SOC­CER 360 AWARDS

Soccer 360 - - Inside -

PLAYER OF THE YEAR - LIONEL MESSI, BARCELONA AND ARGENTINA

The fact that Messi fin­ished only fifth in the Bal­lon d’Or vot­ing is a re­flec­tion of the ridicu­lous stan­dards he has set, rather than any drop-off in qual­ity. Over the cal­en­dar year, the Barcelona su­per­star made 51 ap­pear­ances for club and coun­try, scor­ing 47 goals and pro­vid­ing 24 as­sists. Those are ut­terly lu­di­crous num­bers, and Messi re­mains the best player on the planet. Cris­tiano Ron­aldo’s goalscor­ing record is even bet­ter, and Luka Mo­dric did in­deed have a bril­liant year, but Messi is on an­other planet.

COACH OF THE YEAR - ZLATKO DALIC, CROA­TIA

Given their hero­ics in reach­ing the World Cup fi­nal in the sum­mer, it’s often forgotten that Croa­tia had a tor­tu­ous qual­i­fi­ca­tion cam­paign. Dalic was brought in just two days be­fore the fi­nal group match, Ante Cacic re­ceiv­ing his marching or­ders af­ter a se­ries of poor re­sults.

Not only did he take them to the tour­na­ment in Rus­sia, his side thrashed Argentina in the groups and game through a gru­elling knock­out round to go all the way to the fi­nal.

Croa­tia were ac­tu­ally the bet­ter team against France, and even though they lost Dalic de­serves enor­mous credit for what he achieved in such a short space of time.

YOUNG PLAYER OF THE YEAR - KYLIAN MBAPPÉ, PARIS SAINT-GER­MAIN AND FRANCE

It’s easy to for­get that Mbappé is still just 19-years-old, such has been his im­pact since he burst on-to the scene with Monaco.

Af­ter help­ing PSG to win the do­mes­tic tre­ble in France, the young­ster starred for his coun­try at the World Cup.

Mbappé de­stroyed Argentina with a brace in the Last 16, be­fore scor­ing to make it 4-1 against Cro-atia in the fi­nal.

PSG paid around €180m to sign the striker, but even that may end up be­ing worth it as he looks primed to be­come the next global su­per­star once Messi and Ron­aldo walk into the sun­set.

THE GI­AMPIERO VEN­TURA CA­REER SUI­CIDE AWARD - JULEN LOPETEGUI, SPAIN AND REAL MADRID

The epony­mous Ven­tura was in with a chance of win­ning this one, but in a Moon­light/La La Land shocker he’s been beaten to the punch by Lopetegui.

Spain went into the World Cup among the favourites, and their Coach’s stock had never been higher af­ter swat­ting aside Ven­tura’s Italy in qual­i­fi­ca­tion.

Just days be­fore the tour­na­ment though, Lopetegui agreed to take the Real Madrid job without telling the Span­ish FA. He as quickly fired, then lasted just 14 games at San­ti­ago Bern­abeu be­fore be­ing given his marching or­ders af­ter win­ning only six games.

GAME OF THE YEAR - ROMA 3-0 BARCELONA

Most ‘Game of the Year’ head­lines for

2018 will quickly be fol­lowed by the words ‘Red Dead Redemp­tion 2,’ and it’s Roma’s own redemp­tion which stands out as the great­est match of the year.

The Gial­lorossi had been beaten 4-1 by Barcelona at Camp Nou, and most as­sumed they were sim­ply play­ing for pride back in Italy. A sold out Sta­dio Olimpico started to be­lieve when Edin Dzeko opened the scor­ing af­ter just six min­utes, and a Daniele De Rossi penalty put them within one. The Lupi laid siege to the Barça goal, and were re­warded when Kostas Manolas headed in from a cor­ner late on. Roma qual­i­fied for the semi-fi­nals on away goals, in one of the most re­mark­able come­backs of the Cham­pi­ons League era.

