The football world has become swept up with major awards but few have gained traction quite like the UEFA Men’s Player of the Year. Awarded to the player who has excelled in continental competition, it marks an achievement for players who have shone against the elite clubs across Europe.
Since the award was first launched in 2010, 8 players have been awarded the title playing for many of Europe’s elite clubs. Only two players have won the award multiple times so just who has been crowned the UEFA Men’s Player of the Year?
UEFA Men’s Player of the Year winners
Lionel Messi – 2011 & 2015
It’s not surprising to learn that the inaugural winner of the award was Lionel Messi. The Argentine footballer was in fine form in the 2010/11 season scoring 12 goals in 13 games as Barcelona won the Champions league that season. His mesmerizing form that season also earnt him the Ballon D’Or trophy that season too in a year that he dominated.
More was to come in 2015 as Messi became the first player to win the award multiple times thanks to 10 goals in 13 Champions League matches throughout the 2014/15 season. This helped Barcelona lift the trophy once again although this would be the final time that the famous partnership would win Europe’s top competition. All of these achievements further underlines Messi’s status as the best of all time.
Andres Iniesta – 2012
One of the masters of tiki-taka, it was always inevitable that Andres Iniesta would gain plenty of awards for his technical abilities. The Spaniard’s excellent passing, creative genius and eye for goal made him almost unplayable as he formed a formidable partnership with Xavi during his prime years with Barcelona.
In the 2011/12 season, he scored 3 goals in 8 games and listed as the world’s best playmaker in 2012 and 2013 for his efforts in the competition. Whilst Iniesta would only win the award once, his form continued to wow fans worldwide before leaving to join Japanese side Vissel Kobe in 2018.
Franck Ribery – 2013
With super slick feet and tricks galore, Franck Ribery proved himself to be one of the best attacking players of his generation. His best form came for Bayern Munich where he formed a fearsome partnership with Arjen Robben as extremely deadly wingers. During the 2012/13 campaign, Ribery shone in continental competition proving himself to be an assists machine which helped Bayern to lift that season’s Champions League trophy.
His form subsequently earned him a top three nomination in the 2013 Ballon D’Or prize as well as 4 different footballer of the year awards across German, French and European football, including the UEFA Men’s Player of the Year. A stellar year for a stellar player.
Cristiano Ronaldo – 2014, 2016, 2017
Is there any record Cristiano Ronaldo hasn’t broken? The Portuguese superstar didn’t hit his best form with Real Madrid until midway through the 2010s where Real were dominant in the Champions League. Ronaldo was at the heart of that form that saw them win 4 Champions League titles during a five-year spell. In each of those campaigns, Ronaldo notched up double figure goal tallies in the competition and was top scorer during the 2013/14 campaign.
These were also extremely successful years for Ronaldo as he also claimed the Ballon D’Or prize each year he won UEFA Men’s Player of the Year award. With 3 awards, Ronaldo is the most successful player in the category and is the only player to have won UEFA’s top player award in successive years.
Luka Modric – 2018
Having been in the heart of Real Madrid’s midfield for almost a decade, it was easy to think that Luka Modric’s fine form could be overlooked. However, that all stopped in 2018 when Modric’s technical masterpieces single-handedly destroyed entire teams. His pin-point accuracy and excellent set-piece skills made him a threat no matter where he was on the pitch.
Modric won the world over with his non-stop energy and calm persona as he helped Real Madrid to yet another Champions League title as well as inspiring Croatia to a World Cup final spot. His recognition didn’t stop in Europe though as he also went on to claim the FIFA Men’s Player of the Year Award and the Ballon D’Or in the same year.
Virgil Van Dijk – 2019
Defenders don’t often win Player of the Year awards so Virgil Van Dijk’s form in 2019 accentuates just how good he was for Liverpool that season. The Dutch defender was almost impossible to get past and thwarted the best of the best when they reached the area. Not afraid to attack set-pieces either, Van Dijk helped Liverpool win a surprising Champions League trophy that showing just how far the team had come under Jurgen Klopp.
It was the start of a Cinderella period for him and Liverpool as they went on to reach the final again the following season and finally win the English Premier League. An excellent year for Van Dijk who became the first defender to win the UEFA Men’s Player of the Year award as well as the first player to win from an English club.
Robert Lewandowski – 2020
There have been no strikers quite as deadly or consistent as Robert Lewandowski. The Pole has been an attacking nightmare for Bayern Munich for a decade regularly smashing record after record every year. It was about time that Lewandowski claimed the UEFA Men’s Player of the Year award when he hit new heights in the 2019/2020 season.
It was here where he scored 15 goals in just 10 games playing a major role in helping Bayern lift the Champions League trophy. He created a clean sweep of the awards that season winning both top goalscorer and assist maker as well as overall Player of the Year. It’s a feat nobody else has achieved including the likes of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.
Jorginho – 2021
Chelsea’s run to the 2020/21 Champions League title caught many by surprise but the meticulous form of metronomic midfielder Jorginho didn’t. The Italian international was a star in the middle of the park dictating play and controlling the pace of the match to his ease. His coolness under pressure made him a perfect anchor at the heart of midfield and his finishing from free-kicks and penalties went almost unmatched anywhere in Europe.
It was this form, along with a starring role in Italy’s Euro 2020 victory, that rightfully saw him become the first Italian player to win the coveted UEFA Men’s Player of the Year award.
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