UEFA announced its shortlist of the four individual categories yesterday, and the selections are well-deserved. The top-three nominees for the various awards are:
Men’s Player of the Year: Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City), Jorginho (Chelsea), N’Golo Kante (Chelsea).
Women’s Player of the Year: Jennifer Hermoso (Barcelona), Lieke Martins (Barcelona), Alexia Putellas (Barcelona).
Men’s Coach of the Year: Pep Guardiola (Manchester City), Roberto Mancini (Italy), Thomas Tuchel (Chelsea).
Women’s Coach of the Year: Emma Hayes (Chelsea), Lluis Cortes (Barcelona), Peter Gerhardsson (Sweden).
The winners of each category will be announced on August 26, before the draw for the 2021-22 Champions League group-stage. FootTheBall discusses the nominees and why they are deserving of their places this year.
MEN’S PLAYER OF THE YEAR
KEVIN DE BRUYNE
The Belgian playmaker was an instrumental force for both club and country this season. De Bruyne had six goals and 12 assists in the Premier League, second only to Harry Kane, as City romped to the title while also lifting the EFL Cup as he was named the Premier League Player of the Year. De Bruyne was also instrumental in the Champions League scoring three times while assisting a further four.
— Manchester City (@ManCity) June 6, 2021
He was particularly sublime over the two legs in the semi-final against PSG as City made their first final. However, he had to be substituted in the second half with an injury that kept him out of action for the first match at Euro 2020.
8 – Kevin De Bruyne has made eight assists for Belgium in major tournaments (World Cup & Euros); since the 2014 World Cup, no European player has made more across the two competitions. Surgical. #BEL #EURO2020 pic.twitter.com/9JTxUzlxZ7
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) June 17, 2021
His return to action saw him notch up a goal and assist in the Red Devils’ 2-1 win over Denmark before another assist in the following match against Finland. De Bruyne was injured once again in the clash with Portugal before a subdued performance in the quarter-final saw Belgium bow out.
The European winner with club and country, it has been a fantastic season for the 29-year-old midfielder. He was Chelsea’s top-scorer in the Premier League with seven goals including one assist. In the Champions League, though he had just two goal contributions (one goal, one assist), he was a solid presence in the middle of the park.
7 – Chelsea's top scorer in the 2020-21 Premier League was Jorginho, with seven goals, all from the penalty spot. Striking. pic.twitter.com/Fw9IsgqBdZ
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) July 19, 2021
Jorginho had 89% passing accuracy as well as 65% tackle success rate. With the Blues lifting the trophy for the second time in their history, he was off for Euro 2020 with Italy. The Azzurri were considered a quiet favourite for the title, and Jorginho formed an immaculate partnership with Nico Barella and Marco Veratti.
25 – Jorginho made 25 interceptions for Italy at EURO 2020; the highest figure recorded at a single edition of the European Championships since this data is available (since 1980). Anticipation. #ITA #EURO2020 pic.twitter.com/YYlTceAUjo
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) July 13, 2021
He featured in all seven games, with a passing rate of 93% and scored the winning penalty in the semi-final shootout win over Spain. Though he missed in the subsequent final shootout, Italy were still able to be crowned champions and Jorginho was rightfully one of the key contributors.
The defensive dynamite had another stellar season for the Blues. Apart from having two assists in the Premier League, he excelled at his role which was to break up opposing attacks and protect the back-line.
— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) May 5, 2021
Kante had a 86% passing success rate as well as 59 interceptions and 29 clearances. He continued his dominating ways in the Champions League with 80% tackles success and 14 interceptions. The European Championships were less kind to Kante and France.
France president Emmanuel Macron backs N'Golo Kante for the Ballon d'Or 🏆🇫🇷 pic.twitter.com/Lx4gSYJR4Z
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) June 10, 2021
Though he was one of the best passers in the squad and a constant starter, Les Bleus exited the competition at the round-of-16 stage. That early exit might prove to be Kante’s undoing in the final ballot to decide the winner.
WOMEN’S PLAYER OF THE YEAR
The Spanish phenom had another wonderful season both individually and with the Blaugranes. Playing as a number nine, Hermoso scored 31 times in the Primera Division to lift her third consecutive Pichichi Trophy. Barcelona won the title and completed the treble as well.
JENNIFER HERMOSO makes history as the clubs top scorer. pic.twitter.com/Jq49SGayxU
— total Barça (@totalBarca) December 5, 2020
Furthermore, Hermoso was also the top-scorer in the Women’s Champions League with six goals as they lifted their first continental crown. Hermoso also leads scoring in the Euro 2022 qualifying phase with 10 goals, cementing herself as one of the greatest scorers of the current era.
The former FIFA and UEFA Player of the Year was another key component of Barcelona’s utter domination last season. Martens recorded 20 goals and 16 assists in all competitions and was one of the most involved players in the fiery attack.
When dreams come true 💭 pic.twitter.com/SKpMiSWWw0
— Lieke Martens (@liekemartens1) May 17, 2021
Though she was used as a substitute towards the end of the Champions League campaign, that did not stop her from racking up some important contributions for her teammates. Furthermore, she set up five goals in three games enroute to the Copa de la Reina victory.
