Soccer 360 Magazine gives out the best and worst of 2019
Player of the Year – Lionel Messi, Barcelona and Argentina
It’s hardly the most imaginative choice, but can it really be argued that Lionel Messi remains the best player on the planet?
Before being awarded the Ballon d’Or he’d scored 46 goals in 54 games across the calendar year, as well as providing 17 assists. He scored the 600th goal of his career and was once again top-scorer in La Liga.
Virgil van Dijk certainly has a claim given Liverpool’s achievements, but the fact Messi didn’t win the Champions League wasn’t down to him. He scored 12 goals in 10 games, including two in the semi-final against Liverpool. Messi remains the player to whom all others aspire.
Coach of the Year – Henk ten Cate, Ajax
Jurgen Klopp took Liverpool within a whisker of the Premier League title and won the Champions League, while Gian Piero Gasperini took an Atalanta side with Serie A’s 14th biggest budget to third place and a Champions League finish.
Ten Cate takes the award though after taking a young, exciting Ajax side all the way to the Champions League semi-finals. The Dutch played fast passing football which bamboozled the likes of Real Madrid and Juventus, and only a bizarre collapse against Tottenham stopped them reaching the final. Ajax scored 119 goals in 34 games as they won the Eredivisie, hitting 175 in all competitions, and will long be remembered.
Young Player of the Year – Matthijs de Ligt, Juventus and Netherlands
De Ligt takes the award for his incredible exploits with Ajax before a €75m move to Juventus in the summer.
At the age of 19 he captained his side to victory over Real Madrid in the Bernabeu, before scoring the winning goal against Juve in the next round.
Strong, imposing, good on the ball – it’s easy to forget De Ligt is still just 20-years-old. After a difficult start he’s beginning to settle in Turin, and will be a big player for his country at Euro 2020.
The Luis Figo controversial transfer award – Brendan Rodgers, Celtic to Leicester
Brendan Rodgers could arguably have been in the running for coach of the year, given the work he’s done since arriving at Leicester City. The Irishman is once again flavour of the month – though not in the east of Glasgow.
Rodgers described Celtic as his “dream job” and insisted “whatever I do in the rest of my life and my career, to have managed Celtic is the ultimate”. He was the darling of the Parkhead crowd after winning seven domestic trophies on the spin – only to walk out on “the greatest club in the world” mid-season to join Leicester. Ouch.
Game of the Year – Manchester City 4-3 Tottenham
The Champions League threw up plenty of crackers this year, but none fits that description better than this quarter-final second leg.
City had lost 1-0 in the away leg, but were on a run of 12 wins in a row at the Etihad Stadium. Raheem Sterling levelled the tie after just four minutes, before a Son-Heung Min brace put Spurs ahead. Bernardo Silva made it 2-2 after 11 minutes.
Sterling and Sergio Aguero then put City in a position to go through, before Fernando Llorente made it 4-3. A late city goal was ruled out by VAR to send Spurs through on away goals.
Goal of the Year – Radja Nainggolan, Cagliari vs SPAL
There are many different types of great goal. A team passing move, an outrageous flick or a mazy dribble could all be in contention for this award.
Sometimes though you just want to see someone absolutely slam one into the net, and that’s just what Radja Nainggolan did against SPAL back in October.
A free-kick was headed away to the Belgian at the edge of the box and he took one touch on his chest before unleashing an unstoppable half-volley. Science may one day determine this as the sweetest strike of a ball that is physically possible.
The Giovanni Trapattoni Best Rant award – Ian Holloway
This highly sought-after award is named for Il Trap’s famous diatribe while in charge at Bayern Munich, in which he insulted his players – “weak like a bottle empty!” – and the media – “Coach is not idiot!” – in broken German.
VAR drew plenty of contenders but former Blackpool and QPR manager Ian Holloway takes the cake for appearing to suggest the European Union had imposed the new handball laws on English football. “I hope we get out. Brexit. Because that’s what people are voting for and [we need to] sort it out because you cannot have someone telling us how to do our own game.”
The Chris Iwelumo Miss of the Year award – Sergio Aguero, Manchester City vs Chelsea
This particular award is named after Iwelumo’s quite unbelievable miss for Scotland in a World Cup qualifier against Norway.
He was an average lower-league striker in England, and you’d surely never get that from the world’s best? Tell that to Sergio Aguero. With eight minutes gone against Chelsea, Manchester City held a 1-0 lead. Bernardo Silva turned one across the face of goal and Aguero was unmarked at the back post with an open net gaping.
Somehow he contrived to put it wide – though the Argentine went on to get a hat-trick anyway.
Howler of the Year – Daniel Vega, San Jose Earthquakes vs FC Dallas
Always keep your eye on the ball. It’s the first rule of goalkeeping, and one the Argentine clearly forgot back in June.
The San Jose goalkeeper played a pass out to defender Florian Jungwirth, who opted to return it to his goalkeeper. Vega raised his head to look for his next pass, but rather forgot about the ball which was now approaching his feet.
The ‘keeper contrived to let it run under his foot, caught it with his heel and knocked it into the net for one of the worst own goals you’ll ever see.
Transfer of the Year – Antoine Griezmann, Atletico Madrid to Barcelona
Only in the rarefied atmosphere of one of Europe’s super clubs could a €120m transfer be greeted with disdain.
Barcelona activated Griezmann’s release clause to take him to Camp Nou in the summer, taking the best player from a direct rival for a huge fee. His new teammates, however, had wanted Neymar and the France international got a notably cool reaction and struggled to integrate with Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez.
Neymar, meanwhile, began the season being booed by the Paris Saint-Germain fans after publicly agitating for a return to Camp Nou. How the other half live…