Fabián Ruiz to fore as Spain U-21s win fifth European title
What a terrific way to round off the season! Spain's Under-21s have won the European Championship for a fifth time after beating Germany in a final that saw them continue the fine form they have shown throughout the tournament. It was a campaign that began with an adverse result thanks to the referee's unacceptable lenience in the face of the Italians' brutal tactics, but which has got better and better since then, and was capped by a sparkling display last night. On this occasion, we saw two sides to the Spain team: from start to finish, their sublime ability to take care of the ball; but also grit, determination and good defensive organisation during a mid-phase of the game in which the Germans displayed their characteristic self-belief to put together some nice stuff, and had us fearing the worst.
La Rojita have been supremely impressive right the way through these Euros. They have the same capacity to dictate games in possession that has been the hallmark of Spain's sides since Luis Aragonés' time in charge of the national team, but are more focused on the opposition goal than those who have come before them have been over the past few years. There can be no accusations of overplaying it levelled against this side; when they pick up the ball, their first thought is to get themselves into a shooting position. This tournament has allowed us to better get to know a number of players who the average fan may not be keeping a close eye on week in, week out. From Dani Olmo, who left the Barcelona youth set-up to go to Croatia, to Fabián Ruiz, who swapped Real Betis for Napoli last summer.
Fabián deservedly scoops player-of-the-tournament prize
Ahead of Dani Ceballos, who sometimes seems to get himself tangled up in over-elaboration but is always there in support of his team-mates, it was Fabián who was deservedly named player of the tournament. With his leadership, his fine management of the ball and his eye for goal from the edge of the box (which brought about both of Spain's strikes yesterday), Fabián has been the pick of the bunch. Hailing from the same town just outside Seville as Jesús Navas, his style of play earned him the nickname the 'Little Messi' in his early years, before a growth spurt saw him drop back into a midfield position. Snapping him up for 30m euros was a smart piece of business by Carlo Ancelotti. He is now the leading light in an emerging generation of Spanish players that has the potential to go far.