The 2021 Soccer 360 Awards

Player of the Year – Robert Lewandowski, Bayern Munich and Poland

Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo? How about neither? It may be easy to copy the results of the Ballon D’or and simply pick Messi, but we think there are several other contenders. Liverpool’s Mo Salah is in the frame, Erling Haaland is no slouch either and worthy of a mention, as is Atletico Madrid shot stopper Jan Oblak.

Instead, there’s a repeat of last year here – there was no Ballon d’Or in 2020 but Robert Lewandowski would have won it if there was, and got Soccer360’s Player of the Year as a consolation. Well, with a goal every 66 minutes for Bayern Munich, he’s got another one for 202 – having somehow missed out on the Ballon d’Or again.

Team of the Year – Atalanta

Teamwork makes the dream work and plenty of dreams have come true this year in football: Chelsea winning their second Champions League, Inter taking the Serie A title away from Juventus and Palmeiras making it back-to-back Copa Libertadores are all special and notable.

However, in a break from the obvious, our Team of the Year is a side that have come from seemingly nowhere to become a European powerhouse, reaching the latter stages of the Champions League, finishing runners-up in the Coppa Italia and finishing third for a third straight season in Serie A. Le Dea of Atalanta are a prime example of teamwork proving almost anything is possible.

Goal of the Year – Luis Diaz, Colombia vs. Brazil

Once again, 2021 has served up a treat in front of goal with any number of worthy nominations. However, one piece of acrobatic skill and power was mesmerizing in its execution.

Colombia was taking on Brazil in a group game during the summer’s Copa America and in the tenth minute a miracle happened. Colombia’s Luis Diaz was in the right place in the tenth minute as he spectacularly powered home a bicycle kick to put his side 1-0 up. It was not just the skill, but the power that caught the eye. Unfortunately for Diaz, his side would go on to controversially lose the game 2-1, but he netted a goal well worth looking up on YouTube.

Rant of the Year – ‘Barcelona…a historic failure’

‘Resignation from the football elite’. Barcelona is a club in crisis both financially and on the pitch. This became even more apparent when Bayern Munich beat the Catalan giants 3-0 to knock Barca out of the Champions League in the group stage.

The Catalan press went to town, with that aforementioned quote just one example. However, one journalist went ballistic at the state of the club claiming: ‘The Camp Nou can be rented out on Tuesdays and Thursdays,’ and that ‘This has been a historic failure’.

It certainly will take some getting used to watching Barcelona playing on a Thursday night in the Europa League.

Tweet of the Year – Brent on the Super League

The proposed European Super League caused huge controversy but also plenty of ammunition for Twitter opportunists to wade in with a witty jibe or two.

After the ESL plan went sour, clubs started to back track on their initial intention to become a part of the league. One of those clubs was Manchester United, who felt the wrath of comedy boss David Brent from the Office with a short but sweet tweet perfectly encapsulating the general feeling whilst tastefully sticking the knife in. If David Brent is getting laughs at your expense, it must be bad.

Coach of the Year – Roberto Mancini, Italy

When Roberto Mancini took over the Italy national team in 2018 he inherited nothing short of a mess. Having missed out on qualification for the 2018 World Cup it looked like the former world and European champions were light years away from being competitive again.

However, with Mancini in charge, the change was dramatic. Cue a run of 37-games unbeaten which culminated in Mancini guiding Italy to the European Championship title this summer. In 2021, the former Manchester City boss also become the fastest coach to reach 30 victories for the Azzurri having been in the dugout for just 44 games. Italy’s failure to qualify automatically for World Cup 2022 shouldn’t count against him when the year is considered as a whole.

Fans of the Year – Football fans everywhere

Like all sports, football has had its restrictions throughout the year leaving stadiums empty at the beginning of the year. However, when fans were allowed back, they came back with a bang.

At risk of being accused of sitting on the fence, this award goes out to you, the fan. No matter who you support, what league they play in, this one is for the patience, dedication, and passion shown when being in the ground was not possible. After all, football is everyone’s game.

Total Disregard for the Fans Award – European Super League

Ah, the European Super League. The big story of the year and one that caused a huge divide between clubs and fans. The proposed breakaway league [in which promotion and relegation would be effectively abolished], chaired by Real Madrid President Florentino Perez, turned into a PR disaster for the prospective league’s founding members and proved how out of touch they are with their fan-base.

Fortunately, most of the clubs realised the extent of their gaffe and came back begging for forgiveness. However, the fact that Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester United, Tottenham, Manchester City, Milan, Inter, Juventus, Atletico Madrid, Barcelona, and, of course Real Madrid, even went there in the first place hands them all this unwanted award.

Young Player of the Year – Ricardo Pepi, FC Dallas and the United States

Away from the talent pool of European football, one player has caught our eye as he has torn MLS apart. 18-year-old FC Dallas forward Ricardo Pepi has had a breakout year to remember after netting 13 MLS goals [a joint record for a teenager in MLS] and contributing three assists.

Not only that, at 18 years and 196 days old, the Texan became the youngest ever player in the division to net a hat-trick, at the expense of LA Galaxy. He also made his international debut for the United States and has three goals in six games.

Inevitable Sacking of the Year Award – Steve Bruce, Newcastle United

We don’t like to be negative, but sometimes the writing is on the wall for some coaches.

Three names appear to have had their heads on the chopping block for some time and all three ended up losing their job. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer at Manchester United and Ronald Koeman at Barcelona spent large portions of their tenures looking over their shoulder. But it is former Newcastle boss Steve Bruce who wins this award.

From the moment he walked through the door at St James Park in 2019 it seemed he wasn’t wanted, rather unfairly though after guiding the club to 13th and 12th place in his first two years. However, a Newcastle takeover spelt the inevitable end of this drawn-out managerial saga.

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