazard – Belgium
Hazard, a midfielder for Chelsea and Belgium, recently gained some Internet viral notoriety for clip in which he intentionally trips his own three-year-old son during a warm up game of kick. As with so many athletes, Hazard has an impressive car collection, on display in this YouTube video.
Vincent Kompany – Belgium
The captain of the Belgian squad, Kompany has been for a decade one of the top defenders in the English Premier league, serving as a key component in perennial powerhouse Manchester City, where fans can spot him behind the wheel of his Porsche Panamera 4S. Personally, I hope Vincent and his team wins the Euro, just so the headlines will read "Kompany and company shock the world."
Luis Nani – Portugal
The harsh truth is, the window is starting to close on Portugal's hopes of winning a major tournament with Ronaldo, 31, and Nani, 29, in major roles, with both entering the downward slope of their careers. This may be the nation's best chance yet, but any hope of finally lifting a trophy will rely on Nani having better luck on the field than he does on the road. A few years ago, his own fans chastised him after photographs showed him parking in a wheelchair-only spot. Not long after, a police car entering a freeway crashed into his Bentley Continental. Still, if Portugal wins, it will more than make up for any previous unpleasantness.
Seamus Coleman – Republic of Ireland
Coleman comes from a small fishing village called Killybegs, which has a population of less than 1,500 souls – and now he'll be playing in front of an audience pushing one billion! Amazing. For years Coleman has played for Everton, earning enough to pay for an Audi, which – it's safe to assume – is probably a very rare make on the streets of Killybegs.
Gerard Piqué – Spain
Even compared to other pro footballers, Pique's life is a charmed one. As a longtime member of the Spanish national team he's enjoyed several top-flight championships, and as a similarly long-time member of Barcelona, he's celebrated numerous titles at the club level too, taking the field next to superstars like Neymar and Messi. Oh, and his car collection includes an Audi. Oh, and he's dating Shakira. Oh, and she bought him a sports car. Oh, it must be nice.
Xherdan Shaqiri – Switzerland
Remember the name Xherdan Shaqiri – the man whose name, if it gains a little more prominence, will soon feature in crossword puzzles across the globe. Nomenclature aside, Shaqiri, who stands 5-foot-7, is popular with fans for his talent and his fearlessness while taking on defenders often nearly a foot taller than him. The upside is, he's got a lot of leg room in his Audi S7.