SOCCER 360 AWARDS
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
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.