Manchester United captain Harry Maguire lines up for England tonight on the cusp of glory less than 12 months after his career looked to be in danger of ending.
The centre-back has been one of the players of the tournament despite not even being fit enough to play in the Three Lions’ first two group games against Croatia and Scotland.
Maguire made a shaky start to 2020/21 after being arrested and found guilty of aggravated assault and bribery of a police officer after a pub brawl in Mykonos, Greece.
But the United skipper turned his form and the season around before cruelly suffering an ankle injury that saw him miss six weeks of football, including the Europa League final against Villareal, and which looked set to rule him out of the European Championships.
However, his determination and persistence helped him to make a miraculous recovery in time to help England to tonight’s final and in so doing, prove all his doubters wrong.
One of those was Brighton and former Liverpool player Adam Lallana.
‘I have always thought he was a very good player, but what this tournament has shown me, and hopefully others, is that he is at the next level: a proven world-class defender.
‘His reading of the game has been superb and I have enjoyed the moments where he has just stepped in front of an opponent to pinch the ball, leaving the striker wondering where he came from.
‘He wants to take responsibility rather than put it on somebody else and as a team-mate that must be so valuable. He has been playing brave, high quality football. He’s been a colossus.’
United legend Rio Ferdinand, who has sometimes criticised Maguire in the past, has come out in praise of the man who wears his old shirt number for both club and country.
‘The team (England) breathes easier when he is in the team,’ he said on the BBC.
‘They look a stronger team and a stronger unit. He looks so comfortable at international football.
‘Some players are better accustomed to club football, some are better accustomed to international football. In an England shirt, he just looks like a man-mountain.’
Former Chelsea player and manager Frank Lampard agreed.
‘He’s got a certain authority and aura in this team,’ he said.
‘There are always key players who, when they are there, the team looks different. From the moment he stepped back into this team, it has looked different.’
Maguire may not be the captain of England but he brings his leadership skills to the side and exudes authority in the way he plays for his country. If Harry Kane is to lift that coveted trophy at 10pm this evening, it would be fitting if the first person he hands it over to is the indefatigable Manchester United captain.