UEFA announced the shortlist for their prestigious Player of the Year award earlier this week and the three-man list looks a bit weird if we’re being honest. No Lionel Messi? No Cristiano Ronaldo? What is this sorcery? Ahhhh it’s 2020, of course it’s unpredictable, uncomfortable and slightly odd.
For the first time since the award’s inception in 2011 neither of the two footballing behemoths have been named in the final three, however, it’s difficult to argue with the final contenders in all fairness.
Manuel Neuer and Robert Lewandowski have pretty much completed football with Bayern Munich this season, but team accolades shouldn’t be taken into account here.
The third member of the shortlisted trio is undoubtedly the most deserving of the gong and you’re about to be convinced that UEFA’s Player of the Year for 2019/20 should be the gifted, the mesmeric, the magical, the irreplaceable Kevin De Bruyne.
No player in Europe notched more than the 20 assists De Bruyne laid on for his teammates throughout the 2019/20 league campaign, subsequently equalling the Premier League record set by Thierry Henry in 2003.
But don’t be fooled into thinking the City man is just a creative midfielder. His tally of 13 goals in last season’s edition of England’s top tier is hardly a measly return, in fact the figure would have seen him finish top scorer in ten of the other 19 top-flight teams.
Over De Bruyne’s 35 games in the Premier League he produced 33 goal contributions – just shy of one every game. Not bad in arguably the most fiercely competitive league in Europe.
It’s all well and good praising Neuer and Lewandowski for performing in easily the best side in Europe – De Bruyne was churning out five star performances in a team with Nicolás Otamendi at centre-back.
It would be amiss to suggest City aren’t a team full of superstars, however, last season they were pretty woeful at times, though the midfielder continued to produce magnificent displays and almost single-handedly dragged his side to second spot in the Premier League.
If we’re being honest, UEFA could have named any of about five Bayern players in their shortlist – no other City player was getting in the top three.
The Belgian endured a nightmare 2018/19 campaign, suffering two nasty ligament injuries and spending almost half the season sidelined.
Many players fail to recover from such bad knocks, however, the Belgian didn’t just bounce back to regain his place in the City side, he broke Premier League records.
To recover the way he has done doesn’t require just physical strength, it requires mental strength and he’s done superbly to not just return to his former brilliance but to exceed it.
Before his injury-ravaged season of 2018/19, De Bruyne notched 16 and 18 assists respectively in the two season prior. That means that in just three full seasons he’s notched an astonishing 56 assists.
Very few players can perform at such a high level under such intense scrutiny, but to do so continuously for the majority of his time at City deserves recognition.
I mean it’s probably the best reason of the lot, right?
The award for the best player in Europe should be given to the best player in Europe, surely that’s just simple maths?
Yes Neuer is a decent shot-stopper and yes Lewandowski’s finishing is pretty special, but neither of them possess the all-round game of the brilliant Belgian.
Strength, pace, stamina, composure, finishing ability, an eye for a pass – there is absolutely nothing this man cannot do.
To seamlessly dictate football matches and pull the strings like De Bruyne does – and not just for a few games of the season – EVERY single game, that deserves recognition, and ultimately that is why Kevin De Bruyne should be named the UEFA Player of the Year.