Lieke Martens’ Holland squad bow out of the Olympic after losing to the US on penalties. The match ended 2-2 after 90 minutes. pic.twitter.com/SMRy3dwuKZ
— total Barça (@totalBarca) July 30, 2021
Martens also represented the Netherlands at the Tokyo Olympics, scoring four goals in the group-stage. However, she missed a game-winning penalty in the next round fixture against the USA and the Dutch were eliminated on penalties.
Barcelona’s captain had a solid season even with some matches being missed due to injuries. Putellas scored 18 times to go with her three goals in the Champions League. In the final, she scored her side’s second goal from the penalty spot before a spectacular through ball led to the game’s third goal.
Love this feeling 🏆 pic.twitter.com/4uZ95A7rk7
— Alexia Putellas (@alexiaputellas) February 14, 2021
However, her best performances came in the cup competition where she scored a brace in each of the semi-final and the final. Her five goals in total made her the top goal scorer in the competition as well as the top scoring midfielder in Europe across all competitions (26 goals).
MEN’S COACH OF THE YEAR
Guardiola masterminded yet another very successful season for the Cityzens, which ultimately ended with European heartbreak. Nevertheless, domestically City were unstoppable as they won the title with a 12-point margin over Manchester United in second place. They also scored the most goals (83) and conceded the least (32) while losing just six games.
BREAKING: Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola has been named Premier League Manager of the Season for the 20/21 campaign.
— Sky Sports News (@SkySportsNews) June 5, 2021
The EFL Cup as usual was in the bag with five direct wins while they made it all the way to the final of the Champions League. Overall, their eight defeats in total across all competitions are one the fewest from last campaign and he continues to enhance his already blockbuster reputation.
A history-maker with the Italian national team at the Euros. Mancini had already made the Azzurri a terrifying opposition with their undefeated record before the tournament. A 3-0 win over Turkey further underlined their credentials as the team to watch out for and so it duly proved.
— UEFA Nations League (@EURO2024) July 12, 2021
With three victories in the group-stage, Italy held out for a tough win against Austria in the next round. A spirited rearguard action saw them edge out Belgium before a penalty shootout win over Spain put them in the final. Having gone behind within three minutes, Italy were much the better side for the rest of the match as the game headed for a second penalty shootout.
3 years undefeated. 34 games unbeaten. European champion. 🏆
TAKE A BOW, ROBERTO MANCINI 👏 👏 pic.twitter.com/S4j2lqTjND
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) July 11, 2021
Gianluigi Donnarumma’s save from Bukayo Saka ensured they won the competition for just the second time in their history and set a new unbeaten record of 34 games under Mancini.
The impact Tuchel has had at Chelsea over a period of just six months has been astounding. Having taken over at a tumultuous time in January, the German manager led the Blues to an improbable fourth place. He oversaw a monstrous defensive turnaround as they lost only three games in the final half of the season.
— UEFA Champions League (@ChampionsLeague) May 30, 2021
However, his most famous feat was of course winning the Champions League against Manchester City. After thoroughly outplaying Real Madrid in the semi-finals, Chelsea shutdown City’s attack in the final despite losing Thiago Silva early in the game which could see Tuchel becoming the second consecutive German to win the Coach of the Year.
WOMEN’S COACH OF THE YEAR
Not only the men’s side, Chelsea had humongous success with their women’s team as well. Hayes guided her team to three trophies this past season, winning the Women’s Super League for the second consecutive time while suffering just one defeat across 22 games.
Boasting the best scoring record and the stingiest defence, Chelsea also won the Community Shield as well as the EFL Cup. Furthermore, they were also runners-up in the Champions League and it has been a spectacular season from both coach and club with this recognition being just reward for it.
The manager of the team that gave all of the contenders for Player of the Year, Cortes had another trophy-filled season. Not only did Barcelona win 26 games on the trot to open their league season, they were only defeated once in the final eight games.
Lluís Cortés' record after 100 matches with the club make him difficult to fire:
7 Trophies, including a historic Treble pic.twitter.com/NCQSUwZeeH
— total Barça (@totalBarca) June 21, 2021
A thoroughly dominant 4-0 win over Emma Hayes’ Chelsea in the Champions League final was followed by victory in the Copa de la Reina. Thus, Barcelona became the first Spanish club to win the treble and while Cortes has since left his post, he remains the front-runner for the award.
The Swedish national team boss had an outstanding 2019, leading his side to Bronze at the World Cup. That was enough for them to qualify for the Olympics where they were arguably one of the better performers amongst all the nations. Sweden opened their campaign with a 3-0 win over the USA, on their way to remaining undefeated in the group-stage.
🏅 Peter Gerhardsson nominerad till årets tränare av @UEFA
— Svensk Fotboll (@svenskfotboll) August 19, 2021
A semi-final victory over Australia put them in their second consecutive final after Rio in 2016. Though they took the game against Canada to penalties, it was not to be for the Swedes as they had to settle for silver once again.