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2019 Under-21 EURO Player of the Tournament: Fabián Ruiz

Fabián Ruiz earned the Player of the Tournament award for a string of fine performances.

Fabián Ruiz poses with the trophy as Spain celebrate U21 EURO success
Fabián Ruiz poses with the trophy as Spain celebrate U21 EURO success Getty Images

An all-rounder with an eye for a defence-splitting through ball, long-range shooting prowess and quick feet, Fabián's class shone in a series of impressive Under-21 EURO displays. The No6 controlled the Spanish midfield, zipping the ball from deep and showing his ability to burst forward at pace.

The box-to-box midfielder was selected by UEFA's team of technical observers in Italy, who were looking for players to produce exceptional skills, make decisive contributions, exhibit a positive attitude and, crucially, devote their individual talents to the collective good of their team. Fabián achieved just that.

The previous summer, the Andalusian native had swapped local club Real Betis for Carlo Ancelotti's Napoli, making his UEFA Champions League debut in a goalless draw with Crvena zvezda, quickly followed by his first Serie A outing in a win against Parma.

Highlights: See how Spain claimed U21 glory
Highlights: See how Spain claimed U21 glory

In the lead-up to the U21 tournament, Fabián had grabbed the attention of Spain's senior coach Luis Enrique, being called into the squad for spring UEFA EURO 2020 qualifiers against Norway and Malta. The midfielder then made his senior bow on 7 June 2019, as a late substitute in a qualifying victory over the Faroe Islands.

Later that month he was back in Italy on U21 finals duty. En route to the Udine showpiece against Germany, the playmaker scored with a bending effort in a 5-0 romp over Poland and supplied two assists: setting up Dani Ceballos in the opener against Italy, then illustrating exceptional vision by bursting into box and inviting Dani Olmo to finish in the semi-final dismissal of France.

The eventual champions had actually lost that first group match, 3-1 to the Azzurri, but Luis de la Fuente's charges knuckled down to take six points from their next two games and top Group A.

Fabián Ruiz on U21 glory and his final goal
Fabián Ruiz on U21 glory and his final goal

The 23-year-old's influence on the Spanish setup, and significant contribution to La Rojita's campaign, was exemplified during their 2-1 final triumph over Germany. Commanding matters from the middle, he revealed a wide-ranging skill set in dictating play.

Not only that, Fabián fired the opening salvo inside seven minutes in Udine, navigating a congested midfield to unleash a stunning left-footer from outside the area. The opportunistic Olmo turned in Spain's second-half second, albeit only after Fabián's long-range attempt had been fumbled, giving another assist to the No6's tally as he capped an already outstanding tournament.

Ever the team man, Fabián later hailed Spain's "great team spirit" as they recorded their fifth UEFA European 21 Championship success.