On May the 22nd 1996 the Champions League Final between Ajax and Juventus, at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome, would bring an end to the European Club football calendar for the 95/96 season. This allowed all 16 managers of the participating nations the opportunity to assess their available players, take part in pre-tournament training camps or exhibition games, and most importantly announce which players would make up their final 22 man squad.
Today were going to examine the makeup of each squad, as well as where these players ply their trade at club level.
Squad Average age
Scotland manager Craig Brown has selected the oldest squad participating at Euro 96, with their 22 players averaging 29.3 years old.
At the other end of the spectrum Terry Venables’ England side is the youngest team at the competition averaging 25.68 years old. They are closely followed by Guus Hidink’s Dutch team who average 25.73, along with Oleg Romantsev’s Russia who average 25.77.
Oldest and youngest players
Scotland and Denmark share the prize for selecting the oldest players at tournament, with each player being separated by just a few short months in age.
The oldest player selected at Euro 96 would be Scotland’s Jim Leighton, who at 37 years and 319 days would play back up to starting keeper Andy Goram. Leighton had come to prominence in British football making 300 appearances for Aberdeen throughout the late 70s and 1980’s, amassing a number of domestic and European titles. After a short spell with Manchester United Leighton would return back to form in Scotland with Hibernian, where he was playing at the time of Euro 96, and would go on to return to Aberdeen in 1997 before retiring in 2000 aged 42. Remarkably he would take up the starting position for Scotland two years later at the World Cup in France 98, beating out Wimbledon’s Neil Sullivan to the jersey. Leighton’s club career spanned 635 games and in addition to this he would pick up 91 caps for his country.
The next oldest to be selected was Denmark goalkeeper Lars Hogh who was 37 years and 146 days old at the time of selection and was brought in to serve as back up to Manchester United’s Peter Schmeichel. He had been involved with the national team dating back to 1983, and during this time would pick up 8 career caps for his country. He was a regular starter for Danish club side Odense at the time of the tournament and would go on to finish his career there amassing a staggering 817 appearances in his 23 year career.
At the opposite end of the scales we see there were four teenagers (all 19 years of age) who were selected for their respective country’s Euro 96 squad, these include:
Patrick Kluivert, Holland – The then Ajax striker had entered the tournament off the back of a Champions League loss to Juventus. He was regarded by many as one of the hottest striking properties in world football at the time, and in 1997 he would move on to AC Milan before later joining back up with former Ajax coach Louis Van Gaal at FC Barcelona. While Kluivert certainly performed well for FCB (90 goals in 182 games) after his time in Catalunya ended his career began to wander, and he would finally return in 2008 with Lille. He would wrack up 79 appearances for Holland between 1994 and 2004, and during his club career would total 149 goals from 343 games.
Johann Vogel, Switzerland – At the time of the competition Vogel was a regular starter with Swiss champions Grasshoppers Zurich and had competed in the Swiss sides first ever venture into the Champions League during the 95/96 season. Vogel would eventually move on to PSV at the turn of the century, and then onto shorter stays with AC Milan, Real Betis and Blackburn Rovers, before returning back to his boyhood club in 2012 where his career would come to a close. He would pick up 94 caps in total for Switzerland between 1995 and 2007 and would go on to become the national team captain for a substantial period of that.
Phil Neville, England – While Neville would not feature at Euro 96, he would represent his country at every level and end his international career with 59 caps in 2007. In season leading up to this tournament (95/96) Neville had become a solid first team member with Manchester United, featuring 29 times and a further 5 off the bench. His versatility was as much a feature then as it would continue to be throughout his career, and his Manchester United career would end in 2005 having made 263 appearances. He would move on to Everton where he would eventually captain the club, finishing his career in 2013 with a total of 242 appearances. Neville has since moved into football management and is currently the England Women National Team Head Coach.
Raphael Wicky, Switzerland – Wicky is another who wouldn’t feature at Euro 96, but he would go on to pick up 75 caps over a period spanning 12 years. At the time of the tournament he represented FC Sion, where he would stay until 1997 before embarking on a nomadic career around Europe’s top leagues, finishing with Chivas USA of the MLS in 2008. Wicky is another who has now went into management, working his way up through the FC Basel ranks to take over as their 1st team coach, but is now with the Chicago Fire of the MLS and also serves as a youth national team coach for the USA.
The 90s was a time when mass migration of players throughout Europe’s top leagues was still in its infancy. This was especially so at the elite level clubs competing in European competition who, albeit less of them at the time, were limited to 3 players of foreign descent. These sanctions were lifted at the start of the 96/97 season and would also coincide with the 1995 Bosman Ruling which allowed players freedom of movement at the end of their contract.
Looking at the Euro 96 squads we found that a high percentage of the top nations had a significant amount of their squad playing in their home country, with Spain and Turkey leading the table with all 22 players residing in their home nations league.
Given the lack of migration of players in 1996 we wanted to delve deeper and calculate who were the top 10 leagues in terms of representation across all players participating at Euro 96. While Serie A was probably considered as the most glamourous league at the time, they would rank third in our table, losing out to the German Bundesliga and the English Premier League.
Considering where each league competition ranks we take things one step further and analyze which club teams were best represented. FC Bayern Munich & FC Barcelona top the table with 9 players each, however there are a few more surprise packages in the list that warmed our nostalgia loving hearts!
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