GOAL OF THE YEAR - CRIS­TIANO RON­ALDO, JU­VEN­TUS VS. REAL MADRID

Gareth Bale in the Cham­pi­ons League

Fi­nal, Ben­jamin Pavard at the World Cup, Mo­hamed Salah’s Puskas Award win­ner — there were some spec­tac­u­lar goals in 2018. The pick of the bunch though was CR7’s spec­tac­u­lar over­head kick against Ju­ven­tus in the Cham­pi­ons League quar­ter-fi­nals. Ron­aldo’s foot con­nected with the ball 2.38cm from the ground — for con­text, that’s 20cm taller than Ka­reem AB­DULJAB­BAR — leav­ing Gian­luigi Buffon help­less. The goal was so spec­tac­u­lar that the home fans in Turin rose as one to ap­plaud it. Lit­tle did they know Ron­aldo would sign.

THE GIOVANNI TRAPATTONI BEST RANT AWARD - GIAN­LUIGI BUFFON, REAL MADRID VS. JU­VEN­TUS

This highly sought-af­ter award is named for Il Trap’s fa­mous di­a­tribe while in charge at Bay­ern Mu-nich, in which he in­sulted his play­ers - “weak like a bot­tle empty!” — and the me­dia — “Coach is not idiot!” - in bro­ken Ger­man.

Peren­nial chal­lenger Jose Mour­inho went close with his 12-minute mono­logue back in March, but there can only be one win­ner. In­censed by a late penalty given against Juve in the Cham­pi­ons League, Buffon tore into ref­eree Michael Oliver in the post-match in­ter­view, sug­gest­ing he had “a trash­can for a heart” and should have been in the stands eat­ing crisps rather than of­fi­ci­at­ing the game.

THE CHRIS IWELUMO MISS OF THE YEAR AWARD - MATT RITCHIE, BURN­LEY VS. NEW­CAS­TLE

This par­tic­u­lar award is named af­ter Iwelumo’s quite un­be­liev­able miss for Scot­land in a World Cup qual­i­fier against Nor­way. It’s fit­ting then that a fel­low Scot­land in­ter­na­tional takes the crown for 2018, with Matt Ritchie prov­ing sin­gu­larly un­able to hit a barn door.

A save from Joe Hart was pushed out to the far post, and the winger had the simple task of slot­ting into an empty goal on his stronger left foot. To the dis­be­lief of ev­ery­one at Turf Moor though, Ritchie some­how con­trived to screw the ball wide. For­tu­nately for him, his side man­aged to take a 2-1 win.

HOWLER OF THE YEAR - DAVID DE GEA, PORTUGAL VS. SPAIN

David De Gea is seen by many as the best goal­keeper in the world, but it’s fair to say the Manch­ester United man didn’t ex­actly bol­ster that claim over the sum­mer.

With Spain in dis­ar­ray ahead of their first World Cup match, fol­low­ing the de­par­ture of Lopetegui, they faced an Ibe­rian derby against Portugal.

The score was at 1-1 just be­fore half-time when Cris­tiano Ron­aldo took a spec­u­la­tive shot from just out-side the area. It wasn’t CR7’s best hit, and in­deed was straight at De Gea. Some­how though the goal­keeper al­lowed the ball to bounce off his hands and into the net.

TRANS­FER OF THE YEAR - CRIS­TIANO RON­ALDO, REAL MADRID TO JU­VEN­TUS

Fresh from win­ning the Cham­pi­ons League for a third year in a row, Ron­aldo strangely de­scribed his time with Real Madrid in the past tense in his post-match in­ter­view. Most took that as be­ing a ploy for a bumper new con­tract, and when rumours emerged of an of­fer from Ju­ven­tus they were ini­tially dis­missed. Slowly though it be­came clear that there was some­thing in the talk, and in July Ju­ven­tus Pres­i­dent An­drea Agnelli took a pri­vate plane to Greece, where CR7 was on hol­i­day. Hours later the trans­fer was of­fi­cially con­firmed, with the Bian­coneri smash­ing the Serie A trans­fer record by shelling out €100m for the reign­ing

Bal­lon d’Or.

ABOVE LEFT: Cris­tiano Ron­aldo’s foot con­nected with the ball over 2m offthe groundABOVE RIGHT:David De Gea made the blun­der of the year againstPortugalLEFT: Lionel Messi fin­ished only fifth in the Bal­lon d’Orvot­ing

‘Gigi Buffon sug­gested ref­eree MichaelOliver had a “trash­can for a heart”’ ABOVE LEFT: Kylian Mbappé is al­ready a su­per­star at just19-years-old.

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